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Stephen Coan is a writer and director with experience in film, theatre, television and journalism.
Stephen Coanwas born in London, England. After leaving school he joined the British Broadcasting Corporation, first working as a researcher for BBC News before being trained as a film editor. As an assistant film editor he worked on documentary and drama series such as The Fight Against Slavery and The Pallisers. The Voyage, a short film he wrote and directed, was shown at the National Film Theatre in London.
Coan came to South Africa on a three-month holiday in 1975 and has lived here ever since. He was initially employed by the South African Broadcasting Corporation in Johannesburg as a film editor before joining an independent film production company. During this time he edited dramas, documentaries and commercials as well as news footage for various international television networks including the BBC, ABC, CBS and NBC.
During the Eighties Coan worked as a freelance writer-director in film, television and the theatre. He wrote and directed many documentaries, corporate videos and several dramatic films for the SABC.
In the theatre his production of the play Stevie by Hugh Whitemore about the poet Stevie Smith - with Dorothy Ann Gould in the title role - won several awards including the Breytenbach Epathlon for best director as well as a Vita award for best production for its run in Durban.
Other productions included the Peter Shaffer double-bill The Private Ear and The Public Eye, Tom Stoppard's Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Stephen Gray's A Night at the Verne's and Coan’s own play Kitchen Tea.
Coan moved to Pietermaritzburg in 1990 and joined the then Natal Witness - the Natal prefix was dropped in 2004. At The Witness he was, variously, feature-writer, sub-editor, arts editor, assistant editor and senior feature writer. While his feature articles covered a wide range of subject matter he became particularly known for his writing on literature, history and film.
In 2010 Coan was awarded the Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi Award For Service To The Zulu People for his "fair and balanced reporting on Zulu history and culture over many years” in The Witness.
His research and writing on films made in KwaZulu-Natal during the twentieth century saw Coan honoured at the KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission’s inaugural Simon “Mabhunu” Sabela Film Awards in 2013 “as a Pioneer for his contribution to the film industry”.
In 2013, after Media24 took over The Witness, Coan was asked to move to Durban as a member of the team selected to launch a Durban edition of the newspaper. In November 2014 when Media24 closed down this edition Coan opted for early retirement. He now lives and works in Johannesburg.
For many years Coan has been researching the life and work of Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925), author of King Solomon’s Mines, Allan Quatermain and She, with particular focus on the years Haggard spent in southern Africa. Coan edited, annotated and wrote a biographical introduction for Haggard’s previously unpublishedDiary of An African Journey which was published in South Africa in 2000 by the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, in Britain by Hurst and Co., and in the United States by New York University Press. In 2007 Mameena and other plays – The dramatic works of H. Rider Haggard (co-edited with Alfred Tella), also featuring previously unpublished Haggard material, was published by the UKZN Press.
In 2005, with UKZN Professor Lindy Stiebel, Coan prepared the Rider Haggard Trail pamphlet which inaugurated the innovative KZN Literary Tourism trails series.
Coan has lectured extensively on Haggard as well as publishing papers and articles on Haggard and other topics in journals such as Natalia and The Journal of the Anglo-Zulu War Historical Society. Acknowledged internationally as an authority on Haggard Coan was invited to contribute a paper on Haggard’s novel She to a volume published in 2010 by the University of Roma Tre in Rome, Italy. He is currently working on a biography of Haggard.
Coan's poetry has been published in Sesame, the English Academy Review, Fidelities and Carapace. His collection, Chant of the Doves, was published in 2008.