Work History


A potted work history by Ian

I write, give talks everywhere from women’s institutes to corporate dinners, run writing and storytelling workshops at all levels of education, from infant schools to universities, and I help people tell their stories and make books. I’ve done a fair bit of broadcasting work on radio and TV too.

I got made redundant from my job in a factory that manufactured machines for the coalmines in 1987. I had been toying with the idea of trying to make a go of writing for a while before that. I wrote a book about rugby league in my hometown and did some work collecting stories for community books published by Yorkshire Art Circus when I couldn’t sleep during the day after a night shift. I sent a couple of short stories to Radio 4 and had them accepted, in fact I performed my own stories on a now defunct Radio 4 series called First Person.

In 1989 I met a BBC TV director called Ray Hough and we made a half hour documentary for BBC Two in the Open Space series called On Earth To Make The Numbers Up about the work of the Yorkshire Art Circus. The Circus was the most progressive of all community arts companies, won many awards and worked in the visual arts, literature development, drama and community development. One of its founders Brian Lewis encouraged me to seek work as a freelance writer; he was a mentor from who I learned a lot about technique and approach.

I learned a lot about teaching when I ran a creative writing course at Wakefield Prison every Thursday evening for three years. Then was mentored in the art of running workshops by the Opera and Theatre Director Stephen Langridge when I took on work for Opera North as a librettist. Gillian Moore who is now head of contemporary culture at the South Bank Centre encouraged me to blend my storytelling work with music composition and I took work with London Sinfonietta and The Royal Festival Hall.

I like to think of myself as a jobbing writer and have written drama, magazine and newspaper articles, books and performance pieces. My book When Push Comes to Shove became the best selling book on rugby league and was highly commended in the Sunday Times sports book awards.

In the middle of the 1990’s I was asked to present television programmes for Yorkshire TV. I started on the early evening magazine programme Tonight alongside news journalist Christine Talbot and presented over 300 short films before being given my own half hour slots. I have presented five series of documentaries under the banner My Yorkshire. I have worked across Britain and in Europe and America for ITV.

I continue to write, run workshops, collaborate with musicians, broadcast on TV and radio and champion ‘outsider’ art forms. I have recently been asked to give a lot of talks and lectures. I have written and published three memoirs over the last few years, Bringing It All Back Home, Our Billie and Song For My Father.

Here’s a potted timeline of some of the work I have done:

Workshop Leader

Writing Project leader at Centrica Power Stations in Grimsby and Plymouth for Redlodge Agency, 2014
Visiting Fellow with a two month residency in creative writing at North East Normal University, Changchun, China, 2013
Guest Lecturer at Jilin Private University, China, 2013
Writing course tutor at Castleford Community Learning Centre, 2010–present
Occasional lecturer in documentary film, York St John University, 2008–12
Creative writing tutor for Leeds University, 2011–present
Drama Project at St Georges Crypt, Leeds, 2011
Writing projects at DHL Argos, 2011
Creative writing tutor for Union Learn (TUC), 2010–present
For Yorkshire Art Circus in Creative Writing, 1986-2007
Benjamin Britton School of Advanced Musical Study Aldeburgh Suffolk, 2004
English National Opera at Sky TV, 2003
National Youth Orchestra, 2001
Pathways Consultancy, 1996
London Sinfonietta, since 1990
Opera North 1989, 1990, 1992
Royal Festival Hall, 1991, 1992 and 1995
Academy of St. Martins in the Field, 1991

Visiting Scholar

In 2013 and 2015, I was visiting scholar in creative writing at North East Normal University in Changchun, China, where I was  invited to give the Masters Lecture at the media school, and was a guest lecturer at Jilin University.


Various public events including local authority public consultations; health, educational and environmental charities; and awards ceremonise, 2006–present

Books Published: A Brief Selection

Song For My Father (Route, 2014)
Our Billie, (
Penguin, 2010)
Bringing It All Back Home (
Route, 2007)
Entertaining Angels (St. George’s Crypt, 2002)
When Push Comes To Shove, 2 Volumes (Yorkshire Art Circus 1993 and 1995)
One in the Eye (A Biography of Terry Cryer, Yorkshire Art Circus, 1991)
On A Clear Day You Can See Barnsley Town Hall (Yorkshire Art Circus 1989)
Mobile Memories (in collaboration with Age Concern, Yorkshire Art Circus, 1988)
When Poverty Knocks On The Door (Yorkshire Art Circus, 1987)


Column in Featherstone Rovers official matchday programme, 1986-1995
Weekly column in Pontefract and Castleford Express, 2010-Present


Arthur Scargill’s Yorkshire, a 70th birthday special. ITV Yorkshire, 2008
My Yorkshire. 5 series, 2005-2008
Daddy, What Did You Do In The Strike? (20th anniversary of the miners strike) Yorkshire TV, 2004.
Only Here For The Pier. Yorkshire TV, 2004.
With A Little Help From Our Friends (in Belarus) Yorkshire TV, 2001.
The Big Trip/Ian’s Big Trip (USA, 1997. Northern Europe, 2000. Southern Europe, 2001.)
Former Glory. Discovery Channel, 1999.
Truckers (Narrator), Channel 5, 1998.
Tonight (Magazine Show), Presenter, 1995 to 2002.
In A Different Light (A Mediterranean Cruise), with the artist, Ashley Jackson, YTV, 2001
Wakefield Jailhouse Opera for the Late Show, BBC2, 1989.
On Earth To Make The Numbers Up, Open Space BBC2, 1988.


