A BAFTA-winning screenwriter whose latest film features award-winning actor Timothy Spall has credited Edge Hill University for helping to kickstart his career. 

Scriptwriter Joe Ainsworth has penned The Last Bus, featuring Mr. Turner and Harry Potter actor Timothy Spall alongside Phyllis Logan, which opens in cinemas on Friday 27th August. 

Directed by Gillies MacKinnon, the film tells the story of widower Tom (Spall), who uses his free local bus pass to travel on a nostalgic trip from John O’Groats to Land’s End carrying the ashes of his late wife Mary (Logan).

As he embarks on his journey to the other end of the UK, Tom meets local people and becomes an unlikely celebrity. 

Joe recalls the moment that sparked his inspiration for the story line.

He said: “My dad and my father-in-law became great friends after my wife and I married. They were both round at our house for Sunday dinner one afternoon and started rambling on about where they would go on their imaginary bus trip. Typical me, I popped into my writing shed and scribbled down something along the lines of ‘old man with bus pass’ on a piece of paper and went back into the house to carry on with the day. It was only months later that I found that piece of paper again and wondered what that story could be. 

Joe Ainsworth
Joe Ainsworth

“It made me think about my mum and dad. Me and my sister were only teenagers when my mum was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). She spent half of her life battling this debilitating illness and my dad spent half of his life having to care for her more and more. 

“Tom and Mary are a young couple who live their whole life out together without ever really facing up to this awful tragedy that bonded them together. They’re bound together and have stuck with it for love.

“They never get to make the journey back to Land’s End together, but Tom fulfils his promise and retraces that taxing journey they took. It’s a story about the enduring nature of love.” 

Joe has contributed to many of Britain’s most watched television series and is one of the country’s most prolific TV dramatists and script consultants, a fact recognised in 2008 by a BAFTA award for ‘Best Continuing Drama’ for his work on Holby City

The father of two, from Crosby, studied English and Communications at Edge Hill from 1986-89 and, even during his student days, he was already gaining national attention for his scriptwriting work for television. 

He added: “I won a national writing competition while I was in my second year at Edge Hill. Bizarrely, whether by good luck or good timing, I was only out of college for a few months when I got my first job as a writer on Brookside.” 

Joe received an honorary doctorate from Edge Hill in 2011 in recognition of his dedication and contribution to Britain’s cultural and arts scene. He has maintained a strong relationship with the University and regularly visits the campus for graduation ceremonies and delivers guest lectures 

At the time he received his honorary doctorate, he said: “I had such a great time at Edge Hill and I’ve always kept close ties with the University because I feel that without Edge Hill, I would not have been given the opportunity to write. My time there gave me a new-found confidence and helped me rediscover reading, writing and learning which I’ll always be grateful for.” 

Joe also offered his advice to Edge Hill students who are considering a career in the media or in professional writing. He said: “My number one rule is don’t be snobby, take anything that you’re offered. Work is work and you just don’t know who you’re going to meet who could help you in your career.” 

Do you dream of seeing your work in print, online or on stage? Edge Hill University’s practice-led Creative Writing courses are taught by professional writers will help to make this a reality. With modules like scriptwriting, fiction, poetry and games writing, you’ll soon find your niche.