Jonathan Harvey is the hugely successful writer behind hits such as Beautiful Thing and Gimme Gimme Gimme plus he’s a regular writer on Coronation Street. 2018 saw the start of a retrospective of his work at Above The Stag and it will continue in 2019.
Where are you from originally?
I am from Liverpool. I grew up on a big main road by a set of traffic lights and my childhood was peppered with me being woken in the night by flashing blue lights, big car crashes, and bodies being cut from the wreckage.
And where do you live now?
I live with my husband Paul and our dog Boo. We divide our time between a house in Liverpool and a flat in Bloomsbury.
What do you love about London and why?
The history of the place, I guess. We live by the Brunswick Centre and I am fascinated by the history of the area. I have several books on it and I bore my fella with the facts I have picked up. Living so centrally is great because I can walk everywhere.
What was the first gay venue you visited?
The Lisbon in Liverpool. It’s a really old gay pub down some steps in town. I shat myself (not literally) as it was rammed. I must’ve been about seventeen. I worked up the courage to ask this bloke at the bar what the time was, as I thought that’s what you were meant to do. He took one look at me, completely non-plussed, and said ‘There’s a fucking big clock there’. I was stood right by an enormous clock.
We are in the middle of a retrospective of your work at Above The Stag, have you enjoyed looking back at your previous work?
Well, I love the sound of my own voice so yes. It’s very strange, exploring things you thought were important enough to write about 25 years ago, but it’s a wonderful opportunity and I’m very grateful for it. Launching the new building was flattering, and the facilities there are great.
What is coming up next in the season?
I honestly don’t know. I know they’ve got a couple of things planned but I don’t know what’s next. I did a play about Hillsborough for the National Theatre – Guiding Star – in 1998 and it’s the 30th anniversary of the disaster next year so you never know, it might be that.
What was the last theatre show you saw, where, and what did you think of it?
I saw Company in the West End which was just superb. The design, the cast, everything about it was spectacular. And Patti Lupone brought the house down. And then I saw Cane at the Royal Court by Mark Ravenhill. It was really tense and it was great to see the theatre packed out for a very tough, serious piece of theatre.
What is your guilty pleasure and why?
I’m not sure I feel too guilty about anything I enjoy, but I suppose if I had to think of something that brings me great pleasure it’s the Eurovision Song Contest. Sometimes I’m on the treadmill at the gym and I think how mortifying it would be if the whole place had to listen to the music I’m listening to on my headphones… If suddenly everyone in the building was forced to listen to Spain’s entry from 1980.
In the past I have spent loads on posh holidays. I remember getting a big cheque for Gimme Gimme Gimme and buggering off to Mauritius for Christmas and New Year. These days I feel I spend a fortune on trains as I’m always going between London and Liverpool.
Best gift you’ve ever received and why?
I can’t think. I can think of the time I was hugely disappointed by one. In 1976 I asked for a Brotherhood of Man LP for my birthday. My nan bought me the single. I was so FEWMIN I hurled it at her.
What has been the highlight of your career so far and why?
Going to the Cannes film festival with Beautiful Thing was very exciting. And in 2018 I was very proud of two episodes of Coronation Street that I wrote: the rape of David Platt and the episode that explored the aftermath of Aidan’s suicide.
If you could go back in time which year would you choose and why?
1976. Butlins Pwllheli. Just to savour winning the space hopper championships all over again.
What’s the best party you’ve ever been to and what made it so good?
In the 90s I had a party in my flat in Kentish Town. It went on for days. I went to stay with my then boyfriend to get away from the noise and when I came back it was still going. My flatmates were actresses and I still meet TV producers today who say ‘Did you used to live with Julie Graham? I came to THAT party.’
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
‘Always write about the little people’ – it’s what my Mum said to me after seeing Beautiful Thing.
Who is your LGBT+ hero and why?
When I was growing up in Liverpool in the 70s my dad had a friend at work called Chad who was gay, and out and proud. His making a stand for himself certainly changed my parents’ perceptions about being gay and made it easier in the long run for me to come out. Currently I take my hat off to trans people who, daily, have to put up with so much shit in the media and online.
Who are the most entertaining people on social media?
I just wish Julia Davis would tweet. Or Joan and Jericha.
Where in the world would you like to visit before you die?
My biggest problem as I get older is I can’t be arsed. My fella’s like ‘D’you fancy going to Thailand?’ and I’m like ‘Oh God I’d love to. Nothing would give me greater pleasure. But I can’t be arsed.’
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?
That one day I would get to meet Wincey Willis. That I wouldn’t be evacuated (that was my biggest fear. I’d seen too many war movies) And that you can make a living out of making things up.