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William Russell (born 23 August 1947) is a Britishmarker dramatist, lyricist, and composer. His best-known works are Educating Rita, Shirley Valentine, and Blood Brothers.


Willy Russell was born in the Whistonmarker suburb of Liverpoolmarker and grew up in a working class family. After leaving school with one O-level in English, he first became a ladies hairdresser and ran his own salon. Russell then undertook a variety of jobs, also writing songs which were performed in local folk clubs. He also contributed songs and sketches to local radio programmes. At 20 years old, he returned to college and became a teacher in the Toxteth area of Liverpool. Around this time he met his eventual wife, Annie, and became interested in writing drama.


His first success was a play about The Beatles called John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert. Originally commissioned for the Everyman Theatremarker, Liverpool it transferring to the West Endmarker in 1974. Educating Rita (1980) concerned a female hairdresser and her Open Universitymarker teacher. The semi-autobiographical Educating Rita was turned into a 1983 film with Michael Caine and Julie Walters. The musical Blood Brothers (1983), Russell also composed the music, first opened in Liverpool and transferred to London's Phoenix Theatre. Bill Kenwright produced a revival in 1988 which has run for more than twenty years; the show was produced on Broadwaymarker in 1993. Shirley Valentine, which first opened in Liverpool in 1986 before a new production opened in London in 1988 starring Pauline Collins. It was also made into a successful film, in 1989, again with Collins in the title role. Russell received BAFTA and Oscar nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay for both Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine.

Russell has written songs since the early 1960s, and has written the music to most of his plays and musicals. He also co-wrote "The Show", the theme song to the 1985 ITV drama series Connie, which became a top 30 hit for vocalist Rebecca Storm. His first album, Hoovering the Moon, was released in 2003. Russell has also written television projects, including the one-off drama, Our Day Out, which aired in 1977. He penned another television drama, One Summer, which aired as a five-part series on Channel 4 in 1983, starring a young David Morrissey.

In 2000, Russell published his first novel, The Wrong Boy. In epistolary form, main character Raymond Marks, a 19-year old from Manchester, tells the story of his life in letters to his hero Morrissey.

The Willy Russell Centre

The Willy Russell Centre for Children and Adults Who Stammer, was opened by Russell in 1995 in Liverpool. The centre took Russell's name as his writing in many of his plays puts forward the philosophy that anyone is capable of change whatever obstacles may be in their path, a theory shared by the centre.


  • Keep Your Eyes Down on the road (play 1971)
  • Sam O'Shanker (Play 1972, musical 1973)
  • Blind Scouse (1972)
  • John, Paul, George, Ringo ...and Bert (musical 1974)
  • Death of a Young Man (play 1974)
  • Breezeblock Park (play 1975)
  • Our Day Out (made-for-TV film 1976, musical stage version, 1983)
  • One for the Road (play 1976)
  • I Read The News Today (BBC Schools Radio Play, 1976)
  • Stags and Hens (1978 play and film)
  • Educating Rita (play 1980, film 1983)
  • One Summer (TV series 1983)
  • Blood Brothers (musical 1983, still running)
  • Connie (TV series, co-wrote theme tune "The Show" 1985)
  • Shirley Valentine (play 1986, film 1989)
  • Terraces (BBC TV film 1993)
  • The Wrong Boy (first novel, 2000)
  • Hoovering The Moon (2003)

Awards and nominations

  • 1980: Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy – Educating Rita
  • 1983: Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical – Blood Brothers
  • 1988: Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy – Shirley Valentine
  • 1990: Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Screenplay – Shirley Valentine
  • 1984: Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay – Educating Rita
  • 1984: Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Motion Picture Screenplay – Educating Rita
  • 1984: BAFTA nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay – Educating Rita
  • 1989 Tony Award for Best Play – Shirley Valentine
  • 1990: BAFTA nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay – Shirley Valentine
  • 1993: Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical – Blood Brothers

External links

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