One of the country’s foremost television and film actors returned to the town of his birth to be honoured by the local council and have a theatre named after him.
Alun Armstrong, who made his debut in 1971’s classic Get Carter, has an impressive list of big screen credits including A Bridge Too Far, Krull, Patriot Games (Alongside Harrison Ford), Braveheart with Mel Gibson and Sleepy Hollow with Johnny Depp.
As well as his cinema credits, he has featured in a number of major television series that include The Sweeney, Porridge, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads and, of course, the hit BBC One detective show New Tricks.
The spectacular gala night event, A Night To Remember, was held at the new Alun Armstrong Theatre, situated in the Stanley Civic Hall where Alun first appeared locally almost fifty years ago. During the intervening years, he has become a stalwart of the stage having featured in musicals such as Sweeny Todd and Les Miserables (Playing the part of the shady innkeeper, Thenardier) and numerous other productions including those by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Originally hailing from Annfield Plain, he was able to meet up with audience members who were former school friends and neighbours. As well as others who attended the event and with whom he mingled before the show, during the interval and following the show. Thus, giving him a chance to catch up with old friends and for others to be photographed with him.
The full to capacity event also had a full programme of entertainment that included appearances from North East legends Bobby Pattinson and Leah Bell, who arranged the show.
They were ably supported by fellow entertainers Chris Hayward and Lee Brannigan. Who are this year’s pantomime dames at the Newcastle Theatre Royal and the Empire Theatre in Consett, respectively. Plus, dance troupes and local children as well. And, rounding off the cast, were veteran singer Johnny de Little and comedian Bobby Pattinson. Who’s final duties were to invite the guest of honour onto the stage to make a speech and mark the dedication.
During his heartfelt and, at times humourous, speech, Alun paid tribute to his former English teacher, Dennis Earle whom he credits for encouraging him the enter show business and to the new manager at the Civic Hall, formerly the Lamplight Centre, Claire Howe.
He also revealed that he was proud to accept the invitation from Claire who, initially, approached him to see if he would be interested in assisting with some publicity. And, after travelling up from his London home for the event, spoke of the experience.
“It’s a great honour to be here and I’m proud of my local roots. It’s important to me to keep links and I would like to thank Claire for getting in touch”.
The former New Tricks star has been busy in recent months filming a guest appearance in the Christmas edition of Downton Abbey at Alnwick Castle and will be starring in the play. Exit The King, in Bath.