Willy Russell Fact File

Willy Russell Fact File

Shirley Valentine writer Willy Russell is one of the most celebrated and widely produced writers of his generation with a career spanning 5 decades. Check out these interesting facts about the renowned playwright.

  •  Other than Shirley Valentine, his other best known works include Educating Rita, Blood Brothers and Our Day Out.
  • Before becoming a professional writer he was a ladies hairdresser and also qualified as a teacher.


  • His first play was Keep Your Eyes Down (1971) and was performed in 1972’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
  • Both Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine have transferred to the big screen with both feature films receiving Oscar nominations for Michael Caine, Julie Walters (Educating Rita) and Pauline Collins (Shirley Valentine).
  • He has won 3 Laurence Olivier awards – 1980 for Best New Comedy (Educating Rita); 1983 for Best New Musical (Blood Brothers); and 1988 for Best New Comedy (Shirley Valentine).


  • The multi-award winning musical Blood Brothers, Russell’s ‘Liverpudlian folk opera' about a pair of twins separated at birth, surpassed 10,000 performances in London’s West End – one of only three musicals to ever achieve that milestone.


  • Russell is also a published novelist - The Wrong Boy his first novel was released in 2000.
  • An accomplished singer and songwriter, Russell released the album Hoovering the Moon in 2003. Containing 14 self-penned tracks which includes guest vocals from Barbara Dickson and Kate Rusby.
  •  He is also a talented painter and artist. His first exhibition as a visual artist Another Aspect was exhibited in Liverpool from May - September 2017, followed by the Seeing Better exhibition in London’s Coningsby Gallery in November 2017.

 Do not miss our brand-new production of Willy Russell’s acclaimed comedy Shirley Valentine from Mon 10 – Sat 29 February at Library Theatre. Book your tickets here