PAINTINGS by Willy Russell will go on display at Kirkby Gallery, Knowsley, this May in the playwright’s first ever solo art exhibition. Having discovered his talent for painting little more than a decade ago, this collection of work will show a side to Willy Russell that most people will not have seen before. The collection reveals for the first time a wholly new aspect to the talents of the man widely known for stage and screen works including Educating Rita, Shirley Valentine and Blood Brothers. Willy’s decision to host the exhibition came about after working with Tina Ball and the team at Knowsley Council’s Kirkby Gallery, who curated an exhibition in 2015 called Willy Russell: Behind the Scenes. Willy says: “Tina and her team did such a brilliant job with the Archive exhibition that when it came to exhibiting my art work, the idea of the Kirkby Gallery seemed just right and natural – although I had no idea if others would agree. Somewhat nervously, I tentatively suggested it to Tina, who said: “I’ve been wanting to ask you for ages!” “We started discussing it the year before last, and since then I started painting like crazy! Kirkby Gallery is a really great space to exhibit, I love it.” Visitors to the exhibition will see a range of styles and techniques, which combine to illustrate the journey of exploration that the artist has been on in the past decade. All of the locations depicted in the works on display are close to Willy’s heart – capturing views of Portugal, Herefordshire, mid Wales and the West Yorkshire Moors, all places where Willy spends lots of this time. Willy explains: “Like most people who come fresh to painting, at first you want to represent what your eye is looking at. But you get to a point where you realise that you don’t need to do that. You get to a point where you want to represent something in you, and in the process become less bound by matters of accuracy, trying to get a building or a figure right – after all, who can ever say what is and is not ‘right’?!” Told at school that he had no talent for painting, Willy only picked up a brush again when he was well into his fifties. Realising how much he enjoyed it, he signed up for tutor Peter Moore’s art classes at Hope University and says his newest passion has grown and grown from there. “I now spend a great deal of my time painting,” he says. “Obviously, I still spend a lot of time on writing and theatre and TV and film too. But if you were putting me away on a desert island and said: “You can take either some paints and an easel, or an A4 pad and a pen”, I know which one I would take,” he laughs. Another Aspect opens on 9 May at Kirkby Gallery and runs until 2 September 2017.