Here at Runshaw we are very proud of our former students.

Many of our students have gone on to achieve extraordinary things, becoming household names around the world. Who do you recognise?

Are you a former Runshaw student?

Can you inspire the next generation?

We’re looking for former Runshaw students to tell their stories and inspire our students to achieve their full potential. Submit your Runshaw Story below!

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Can you inspire the next generation?

Stars of Stage, Screen and Radio

Amanda Roocroft | World-famous international Opera Singer

Amanda Roocroft has secured an international reputation as one of Britain’s most exciting singers in opera, concert, and in recital. She graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music and studies with Paul Farrington. In concert she has appeared with leading orchestras throughout Europe and North America with conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Zubin Mehta, Mariss Jansons, Ivor Bolton, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Daniele Gatti, Sir Neville Marriner, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Charles Mackerras, Valery Gergiev and Bernard Haitink.

Amanda won the 2007 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera for her performance as Jenufa with the English National Opera. In 2023, Preston Opera announced Amanda as their new President.

John Thomson | Actor and Comedian

John attended All Hallows Catholic High School before Runshaw College between 1985 and 1987, studying for four A Levels, including theatre studies. He was described as “clearly [having] a talent for comedy”. Following this, he turned down a scholarship in America to study drama at Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University). Whilst at university, Thomson met Steve Coogan, who secured him a job on Spitting Image. They would continue to collaborate on such programmes as Coogan’s Run, The Paul and Pauline Calf Video Diaries (where he played ‘Fat Bob’) and Knowing Me, Knowing You… with Alan Partridge, which he also contributed to writing. He also appeared in the 2002 film 24 Hour Party People. The two won the Perrier Comedy Award in 1992 for their act at the Edinburgh Fringe.

John has appeared in the BBC sketch series The Fast Show, Ted & Ralph, Soldier Soldier, Men Behaving Badly, The Perfect Match, New Street Law, Coronation Street and Waterloo Road. Since 1997, John has starred in the long running drama Cold Feet, in arguably his most famous role as Pete Gifford – the final series aired in 2020. In 2024, John will reunite with his fellow The Fast Show actors as they go on a UK tour to celebrate the show’s 30th anniversary.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, John sent a heart-warming message to students of the college, which can be viewed here.

Steve Pemberton | Actor and Comedian

Steve attended Runshaw between 1984 and 1986 studying A Levels in French, German and Theatre Studies. He is an English actor, comedian, writer and performer, but is most famous for his work on The League of Gentlemen and Inside No.9. Steve attended St. Michael’s CE High School before Runshaw and then graduated from Bretton Hall College with a BA (Hons) in Theatre Arts.

The League of Gentlemen initially began as a stage act in 1995, transferred to BBC Radio 4 as On the Town with the League of Gentlemen in 1997 and then arrived on television on BBC Two in 1999. The latter has seen Pemberton awarded a British Academy Television Award, a Royal Television Society Award and the prestigious Golden Rose of Montreux. Pemberton’s other TV credits include: Whitechapel, Doctor Who, Benidorm, Under the Greenwood Tree, Hotel Babylon, The Last Detective, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), Shameless and Poirot. He also played the role of Rufus Drumknott in the 2010 movie Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal and since 2014 has starred in and co written Inside No.9 and featured in various series including Camping, Death in Paradise and Killing Eve.

In October 2021, Steve was nominated for Best Outstanding Comedy Actor at the inaugural National Comedy Awards for Stand Up to Cancer for his appearances in Inside No. 9 – the upcoming ninth series will premiere in 2024.

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Steve sent a message of support to our students, which can be viewed here.

Joe Gilgun | Actor

Chorley-born Joe studied A Levels at Runshaw. Even before college Joe had played Jamie Armstrong in Coronation Street at the age of 10. He went on to star in This is England as Woody, and Eli Dingle in Emmerdale.

More recently, you may have seen him playing the central character, Rudy, in Misfits on Channel 4, the BBC’s Ripper Street and in Lockout – a film by Luc Besson starring Guy Pierce, and co-starring in Preacher on Amazon Prime. Joe also won two awards for his role in Misfits.

You can see Joe in Sky’s gritty comedy drama Brassic, which he has starred in since the first series. He is currently filming the sixth series, due for a release in 2024.

Jessica Taylor and Kevin Simm | Members of pop group Liberty X

Liberty X were a British pop vocal group formed by the five contestants eliminated from the final ten qualifiers from the 2001 ITV show Popstars. The group went on to achieve ten consecutive UK Top 20 singles, and various charting singles worldwide, meaning that these runners-up of Popstars were commercially more successful than the winners, Hear’Say. They disbanded in early 2007.

Jessica Taylor took part in BBC’s one-off Strictly Come Dancing in 2005 and came in second place. Taylor also participated in the fourth series of Dancing on Ice, partnered with Pavel Aubrecht in 2009. They made it to the final, finishing in third place. She subsequently toured with Torvill and Dean on their 25th Anniversary Bolero Tour, performing in arenas across the UK. Jessica was signed in 2009 as the face and body of company Ultimo. She is married to England cricketer, Kevin Pietersen. In 2018, Kevin joined Scottish band Wet Wet Wet as the new lead singer.

