THE award-winning venue in Prescot is an ideal theatre for the popular 'audience with' productions.

Following on from a triumphant Frank Cottrell Boyce and Steve Coogan evenings and most recently Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram in conversation, the latest star attraction to grace the Cockpit stage was Willy Russell.

Will was interviewed by acclaimed director Matthew Dunster and is now a firm friend of the writer.

Willy is more than a playwright. Add to that lyricist, composer, screenwriter and all-round living literary legend.

Oh and he's a great talker. A one-man show of delightful entertainment.

This warm and engaging two and half hour 'audience with' saw Willy chat movingly about his childhood.

Born in Whiston Hospital and brought up in Rainhill he spoke with great warmth about his inspirational parents.

Willy took us back on the journey from hairdresser to teacher-training college and his first ventures into playwriting.

For fans of his work, it was a real insight into his craft from plays such as Breezeblock Park to Blood Brothers and Educating Rita.

He read from his novel The Wrong Boy and the now-famous Nativity sequence from Shirley Valentine.

Matthew, who had worked with Willy on Shirley Valentine in the West End with Sheridan Smith, ably kept the anecdotes and memories flowing from Willy who (also an accomplished artist) painted pictures of his multi-award-winning career.

There was also a fab flashback to seeing The Beatles at the Cavern which was a major world-changing experience for the young wordsmith.

After the interval (and sipping from his red wine) a gloriously varied question-and-answer session gave more insights into his work and his life.

He is 77 on August 23. Happy Birthday to a man who has given so much pleasure to theatre-goers of all ages.

Willy Russell is an inspiration as the lady who sobbed during an emotional moment declared asking Willy just how he did what he did.

A modest Mr Russell smiled.

Let's hope Willy ventures out again on the 'audience with' trail.

A career spanning five decades needs to be celebrated by those who love his work.

A man who writes about the 'family' like no other - creating a real magic from nowhere.

5 Stars Take a Bow, Willy.