Actor Stephen Tompkinson has Fylde at heart

PUBLISHED: 20:04 24 December 2009 | UPDATED: 11:40 28 February 2013

Stephen Tompkinson in St Annes

Stephen Tompkinson in St Annes

Stephen Tompkinson can count Hollywood A-listers as friends but it's the childhood in St Annes that gets him starry eyed. He took writer Emma Mayoh on a trip down memory lane

STEPHEN Tompkinson still shudders every time he walks past the old Yorkshire Bank building in St Annes. It's nothing to do with the current economic crisis but more to do with the time a team of policeman surrounded the building after he had pressed the panic alarm.

'I was only five,' he remembered. 'My dad had just got the job as manager and he wanted to show me and my brother where he was working. It was out of hours and we were walking behind the tellers when I saw these big red buttons that said press. So I did.

'Two minutes later you could hear the sirens as the police cars came screaming around the corner. We explained what had happened but the policeman pretended he was going to arrest me. My brother jumped in front of me and screamed 'you're not taking him'. He was only seven. I still loved going in there even after that. George Formby's ukulele was kept in the safe. I wasn't allowed to touch it but I did see it.'

Stephen moved to St Annes from the North East with mum and dad, Brian and Josephine, and brother, John, when he was five-years-old. Despite now living in St Albans, the Lancashire coastal town is still an area full of happy childhood memories.

As we wander down the main high street he stops to think about some of those treasured tales, including brushes with classic English actors and comedians.

'I was walking down here with my dad and brother and Les Dawson was on the other side of the street,' remembered the 43-year-old, who lived in St Patricks Road North and Ashley Road. 'All of a sudden he bellowed at the top of his voice, "Morning Brian, you out boulevarding with the family". It was hilarious.

'When I was at drama school I went to see him when he was doing Blankety Blank and told him who I was. He said "Eee, you're not Brian's lad are you? Come on in."

'I remember seeing Hylda Baker too in a play at the old theatre in Ashton Gardens. It was called Busy Bodies and Valentine Dial, the old presenter of Man in Black on Radio 4 was in it too. We were supposed to go in the afternoon but someone in the cast was ill so we got tickets for the next night instead. It was brilliant. Hylda was a big star so it was incredible seeing her.'

Celebrities, however, weren't the only people to make an impression on Stephen. It was a handful of teachers at Holy Family Primary School and St Mary's School, Blackpool as well as Saint Bede's School in Lytham that helped him steer his attentions towards acting. The Wild at Heart star barely hesitates to tell me about it.

He said: 'My teachers Jeff Lynam, Anne Bouget and Steven Brennan were massive influences on me. Steven decided that as part of studying The Crucible by Arthur Miller we should put the play on. I got to play John Proctor which was such a huge part for me to be playing.

'Up until that point I was going to read English at university so I had something as a fall back. But that performance changed everything. My mum and dad were so moved by it, they could see my talent was growing and they wanted me to strike while the iron was hot.'

Stephen's early break came playing journalist Damien Day in cult comedy Drop the Dead Donkey and has also starred in hit film Brassed Off with Ewan McGregor and Pete Posthlethwaite. He is probably best known for his part of Father Peter Clifford in Ballykissangel and his more recent lead role in popular drama Wild at Heart.

The British Academy Award winning actor recently returned to Blackpool's Grand Theatre for the first time in 11 years to star in Sign of the Times, a comedy from the writer of Calendar Girls.

'It was great being back there,' he said. 'It's looking fabulous. It was somewhere I went as a child and I remember the first play I saw there was Scrooge.'

He said all of above were the highlights of his career. But despite his success he has still kept a firm grasp on his Lancashire roots, including showing his eight-year-old daughter, Daisy, around the town.

'I want to share St Annes with my family plus Daisy loves going seeing the donkeys and playing on the beach. I've got the memories of shopping at J R Taylor with my mum and at the indoor market which I still shop at now. I recently saw a fanzine about me for sale in there, it didn't get me a discount though!

'I used to be on the local cricket team; I'd go and spend time on the pier and in the square every day after school. When my grandma and granddad visited we'd go to Ashton Gardens. I'd spend half my time at the local snooker hall dreaming of playing at The Crucible in Sheffield one day and I had a summer job at Holt Jackson in Lytham where my brother worked. I spent my entire day stacking books on shelves but we had lots of fun. St Annes is a very special place for me.'

The film and television star may be forthcoming about the many memories he and his family have created for themselves. But when it comes to getting the real stories, it's best to go to his dad. Luckily enough, we bumped into him in the town centre.

'I remember going into his room to kiss him goodnight as I always did and when I spoke to him there was no reply,' recalled dad, Brian, 75. 'I looked and there were no pillows there. I pulled back the covers and there was no Stephen, just the pillows. He'd snuck out of the window to Blackpool with his friends. The window was locked when he got back though.

'Also, we were having some works done on the house so were living somewhere else temporarily for six months. There was a small gap he squeezed through out of the window, he slipped. It was an 80ft drop below him and he was hanging on by his fingertips. His brother pulled him back up to safety but he might no have been with us today. We're lucky to have him.

'I'm very proud of what both Stephen and John have achieved. They are both very close and they had a lovely childhood here in St Annes.'

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