David Stafford obituary

<span>Photograph: from family/unknown</span>
Photograph: from family/unknown

My friend David Stafford, who has died aged 74 of lung cancer, sustained a varied career as a writer and broadcaster for more than 40 years. For a decade from the late 1980s, he contributed a much-loved weekly column to the Saturday Guardian, latterly known as Staffordshire Bull.

His comedy writing career took off after he met Alexei Sayle in 1980, which resulted in several successful writing collaborations including the Time Out column Great Bus Journeys of the World, an award-winning Capital Radio series, Alexei Sayle and the Fish People (1981), and the Channel 4 film Itch (1991), directed by Beeban Kidron.

Alongside this, David spent the 1980s establishing himself as a TV presenter, specialising in wry pieces on arts programmes such as Channel 4’s The Media Show. He later appeared regularly on BBC Two’s The Late Show (his teasing take on the 1989 film of Henry V endures on YouTube: “What churl would ever dare to pan a man as glam as Kenneth Branagh?”).

As well as frequent radio work as a presenter and panellist on shows including Going Places, and guest presenter slots on Home Truths, from the late 90s David wrote a string of Radio 4 dramas with his third wife, Caroline (nee Moran), whom he married in 1993. The genuinely original, surrealism-tinged comedy series Man of Soup (1999-2000) was followed by shows including The Brothers (2004–07), Hazelbeach (2007-10) and the period legal drama Birkett (2012).

David also collaborated with Caroline on seven witty, well-researched pop biographies, whose subjects ranged from Randy Newman and Ronnie Lane to Kenny Everett and Lionel Bart.

Latterly David had found a niche as a crime novelist, creating the well-received Skelton’s Guide series of Golden Age-style 20s legal mysteries, the first of which, Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons, was nominated for a Crime Writers’ Association award in 2020.

David was born in Birmingham to Eveline (nee Hunt) and Ted Stafford, who ran a barber’s shop in Alum Rock. After attending King Edward VI grammar school in Aston, he studied drama at Birmingham University (1968-71), before working in street theatre as part of the newly established Interplay Theatre Collective in Leeds.

David’s first two marriages, to Lin Hawkins and Alice Harper, both ended in divorce. He is survived by Caroline and their three daughters, Clemmie, Connie and Georgie.