William Nicholson – Keynote Speaker

Academy Award Nominated Screenwriter, Playwright and Best Selling Novelist

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Specialist Subjects

  • Psychology
  • Creativity


  • English


William Nicholson is an Academy Award Nominated Screenwriter, Playwright and Best Selling Novelist – He has received two Oscar Nominations for writing the films Gladiator & Shadowlands.


William Nicholson was born in 1948, and grew up in Sussex and Gloucestershire. He was educated at Downside School and Christ’s College, Cambridge, and then joined BBC Television, where he worked as a documentary film maker. There his ambition to write, directed first into novels, was channeled into television drama. His plays for television include Shadowlands and Life Story , both of which won the BAFTA Best Television Drama award in their year; other award-winners were Sweet As You Are and The March . In 1988 he received the Royal Television Society’s Writer’s Award. His first play, an adaptation of Shadowlands for the stage, was Evening Standard Best Play of 1990, and went on to a Tony Award winning run on Broadway. He was nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay of the film version, which was directed by Richard Attenborough and starred Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.


Since then his film credits include: Sarafina, Nell, First Knight, Grey Owl , Gladiator (as co-writer, for which he received a second Oscar nomination), Elizabeth: the Golden Age, Les Miserables, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Unbroken, and Everest. He has written and directed his own film, Firelight; and four further stage plays, Map of the Heart, Katherine Howard, The Retreat from Moscow (which ran for five months on Broadway and received three Tony Award nominations), and Crash.


His fantasy novel for older children, The Wind Singer, won the Smarties Prize Gold Award on publication in 2000, and the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award in 2001. Its sequel, Slaves of the Mastery , was published in 2001, and the final volume in the trilogy, Firesong , in 2002. The trilogy has been sold in every major foreign market, from the US to China.

His second sequence of fantasy novels is called The Noble Warriors. The first book is Seeker (2005), the second book, Jango (2006) and the third book Noman (2007).


His love-and-sex novel for teens, Rich and Mad, was published in 2010.


His novels for adults are The Society of Others (2004), The Trial of True Love (2005), The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life (2009), All the Hopeful Lovers (2010) The Golden Hour (2011), Motherland (2013), Reckless (2014) and The Lovers of Amherst (2015).


William Nicholson is an inspiring speaker who likes to draw on the lessons and insights he has learned in his life as a writer, most of all in the brutal world of Hollywood. His rise to A-list writer has not been smooth, and his stories are as much of failure as of success. This has caused him to think long and hard about how it is possible to remain confident and creative when operating under pressure to deliver results. He sees Hollywood as an extreme example of a culture that can only achieve the financial success its investors demand by maximising the creative power of its talent pool. Too often exactly the opposite results are produced, when management by fear drives talent into hiding. His tales of personal experience over twenty years in Hollywood become parables of leadership, both good and bad.


William’s life as a writer has taught him not only the craft of story-telling, but the central role story-telling plays in our work and our lives. He’s fascinated by the way that re-describing a life can transform levels of satisfaction. We each have our own story, but these stories can be told in many ways.


William Nicholson has long experience of speaking to festivals and conferences. He is a relaxed, informal, funny and passionate speaker who will challenge audiences, inspire them and make them think differently.

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