THE best-selling novel charting life in poverty-stricken Blackburn during the depression is to be turned into a stage play.

The Road to Nab End by William Woodruff struck a chord with readers all over the world and now they will get a chance to see it brought to life at the Oldham Coliseum in June.

The play’s director, producer and designer visited Blackburn this week to be given a Nab End tour by historian Simon Entwistle, taking in many of the places described in the book.

Kevin Shaw, who is to direct the play at the Coliseum, said: “Both Oldham and Blackburn share the same heritage, the mills are almost in the genes of both towns.

“I was looking for a play that told the story of life around the mills and I remembered I had a copy of the book which I’d never read.

"As soon as I did I knew it would make a fantastic stage play.

“Woodruff is very theatrical in the way he draws his characters. There is so much detail which will work well on stage.

“Coming to Blackburn was really useful, particularly for our designer Alison, as it gave us a real feel for the spirit of the book.”

The Road to Nab End and its sequel Return to Nab End made William Woodruff an unlikely literary success story.

He was in his eighties when his novels captured the public’s imagination.

From the grim conditions he endured as a child in 1920s’ Blackburn, Woodruff went on to gain a place at Oxford.

He served with distinction during the Second World War before becoming a leading academic with professorships at top American universities including Harvard and Princeton and also in Australia.

He retired to Florida where he wrote his Nab End novels and died in 2008, aged 92.

William Woodruff’s widow Helga has been invited to the opening night on June 17. The play will run until July 10.

For details, contact the Oldham Coliseum box office on 0161 624 2829.