Samantha Robinson | Actress

After Runshaw, Samantha gained a place at Rose Bruford College and has appeared in Casualty, Doctors, Five Days, Holby City, The Girls Who Came to Stay, Shameless, Jamaica Me Crazy and Island at War amongst many others.

Samantha was a Laurence Olivier Bursary award winner in 2001. Samantha then toured with the 2017 stage revival of Rita, Sue and Bob Too by Andrea Dunbar, receiving excellent reviews from the mainstream media.

Lloyd Cole | Musician

Lloyd is an English singer and songwriter. He grew up in nearby Chapel-en-le-Frith and went to New Mills Grammar School before attending Runshaw. He studied a year of Law at University College in London but switched to the University of Glasgow, where he studied Philosophy and English, and also met the future members of The Commotions to which he is now known for his role as lead singer of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, and for his subsequent solo work.

Tom Bidwell | BAFTA and Oscar-nominated Writer

Tom’s first play, Risky & Fluke, won the Sunday Times NSDF Award and recently finished a tour of Europe. His radio play Things To Do Before You Die was aired on BBC Radio 4 to great acclaim.

Tom was nominated for an Oscar for the short film category for Wish 143, the story of a 15-year-old cancer patient who is granted one wish before he dies. The film is based on his personal experiences when he suffered from non-Hodgkins lymphoma as a teenager. Tom, who was celebrating his birthday at the ceremony, lost out to Luke Matheny’s God of Love.

Tom has also been nominated for a BAFTA for E4 comedy drama My Mad Fat Diary. My Mad Fat Diary follows the story of an overweight 16-year-old who has spent four months in a psychiatric hospital. She struggles to hide her mental health and body image problems from her new friends and finds it hard to fit in. He has also written for Doctors, EastEnders, Casualty and Holby City. Tom went on to write Netflix’s Irregulars, based on the Sherlock Holmes novels, which premiered in 2021.

Notables of Academia and the Profession

Tim Farron MP | Liberal Democrats

Tim gained a place at Newcastle University to read politics in 1988, and went on to become the first Liberal Democrat President of Newcastle University Union in 1991-92. After the completion of his degree, Tim followed a career in the Higher Education sector. Before winning the Westmorland and Lonsdale seat in May 2005, he worked as a senior manager at St Martin’s College at Ambleside, Lancaster and Carlisle.

Tim is deeply committed to high quality education for all. In May 2005, Tim secured the Westmorland and Lonsdale seat in Westminster for the Liberal Democrats. He defeated the Conservative candidate and ended a 95 year rule of the seat by the Tories.

In 2005 he was appointed the Liberal Democrat Youth Spokesman, and in March 2006 became Parliamentary Private Secretary to Party leader Ming Campbell. In December 2007 Tim was promoted to the Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet and served as the Shadow Minister for the Countryside and Rural Affairs. Tim was Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party from 2015-17. Since 2019, Tim has been the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Communities and Local Government.

Formidable Chefs

Mark Birchall | Moor Hall, Aughton

Mark went from his training at Foxholes Restaurant at Runshaw to win the Roux Scholarship, the premier competition for chefs in the UK, in 2011.

He has also worked at El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, a three Michelin Star restaurant owned by the Roca Brothers, twice voted the world’s best restaurant. He went on to work at the Michelin-starred Nortcote Manor and L’Enclume in Cumbria before realising his dream of running his own restaurant, Moor Hall in Aughton, which was awarded its own Michelin star just months after opening in 2017. In August 2021, Mark and his team won Best Restaurant in the UK for the 2nd year in a row.

Mark also won the coveted AA Chefs’ Chef Award at the 2022 Hospitality Awards. Moor Hall was named the Best Restaurant in England in the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards 2022.

Chris Kenny | The Lake District

Chris left Runshaw in 2007 and then progressed to Junior Sous Chef at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saison.

In 2011 he won Young Chef of the Year, adding to his City and Guilds Gold Lion award for Outstanding Achievement. He started his career as a kitchen porter at the age of 13 and worked hard at Heathcotes during his college years, taking time to complete two successful placements at The Ivy and the 1 Michelin star Mason Arms in Devon.

In 2015 Chris secured the role of Head Chef on Richard Branson’s famous Necker Island. He has recently returned to the UK and is now based in the Lake District managing a private home.

Damian Brown | Chesil Rectory, Winchester

Damian trained at Runshaw before he worked for such prestigious establishments as London’s Mirabelle, L’Escargot, Vineyard at Stockcross and Fortnum & Mason among others. He opened the Chesil Rectory in Winchester in 2010, and is Head Chef and Stakeholder.

