Portrait of Willy Russell
Liverpool playwright, dramatist, composer and artist Willy Russell was immortalised in this painting by the artist Peter Edwards in 1990. It features Willy in his office in Canning Street in the city. It was painted specially for the Contemporary Poets exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1990. The exhibition featured full-length portraits of celebrated poets such as Seamus Heaney. Peter explains that Russell was an “honorary inclusion as a playwright”. The exhibition subsequently toured the country. Willy was born in Liverpool in 1947. His 1974 breakthrough work was John, Paul George, Ringo…and Bert, which transferred to the West End and won a Best Musical award. Two of his best-known plays (which were also made into hugely successful films) are Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine. His long-running musical Blood Brothers continues to entertain, and Our Day Out - The Musical, (originally a TV play), premiered at the Royal Court, Liverpool in 2010. The painting of Willy was acquired by National Museums Liverpool from the artist in 1994. It was most recently displayed in the exhibition, ‘Willy Russell Behind the Scenes’ at Kirkby Gallery 5 Oct 2015 – 23 January 2016. Peter and Willy met once again at the exhibition opening.