Jannine Waddell, Katie Taylor and Rachel Arnold among those to pay tribute to Bafta winner

Chris Walley

Chris Walley

Bafta-winning series producer and editor Chris Walley has died at the age of 48.

A reality and factual entertainment specialist, Walley’s credits included the Bafta-winning second series of Lime Pictures’ The Only Way is Essex (ITV2), Fresh One’s Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast (Channel 4), and Initial’s chat show Big Brother’s Bit on the Side (Channel 5).

Walley became something of a pilot specialist, known for his ability to launch first series shows that went on to become long running hits. Recent formats he led include MGM’s dating show Kinky Daters (E4), Lightbox’s The Hills: Paris (MTV), and Endemol Shine North’s dating show The Love Squad (MTV).

Friends and colleagues paid tribute to a man who scouted out great stories and persuaded talent to give their best on screen. They also noted his kindness; many stars stayed close to him long after their programmes had aired, while production teams remember a man who was “loyal…nurturing [and]…generous with his time”.

Before his unexpected death last month, Walley was working as series producer on Waddell Media’s Channel 4 series Britain’s Most Expensive Houses. Waddell’s managing director Jannine Waddell said he was “adored” by the team and the realty brokers at Sotheby’s.

“He was hard working, great fun and encouraging to everyone he met. His untimely passing has been a huge shock to all of us and a devastating loss to the industry,” she said.

His career started at BBC features, where he joined as a researcher on Esther Rantzen-fronted talkshow Esther, Crimewatch UK, Mysteries with Carol Vorderman, and Holiday.

Series editor of Esther, Patsy Newey, who gave him his first TV contract, said it was clear he would go on to do “great things”.

“He walked through the door and was a breath of fresh air. He literally refused to leave the White City building, going from one programme to the other as work experience was less regulated in those days.”

“For one still so young he packed an awful lot into his career,” added former production manager at BBC features Nadine Headlam, and mother of Walley’s Goddaughters.

“Never one to shy from hard work, Chris worked tirelessly befriending talent, colleagues and contributors from all walks of life and the world over. Nothing phased him to get the job done. Chris was infamously organised to the hilt with checklists and time-saving gadgets - well before the selfie-stick was even thought of.”

Another tribute came from MGM Television’s senior vice president, international unscripted, Dom Bird – a colleague on Kinky Daters - who said: “He approached every day with professionalism and pride. He knew how to make great television, but above all he was an immensely thoughtful, generous person.”

Sense of humour

Those who worked with him said Walley had a wicked sense of humour and was at his happiest when sharing a story about the outrageous antics of on-screen talent.

Several remember the “mischievous” glint in his eye as he regaled the story of how, travelling in a limo on the M6, a celebrity threw a champagne bucket of their own urine out of the window.

RDF’s creative director Rachel Arnold, met Walley when she worked with him on BBC1’s Mysteries With Carol Vorderman and ITV’s Find A Fortune, where they became friends overnight.

“Wherever we went, we had the same roles, same titles, and sat side by side. We supported each other through every work crisis and every personal drama. Chris would go way above and beyond anyone I had ever met.”

Another producer, Lesley Brandon, who worked with Walley on Mysteries With Carol Vorderman, said he would constantly tap him on the shoulder with a funny observation or cheeky joke.

“There’s no doubt Chris was an amazing, talented TV producer and manager - supportive, and outspoken with an incredible sense of right and wrong. But for me and many others he was a loyal, kind and generous friend, ready to help those close to him at the drop of a hat.”

BBC entertainment commissioner Katie Taylor, who worked with him in 2013 for BBC1’s When Miranda Met Bruce added: “He used his wit and charm with talent and contributors to make stand-out factual entertainment shows that had his twinkly-eyed wit stamped through it like a stick of rock”.

Exec producer Suzy Davis recalled how, fresh out of university, she landed a job at Granada Studios where Walley was an assistant producer on This Morning and Find a Fortune.

“Chris quickly took me under his wing, and by that I mean taking me to Soho on a Wednesday night to GAY and Heaven, and teaching me how to exist the next day at the office on approximately two hours sleep,” she said.

“He was the kindest, most thoughtful, fun-loving friend anyone could have. He never forgot a birthday, was always there with love, advice, a hug, entry to the VIP area of a new bar…whatever you needed, he willingly provided.”

Outline Productions’ creative director Helen Veale, who worked with him on C4’s Health Freaks, remembers his team spirit.

“He created a real sense of camaraderie and brought huge warmth and humour - always making sure people had fun, and taking the time to notice and praise everyone’s contribution,” she said.

A family man

Friends and colleagues said that above all, Walley was a family man.

The presenter and broadcaster Nicki Chapman said that the past three years had revealed the true extent of his dedication to family, after relocating to the north to care for his ailing mother.

“This selfless action speaks volumes about Chris, his kindness, patience and loving character,” she said.