Michael Ratcliffe’s first forays into the world of work were as a supply teacher in late 1950s’ Manchester. He would go on to become literary editor and theatre critic of the Observer.

Ratcliffe wrote that, as a gay man, on early trips to London: ‘I made sure I had a good look round Chelsea in the vague hope that corruption was being handed out, free, through the sash windows and glossy doors.’ As a theatre critic, Ratcliffe could be coruscating and forthright, if not always in tune with popular opinion – in 1985 he described the original Les Misérables as a ‘witless and synthetic entertainment’ and lambasted the Royal Shakespeare Company for reducing Victor Hugo’s novel ‘to the trivialising and tearful aesthetic of rock opera’.