Coronation Street star Liam Bairstow marks World Down Syndrome Day with 'follow your dreams' appeal
Follow your dreams – that's the message from trailblazing Yorkshire actor Liam Bairstow on World Down Syndrome Day.
Liam, 31, made an important piece of TV history in 2015 when he became the first person with Down syndrome to secure a lead role on Coronation Street.
Four years on, he is still loving life on the soap, with his character, Alex Warner, regularly being seen on screen working in Roy Cropper's café.
And today he told the Yorkshire Evening Post how he hopes his story will inspire other people with Down syndrome to make the most of their talents.
Liam, who comes from Allerton in Bradford and is represented by the Leeds-based Yorkshire Academy of Film and Television Acting (YAFTA), said: "When I first went into Coronation Street it was quite overwhelming, I couldn't believe I was there.
"It's been great from the start, though – I feel like part of the team and have made some really good friends.
"I'd say to anyone who is reading this and wondering if they could do something similar, never give up, keep trying and fight for your dreams. I believe in you."
YAFTA managing director Charlotte Armitage says she is "hugely proud" of both Liam and another actor on her books, Emmerdale cast member James Moore, who has cerebral palsy.
Charlotte has a personal reason for championing performers from all backgrounds, as her older brother has learning disabilities.
She told the YEP: "I definitely think the industry is changing for the better in terms of its willingness to give prominent roles to people with disabilities.
"What we see on screen should represent a cross-section of the British public and, historically, that hasn't been the case.
"I think we have a much fairer representation of race these days and, although disability is still catching up on and off screen, things are improving.
"What's really important about Liam and James is that they are both showing that acting is a viable career pathway for people with disabilities."
YAFTA runs an 'acting for the screen' course with the Bradford-based disability theatre company Mind The Gap, where Liam is a resident artist.
He and his fellow Mind The Gap team members are currently preparing for a major outdoor theatre event which will be staged at Halifax's Piece Hall on April 19 and 20 and then in London's Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park on May 10 and 11.
World Down Syndrome Day is held each year on March 21 and has been officially observed by the United Nations since 2012.