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Royle Family actress received royal nod

PUBLISHED: 11:33 19 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:16 07 September 2010

Sue Johnston

Sue Johnston

Charlotte Newton THE actress Sue Johnston has been appointed an OBE in the Queen s Birthday Honours for her services to drama and charity. Ms Johnston is famous for her roles in Brookside, Waking The Dead, and, arguably most memorably, The Royle Family. B

Charlotte Newton

THE actress Sue Johnston has been appointed an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for her services to drama and charity.

Ms Johnston is famous for her roles in Brookside, Waking The Dead, and, arguably most memorably, The Royle Family.

But in Muswell Hill, where she lives, and Crouch End, Ms Johnston is also respected for her role as the patron of Haringey Shed - an all-inclusive theatre company.

Her work on stage and endeavours to make drama accessible to all children were recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours List on Saturday.

Speaking from China, where she is filming a documentary, Ms Johnston said: "I am delighted, flattered and honoured."

Her ascent to become one of Britain's best-loved television actresses was not a charmed one and the 65-year-old has previously spoken about how difficult it was to succeed in the often exclusive acting industry.

In an interview with the Ham&High last year, she described how, as a girl from Warrington who had grown up in a loving, working class family, she had struggled to compete against the acting dynasties.

"It was tough," she said. "I had enormous difficulty getting work."

"Remember I'd come from a place where there weren't even theatres, and I was competing with people from acting dynasties."

But her formative years, before she became a household name, shaped her desire to help children from mixed backgrounds to engage with the performing arts.

"That's why I make myself available to kids who are interested in drama because everyone should have the chance to succeed," she said.

It was through watching her goddaughter, 16-year-old Elizabeth Thacker, performing in a play at the Haringey Shed in Tottenham that Ms Johnston decided to become involved with the charity. Elizabeth has learning difficulties but like dozens of other children in Haringey, she is able to take centre stage and delight in the performing arts.

Her mother Margot Leicester has been a close friend of Ms Johnston's since they worked together in theatre and education in the 1970s.

Ms Leicester, who lives in Onslow Gardens, Muswell Hill, said: "Sue shows such humanity in her acting so it's not surprising that her humanity comes out in more practical ways. Ever since she moved to Haringey she has been committed to inclusive theatre with Haringey Shed.

"She's someone who people feel is a truly good person when they see her acting; and it spills into her work with children encouraging them to act in Haringey.

"Sue's sustained commitment to Haringey Shed has been incredible. She's raised thousands of pounds and been an inspirational figurehead, encouraging other north London actors to become involved which has raised the profile of the charity."

But for the down-to-earth star, the invitation to accept an OBE from the Queen was tinged with sadness.

"I just wish my parents were alive today," Ms Johnston said: "They would be so proud.

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