A film to accompany the CD Lady’s Bridge with Richard Hawley


Short Stories for Radio 4, 1989 -1991
Blue Tulips. Radio 3, 1994
Still Angry After All These Years, Radio 4, 2004
That’s My Name, Radio 4, 2005


Prometheus, Tony Harrison Film, 1998


Arabian Nights, Putney Hospital London, 1994
Sunny Day, London Sinfonietta, 
Wormwood Scrubs Prison, 1992
The Enemy Within
, 1993
This is Featherstone,
In Our Backs
, 1989
Arabian Nights, Putney Hospital London, 1994


The Last Great Northern Hippo Show, 1990 Opera North at Leeds University
Wakefield Jailhouse Opera, with Opera North at Wakefield Prison 1991
The Buckie Bourach, Scotland 2001


Austin International Poetry Festival Texas, 1997
Ilkley Literature Festival, 1991, 1993, 1995, 2007
East of England Libraries Storytelling Tour, 1996

Key work as an interviewer

Arthur Scargill – half hour film on his seventieth birthday
John Entwistle – on music
Chumbawamba – on photography
Alan Plater – on books
Julian Temple – on the Sex Pistols
Joanne Harris – on writing
Prince Andrew at Buckingham Palace – for a documentary on photography
David Blunkett, Minister of Education – for a books programme
Denis Healey – on photography
Leslie Garrett – on books
Ken Dodd – on theatre
Archbishop of York – on storytelling
Barry Hines – on Cinema
Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father) – on film
John Godber – on theatre
Joanna Lumley – on film and photography
Stephen Fry – on the English seaside pier

Awards and Nominations

Pen Ackerley Prize, long-listed 2008.
Raymond Williams Prize, Highly commended for Entertaining Angels, 2003.
Arts Guild Bursary – Nominated by Alan Plater (Z Cars, Beiderbecke Affair)
Sunday Times Publishing Award. Highly Commended for When Push Comes to Shove
BP Arts Film – Nominated for Wakefield Jailhouse Opera
BAFTA – Nominated for On Earth to make the numbers Up
Royal Television Society – Nominated for Regional Presenter of the Year
UNICEF – One World Award nomination for With a Little Help

Work Environments

Schools from infant to senior, Colleges and Universities.
Prisons: Wakefield, Wormwood Scrubs, Maidstone, Askham Bryan and Bullwood Women’s Prisons.
Hospitals: Putney Home and Hospital, Meanwood Psychiatric.
Libraries: throughout Britain.
Arts Centres: Bristol, Scotland, Wales, London.
Aged Persons Homes: throughout Britain.
Theatres and Community Centres.
Museums and Heritage Centres.
Power stations

Some Reviews

Right Up Your Street

‘Ian Clayton has an unshakeable belief in the power of stories to bring people together, coming as he does from that great tradition of storytellers that includes the likes of Stan Barstow, Alan Sillitoe and, his hero, Barry Hines.’ – Chris Bond, Yorkshire Post

‘Ian Clayton is a brilliant columnist. Combining just the right amount of local knowledge and global awareness, Right Up Your Street is a wonder of Yorkshire vernacular, dying expressions and cosy pubs.’ – Laurie Harvey, Articulated

Song For My Father

‘Another humble masterpiece from our finest accidental social historian.’ Andy Kershaw

‘A rare thing, a book that makes us laugh, cry and question.’ Alice Nutter

‘A kaleidoscope of characters which are brilliantly illuminated as Ian searches for a true perception of why we are what we are. I envy his talent.’ John Finch, creator of Sam and Family at War

Our Billie

‘Ian has taken the worst experience a parent can endure and has spun it into a love poem of such potency and tenderness that even grief takes a back seat.’ Joanne Harris

‘Ian’s writing celebrates his daughter’s life, and he, his wife and son have somehow found a way to grieve for her, remember her and include her in their family without being maudlin.’ Jenni Murray

‘It is Billie’s story-lovingly and touchingly told, but it’s the story of a great deal more besides.’ The Guardian

‘Out of tragedy he has written a beautiful book that celebrates life.’ Yorkshire Post

Bringing It All Back Home:

‘Not a single false note, Clayton has written a compelling memoir of place and culture.’ The Times
‘Full of wisdom and humanity.’ Mojo
‘One of the best books popular music ever written.’ Record Collector
‘It is as Lady Day sang, but beautiful… The bravest piece of writing I’ve ever read.’ Alan Plater

Wakefield Jailhouse Opera

‘A wholly unpretentious film, though you wouldn’t want some of the music on a compact disc.’ The Independent

When Push Comes to Shove

‘Fine Words, Fine Pictures.’ The Independent

‘Brilliant.’ Open Rugby

‘A book to cherish.’ Yorkshire Post

‘Engaging and beautiful.’ Manchester Evening News

With a Little Help From Our Friends

‘One of the most moving films I’ve ever commissioned.’ Mike Best, Head of Broadcasting Yorkshire TV

The Last Great Northern Hippo Show

‘Not so much an opera more a party political broadcast.’ Yorkshire Post

Entertaining Angels

‘Moving, humbling, inspirational, a renewal of faith in the goodness of humanity.’ Yorkshire Evening Post

On my first television appearance

‘Eeeeh! Lad, I am proud o’ thee but tha wants to get thi hair cut.’ Hilda Fletcher, my Gran.