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Spotlight On: Dame Beryl Bainbridge

Dame Beryl Bainbridge

Beryl Bainbridge was brought up in Formby and became one of the most respected and successful writers of her generation.

She led a colourful, yet turbulent life. Expelled from Merchant Taylor’s School for Girls, she carried on her education at a school in Hertfordshire which specialised in the arts. After school, she took up acting and met her future husband in the theatre.

She married the artist Austin Davies in 1954, had 2 children, but divorced in 1959. By this time, she was living full time in London. A third child, Rudi, appeared after a relationship with writer Alan Sharp.

To make ends meet she continued to act with a variety of roles including one on Coronation Street, and also took manual roles such as working in a bottle factory. In the late 1960’s she took up writing and published her first novel in 1967.

Soon the novels were flowing and she became a full-time writer. Her works were dark, mysterious and comic, characterised by strong storylines – and critically acclaimed. By the end of the 1970’s and early 1980’s she was acknowledged as one of the most important writers of her time, and soon the accolades were to flow.

In 2000, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). In June 2001, Bainbridge was awarded an honorary degree by the Open University as Doctor of the University. In 2003, she was awarded the David Cohen Prize for Literature together with Thom Gunn. In 2005, the British Library acquired many of Bainbridge’s private letters and diaries. In 2011, she was posthumously awarded a special honour by the Booker Prize committee.

Musician Mark Knopfler included a song titled “Beryl” dedicated to her and her posthumous award on his 2015 album Tracker.

Beryl Bainbridge died in 2010 aged 77, although she always claimed she was 2 years younger. She is buried in Highgate Cemetery.

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