Gwyneth Hughes re-imagines History to bring the old works back to life on screen

Screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes excitedly talks to students at Leeds Trinity University’s Journalism and Media Week 2019 about her rewrites of much-loved classics for the screen.  

In doing so, she describes rewriting as a technical skill, comparing it to: “Weaving a knitting pattern,

“When writing big, baggy 19th Century novels, it is a matter of working out where the cliff hangers need to be placed, as they will [need to] be in different places than in the novels.”

She says that life goes round in circles, but for the screen she has to write in a straight line and draw upon the details of the unknown parts of history.

She said that a detail from history that does inspire her imagination is the clothing:

“I like being the only writer with the producers, the electricians- and oh wow the costume department!”

However, she is still mindful of historical accuracy.

She said: “I do loads and loads of research, and we then hire historians and biographers,

“I can find myself shouting at the TV when research hasn’t been done properly.”

Close up of a costume from Mystery of Edwin Drood


A finer detail she has taken from the world around her was from the seaside town of Scarborough for her ghost story, Remember Me.

“I had walked onto the black and white tiled floor in the café next to the spa, and I thought it would be a great place for a ghostly walk,

“I was listening to Scarborough Fair on Castle Hill, an 18th Century song about setting a girl impossible tasks- I then had my ghost story.”




Hughes had always secretly wanted to write, but previously had a lack of confidence.

“I was approaching 30, and I thought if I don’t start approaching [producers] then I’m going to be one of those people lying on her death bed [wishing if I did]”.

“Its not just about one lucky break,

“Every couple of years you need a lucky break, so just be there, and be open to chances to avoid disappointments,

“Even if its not the perfect project, its still a project.”

Hughes names Stephen King as one of her heroes.

She says that he taught her to: “Coax your story out of the ground, be gentle with the story, open your heart and encourage it to come to you.”

Her next script in the works is an adaptation of Tom Jones, a 900- page novel, and has written episode one so far.

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