Lancaster Corrie and Emmerdale actor and Mastermind champion takes final bow

Stephen Tomlin as a judge in Hollyoaks
Stephen Tomlin as a judge in Hollyoaks

He’s played a vicar in Emmerdale and Coronation Street, a coroner on Radio 4’s The Archers, and has performed for the Queen at Lancaster Castle.

He’s a Mastermind champion, has been the voice of Bigwig from Watership Down, and role-played an awkward customer for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.

Stephen Tomlin

Stephen Tomlin

Now Lancaster based producer, actor and director Steve Tomlin is bowing out with his final theatre production at the castle in February and March, aiming to spend more time with his family and generally take things easy.

Steve, 64, has lived in Lancaster for 40 years, having come to the city to work at The Dukes following a background in teacher training.

He put down roots in the city saying “it seemed like a good place to be”, and worked freelance across the north west in TV, theatre and radio.

Over the years he’s had parts in Cracker, Brookside, Hollyoaks, Waterloo Road, Poirot and Brookside among others.

Stephen Tomlin in the cells at Lancaster Castle

Stephen Tomlin in the cells at Lancaster Castle

Steve said that more recently the arts in general has faced an uphill struggle due to funding cuts with opportunities for young artists, especially in the north of England, drying up.

Born in Saltash, Cornwall, and brought up in Tavistock, Devon, the father-of-five, son of a butcher and shopworker said: “There’s less opportunities, less jobs at the moment.

“The arts and drama provision is getting a raw deal.

“I know I could work a lot if I was prepared to work for nothing.

“Our country is stuffed full of curious, funny, interesting things and the arts reflect that.

“You can’t put a price tag on it and it’s not all about profit.

“I’ve been a member of trade union Equity for 40 years so I believe in collective action and helping eachother.”

He said it was important we still had places for people’s careers to grow, and that we “musn’t let it go”, whether it is spaces for music, theatre, or arts.

In popular TV history, Steve was the vicar who administered services following the fateful plane crash in Emmerdale, and he also married Reg and Maureen Holdsworth on the street, saying he “seemed to go through a phase of playing a vicar”.

Steve was the 1991 Mastermind champion answering questions over three programmes on The Life and Reign of Henry VII, Dartmoor and its Environs, and The Life and Voyages of Sir Francis Drake.

In 2010 he took part in a TV special Mastermind Champion of Champions series on BBC 2, answering questions on the life and poetry of Edward Thomas.

He finished in overall 3rd place out of 16 former champions contending in the initial heats.

Certainly his experience on the popular quiz show will have helped in his quiz team Gregson B’s performance at The Gregson Centre’s weekly quiz, and Steve also has fond memories of playing for the Moorlands Pub quiz team before it closed..

He said: “Mastermind helped give me an unexpected new direction in life.

“Since childhood I’ve always had an insatiable curiosity in everything interesting there is to know about life and learning and consequently have always enjoyed quizzing as a social activity – either as participant or setter.”

Since 1998 he’s also been a tour guide at Lancaster Castle, which he described as a “great day job”.

Two years later he put on his first theatre production in the Shire Hall at Lancaster Castle as Demi-Paradise productions.

The production was Shakespeare’s Richard II and 16 years later the company performed Act 2 Scene 1 of the play for The Queen, when she visited in May last year.

Steve said: “It was great, an awful day weather wise but when she appeared it stopped raining.

“She was really nice when we had a little chat afterwards. She remarked how much history there was here and was very impressed with the whole day.”

The final Demi-paradise performance, which starts today, Thursday February 25 and runs until March 19, is Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. He will be dividing his time between Lancaster, where he lives in Earl Street, and Northumberland, with his partner, children’s author Kim Lewis, while visiting his children across the UK.

He said of the play: “I hope people will come and see it, even if they don’t like Shakespeare, and there’s certainly an opportunity for someone to pick up the baton with future plays at the castle.

“Letting go is hard, but it’s been amazing to work with such dedicated, fun and hard working people.”