Multi-BAFTA winning screenwriter Jimmy Gardner died on December 14th, 2010 aged 53 of heart failure. His work was marked by an honesty and integrity which reflected his own character. Though best known for the hard hitting and highly acclaimed British television dramas The Cops and Buried, in person Jimmy was a kind, thoughtful, humorous and modest man, qualities not always associated with the television industry.
Brought up in Edinburgh, Gardner later studied at Kent University for a BA Hons in English and American Literature. Subsequently, he led a somewhat peripatetic life with an eclectic range of jobs in London, New York and Lisbon before returning to Edinburgh.
In 1992 he graduated from the screenwriting course at the Northern Film School with Borderland which won the Best British Student Short Film Award was shortlisted for the 1996 Dennis Potter Award after a recommendation from Tessa Ross, then at BBC Television. As Ross recalls 'I still remember well how exciting it was to read Jimmy's submission to the Dennis Potter Award, all those years ago - here was an honest and clear original voice, a voice with grit and humanity and a clear sense of purpose. Jimmy was quiet and serious, unshowy and very unusual - just like his writing. Working with him and the team on Buried was a great highlight and Cops remains one of the true inspirational, unforgettable pieces of television drama. I am very sad to hear of his death.'
Following a BAFTA nomination for his short film The Butterfly Man, Gardner began his television career writing episodes of The Bill. Having written for the second series of This Life Gardner, together with Robert Jones and Anita Pandolfo, developed The Cops with producer Francis Hopkinson which went on to win the BAFTA Award for Best Drama Series in 1999 and 2000 and the Royal Television Society’s Best Drama Series Award in 2000.
The Cops was described by Executive Producer Tony Garnett as a 'Trojan Horse drama', a critique of life on a northern sink estate and of the realities of policing in this milieu. Francis Hopkinson described Gardner's first script for the series as a perfect opener and launched the show that boosted many careers – so we all owe Jimmy'. On learning of his death, producer Tony Garnett said 'Jimmy was a real talent, perceptive about people and angry at injustice. It was a privilege to work with a writer of such integrity.'
Gardner went on to co-devise and write (with Robert Jones) the critically acclaimed series Buried and this uncompromising, harsh and violent portrayal of prison life won the 2004 BAFTA Award for Best Drama Series.
He also wrote the screenplay for a feature film Outlanders based on a story by Dominic Lees which was released theatrically in 2009.
Gardner created and was the lead writer for the darkly comic family saga Goldplated; a prescient tale of unsustainable avarice set around a nouveau riche family of property developers in Manchester.
More recently he had written an episode of the period cop drama George Gently starring Martin Shaw and at the time of his death was writing another episode, along with developing a number of original drama projects.
Gardner was born with a congenital heart defect, which required surgery at different stages of his life, together with ongoing treatment, all of which he bore with characteristic good grace and wry humour. He is survived by his wife, Claire Russell, three brothers, his son, Eugene, and his parents.