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Tributes paid to ‘driving force’ behind children’s TV

FRIENDS and colleagues in the world of television are mourning the loss of a driving force behind children’s programmes.

FRIENDS and colleagues in the world of television are mourning the loss of a driving force behind children’s programmes.

Tony Kysh, who spent more than 30 years at Tyne Tees TV, directed the 1980s hit show Supergran, which won an Emmy, and was also associate producer and director of Byker Grove.

Friend and longtime colleague Peter Mitchell said last night: “I just talked to a costume designer who was a close colleague and he said, ‘Oh no, not the world’s nicest guy?’ Everybody just adored Tony. He was just such a nice, nice man, a genuinely generous, kind bloke which is something you find so rarely in this industry.

“He had so much time for you and so much to give. He was terrific.”

Peter, who now heads his own TV production company, worked with Tony as his boss – as director of programmes at Tyne Tees and then at Zenith North – but also as producer and researcher.

When in 1998 Tony lost his job in a shake-up at Tyne Tees, the company he had joined as a researcher in 1961, Peter wasted no time in hiring him to work at Zenith North, the independent production company he was then running.

Tony became associate producer and director of Byker Grove, the hit children’s series broadcast on the BBC.

Peter recalled that Tony’s great love had always been children’s programming and particularly drama.

“The first thing he did was called Barriers, which is going back to the 1960s. Then he did a series called Andy Robson. Then came Supergran which won an Emmy. That was a massive high point in his career, a multi-award winning series.”

In an interview with The Journal in 2004, Tony also recalled working with Muppets creator Jim Henson when the American collaborated with Tyne Tees in making a Muppets-style series called The Ghost of Sassner Hall.

“The amazing thing is that star guests throw themselves at the Muppets so I got to work with Ry Cooder, Joni Mitchell, Mark Knopfler and others,” he said.

Peter recalled the excellent rapport Tony had with actors but the man himself said he still cringed with embarrassment when he remembered playing a woman in a play at Newcastle Royal Grammar School (then a boys’ school). He laughed: “The next day the headmaster stood up and said, ‘Tony Kysh is the best woman that we’ve ever seen in this school’. It was meant as a compliment.”

Peter said Tony, who lived in Jesmond, Newcastle, had suffered a stroke and was taken to hospital where he died, three days later, at the weekend.

He leaves a wife, Angela, and daughters Anya and Gemma. A memorial service is to be held next week.

David Whetstone

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