By Nick Yapp
Bill Ash was a man of great charm and humour, soft-voiced and modest, and rock solid in his integrity. His political beliefs shone through all his extraordinary wartime adventures and through all that he did for the Guild, as a member of the Executive Committee for many years and as Joint Chair from 1982 to 1983 and from 1995-1996. All his life, he battled for the causes he so passionately believed in, whether he was fighting against Fascism in the 1940s, or against the chairman and governors of the City of Westminster College in the mid-1990s – the latter being responsible for the shameful closing of the Soho Theatre after a prolonged and bitter struggle.
Bill was an outstanding champion of the Guild, the trade union that he loved and valued so highly. He was also an inspiring advocate of the causes for which the Guild fought. On the eve of the 2000 Millennium, he described the Writers’ Guild as a “group of highly committed writers of books, plays, film scripts, radio and television programmes willing to work together for each other’s good”.
Perhaps, at this sad time for all those who worked with Bill, and in this revolutionary time for all writers, it would be appropriate to recall other words that he wrote for the Guild magazine, the Writers’ News, some 20 years ago: “What enables writers in Britain to face the future in a changing world with some confidence? The continued existence of their own trade union of professional writers.” The message is timeless; the writer was unique.
On a personal note, Bill’s book How to Write Radio Drama is the best book about the craft of writing that I have ever read. It ought to be compulsory reading for every producer and commissioning editor, but I bet it isn’t.
Bill Ash’s funeral will take place on Friday 9 May at 11.15am at West London Crematorium, Kensal Rise, London W10 5JS. A commemorative event will be held on Friday 16 May from 5.30pm to 9pm in central London. Further details will be announced later.
Read the Guardian obituary by Guild member Brendan Foley.