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Author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce talks to ME & MY MONEY


Proud: Frank Cottrell-Boyce was ‘honoured’ to work on the 2012 opening ceremony

Children’s book author and screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce worked on the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games with director Danny Boyle for a year – and earned absolutely nothing for it. 

Despite this, Cottrell-Boyce, 61, told DONNA FERGUSON it was an honour to be asked. 

His latest novel for nine to 12-year-olds, Noah’s Gold, was published this month by Macmillan Children’s Books. 

What did your parents teach you about money? 

To know when you have got enough of it, and to be happy with that. Both of my parents left school at the age of 14. My dad became a clerk at a shipping firm on the docks, and then went to night school to study to become a teacher. My mum was a stay-at-home mother. For a long time when I was a child, we lived with my gran. Then eventually my parents bought a house of their own. They were the first in their family to do so. To buy your own house, instead of living in a council property, was seen as this wild, reckless move. My father felt like a duke living in that house, on an aspirational housing estate. My parents were content with what they had. 

Have you ever struggled to make ends meet? 

Not really. The year I earned the least was 2011, because I was mainly working on the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. I didn’t get paid for that, but Danny Boyle asked me and it was an honour to accept. I ended up getting a tax rebate because my earnings were lower than expected. That helped us get through the year. My wife and I lived within our means and had savings. So even though I don’t think I earned anything that year, I wouldn’t say we struggled or worried about paying our bills. 

It was a financial extravagance to accept the job, because it was a lot of fun – I had one of the most fulfilling years of my life. I’ll probably never do anything I’m so proud of again.

Have you ever been paid silly money? 

Yes, in 1985, for writing my first script for the soap opera Brookside. It took a week to write and, because the episode was repeated, I earned £3,700. I had always wanted to be a writer and I couldn’t believe I was being paid that much to write. In today’s money, it would be like earning nearly £12,000 for a week’s work. 

What was the best year of your financial life? 

It was 1985, the year that I started writing television scripts. I earned around £25,000, which is the equivalent of making around £80,000 today. 

My wife and I thought money was coming out of taps. We were a young married couple with a baby and another on the way, and we couldn’t believe it.

What is the most expensive thing you have bought for fun? 

A drawing of people sunbathing on a beach by Edward Ardizzone, an artist who illustrated classic children’s books. I love his work. It cost quite a lot, around £1,000, I think. I bought it about 15 years ago, around the time that my first children’s book, Millions, came out. 

What is your biggest money mistake? 

In purely financial terms, turning down big Hollywood jobs because I don’t want to be away from home. There’s one big franchise I really love where that happened. I won’t name it because the screenwriter who took the job will know they were second choice. But, I could have done one of those films every year and got a bigger and bigger pay cheque. 

The best money decision you have made? 

Buying a gorgeous six-bedroom Victorian house in Sefton Park, Liverpool. in 1983 for £38,000. Our monthly mortgage payments were far less than the rent we had been paying as students the year before. When we sold it 14 years later, it had almost tripled in value.

Do you save into a pension? 

Yes. I’m obsessed with saving into a pension. I started when I was 25. I always knew income from writing would be volatile and, as I have seven children, I’m responsible for a lot of people and wanted to have savings. I have a good amount saved, all in ethical funds. 

Honour: Frank Cottrell-Boyce says it was a financial extravagance to accept the London 2012 job, because it was a lot of fun

Honour: Frank Cottrell-Boyce says it was a financial extravagance to accept the London 2012 job, because it was a lot of fun

Do you invest directly in the stock market? 

No. I don’t have the time or the inclination to do that. The thought of it makes my ears bleed. 

Do you own any property? 

Yes, we have our eight-bedroom home in a posh part of Liverpool, right by the sea, which we bought for around £100,000 in 1997. It’s now worth about £500,000. To cut the cost of holidaying with seven children, we bought a whacking great big holiday home in south-west Scotland. I go there a lot to write. 

What is the one luxury you treat yourself to? 

Doing what I like for a living. There isn’t a huge amount of money in children’s novels, unless you’re JK Rowling. 

If you were Chancellor what is the first thing you would do? 

I would simplify the tax laws and stop people setting up pretend companies, so there is less genteel tax avoidance. 

Do you donate money to charity? 

Yes. I donate to Mary’s Meals, a charity that gives kids in developing countries one good meal at school each day, made with locally sourced ingredients. It’s a way of drawing children to school and injecting money into the economy. 

What is your number one financial priority? 

To make sure we get rid of all our money before we die. As the industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie said: ‘The man who dies rich, dies disgraced.’ 

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