Corrie star turned celebrant giving people with no family a final farewell in Manchester

Hayley Cartwright Credit: ITV News

They say that life imitates art and for Hayley Cartwright that seems to be the case.

The North West actress first played Hazel the celebrant on Coronation Street in 2017 and was last seen on the cobbles as the same character earlier this year.

She finished her training to be a celebrant 'in real life' in 2021, and as well as the normal weddings and baby namings, she is performing funerals for people who may otherwise have been forgotten.

Hayley Cartwright in Coronation Street. Credit: ITV

The latest local authority funeral is for Leonard Dixon, who was 62 when he died at his home on Stanley Street in Openshaw, Manchester.

Leonard, known as Tony has no known family members or next of kin.

While he used to drink at the local working mens club and regularly supported local charities, his graveside would normally have been empty.

That's where Hayley steps in. With the help of social media and local community sites, she encourages people to come and pay their last respects for a man they never knew, but who deserves a proper send off.

Ten people gathered at the gates to Southern Cemetery, all from different backgrounds with different reasons for attending, but all coming together to farewell Leonard.

Jardin Main is a gas engineer who was working locally, he took a break between jobs to bow his head and pay his respects.

"I saw the post on Facebook and it touched me, I hate the idea of someone dying alone so I came here to make sure he had people around him," he said.

People coming together for the funeral of Leonard Dixon. Credit: ITV News

73-year-old Gillian Machell got the bus to the cemetery after seeing Hayley's post on a community site.

She says: "No-one should take their last journey alone, it's important to show that someone cares."

Gwen Birchall-Peake lives nearby and says she used to see public funerals and feel sad they were on their own.

After seeing Hayley's posts she has now been to several funerals for people she never met, but feels a link to.

"It is an opportunity to pay respects to someone who had people in their lives but may have died alone for any number of reasons," she says. "Everyone deserves a good send off."

Hayley Cartwright Credit: ITV News

Hayley started her training as a celebrant after her dad said she would be good at it, with her friendly nature and positive outlook.

She completed the training during lockdown and has since juggled work as an actress and a celebrant.

People gathering to pay their last respects. Credit: ITV News

She says she is often contacted by funeral directors asking her to give a service to someone who has no other known friends or relatives.

"If I can make a small difference then I want to," Hayley adds. "It's important to say the right words, no-one should go on their last journey alone."

Hayley chose readings to share at the graveside and the group recite the Lords prayer as a final farewell to Leonard before dropping roses on the coffin.

Those gathered say he will always have a place here, and be remembered.