Paul was born in 1952 and brought up in the Victorian middle-class suburbs of Hull, Leicester and Birmingham.  His mother, Mary, came from a family of mill workers. She met his father, Richard, at Leeds University.  Richard read English there, wrote The Uses of Literacy and became a Professor and founder of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham.

In 1964 Paul joined King Edward’s School.  Arriving mid-year as a new boy he was invited to ‘join the intellectuals’.  The invitation came from two pupils, later to become the playwright Kevin Elyot (then Lee) and Professor Peter Dews.  Paul valued their friendship and continued to meet up with them and fellow alumni, poet John Davies, Judge Peter Testar and businessman Martin Leadbetter.  Drama was an important outlet for the ‘Teddy Boys’ and a post ‘A Level’ production by them included Lindsay Duncan (née Smith) – from the girls’ school!

Paul read English (BA) and English and French 19th Century Novel (BPhil) at the University of York.  He went to Leicester and began post graduate research into 19th century popular literature, met his future wife, Elizabeth, and then in 1979 completed a PGCE at London University’s Institute of Education.  There followed teaching in schools, colleges and Higher Education establishments in Leicester, Nairobi and London.

From the 1980s he began writing occasional articles with work appearing in The Times, The Observer, Punch and GQ magazine. In 1988 he had a humorous column under the pseudonym Alan Vedgely in The Observer and this formed the basis of several contributions to Radio Four’s Fourth Column.  Throughout the 1990s he wrote pieces for The Times on culture, food, drink and family travel.  In 1998 he left teaching to start a weekly column on television in The Times until 2005 as one of the paper’s two regular television critics.

He continued to write features and profiles for The Times and numerous articles on the television industry for Broadcast magazine.  More features and profiles went into The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, Radio Times, Saga magazine, The Stage and ScriptWriter magazine.  He wrote numerous articles for Performer magazine including features on most of the major British conservatoires and film schools.  He contributed long features on aspects of British life, culture and politics to Newsweek magazine

Over the years he conducted innumerable interviews with iconic television writers (Jimmy McGovern, Kay Mellor), actors (Helen Mirren, Ian McKellan, David Tennant), screenwriters (Andrew Davies, Stephen Poliakoff, Abi Morgan), documentary makers (David Attenborough, Nick Broomfield, Michael Cockerell) and musicians (Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Howard Goodall)

In 2013 his first novel, A Man Against a Background of Flames, was published.  Among many favourable reviews it was selected by Laurie Taylor as one of his “books of the year” in the THES.  He researched and wrote Sixty Somethings with Nicola Madge.  This was published in 2020 and reflected the lives of women who remembered the Sixties.

Paul died of pancreatic cancer in March 2024.  He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Knight, and three grown up children.

This tribute was adapted from Paul’s own words by his wife, Elizabeth Knight


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