Damned United author sells rights to save theatre - story of Brian Clough’s Leeds reign gives lifeline

David Peace.
David Peace.

It was 44 days that became infamous in the history of Leeds United Football Club.

And now the story of Brian Clough’s managerial stint at Elland Road is to become the saviour of a Yorkshire theatre company – thanks to the generosity of author David Peace.

He has sold the theatre rights to his critically-acclaimed novel The Damned Utd to Red Ladder, which lost 100 per cent of its Arts Council funding in July, for a nominal fee of just £3.68.

The fee, “the minimum amount possible,” represents the 368 pages of the book, and allows the company to produce a play that could keep it afloat.

Red Ladder, which was founded in London in 1968 but moved to Leeds in the 1970s is now trying to raise the money to pay for the book to be adapted and the play to be produced.

Ossett-born Mr Peace, who also penned The Red Riding quartet, released The Damned Utd in 2006, based on Brian Clough’s fateful spell as manager at Leeds United in 1974.

In 2009 it was turned into a film, with Michael Sheen playing Clough.

Mr Peace, who attended Wakefield College, moved to Tokyo in 1994 and returned to the UK for two years in 2009, when he was first connected with Red Ladder, joining a writers’ group.

Mr Peace said the “inspiration and support” he received from Red Ladder at the time, and the “enthusiasm and interest” of artistic director Rod Dixon and producer Chris Lloyd showed in his work was behind his donation.

He added: “They were so helpful and inspiring when I was writing Red or Dead. Offering the theatrical rights for The Damned United for the minimum amount possible was the very least I could do to try, even in a such a small way, to help ‘Save Red Ladder.”

Red Ladder’s current funding runs out in July and The Save Red Ladder campaign aimed to raise £80,000 to fund a touring production in 2015.

More than £12,000 has already been raised. It is only now they have been given the rights for The Damned Utd.

To donate visit www.localgiving.com/redladder.