LEEDS-based soap Emmerdale has appointed a new series producer following the sudden death of Gavin Blyth last year.
Story editor Stuart Blackburn, who was born in Keighley, has been appointed to the role with immediate effect.
He will chair his first long-term story conference this week, three months after Gavin Blyth died at the age of 41 following a short battle with cancer.
John Whiston, ITV Studios creative director for soaps, said: “Stuart Blackburn has a unique combination of the perfect pedigree and the fire in his belly to take Emmerdale to new heights.
“I’m really glad he threw his hat into the ring for the producer’s job and I’m confident the show will now build not just on the foundations that Gavin laid but also on the amazing work that Tony Hammond and the team have done to carry on Gavin’s legacy.”
Being from Yorkshire, Stuart claims Emmerdale has always been a part of his life, with his extensive knowledge of the soap leading him to enter pub quizzes as a student – which won him a “fortune”.
The Birmingham University drama graduate worked in community arts projects and extensively in theatre production after leaving university, eventually running his own theatre company.
His first working association with Emmerdale came 13 years ago, when he joined as a storyliner. In 2000, he was head-hunted by World Productions, where he developed, produced and wrote for the BBC1 drama Ballykissangel.
He became the story editor on Coronation Street five years ago, which began his working relationship with Gavin Blyth. Stuart moved to become Emmerdale’s story editor when Gavin was appointed series producer in 2009.
He said: “This job is very special to me because producing is the ultimate form of story-telling and I’ve always been very passionate about drama.
“This is the most exciting day of my career.
“Together with the cast and crew we’ll continue to work extremely hard to improve what Gavin had started.”