04 May, 2020
Born in Worthing, Sussex in the UK, Ken Methold was extraordinary in his output as a writer and his work for all sorts of writers both individually, in the form of mentoring, and in general, through a range of writers' organisations. He was a founding member of CAL. He worked on committees in the AWG to get better deals for ABC writers in radio and TV. He was on the Board of the Queensland Film Corporation. He was Deputy Chair and a member of the management committee of the ASA during which time he wrote several texts for writers on the business aspects of writing. He created a free Writers' Retreat on his farm and ran any number of free workshops for aspiring novelists, screenwriters and filmmakers.
A great, hilarious and wonderfully generous host, his gift for satire was a delight. However, in the wrong context, it could cause offence, and in the case of his Letter from Mt Isa, it did. Invented as a joke, and read aloud at the 1988 Sydney Writers' Festival, the letter was written in the persona of a country writer who didn't understand why he couldn't get a grant. Unfortunately, it played as an attack on the integrity of the then Literature Board and offended many.
Ken was a literary polymath. He wrote plays for radio and stage (which he also often directed). He wrote and produced TV series and film. He wrote novels, short stories, cartoons, literary criticism and learned historical articles (he was an expert on Regency theatre) and book reviews. He was an international superstar in ESL for children, with over a hundred titles in many languages plus cartoons. He was headhunted by Longman-Cheshire. He moved to Asia and lived and worked there for many years. He was huge, particularly in China. At one point, an entire wall of a Shanghai Chinese Government bookshop the size of an aircraft hangar was given over to Ken's work, particularly Go-Go the Dragon Loves English in texts and animation.
Ken moved to South Australia in the 1970s. He then moved on to Toowoomba, down to Sydney, and in his last twenty years to the Southern Highlands, Bowral and finally to Kiama. After a sometimes turbulent personal life, he found lasting happiness with his wife Sheila and her children Sean and Laura.
He's best known in Australia for the children's TV series Animal Park, which he wrote and produced, the novel Sherlock Holmes in Australia and the spoof romance Moonlight over the Estuary, co-written with Peter Wear [sic]. In later years, he wrote, directed and staged a host of plays and later movies for amateurs to raise funds for charities. These included The Cancer Council and Amnesty International. He donated the copyright of certain ESL books to the Kiama Lions, which published 55,000 and distributed copies to 37,000 schools in Sri Lanka and East Timor. He was tireless.
Ever the working writer, in his final days Ken negotiated the option to a film of his last novel. He died of emphysema on the day the draft contract arrived.
Great company. A great friend. A great worker for all kinds of writers.
Vale Ken. We'll miss you.
By Linda Aronson