Screen­writer Kay Mel­lor re­veals sex­ual as­sault

The writer of Band of Gold has kept her se­cret for 30 years. Now it’s time to en­cour­age oth­ers to come for­ward, she tells Sarah Hughes

The Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

Tele­vi­sion writer Kay Mel­lor, the pow­er­house cre­ator of hit shows from Band of Gold to the new Love, Lies and Records, has spo­ken out for the first time about her sex­ual as­sault at the hands of a se­nior TV ex­ec­u­tive ear­lier in her ca­reer.

Mel­lor was in her 30s and work­ing as a pro­ducer at Granada when the un­named ex­ec­u­tive, who is now dead, ex­pressed an in­ter­est in de­vel­op­ing one of her scripts, a com­edy drama called An­nie’s Back .

“I got a call from his sec­re­tary who said he would like to see you and went up in the lift to his of­fice on a floor I’d never been to be­fore,” Mel­lor told the Ob­server. “I knocked on the door and he opened it and he said: “Come in.” He was very friendly, a real pil­lar of the com­mu­nity type and at first ev­ery­thing was fine. He was very pos­i­tive about the project and said all the right things about how much it made him laugh but then the at­mos­phere started to change.

“He asked if I wanted a drink. I said no I’ve got a script con­fer­ence to get back down for. He in­sisted that I sat on the sofa and then turned the con­ver­sa­tion back to the script. I thought he was go­ing to say ‘write up the first episode and we’ll see’ but in­stead he sat down very close to me, which made me un­com­fort­able and then lunged at me and tried to kiss me. I pulled away and said: ‘I’m sorry this is not what I’m do­ing here’ and he replied: ‘Oh re­ally – what did you come up here for then? What did think you were do­ing?’ I was gob­s­macked. I kept think­ing have I done some­thing wrong here? Then just as I was head­ing to open the door he said ‘Kay’. I turned around and he’d ex­posed him­self. He stood there look­ing at me and said: ‘Is this what you want?’ ”

Mel­lor went back to her of­fice, slammed the door and sat there feel­ing stunned. “I never men­tioned it to an­other liv­ing soul, not even my hus­band An­thony. The only peo­ple who knew were him and me and that’s ter­ri­ble to think about now – be­cause he was the guilty one so why did I think that I shared the blame? I felt soiled by the ex­pe­ri­ence as though I was a fail­ure for hav­ing even gone up there think­ing that it was about get­ting a com­mis­sion.”

She de­cided to move on from Granada. “I prob­a­bly would have left any­way be­cause I wanted to write but the un­der­ly­ing rea­son was that I never wanted to see his face again,” she said. “I left the com­pany two and a half weeks af­ter the in­ci­dent hap­pened and I shred­ded the script for An­nie’s Back. It felt like a link and I never wanted it to get made.”

Mel­lor’s ex­pe­ri­ence forms part of a grow­ing wave of fe­male and male voices talk­ing about their ex­pe­ri­ence of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and abuse. In ad­di­tion to the mul­ti­ple ac­cu­sa­tions against Har­vey We­in­stein, last week saw Dustin Hoff­man ac­cused of two in­ci­dents of sex­ual ha­rass­ment, Michael Fal­lon re­sign as de­fence sec­re­tary over “in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour” and Scot­land Yard an­nounce an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault in­volv­ing ac­tor Kevin Spacey. Net­flix also said it will cease work­ing with Spacey on its show House of Cards and is de­clin­ing to re­lease a film star­ring him.

The so­ci­ety mag­a­zine Tatler yes­ter­day is­sued an “un­re­served apol­ogy” to the ac­tor Daisy Lewis af­ter a seg­ment stated that she was “loud. Which makes her fun at a party. And in bed. Prob­a­bly.”

She said on Twit­ter: “I’m re­ally shocked and up­set by this. But thank­fully I’m ‘loud’ enough to say it. Does any­one at Tatler read the news?”

Mel­lor says: “I think there are prob­a­bly a lot of men in all walks of life and many dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sions who are qua­ver­ing in their boots right now be­cause there is go­ing to be an out­pour­ing of this stuff. This is just the be­gin­ning.”

“We need to have a con­ver­sa­tion about this and we need to have it loudly. We need to talk about why it’s not OK to use belit­tling lan­guage, to put your hands on peo­ple’s knees, to lunge at women, to abuse your po­si­tion of power in any way. It’s not funny and it’s not a joke.”

She re­grets not re­port­ing her ex­pe­ri­ence at the time. “In hind­sight I should have said some­thing im­me­di­ately but I just felt so in­sulted by him. I was a grownup with a re­spon­si­ble job and he man­aged to make me feel sul­lied and de­meaned and as though this was some­thing I should never speak about.”

De­spite that, she has no wish to name her at­tacker. “Had he still been alive I would have named him be­cause I would have liked to look him in the eye and said why did you do that to me? But nam­ing him once he’s dead does no­body any good. What hap­pened could have put me off work­ing in this in­dus­try for life but it didn’t. In­stead I worked my­self into a pow­er­ful po­si­tion so that I could own my own com­pany and cham­pion new young writ­ers, par­tic­u­larly young fe­male writ­ers. I worked my­self into a po­si­tion where that could never hap­pen to me again.”

Mel­lor hopes that talk­ing openly will en­cour­age other women to come for­ward. “My big­gest hope is that if any woman or man is in the po­si­tion that I was in, read­ing this might en­able them to speak out them­selves and that in turn might stop the next per­son from be­ing at­tacked, or make the next man think twice be­fore do­ing some­thing like this.”

‘We need to have a con­ver­sa­tion about this. We need to have it loudly. It’s not funny and it’s not a joke’

Pho­to­graph by Gary Cal­ton for the Ob­server

Kay Mel­lor now re­grets not re­port­ing her ex­pe­ri­ence at the time.

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