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Ted Willis

Willis is better known to posterity as a screenwriter and playwright, especially as creator of `Dixon of Dock Green’, which made him famous overnight in 1953.

Born in 1913, he came from a poor and largely illiterate family but found an education in Tottenham public library.

During the 1930s, Willis became a leading figure in the Labour League of Youth. He spent a week in jail after a street conflict with the Blackshirts. He was elected as chair of the LLY on a left-wing ticket in 1937. In that role, he collaborated with the Young Communist League to such an extent that Labour’s leadership clamped down so hard, that he and others in the LLY actually switched allegiance.

In 1941 he was elected national secretary of the YCL at a time when its membership was soaring to some 16,000. 

Willis had a wide variety of jobs connected with amateur theatre and became heavily involved in Unity Theatre, the Communist inspired club.

Ted Willis used the pseudonym of John Bishop as the author of Erma Kremer & Sabotage! for Unity Theatre in 1941 and 1942.

He was also drama critic for the Daily Worker during the 1940s.

His plays for Unity in the war years - `Buster' (1943) among them – saw him working with such talents as Alfie Bass and Bill Owen, both of whom retained loyalty to the left, with Bass openly associating with the Morning Star as late as the end of the 1960s.

By 1948, his work was being produced by mainstream theatre, such as his piece `No Trees in the Street’ and, with that, his association with the left faded almost the instant the cold war began.

Willis had returned to Labour by the late 1940s and ended up a member of the House of Lords.