James 'Jimmie' Chinn was born in Middleton, Lancashire on March 30th 1940 - the only son of his beloved mother, Edie. His early years, although not always easy, were to shape his writing in the future, and this often difficult time compounded his determination to achieve greater things. He was drawn to the theatre at an early age and acted with several amateur theatre groups in Lancashire - this period cementing his life-long connection to the Coliseum in Oldham. He eventually decided to become professional and he moved to London in 1959 where he trained as an actor at RADA, working in many aspects of the theatre. His short and very undistinguished career as an actor in the 1960s led to Jimmie working for Leader's, a reputable box office and ticket agency in the Royal Arcade, serving London's theatres.
Jimmie decided in the 1970s to train as a teacher at Whitelands College, Putney, enrolling as a mature student and eventually gaining an honours degree in English and Drama. This was a formative time for Jimmie as a writer. Bill Bray, a senior lecturer, wrote, 'He could keep whole groups of students mesmerised with his wonderfully funny stories of his life with his mother and the neighbours back in Lancashire and he drew on this background to start writing plays for radio and the theatre. The plays were obvious material for the amateur groups that he acted with in the Chiswick and Teddington areas - London now being his base - but their quality brought them to the attention of successful commercial managements.'
Jimmie taught and then became a senior teacher and housemaster at Dormers Wells School in Middlesex until becoming a full-time writer in 1984. He continued to teach in the evenings with the prestigious Student Group at the Questor's Theatre in Ealing - but writing was to prove the passion of his life. His plays are warm and amusing although there are human tragedies in some of them - but the true love of all his characters shine through. Martin Jenkins, television and radio director, wrote, 'He was a brilliant writer with a unique ability to look deep into all of his characters, his plays demonstrating his strong commitment and understanding, and I shall treasure the memories of working with his wonderfully imaginative words - as his sense of rhythm and sense of language were unfailing.' It was inevitable that his work attracted the attention of the BBC and ITV companies and he was recruited to write for the major long-running 'soaps'. He contributed to Emmerdale for several years as well as Coronation Street, while continuing to write for the stage and his beloved radio.
His first offerings were 'From Here to the Library' and 'A Respectable Funeral' performed as a double bill 'Back To Back in Oldham' in 1983 at Teddington Theatre Club and later on Radio 4. Jimmie's most famous success was the play, Straight and Narrow, which enjoyed two national tours and a long run at the Wyndham's in 1992 and 1993. The play, ground-breaking at that time, still remains very popular today, and is a clear celebration of his perception and truthful insight.
Jimmie became increasingly loved and admired not only in the professional theatre, but he remained close to his amateur theatre circles as a fine and talented actor, director, teacher, mentor and advisor.
Sadly, Jimmie was diagnosed with COPD in the year 2000, and the development of this debilitating lung condition caused his death from pneumonia on 29th January 2011.
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