A thumbnail guide to Crossroads creators Peter Ling and Hazel Adair.
Peter co-created Crossroads along with Hazel Adair back in 1964. Ling started out as an office boy before being employed in the advertising industry. As a Bevin boy during World War II, he started to write and ran a theatre in the barracks in the army pay corps. Just before he was demobbed he contracted TB and had to be hospitalised.
He then, while in hospital, began writing for radio. Friend and actor Jon Pertwee gave encouragement towards Ling’s writing abilities. In the early ’50s, Ling wrote comedy for Whirlygig, a BBC children’s show. The newly formed Associated-Rediffusion television company gave him the job as a script-editor and then became Head of Children’s Series on shows such as Small Time. He wrote for the Eagle comic. Ling also wrote for Associated-Rediffusion shows such as Murder Bag, Crime Sheet and Jango, and in 1961 created a new soap for the BBC called Compact, with Hazel Adair.
He was later contracted to The Avengers where he wrote a couple of stories with his wife Sheila Ward. In 1964 Ling and Adair created a new ATV soap opera set in Birmingham – Crossroads was born! Ling also created Champion House in 1967 and wrote for Associated-Rediffusion on the Sexton Blake detective series and also The Mind Robber, which was a story for the BBC’s pioneering science-fiction series, Doctor Who in 1968.
There were many other programmes including Green Shoes with George Cole and Happy Holidays, starring Hattie Jacques and John Le Mesurier.
In 1987, new incoming Crossroads producer William Smethurst decided to bring in his own team of writers and Peter Ling was no longer required.
Born Hazel Willett in Darjeeling, India. Her father, Edward, worked as an engineer in Calcutta during the Raj. He and his wife Ada returned to Britain when their daughter was nine months old, they divorced in 1923 with her mother remarrying later Edward Hamblin.
Adair started her television writing career in 1951 on the science-fiction series Stranger From Space which ran until 1953. She then wrote and devised her own drama series in 1955, Sixpenny Corner. This was commercial television’s first daily drama serial running for 10 minutes every morning, the show later moved to evenings when ITV Daytime ceased transmitting due to poor ratings.
Sixpenny Corner ran until the summer of 1956. Emergency Ward Ten launched in 1957; it was the first UK hospital drama-serial and the first kind of long-running twice-weekly drama by ITV. Ward Ten ran for a decade and later was revived by ATV Network, for independent television, as General Hospital from 1972 to 1979.
Hazel had submitted some storyline ideas to the producers for the medical plots, which later saw her play a bigger role with the format when it made the move from the small screen to the big screen. Along with the creator of the TV series, Tessa Diamond, Adair co-wrote the film version of the ATV medical drama.
The 1959 movie was titled; Life On Emergency Ward Ten. She then left television, for a short while, to start working on another movie in 1961 – Dentist On The Job. This comedy offering was co-written with Bob Monkhouse. Then she joined forces with Peter Ling in 1961 for the BBC soap Compact, the twice-weekly saga that ran until 1965 – Crossroads, it was claimed, helped killed it off! During Crossroads’ early years, she co-managed the Writers’ Guild with Denis Norden, leading to a six-week writers strike at ATV when Ling and Norden complained about low pay.
She devised Champion House, again with Peter Ling in 1967, this one-off series ran for 30 episodes. The 1970s saw British comedy films fall into decline, however, it didn’t stop Hazel trying to revive it with Pyramid Films with Kent Walton. Using the screen name Elton Hawke, and other pseudonyms, Adair wrote and produced a series of saucy sex movies including Virgin Witch and Keep It Up Downstairs. Her last major movie was the 1979 thriller Game for Vultures, starring Richard Harris and Joan Collins.
Images courtesy of Vicky Ling. Research by Ian Armitage, Elizabeth Garrett and Alex Loveless. Additional material courtesy of Vicky Ling.