Gaynor Faye on how she is keeping her mother Kay Mellor's legacy alive

Gaynor Faye will be keeping her mother Kay Mellor’s legacy alive as she directs and stars in a stage adaptation of The Syndicate. She talks to Yvette Huddleston ahead of the show arriving in Leeds.

The popular, much-loved actress Gaynor Faye is known for her many TV credits, including roles in Coronation Street and Emmerdale, as well as for her numerous stage appearances in touring productions such as Calendar Girls and Band of Gold.

Now she is taking on a different challenge – directing and starring in the stage adaptation of The Syndicate, the heart-warming TV drama which entertained millions of viewers over four series, written by Faye’s late mother BAFTA award-winning writer Kay Mellor.

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A highly respected screenwriter, playwright, director and producer Mellor sadly died in May 2022.

Gaynor FayeGaynor Faye
Gaynor Faye

As well as The Syndicate, she created many acclaimed TV series including Fat Friends (which aired between 2000 and 2005 and launched the careers of Ruth Jones and James Corden), Band of Gold, Playing the Field, Between the Sheets, Girlfriends and Love, Lies and Records.

Well-observed, sometimes gritty dramas that were laced with warmth and humour, they often championed the stories of people under-represented on our TV screens, and in theatre.

“It is extremely special to be able to keep my mum’s legacy alive and to keep her words on stage,” says Faye who is in the midst of rehearsals when we speak. “She was an outstanding director and an incredible writer. Also, Leeds is her hometown – she absolutely adored Leeds and most of all the people of Leeds, so to be putting this on here is very special.

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"It is such a brilliant show and it was one that my mum was really excited about staging. After the success of the stage version of Band of Gold and of Fat Friends – The Musical, she wanted to revisit the characters in the first series of The Syndicate.”

Kay MellorKay Mellor
Kay Mellor

The play, which is currently on tour and heads to Leeds Grand Theatre this week, is based on the first series and tells the story of five supermarket workers in a lottery syndicate whose numbers come up just as their jobs and livelihood are under threat. The narrative explores how their huge win affects their lives, relationships and dreams.

“It is such a relatable story – everybody in the world has asked that question ‘what would you do if you won the lottery?’ it is a universal question,” says Faye.

“My mum was really interested in how people respond to money – research shows that a win like that can change people’s lives for the better, but it can also do the opposite. My mum was always intrigued by that and also what made people tick generally, what made them do the things they do.”

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It also feels like a timely production, given the challenging circumstances that many people are having to deal with at the moment. “We are in a cost-of-living crisis that is affecting everybody,” says Faye. “And it was always really important to my mum to give a voice to people who can’t make ends meet.”

Faye, who appeared in the fourth series of The Syndicate broadcast in 2021, was involved in the stage adaptation right from the start, working alongside Mellor as her script editor and was present at the R&D workshops conducted during the development of the script. Mellor had also asked Faye if she would be her assistant director on the production.

Now Faye is helming the show alone and it seems very fitting that this will be her solo directing debut.

“After mum died our producer Josh Andrews, who worked with her on the stage shows of Band of Gold and Fat Friends – The Musical, came to me and asked me if I still wanted to go ahead with it,” says Faye.

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“It wasn’t a difficult decision to be honest with you. I always wanted to continue my mum’s legacy, to finish off her projects and keep them going. This show was written, she had completed the script – and it is a story that has to be told.”

Faye has been enjoying being at the helm of the production. “I am absolutely loving directing and I knew I would,” she says. “I have been acting for a long time and have been lucky to be directed by many good directors, including my mum, and I have learned from them. I wasn’t originally going to be acting in the show, but I was persuaded and I’m really pleased to be doing it.”

The production brings together three generations of the family, as Faye’s son Oliver Anthony is playing the part of Jamie, one of the supermarket employees.

“Oliver was involved in the workshops in the early days of the project, then we had someone else on board to play the part but they had to leave for medical reasons and the role became available,” says Faye. “Mum would be absolutely delighted that Oliver is in it now.”

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Faye is particularly looking forward to the show arriving in Leeds where Mellor was born, raised, worked and lived, remaining closely connected to her Yorkshire roots throughout her life and career.

“My mum loved Leeds so much and gave so much to it, so it would be great to have lots of people coming to support her final show in her hometown,” says Faye. “I want the performance in Leeds to be the best.”

The production promises to be a rich, layered experience for audiences. “My mum was a master at making you laugh and cry in the same breath,” says Faye.

“She dealt with some really difficult subject matter in her work, but it was always done with great warmth and humour. There are hard-hitting messages here, but it is very funny – we have laughed a lot in rehearsals. I think people will leave the show feeling uplifted but also thoughtful.”

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As well as bringing her mother’s final theatre project to the stage, Faye is continuing her legacy elsewhere. In 2019 Mellor established the Kay Mellor Fellowship, a collaboration between Leeds Playhouse and her TV production company Rollem Productions, to support a Yorkshire-based writer to develop their writing for stage and screen over the course of a year.

The fellowship offers a writer the opportunity to embark on a dual-development process at Leeds Playhouse, developing an original idea for stage into a full length first draft and on set and in the offices at Rollem Productions developing an original idea into a pitch for television.

The inaugural recipient in 2020 was writer and actor Kat-Rose Martin and this year’s fellow is Bradford poet and playwright Kirsty Taylor.

The scheme continues in Mellor’s memory, with a new three-year investment from the Playhouse, Rollem, the BBC and Leeds City Council.

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“With my mum it was always about bringing people on and celebrating and supporting under-represented writers and actors – she always wanted to give a step-up to people,” says Faye. “What made mum happy was other people’s success and that is a rare quality.

"She was very generous in everything she did and mentoring new writers and partnering with Leeds Playhouse was important to her. For us to be able to continue that, supporting new writers and giving them the opportunities they need, is just wonderful.”

The Syndicate runs at Leeds Grand Theatre April 18-28, Sheffield Lyceum June 11-15, Hull New Theatre July 9-13 and Bradford Alhambra July 16-20. To book tickets visit

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