Friends and family remember 'marvellous' Cate Haste

Writer and television producer Cate Haste in her Hampstead conservatory

Writer and television producer Cate Haste in her Hampstead conservatory - Credit: Tom Bragg

"I couldn't believe such people existed."

Cate Haste - the pioneering writer and documentary-maker known for her work on the epic BBC series Cold War, for biographies of Clarissa Eden and Alma Mahler and for her work to improve female representation in TV - died of cancer on April 29. She was 75.

Cate, who was married to Lord Melvyn Bragg from 1973 until 2018, was also known for the lively social scene the the pair cultivated around them in Hampstead. 

Her friend Norma Percy said she had been astounded by Cate's ability. She said: "Cate and I were completely contemporary in London. We came to London about the same time, and we had the same interest in politics that brought us into television.

“In a way, she was a historian. If you’re interested in politics, and you want to know what happened – the really serious ones are historians."

Cate lived first in Gayton Road from 1971, before moving to Hampstead Hill Gardens, and then finally to Holly Walk in 2016.

Throughout, Cate and her then husband held parties frequented by the great and good of Hampstead's arts world. 

She worked with the Camden-based production company Brook Associates for many years, and also wrote books about sexual desire.

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Norma, who lives down the hill in Camden Square, added: “I make television programmes and I can’t see I’d accomplish anything if I had parties and children.

"I was knocked out with the idea of someone who worked with me, and who worked like me, having children.

"Cate was doing it with her left hand, while she was doing the same job I was with her right hand. I couldn’t believe such people existed.”

Cate Haste in her study in Hampstead Hill Gardens back in 1996

Cate Haste in her study in Hampstead Hill Gardens back in 1996 - Credit: Tom Bragg

Hampstead fixture and former BBC Radio producer Piers Plowright was best man at Cate's wedding in 1973. 

Remembering her, he said: “I managed to drop the ring behind the radiator in the registrar’s office, and we couldn’t find it for a bit. It was one of those awful things that happen, but all was well.”

Fondly looking back on play-readings at the Gayton Road house, Piers added: “As I got to know Cate more, I came to understand the width of her knowledge, the width of her interests. The way she covered politics, the arts, history, propaganda. I thought she was marvellous.”

Alan Blaikley knew Lord Bragg from university and was a close friend of the couple. He said: “One of the happiest moments I remember with Cate was when she had been in collaboration with Clarissa Eden while writing her memoirs, and I was at a dinner with them both.

"Cate introduced people to one another and was very good at making people feel at home in that nice house."

Remembering the early years of his marriage to Cate, Lord Bragg continued: "Cate was very good a settling in and making friends and making a circle.

"Cate and I started a pattern, which we kept for the rest of our lives, which was that we worked very hard. I mean, it was a bit of an engine room our house; all the way through.

"For years, thirty or forty years, I was writing, and I was working in television, and then later on I was working in radio. Cate was writing, and she was working in television, and she was bringing up a family. So there were lots of deadlines and lots of work to do.

“Cate was an independent-minded woman and our agendas happened to coincide."

Cate Haste in the garden of her old Hampstead Hill Gardens home

Cate Haste in the garden of her old Hampstead Hill Gardens home - Credit: Tom Bragg

Recalling an incident when he painted their house in blue and white stripes in honour of Carlisle United FC's promotion in 1974, Lord Bragg added: "Cate’s default attitude was to look at me rather wearily and just let me get on with it. Not always – she was very firm-minded." 

He continued: “We were very much work-centred, and family -centred, and then we had quite a demanding life pattern of our own. We were going to Cumbria about two and a half months a year."

Lord Bragg also spoke of how, when it came to work - whether on TV or books - he and Cate were on "parallel tracks". 

“We influenced each other," he said. "I think she found the convenience of sitting down and writing a book appealing. It didn’t rely on anyone else."

Cate's funeral was held at Hampstead Parish Church on June 2. She is survived by her children Alice and Tom, and step-daughter Marie-Elsa. 

With thanks to Tom Bragg.