The TV writer Sally Wainwright has confirmed she will not start writing the third series of the crime drama Happy Valley for at least a year, while she works on a show for the BBC about the Yorkshire diarist Anne Lister.
Speaking at the Wellcome Trust on Wednesday night, where she was named this year’s recipient of the charity’s £30,000 screenwriting fellowship, the Bafta-winning writer said she hoped to use the award to further her research into Lister, a landowner who died in 1840 and kept a series of intimate diaries detailing her intellectual pursuits and lesbian relationships.
As part of the prize, Wainwright would have access to all the archives, biomedical research and experts at the Wellcome Trust, the world’s largest medical research charity.
“What a wonderful thing,” Wainwright said. “For my next project I am writing about Anne Lister, the West Yorkshire diarist, who studied human anatomy in Paris in the 1820s among many other remarkable things, so what better place to research that?”
The three previous recipients of the Wellcome fellowship were the film-makers Clio Barnard, Jonathan Glazer and Carol Morley.
Wainwright said: “I realised that almost everything I do could benefit from what is on offer here. I do a lot of research, for instance with Happy Valley I spoke to a psychiatrist about what it’s like to be a psychopath. Though by the time I get round to writing the next series of Happy Valley, the year will have expired.”
Happy Valley’s first episode attracted more than 7 million viewers when it debuted on BBC1 in April 2014. Set in West Yorkshire and starring Sarah Lancashire, it was described by the Radio Times as the year’s “biggest word-of-mouth hit”.
The Lister drama will be the second work Wainwright has written for the BBC about pioneering women from her native Yorkshire. Her one-off two-hour drama To Walk Invisible, based on the lives of the three Brontë sisters, will debut this month.
Wainwright also confirmed that reports she was writing a TV musical were untrue. It was simply “a joke that got taken out of context. That’s not going to happen anytime soon.”