British Actor/Writer

Colin Welland is widely respected both as an actor and as a writer for television, the cinema, and the stage. Rotund and unfailingly good-humoured, he has given invaluable support in a range of plays and serials.

Welland first became a familiar face on British television when he landed the role of Constable David Graham, one of the original characters based at Newtown police station in the long-running police serial Z Cars in the 1960s. The series broke new ground, introducing a fresh realism to such cops-and-robbers shows and the regular stars all became household names. Welland stayed with the show for some time, as PC Bert Lynch's second partner on the beat, before eventually leaving for new pastures. He reappeared, together with other stars from the early years of the show, when the last episode was filmed in 1978.

Thus established in television as a performer, Welland went on to appear in various plays and television movies, often also contributing the scripts (he was voted Best TV Playwright in Britain in 1970, 1973 and 1974). True to his Lancashire roots, his plays often had an earthy northern humour and dealt with themes accessible to the working-class "man in the street." He also enjoyed huge success as a writer for the cinema, notably with his screenplays for Yanks and for Chariots of Fire, an Oscar-winning smash that was heralded (somewhat prematurely) as signalling a new golden era in British movie making. Welland himself picked up an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. Among subsequent films that have garnered their share of praise have been A Dry White Season, a drama dwelling on the cruelties imposed by the policy of apartheid in South Africa (co-written with Euzhan Palcy), and The War of the Buttons, another delve into the often dark and violent world of children. Also much admired were his appearances in such films as Kes, in which he played the sympathetic Mr. Farthing, and Willy Russell's Dancing Through the Dark, which was set in familiar north-western territory, in the bars and clubs of Liverpool.

Perhaps the most memorable image from Welland's lengthy career as a television actor came in 1979, when he was one of a first-class cast that was chosen to appear in Dennis Potter's award-winning play Blue Remembered Hills, which recalled the long-lost days of his own childhood. In company with Helen Mirren, Michael Elphick, Colin Jeavons and John Bird, among others, all of whom were adults playing the roles of young children, Welland cavorted gleefully around woods and fields, his bulk grotesquely crammed into a pair of boy's shorts. Potter's brilliantly realised play, exposing the native cruelty beneath the outwardly innocent world of children, was hailed as a masterpiece and Welland himself, not for the first time in his distinguished career, was singled out for special praise.

-David Pickering

Colin Welland
Photo courtesy of Colin Welland

COLIN WELLAND. Born Colin Williams in Leigh, Lancashire, England, 4 July 1934. Attended Newton-le-Willows Grammar School; Bretton Hall College; Goldsmith's College, London, Teacher's Diploma in Art and Drama. Married: Patricia Sweeney in 1962; children: Genevieve, Catherine, Caroline and Christie. Art teacher, 1958-62; joined Library Theatre, Manchester, 1962-64; established popular fame as PC Graham in Z Cars, 1962-65; has since worked as writer and actor for film, television and theatre. Recipient: Best TV Writer and Best Supporting Film Actor, British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards, 1970; Best TV Playwright, Writers' Guild, 1970, 1973, 1974; Academy Award, 1981; Evening Standard Award, 1981; Broadcasting Press Guild Award, 1973, 1981. Address: Peters, Fraser and Dunlop, Fifth Floor, The Chambers, Chelsea Harbour, Lots Road, London SW10 0XF, England.


1962-65 Z Cars (actor)


1976 Machine Gunner
1979 Blue Remembered Hills
1990 The Secret Life of Ian Fleming/Spymaker: The          Secret
1993 Femme Fatale (also writer)


1969 Bangelstein's Boys (also actor)
1970 Say Goodnight to Grandma
1970 Roll on Four O'Clock (also actor)
1973 Kisses at Fifty (also actor)
1974 Leeds United (also actor)
1974 The Wild West Show
1974 Jack Point
1976 Your Man From Six Counties (also actor)
1977 Bank Holiday
1994 Bambino Mio

FILMS (actor)

Kes, 1969; Straw Dogs, 1971; Villain, 1971; Sweeney!, 1977; Dancing Through the Dark, 1990.

FILMS (writer)

Yanks, 1979; Chariots of Fire, 1981; Twice in a Lifetime, 1985; A Dry White Season, 1989; War of the Buttons, 1994; The Yellow Jersey.

STAGE (writer)

Say Goodnight to Grandma, 1973; Roll on Four O'Clock, 1981.


A Roomful of Holes (play). London: Davis-Poynter, 1972.

Say Goodnight to Grandma (play). London: Davis-Poynter, 1973.

Northern Humour, 1982.


See also ZCars