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Carla Lane
Carla Lane 1992.png
Born Romana Barrack
(1928-08-05)5 August 1928
West Derby, Liverpool, England
Died 31 May 2016(2016-05-31) (aged 87)
Mossley Hill, Liverpool, England
Occupation Screenwriter
Nationality British
Period 1969–2016
Genre Television
Notable works
  • The Liver Birds (1969–1979, 1996)
  • Bless This House (1971–76)
  • Butterflies (1978–1983)
  • Solo (1981–82)
  • The Mistress (1985–87)
  • Bread (1986–1991)
  • Luv (1993–94)
Eric Arthur Hollins
(m. 1948; div. 1981)
Children 2

Romana Barrack OBE (5 August 1928 – 31 May 2016), known professionally as Carla Lane, was an English television writer responsible for several successful British sitcoms, including The Liver Birds (co-creator, 1969–1979), Butterflies (1978–1983), and Bread (1986–1991).

Lane was described as "the television writer who dared to make women funny"; much of her work focused on strong women characters, including "frustrated housewives and working class matriarchs". In later years, she became well known as an animal welfare advocate.

Early life and education

Lane was born in West Derby, Liverpool, in the United Kingdom on 5 August 1928. Her father was Gordon De Vince Barrack, a Welsh-Italian steward in the merchant navy, and her mother was Ivy Amelia (née Foran). She had a younger brother, Ramon, and a sister, Marna. Lane grew up in West Derby and Heswall. She attended a convent school and, aged seven, won a school poetry prize. She left school aged 14, and worked in nursing.

After leaving school, she worked first in a baby linen shop, then at Bonmarché, and finally at a factory in Prescot. According to her autobiography, she married Eric Arthur Hollins at 17 and had two sons by the age of 19, though official records indicate that she was 19 when she married on 27 March 1948.

Writing career

In the 1960s, Lane wrote short stories and radio scripts. Her first successes came in collaboration with Myra Taylor, whom she had met at a writers' workshop in Liverpool. Lane and Taylor would often meet at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool City Centre to write. She said that she used a pseudonym, "Carla Lane", because of her modesty about revealing that she was a writer.

With Taylor, she submitted some comedy sketch scripts to the BBC, where they were seen by Michael Mills, the head of comedy at the time. He encouraged them to write a half-hour script, which was broadcast as a pilot episode of The Liver Birds in April 1969. A short first series followed to little acclaim, leading Mills to decline to produce a second series, changing his mind only when Lane and Taylor wrote a series of new scripts. The series became one of the most popular of the time, characterised by Lane's "ability to conjure laughs out of pathos and life's little tragedies". Upon Mills' departure from the position of head of comedy at the BBC in 1972, Lane took sole responsibility for writing the scripts beginning in 1973.

Her successful screenwriting career continued through the 1970s and 1980s, in particular with the 1978–1983 sitcom Butterflies and the 1986–1991 sitcom Bread.

In Butterflies, described as "undoubtedly ... her finest work", she addressed the lead character's desires for freedom from her "decent but dull" husband. Wendy Craig, who starred in Butterflies, said of Lane: "Her greatest gift was that she understood women and wrote the truth about them ... She spoke about what others didn't. In the case of [Craig's lead character], it was all about what was going on inside her – and many other women at the time." ..... In the late 1980s, Bread had the third-highest viewing figures on British television, beaten only by EastEnders and Neighbours. However, Bread was criticised by some in Liverpool for portraying a stereotypical view of people in the city, an opinion that Lane rejected.

Animal welfare

St Tudwal's Island East - - 27132
St. Tudwal's Island East (foreground), known for its wildlife and purchased by Lane

Lane had been a vegetarian dedicated to the care and welfare of animals since 1965, She established the "Animal Line" trust in 1990 with her friends Rita Tushingham and Linda McCartney. In 1991, she bought Saint Tudwal's Island East off the coast of Wales, to protect its wildlife. In 1993, Lane converted the grounds of her mansion, Broadhurst Manor in Horsted Keynes, Sussex, into a 25-acre animal sanctuary. She operated the sanctuary for 15 years before having to close operations due to financial constraints.

In 2002, Lane returned her OBE to then prime minister Tony Blair in protest against animal cruelty. In 2013, an animal sanctuary named after her was opened in Melling, Merseyside.

Later life and death

Lane published her autobiography, Someday I'll Find Me: Carla Lane's Autobiography, in 2006. She returned to Liverpool in 2009. Lane died, aged 87, at Stapley Nursing Home in Mossley Hill, in Liverpool, on 31 May 2016.

Television series

  • 1969–1979, 1996: The Liver Birds (with Myra Taylor and others)
  • 1971–1976: Bless This House (with Myra Taylor and others)
  • 1974: No Strings
  • 1975: Going, Going, Gone ... Free?
  • 1977: Three Piece Suite
  • 1978–1983, 2000: Butterflies
  • 1981–1983: The Last Song
  • 1981–1982: Solo
  • 1984–1985: Leaving
  • 1985–1987: The Mistress
  • 1985–1986: I Woke Up One Morning
  • 1986–1991: Bread
  • 1992: Screaming
  • 1993–1994: Luv
  • 1995: Searching

See also

  • List of animal rights advocates
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