J.B.Priestley is firmly established as a writer of international significance, a master playwright, an astute social commentator, novelist, essayist and critic whose reputation grows with time.
After JBP’s death in 1984 tributes poured in. Politician Michael Foot remembered him as “The conscience of the Nation”, author Diana Collins , speaking at the memorial service in Westminster Abbey, called him “A great writer, a great Englishman and perhaps even transcending even these , a great man.”
The BBC screened an obituary programme presented by Robert Robinson and the ITV network showed “Time & the Priestleys” , an affectionate portrait of JBP prepared by Tom Priestley for his father’s 90th birthday, unfortunately too late. The plays continued to be performed all over the UK and abroad.
There were London productions of “When We Are Married” , “Dangerous Corner” , “Time & the Conways” and “They Came to a City”. However 1992 saw the opening of Stephen Daldry’s award winning production of “An Inspector Calls” at the National Theatre, which has been performed ever since in London, New York, Australia, Japan and on tour. To date the most successful and most decorated twentieth century theatre revival of all time. Still touring regularly it returned to the West End to rave reviews in autumn 2016. Furthermore the BBC produced it’s own TV drama version of “An Inspector Calls” in 2015, whose first broadcast in the UK attracted almost six million viewers.
In 1994 celebrations were held to mark the centenary of his birth, especially in Bradford. There was a theatrical charity event in London with a host of distinguished actors led by John Gielgud, who also played the lead in a BBC TV production of “Summer Day’s Dream”. Programmes on BBC Radio. Special editions of selected books by Mandarin and plays by Samuel French Ltd. An exhibition at the J.B.Priestley Library in the University of Bradford led to the founding of the J.B.Priestley Society in 1997. Books about JBP began to appear, not only biographies and memoirs,but studies and academic appreciations. A new edition of “Farthing Hall” was published by Alan Sutton in 1995.
In 2001 the West Yorkshire Playhouse hosted a 3 month festival dedicated to JBP with seminars, talks and readings, along with productions of “Johnson Over Jordan” starring Patrick Stewart, “Eden End”, and “Dangerous Corner” which transferred to London. Oberon Books published play-texts of those 3 plays & further theatrical books.
There have continued to be been tours of many other plays including “I Have Been Here Before”, “Dangerous Corner” and “When We Are Married” amongst others. Notable productions have taken place of lesser know plays such as “The Linden Tree” at the Orange Tree in Richmond, “The Glass Cage” in Northampton & the Mask Theater New York. The Arts Theatre Salisbury produced “People at Sea”, and the National Theatre “Time & the Conways” in 2009. The Finborough Theatre presented a revival of “Cornelius” to many accolades, followed by “Labernum Grove” in 2013. In 2016 the rarely performed comedy “The Roundabout” featured to acclaim at The Park Theatre London.
In 2005 a collection of JBP’s books was presented to the Special Collections at the Senate House Library, making his works more easily available to researchers in London. An agreement with Great Northern Books led to new special editions of books in a planned series to reprint all the major works, plus a new book “Priestley’s Wars”, launched at the Imperial War Museum. The first of these, “Bright Day” was launched at the House of Commons in 2005. Considerable interest was shown in the new editions of “English Journey” and “Delight” in 2009. There have been several programmes on BBC Radio featuring the works of JBP, and they have made available two short films regarding “An Inspector Calls“. There is a growing interest in his non-fiction and regular re prints of “An English Journey“, “Delight” and in 2016 a new compilation of essays called “Grumbling At Large” with an introduction by journalist and writer Valerie Grove.
Outside the English speaking countries, there is an increasing number of productions – more recently Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia, Israel, Japan and Mexico. The Archive at the Special Collections at the J.B.Priestley Library in the University of Bradford is constantly growing and attracting attention far and wide.