Jill Hyem (8 January 1937 – 5 June 2015) was a British radio and television writer and former actress.
Early life and acting career
Hyem was born in 1937 in Putney, the daughter of Hilda (née Gladwell) and Rex, a solicitor, and was raised in Devon and East Sheen.
Hyem attended Farlington School, a boarding school in West Sussex, from the age of ten, and studied at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. Early experience as an actress saw her perform at the Connaught Theatre Worthing, where one of her roles was as Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion, and in films such as The Trunk (1961) with Phil Carey. In 1962 she made her West End debut in Goodnight Mrs Puffin with Irene Handl.
On television, Hyem appeared in Richard the Lionheart (1962) with Dermot Walsh, Dixon of Dock Green (two episodes 1959 and 1960), Sergeant Cork (one episode, 1964), and as Peggy Briggs, the daughter of Jimmy Edwards and Beryl Reid, in the comedy series Bold as Brass (1964).
Playing various minor roles persuaded Hyem that she would do better as a writer and create more challenging parts for women.
Hyem's writing career began to develop when she became one of the principal writers on the radio soap opera The Dales (originally Mrs Dale's Diary). When that series was coming to an end, she was asked to devise a more contemporary replacement (with Alan Downer) and Waggoner's Walk was commissioned. The two writing partners stayed with the series over its 11-year run. She also wrote 30 radio plays including the lesbian love story Now She Laughs, Now She Cries, A Shape Like Piccadilly which tackled adult illiteracy, and the thriller Remember Me with Jill Balcon and Julian Glover which won the annual Giles Cooper award. Several of her radio plays became theatre productions including Equal Terms, Life Sentence and Thank You, which was renamed Post Mortems for the stage. Her original theatre plays include: Buzz, an adaptation of Lorna Doone, and in 2010, We'll Always Have Paris.
Her TV works include the BAFTA-nominated drama Tenko (1981-5) for which she wrote half the episodes. Anne Valery wrote the other half, and the two women collaborated on a sequel Tenko Reunion (1985). Tenko had been created by Lavinia Warner, and Hyem co-created with Warner the secret agent drama Wish Me Luck. Her other work includes episodes of the nurses drama Angels, Wendy Craig's Nanny, anthology series Sharing Time (1984), the first series of sex and sailing soap opera Howards' Way (1985), a mini-series adaptation of Barbara Taylor Bradford's Act of Will (1989), period costume drama The House of Eliott (1991), the Campion episodes "The Case of the Late Pig" (1989) and "Sweet Danger" (1990), the Miss Marple mystery At Bertram's Hotel (1987), and Body and Soul (1993), with Kristin Scott Thomas, for which Hyem was nominated for a BAFTA.
During the writing of Tenko, Hyem and Valery faced opposition for their female points of view from men, including the producer Ken Riddington. Riddington, "a wonderful man" according to Valery, had expected the story lines would receive a more "romantic treatment". "I was for guts and so was Jill," Valery recalled. "He [Riddington] had no idea he'd taken on these two vipers!" Hyem agreed: "We were always fighting with men over some storyline. I remember we wanted to write a story about lesbians in the camp and after some conflict we were allowed to – so long as we didn't use the word lesbian."
She became an active member of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain (WGGB), with a particular interest in promoting women's talents and issues within the profession. She co-founded the Women's Committee to represent areas of women's concern to balance the majority of committees, which were at the time male-dominated. For her works, she was awarded the guild's Gold Badge in 2007.
In 1966, Hyem married Dudley Savill, a Liberal politician and social worker. They had a son, Ben, and later divorced.
In 2011 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She died on 4 June 2015.
- The Gentle Terror (1961)
- Leopard in the Snow (1978)