Othniel Smith obituary

Other lives: Writer for theatre, television and radio

My friend and colleague Othniel Smith, who has died aged 58 of a pulmonary thromboembolism, was a writer for television, radio and theatre, and secretary of the Welsh committee of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain for more than 20 years.

Othniel was a key writer for Made in Wales, a Cardiff company dedicated to new writing. His theatre work includes Giant Steps (the Oval House theatre and Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre, 1998; published in New Welsh Drama II, 2001), Fight of the Century (BBC Wales and the Sherman theatre, 2002), and See the Glory (Talawa’s Manz Like Me season at the Young Vic, 2008).

He also wrote extensively for children’s television, including the CBBC series The Story of Tracy Beaker (2002-05), and Tati’s Hotel (CITV, 2011). He was working on another CBBC series, Jamie Johnson, when he died.

His short stories and plays for BBC Radio 4 include Thank You for Talking to Me Africa (1994) and Man Talk (2001). He also wrote several novellas, including Yer Blues (2011) and Sons of Nervous Lovers (2012), and wrote and directed short films.Othniel was tirelessly supportive of other writers. He rarely missed a Writers’ Guild committee meeting, and was always generous, calm, dedicated and incisive. He would try to catch every production he could, and wrote considered, sensitive reviews for the British Theatre Guide and his blog, Blakeson.

Born in Stoke on Trent to Lester Smith, a labourer, and Lucia (nee Blake), a nurse, Othniel went to Moorland Road secondary school, Burslem, and then Stoke-on-Trent sixth-form college. He always loved literature and as a teenager wrote for fanzines.

He gained a psychology degree at University of Wales, Cardiff (1983), and made the city his home. He worked as an assistant psychologist for South Glamorgan psychology service (1991-2003), and studied for a humanities MA through the Open University (2001). In 2007 he did a PhD on the playwright as filmmaker at the University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd (now part of the University of South Wales).

Throughout, Othniel was always writing. Ever modest, kind and gentle, he would have been bemused to discover that so many people thought so highly of him – he was always unassuming in a world full of louder voices. A self-motivated creative, he worked to his own high standard in television, radio and theatre, commissioned or not, paid or not.

He is survived by his mother, his brother Richard, and two nieces and a nephew.

Manon Eames

The GuardianTramp

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