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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Jamie Roberts

Antony Cotton and Kelvin Fletcher lead tributes after theatre founder David Johnson's death

Some of the UK's biggest soap stars have led the tributes to David Johnson after the theatre founder's sudden death.

Johnson, who has been credited with launching many careers over the years, tragically died on May 4, at the age of 60 but the cause of death is yet to be revealed.

He had been labelled the "star-maker" after founding Oldham Theatre Workshop in 1968. In 2019 he was awarded the British Empire Medal.

Since the news of his death, fans from some of the UK's top soap operas have flocked to pay tribute to the person they praise for helping kickstart their careers.

Among those penning emotional words was Coronation Street's Antony Cotton, who wrote on Twitter : "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 continued: '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"

Cotton went on to share a statement from co-star Alison King, who plays Carla Connor in the long-running soap and doesn't have the social media platform.

It read: "David Johnson. R.I.P... my absolute hero! My maker of all things that I am, and where I am today, my teacher, of who I was 27 years ago, years that taught me things about myself I never knew, but have carried with me to this date.

"You were strict and yet the kindest man to me I have ever known. You were intuitive, and insightful, and gave me and so many others I've loved and adored working with over the years, the opportunity to shine."

"You were the sharpest, most aware human being of others creatively, and how to teach them to show it, I have ever known. Thank you so much."

Samia Longchambon called Johnson 'the best' (ITV)

And longtime Corrie star Samia Longchambon, best known for her role as Maria, said: "Such sad news. The end of an era. He really was the best xxx"

A statement from a Coronation Street spokesperson was also released, reading: "Everyone at Coronation Street was saddened to hear of the passing of David Johnson. He was truly a remarkable man and incredible teacher.

"He kick started the careers of scores of actors who have walked on the cobbles. Coronation Street owes him a huge debt of gratitude. His legacy will live on in all the hugely talented actors who learned so much from him over the past five decades."

Emmerdale's Kelvin Fletcher also paid tribute (Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

Stars of other soaps also paid their respects, with Emmerdale's Kelvin Fletcher penning: "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."

Former Emmerdale star Lisa Riley, who played popular character Mandy Dingle, also shared a similar message. She said: "REST IN PEACE for all of us whom were taught by David Johnson, today is a very sad day.

"I know I speak for many of my fellow actors in the industry, we wouldn't be where we are today without this LEGEND of a man.

David Johnson founded Oldham Theatre Workshop (Manchester Evening News)

"I owe so much to you David….. you know how much I loved you."

Other stars David is said to have helped develop include the likes off Anna Friel and Suranne Jones.

Oldham Theatre Workshop also released a heartfelt statement, which read: "Yesterday we learned of the passing of Oldham Theatre Workshop's founder and original Artistic Director, David Johnson.

"Since it first opened in 1968, many thousands of young people have come through its doors and found friendship, purpose and inspiration.

"Today we pause to reflect on the significant and ongoing impact David's work has had."

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