Nell Dunn

Nell Mary Dunn (born 9 June 1936) is an English playwright, screenwriter and author. She is known especially for a volume of short stories, Up the Junction, and a novel, Poor Cow.

Nell Dunn
BornNell Mary Dunn
(1936-06-09) 9 June 1936 (age 83)
London, England
  • Playwright
  • novelist
  • screenwriter
Notable worksUp the Junction (1963) Steaming (1981)
SpouseJeremy Sandford (1957–1979)

Early yearsEdit

The daughter of Sir Philip Dunn and the maternal granddaughter of the 5th Earl of Rosslyn – the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo – Dunn was a descendant of Charles II and Nell Gwyn. She was born in London and educated at a convent, which she left at the age of 14. Nell's father didn't believe that his daughters needed any qualifications, and as a result Nell has never passed an exam in her life. She only learnt to read at nine years old and "whenever my father saw my appalling spelling, he would laugh. But it wasn't an unkind laugh. In his laugh there was the message, 'You are a completely original person, and everything you do has your own mark on it.' He wanted us all to be unique," she says.

Although she came from an upper-class background, in 1959 Dunn moved to Battersea, made friends there and worked, for a time, in a sweet factory. This world inspired much of what Dunn would later write. Dunn was married to writer Jeremy Sandford from 1957 to 1979; the couple had three sons.[1] She attended the Courtauld Institute of Art.[2]


Dunn came to notice with the publication of Up the Junction (1963), a series of short stories set in South London, some of which had already appeared in the New Statesman. The book, awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, was a controversial success at the time for its vibrant, realistic and non-judgmental portrait of its working-class protagonists. It was adapted for television by Dunn (and Ken Loach) for The Wednesday Play series, which was directed by Ken Loach, and broadcast in November 1965. A cinema film version was released in 1968.

Talking to Women (1965) was a collection of interviews with nine friends, "from society heiresses to factory workers (Dunn herself was both)".[3] The interviewees included Edna O’Brien, Pauline Boty, Ann Quin and Paddy Kitchen.[3] Dunn's first novel, Poor Cow (1967) was a bestseller, achieving a succès de scandale. Poor Cow was made into a film starring Carol White and Terence Stamp, under Loach's direction.

Her later books are Grandmothers (1991) and My Silver Shoes (1996). Dunn's play Steaming was produced in 1981 and a television film Every Breath You Take, was transmitted in 1987. She has also written Sisters, a film script commissioned by the BBC.

She won the 1982 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

Personal lifeEdit

Dunn became a Patron of Dignity in Dying after her partner, Dan Oestreicher, died of lung cancer.


  • Up the Junction 1963
  • Poor Cow 1967
  • I Want (with Adrian Henri) 1972
  • Tear His Head Off His Shoulders 1974
  • The Only Child 1978
  • Grandmothers 1991
  • My Silver Shoes 1996


  • Steaming, 1981
  • Variety Night, 1982
  • The Little Heroine, 1988
  • Consequences, 1988
  • Babe XXX, 1998
  • Cancer Tales, 2003
  • Home Death 2011

Film scriptEdit


  1. ^ Ironside, Virginia. "Nell Dunn: I never used to think about death, until I was 50. I was never going to die. I was immortal. But now I think about death every day". The Independent. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  2. ^ {{ Selected list of alumni of The Courtauld Institute of Art]. The Courtauld Institute of Art. Accessed August 2015
  3. ^ a b Kate Webb, Something to say for herself: hearing and recording female voices, Times Literary Supplement, July 17, 2018.
  4. ^ Lubin Odana (31 January 1968). "Poor Cow (1967)". IMDb. Retrieved 8 May 2015.

External linksEdit