Kate Wilson obituary

Other lives: Film and television executive who starter her career at the newly formed Channel 4 in 1982

My friend Kate Wilson, who has died aged 73, was one of Channel 4’s first business affairs executives. She spent 40 years in the industry, eventually setting up her own successful consultancy.

Kate was born in London, to Judy (nee Trowbridge), a teacher, and Geoffrey Wilson, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Overseas Development and chairman of Oxfam. The family moved to the US in 1958, where Kate attended the National Cathedral school in Washington DC. On return to the UK in 1966 she went to St Paul’s girls school in London, going on to read politics and economics at York University.

Her career began in the entertainment department of the lawyers Denton, Hall and Burgin, where she was an articled clerk and associate from 1978 to 1981, living in Islington, north London.

In 1981, Kate was recruited by the newly formed Channel 4 as one of its first business affairs executives, negotiating deals with the nascent independent production sector. She brought calm, cheerful competence to a rather chaotic environment in which both the channel and the producers were feeling their way in a new world, practically all programmes having previously been made in-house at the BBC and ITV. Channel 4 went on air on 2 November 1982. All those involved remember that time with great fondness: exciting, collegiate, laughter-filled, fun days. Kate was at the heart of it all.

In 1983 the producer Colin Callendar asked Kate to join him at the Callender Company as head of business affairs. A notable production was Peter Greenaway’s film The Belly of an Architect (1987), notable not least for all the headaches it caused for Kate and colleagues.

In 1986 she became head of business affairs at Don Taffner’s company DLT Entertainment, where she had to have numerous conversations with Prince Edward about the disastrous It’s a Royal Knockout broadcast in June 1987.

British Screen Finance was set up by the government in 1985 to fund British and European films, and Kate was a natural choice to be appointed, first as head of business affairs and, from 1992 to 1997, as the managing director. During this period she was also on the board of Women in Film and Television and the National Film and Television School, and was instrumental in helping many film-makers get their films fully financed and into production. Though she never sought the limelight there were many in the industry who had cause to be deeply grateful to her.

In 1987, Kate decided to go freelance to run her own consultancy business, leaving London to live near Salisbury, Wiltshire, 10 years later. Among her many clients were the film producers Steve Woolley and Liz Karlsen. She retired in 2018.

Kate will be remembered for her beautiful singing voice, and her warmth, laugh and lovely smile. She is survived by her sister, Sue, her brother, Peter, six nieces and nephews, and nine great-nieces and nephews. Her younger brother, John, died in 2020.

Janet Walker

The GuardianTramp

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