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Delaney, Shelagh

Delaney’s style is completely unique. Her multidimensional portrayals of the working class stand out through her insight and dialect but, perhaps most importantly, her refusal to idealise characters on the basis of their gender, race or sexuality. Her themes, such as positive portrayals of interracial relationships and homosexuality and negative portrayals of parenthood, were shocking at the time. She was no hypocrite and refused to give her original script of A Taste of Honey to Salford Council once she became famous because they had at first claimed her work brought shame to their city. Her work went through a phase of not being performed very often, but in 2018 there was a production at the Oldham Coliseum Theatre, and the National Theatre took the play on tour in 2019. Delaney’s themes such as teenage pregnancy are still very relevant today, and her ‘kitchen sink’ style drama reveals much about the UK’s history and about cultural attitudes of the 1950s.

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Shelagh Delaney born

Shelagh Delaney was born on 25th November 1938 in Salford, Lancashire, and has Irish ancestry.

Watch an excerpt of a BBC film about Delaney’s Salford



Aged 15, Shelagh attended Pendleton High School and achieved five O Levels.

A Taste of Honey

Delaney wrote her play in only 10 days. Originally, it was going to be a novel, but Delaney was having too much fun socialising so wrote a play instead, as it was shorter. She was inspired to write a more sincere, less stereotypical version of Northern people and homosexuals after seeing Terence Rattigan’s Variation on a Theme in Manchester. When the play was performed by Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop, Delaney was labelled ‘the antithesis of London’s ‘angry young men”’ by Gerry Raffles of Theatre Workshop

Watch a National Theatre interview with Shelagh Delaney’s daughter, Charlotte



She received the Charles Henry Foyle award for best new play, and an Arts Council bursary. She even sold the film rights for £20,000.

Watch an ITN interview with Delaney from 1959


The Lion in Love

Delaney wrote her second play, about a family in poverty. It was not as well received as A Taste of Honey.

TV dramatisation

Delaney and director Tony Richardson co-wrote the televised version of A Taste of Honey. She wrote other screenplays, including Dance with a Stranger in 1985.


Delaney won a BAFTA for Best British Screenplay for A Taste of Honey.

Sweetly Sings the Donkey

Delaney published a collection of short stories.

More awards

Delaney became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

The Smiths

Front man of The Smiths, Morrisey, claimed Delaney as one of his major inspirations. The lyrics of their single ‘The Night Has Opened My Eyes’ directly retells the plot of A Taste of Honey. The band even featured Delaney on the cover of their single ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ and their album Louder Than Bombs.

Radio plays

Delaney wrote a series of radio plays, including Tell Me a Film in 2003.


Delaney died five days before turning 73. She died at her daughter’s Suffolk home of heart failure and breast cancer.

Read an obituary in The Guardian