Made in Oldham: The budding actors who became stars thanks to David Johnson


Stars of the stage and screen have made heartfelt tributes to David Johnson – the man who inspired generations to perform. Through Oldham Theater Workshop, which he founded in 1968, David helped to kickstart the careers of a string of household names.

From Coronation Street regulars to West End performers, David’s passion inspired those who worked with him. He leaves an incredible legacy, having put Oldham firmly on the map with dozens of talented youngsters shining bright under his guidance from him.

I have told the Manchester Evening News back in 2015: “I have been so fortunate. When you work with people like that you realize what amazing, talented people they are.”

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Following the announcement of his death, Oldham Theater Workshop paid tribute to the ‘significant and ongoing impact David’s work has had’, adding: “Since it first opened in 1968, many thousands of young people have come through its doors and found friendship, purpose and inspiration.”

Here, we take a look back at some of the stars David helped on the path to success.

Raffey Cassidy

Raffey Cassidy arrives for the premiere of Tomorrowland in London
Raffey Cassidy arrives for the premiere of Tomorrowland in London

Raffey, from Worsley, hit the big screen aged just 10 with a role in Snow White and the Huntsman . She has since appeared in films such as tomorrowland and on TV, including ITV’s Mr Selfridge in 2013.

Anthony Cotton

Anthony Cotton attends the Pride of Manchester Awards 2019 at Waterhouse Way
Anthony Cotton attends the Pride of Manchester Awards 2019 at Waterhouse Way

One of the best loved stars of Coronation Street Anthony first hit the cobbles as Sean Tully in 2003. Anthony, from Bury, rose to fame on Channel 4’s ground-breaking series Queer as Folk four years earlier and have taken part in both I’m a Celebrity and dancing on ice .

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sacha dhwan

Sacha Dhawan at German Comic Con 2017
Sacha Dhawan at German Comic Con 2017

Sacha, from Bramhall, starred on stage and in the film adaptation of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys . He went on to feature on TV shows including BBC’s Last Tango in Halifax , line of duty and Doctor Who .

sally dynevor

Coronation Street actress Sally Dynevor after receiving her MBE

Another run star, Sally is one of the soap’s longest-serving actors, having hit the famous cobbles back in 1986. Sally, from Middleton, was awarded an MBE for services to drama last year.

Kelvin Fletcher

Kelvin Fletcher

Oldham’s own Kelvin played Andy Sugden in Emmerdale for 20 years. He has since appeared on death in paradise and moving on while in 2019 he was crowned winner of Strictly Come Dancing.

anna friel

anna friel

Rochdale-born Anna shot to fame on this side of the Atlantic in Channel 4’s Brookside before making a name in the US on ABC show Pushing Daisies . She has also featured in films such as Limitless with Robert De Niro, while her long list of awards includes an International Emmy.

Joe Gilgun

Manchester premiere of Pride starring Chorley actor Joe Gilgun at the Printworks. Actor Joe Gilgun

Chorley lad Joe hit screens as tearaway Jamie Armstrong on run in the 1990s, but it was his portrayal as Woody in This Is England which made him a household name. He has since starred Misfits and brassic .

Alan Halsall

Alan, from Walkden, has played Tyrone Dobbs on Coronation Street since 1998. He has made other appearances on shows including heart beat and Queer as Folk while he won a National Television Award in 2013.

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Suranne Jones

Suranne, from Chadderton, starred as Karen McDonald on run before going on to work on shows including Doctor Foster , Scott and Bailey and Gentleman Jack . Her accolades include three National Television Awards.

Gerard Kearns

Gerard Kearns attending the special screening of The Essex Serpent at the Ham Yard Hotel, London
Gerard Kearns attending the special screening of The Essex Serpent at the Ham Yard Hotel, London

Gerard, from Mossley, is best known as Ian Gallagher in the cult Channel 4 series Shameless . He has since featured in series such as Chernobyl and films including Looking for Eric .

Alison King

Alison King

Alison rose to fame in the Sky One series Dream Team and starred in TV ads for Boddingtons and Daz, before joining Coronation Street in 2006. She was named best actress in the 2012 British Soap Awards.

Anne Kirkbride

Anne Kirkbride was a customer

Oldham-born Anne was one of British TV’s most iconic soap stars. She featured in some of run ‘s most legendary scenes and storylines as Deirdre Barlow, who she played for 42 years until 2014, the year before her death.

Michael Le Vell

Coronation street actor Michael Le Vell

Another long-running Coronation Star Newton Heath actor Michael has played Kevin Webster since 1983.

Sally Lindsay

Sally Lindsay arrives for the TV Choice Awards

Sally, from Stockport, made appearances in phoenix nights and The Royle Family . It was Coronation Street where she made her name, before featuring on Sky’s Mount Pleasant and BBC comedies Still Open All Hours and Citizen Khan .

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Sally Ann Matthews

Sally-Ann Matthews

Sally, from Oldham, is best known for playing Jenny Bradley on Coronation Street – on and off since 1986. She also starred on heart beat for 12 years and made appearances on shows such as Emmerdale and doctors .

Tina O’Brien

Sarah Platt actress Tina O’Brien

Tina starred as Sarah Platt on run for nine years, before returning after a seven-year break in 2015. The Manchester star also featured in Children’s Ward and Waterloo Road .

Lisa Riley

Emmerdale star Lisa Riley has played Mandy Dingle since the 1990s
Emmerdale star Lisa Riley has played Mandy Dingle since the 1990s

Bury’s Lisa starred as Mandy Dingle on Emmerdale for six years from 1995, before returning three years ago. She replaced Jeremy Beadle on ITV’s You’ve Been Framed and has appeared as a panellist on Loose Women .

clive rowe

ActorClive Rowe

Clive, from Oldham, is well-known among those who grew up watching CBBC show The Story of Tracy Beaker – having starred as Norman ‘Duke’ Ellington. He has also appeared on Bill and Doctor Who .

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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