Memories of JB Priestley

Inevitably, people (and oops, I just did), tend to ask Tom Priestley - son of JB - what his father was like.

Thursday, 30th June 2011, 10:33 am

“And I say that I don’t know,” Tom says, “because like implies comparison and I only had one father!

“I think children are very accepting. If you have a father who is in some way deformed, you just accept that. If your father has a glass eye, then so be it. And if your father is a writer, then that’s what your father is.

“But my father enjoyed being a family man. He was an only son. He had a half-sister who was some years younger than he was. He certainly wasn’t brought up in a large family, and there were six of us. Both my parents were married before.

“But like all these things, there is a contraction,” says Tom, whose father’s play

Eden End will be staged at the Theatre Royal Brighton until Saturday, July 2.

“Because of his physical appearance, my father seemed a really powerful, rather intimidating man. But he was actually quite shy. Ideally, he liked to meet people on his own terms rather than on their terms. People said he was a much better host than he was a guest!”

During the war, Priestley was doing a lot of broadcasts and the family was rather scattered away from London, recalls Tom who was born in 1932: “But other than that, he was always working - working at home or wherever. He kept very regular hours.

“Our relationship was close but not intimate. I think that was partly our two particular characters, but also that’s how people were at that time.

“Obviously at meal times, he might talk about whatever was preoccupying him, and then later when you read the book he’s been writing, you would think ‘I know about this!’”

The delight now, of course, is that so many people do indeed “know” about Priestley - the happy state perhaps for a writer who was never what you might call fashionable.

“If you were never fashionable, you can’t really go out of fashion!”

Eden End is one of Priestley’s most heartfelt family dramas, It was last seen in London in Olivier’s final season for the National Theatre at the Old Vic in 1974.

Stella Kirby spent eight years running away, leaving home to find her freedom as a celebrated actress. Now she has decided that the only role left to play is the prodigal daughter returned, hoping to discover herself in the warmth of ordinary life and the familiar surroundings of her childhood home.

Set in 1912, Eden End slowly exposes the cracks in the lives of a respectable Northern family. A poignant look back at an Edwardian age of innocence before the start of the First World War,..

Tickets on 0844 871 7650.