Tributes from Coronation Street stars after founder of Oldham Theatre workshop David Johnson dies

David Johnson founded Oldham Theatre Workshop in 1968. Credit: MEN Media

The man who kickstarted the careers of a number of award-winning actors and household names from Greater Manchester has died.Tributes are being paid to David Johnson, who ran the Oldham Theatre Workshop, which he founded in 1968, and set budding actors on the path to stardom.

A number of Coronation Street stars trained under his leadership including the late Anne Kirkbride, who played Deirdre Barlow, and Michael Le Vell, who stars as Kevin Webster.

Anna Friel, Suranne Jones and Lisa Riley are also among those who David helped to launch their careers.

David founded the workshop to provide free programmes for local youngsters to flourish on stage.

It went on to become Europe's biggest youth theatre company with at least five stage shows every year.

Anne Kirkbride, who play Diedre Barlow in Coronation Street, learned her craft under David's leadership. Credit: PA

He worked at theatres in Greater Manchester and the West End, while also working with screenwriters and directors such as Danny Boyle and Russell T Davies.David, from Saddleworth, later founded David Johnson Theatre and was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the New Year's Honours list for 2019 for his work.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News back in 2015, David said: "I have been so fortunate.

"When you work with people like that you realise what amazing, talented people they are.“Nearly all the people I have worked with have gone on to appear in TV and film. We have got such wonderful, wonderful talent in this area and they have been so lovely with me.”

Coronation Street star Antony Cotton is among those who've paid tribute to their mentor. Credit: PA

Several former pupils have taken to Twitter to pay tribute, including TV and theatre stars.

Antony Cotton, who plays Sean Tully on Coronation Street, said: "Just heard the saddest news. David Johnson who was the director of the phenomena that was Oldham Theatre Workshop, has died."He put so many of us on the map, and kick started so many careers, both on stage and off. So many of us owe him so much. I’m absolutely gutted."He formed my childhood so profoundly, and in turn - my adult life too. Those years were the best years of my life. Rest in Power David. You were the best x"

Kelvin Fletcher, who played Andy Sugden in Emmerdale, wrote: "Singlehandedly the biggest influence on my career and arguably, the reason behind my career.

"I know I speak for so many. Thank you David Johnson. What a legacy."Sacha Dhawan, who has worked on stage and screen including Doctor Who and Line of Duty, added: "So sad to hear about the passing of the wonderful David Johnson this man taught me to never be afraid of making bold choices.

"I thank you sir for helping me lay those important foundations as you did for many just like me. Rest in peace."