Rhinegold Photo credit: Anita Schiffer-Fuchs
Willy Russell relaxing at home

Cameron Bray

Playwright Willy Russell to have college theatre named in his honour

4:05, 13th June 2018

The award-winning playwright Willy Russell, known for works such as Educating Rita, Our Day Out, Shirley Valentine and Blood Brothers, is to have a theatre named after him in his native Liverpool.

The honour comes from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), which will be naming the college’s studio theatre after Russell. To mark the occasion, LIPA has commissioned a special signature-based name plate which is set to be unveiled at a ceremony on 21 June by Russell himself. On the day of the unveiling, Russell will also be running a masterclass for LIPA students.

Speaking about becoming an eponym, Russell said: ‘Working as a young teacher in Liverpool and then, later, as a playwright who often cast and worked with groups of talented but often un-taught youngsters, I saw time and time again how access to and involvement in the arts provided the most comprehensive, character-forming and fully-rounded of learning experiences.

‘For me to have my name associated with a theatre specifically created to house the experimentation, discovery, struggle, triumph, creative failure and success of the young is a great honour – one that I’m deeply proud and delighted to accept.’

The 100-seat theatre space is just one aspect of the college’s professional facilities, a setup which allows it to offer a wide range of two-year courses on the creative and performing arts to students aged 16 – 19. It is the only college of its kind in the north-west of England.

Russell already has a relationship with the college, as he is one of their Companions – a position conferred on him in recognition of the time and expertise that he has shared with the college’s students. LIPA is a Sixth Form college which opened in 2016 as a specialist provider of Further Education. Its CEO and founding principal, Mark Featherstone-Witty, said: ‘Before I made Liverpool my home, Willy, along with The Beatles, embodied Liverpool. Unlike current playwrights, Willy’s shows were saturated with people, people you got to know. If I was allowed a collection of plays to take to a desert island, it would be Willy’s – to remind me about human aspiration.’

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