Jill Hyem, pioneering writer of Tenko and many other dramas for TV, radio and the stage, has died aged 78. In the WGGB she was a member of the Executive Council, the first Radio Committee and the pioneering Women’s Committee, as well as serving as Deputy Chair to Alan Plater in the late 1980s.
Tenko (1981-85), about the wartime experiences of women prisoners of the Japanese, defied expectation by delivering one of the most watched dramas of the decade, peaking at 16.75 million viewers.
Jill also co-created the Radio 2 soap Waggoner’s Walk and wrote for Howards’ Way, The House of Eliott, Angels, Nanny, Campion, and Miss Marple. She received two BAFTA nominations, one for Tenko and another for the 1993 drama Body and Soul.
She wrote 40 radio plays during her career, the last in 2007, and described radio as her favourite medium. Several of her radio plays were adapted for the theatre and she went on to write original plays for the stage including the acclaimed We’ll Always Have Paris (2010).
Of her work in the WGGB Jill wrote: “Through the Guild I have made friends with many writers who have given freely of their time and energy to fight for our rights in an industry where the ‘fat cats’ easily forget who are the true creators.
“I founded, with Sheila MacLeod, a Women’s Committee, which received considerable opposition at the outset. We hoped to encourage more women writers to become active in the Guild at a time when most of the committees were male-dominated and many of the areas of special concern to women were neglected.”
The Women’s Committee folded after a decade. It was deemed no longer necessary. Women were represented throughout the Guild and worked across the industry.
Jill Hyem is one of the very few WGGB members to be awarded the union’s Gold Badge, which she received in 2007 and wore with pride.
At Jill’s request there will not be a formal funeral or memorial event.