Sporting Greats

Anna Hopkin | Swimming

Anna left Runshaw in 2014. Anna claimed Olympic Gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as Great Britain equalled their best swimming medal haul after winning the inaugural mixed 4×100 metres medley relay final in a new world record time at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

Anna has also won 4 gold medals and a bronze at the 2020 European Championships, a silver medal at the 2019 European Championships and a bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. At the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Anna won 2 silver medals and a bronze medal as part of the women’s and mixed relay teams. She has also recently won a gold, silver and bronze medal at the 2022 European Championships. In November 2022, HRH Princess Anne presented Anna with her MBE at Windsor Castle for ‘Services to Swimming’, following on from her being part of the Olympic Gold medal-winning 4 x 100m Mixed medley Relay team in Tokyo in 2021. In November 2022, Anna received an MBE medal which was presented to her by HRH Princess Anne at Windsor Castle for ‘Services to Swimming’. Anna is currently in preparation and training for qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Holly Bradshaw | Track & Field Athlete

Holly specialises in the pole vault. She holds the British Record for the event and has won a range of medals at the World Indoor Championships, European Championships, European Indoor Championships and Athletics World Cup. 

Holly most recently achieved a Bronze medal in the Pole Vault competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This year, Holly will compete in the Olympics as she gears up for Paris 2024.

Graeme Ballard | Track & Field Athlete

Graeme is an English Paralympian athlete with cerebral palsy. He is the British world record holder for the T36 100m, and has won bronze and silver Olympic medals.

Danielle Gibbons | Footballer

Danielle is a former footballer, having played as a goalkeeper for Preston North End, Liverpool, Sheffield and Blackburn Rovers. 

In 2015, Danielle underwent surgery to remove a brain tumour, leaving her deaf in one ear. She has since become an ambassador for the British Acoustic Neuroma Association and works with the charity Brain Tumour Research.

Dave Ryding | Ski Racer

Dave is a slalom ski racer, who has competed for Great Britain at 4 Winter Olympics and 7 World Championships. In 2022, Dave won the Alpine Skiing World Cup – the first British champion and the oldest winner in the competition’s history.

During his time at Runshaw, Dave studied A Level Sport, Geography and Biology.

Tom Smith | Cricketer

Beginning his Cricketing career with an impressive performance as an Under 19 player, Tom cemented his reputation as a talented all-rounder. In 2011, he became the first Lancashire player to score a century and take four wickets in the same one-day match and he was part of Lancashire’s County Championship win in the same year. In 2015, Tom briefly captained the Lancashire team before stepping down due to injury and retiring from professional cricket in 2017.

Tom studied A Level Physical Education at Runshaw.

Sarah Davies | Weightlifter

Since leaving Runshaw, Sarah has had a highly successful weightlifting career, competing at 5 World Championships and 5 European Senior Championships. In 2015, she became the first British person to win the European u23 Championships and she has since won a bronze medal at the 2017 Commonwealth Championships and silver medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, 2021 European Championships and 2021 World Championships. In 2021, Sarah also competed at the Tokyo Olympics, coming in 5th place.

Sarah won a gold medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in the 71kg Weightlifting category.

Isaak Dalglish | Para Badminton Player

Isaak has established himself as a rising star in the world of Para Badminton. In his first international competition, Isaak beat two top-10 players without dropping a single set. He has won bronze medals at the Spanish International in 2018 and 2021, alongside a silver at the 2018 European Championships and a gold at the 2019 Denmark International.

David Unsworth | Football Coach and Former Footballer

David began his football career as a player on the Everton youth team and later joined the senior team, where he became a regular starter under manager Joe Royle. He was part of the FA Cup winning team in 1995, and later played in the Premier League for West Ham United, Portsmouth, Sheffield United and Wigan Athletic.

After retiring from his career as a footballer, David began his coaching career as caretaker manager for Preston North End and later returned to Everton as a manager for the U23 team.

Cieren Fallon | Jockey

Cieren studied L2 Gym Instructor at Runshaw before beginning his career as a flat racing Jockey. In 2019, Cieren earned the title of Champion Apprentice Jockey, which he successfully defended in 2020. In June 2020, Cieren won the July Cup at Newmarket and, in June 2021, won the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Olivia Broome | Para-Powerlifter

Starting her powerlifting career at 15, Olivia came to Runshaw to study BTEC L3 Sport and Exercise Science. Olivia has since gone on to win a range of medals in international competitions. She has secured gold medals at the 2018 European Para Powerlifting Championships, the 2021 Para Powerlifting World Cup (Tbilisi), and the 2021 World Para Powerlifting Championships.

In 2021 Olivia lifted 100 kilograms, setting a new British record and later broke the junior world record by lifting 106.5 kilograms. At the Tokyo Paralympics, Olivia lifted 107 kilograms to take home a bronze medal, and the following year, won a silver medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, lifting a new personal best of 111kg on her final attempt.

Rugby Giants

Chris Tuson

Sam Gee

Josh Jones

Liam Marshall

Wigan Warriors, Blackpool Panthers, Castleford Tigers, Hull F.C. Oldham, London Skolars, Whitehaven St Helens, Salford, Huddersfield, Hull Wigan Warriors, Swinton Lions