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Liverpool Icons: Cathy Tyson – from Everyman Youth Theatre to BAFTA-winning actress

1 year ago

Liverpool Icons: Cathy Tyson – from Everyman Youth Theatre to BAFTA-winning actress
Picture - Sue Terry Voices

2023 marks an incredible 40 years in acting for Liverpool’s Cathy Tyson. 

Since she attended Everyman Youth Theatre as a teen to her Bafta-winning performance in 2022, Cathy’s career has been as enduring as it has glittering. 

Famous for hard-hitting roles, Tyson’s performances are as powerful and gritty as her namesake, Mike. 

From Dingle to drama accolades, here’s your lowdown on Cathy Tyson – the first lady to appear on our Liverpool Icons list

(And definitely not the last.) 


Stepping into the spotlight

Born in Kingston-upon-Thames in 1965, Cathy is the daughter of an English mother, a social worker, and a Trinidadian father who worked as a barrister. 

The family moved to Liverpool when Cathy was two years old. As a young girl, she was a pupil at St. Winefrides school in Dingle. 

It was as a 7-year-old that she got her first taste of the spotlight. 

“I was watching a circus show in Rhyl’s theatre when the spotlight landed on me. I climbed the stairs and was greeted so warmly by the clown. I felt so special…I remember the warmth of the spotlight and not feeling any fear whilst looking out at a sea of faces in the dark.” 

This experience was a precursor to a lifetime in front of the lights. 

As a teenager, Cathy cut her teeth as a performer at Liverpool’s Everyman Youth Theatre. 

Roger Hill, of BBC Radio Merseyside fame, was an early believer in the youngster’s potential. 

“He looked me in the eye and told me I was going to be a success. Nobody had ever said that before” remembers Cathy. 

Mr Hill was right. Before long, Cathy was treading the boards with the world-class Royal Shakespeare Company, taking the leading role in Golden Girls in 1984. 

From telly to the big screen and back again

That same year, she made her debut TV appearance alongside Liverpool acting royalty Andrew Schofield in Scully.

1984 proved a landmark year for the 19-year-old. As well as taking giant strides in her career, she married Craig Charles – a Liverpool Icon in his own right. The marriage gave the pair a son, Jack, in 1988 before their divorce a year later. 

Her film debut in Mona Lisa (1986) made people sit up and take notice of the young actress’s talent. Her performance as a classy prostitute, Simone, gained her critical acclaim. Starring alongside the late great Bob Hoskins, the role earned Cathy an LA Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress. 

Cathy Tyson
Picture – Channel 4 Cathy starring as a resident in care home drama, Help

A career in Hollywood soon beckoned, but Tyson turned her back on the US despite a starring role in Wes Craven’s The Serpent and the Rainbow in 1988. Influenced by her mother’s anti-American, pro-Russian values, Cathy felt that America represented everything she stood against. 

Cathy said to the Irish Mirror, “I just thought, ‘I’m not a capitalist, and this is the land of it. I don’t want to live here because of all that it stands for.’

Her stance has since changed, but this brave call demonstrates the morals and tenacity that Cathy has displayed throughout her career. 

In any case, her rejection of Hollywood hasn’t done any harm. 

A string of film appearances would follow, but in 1995’s Band of Gold, Cathy would star in arguably her most iconic role. Written by Kay Mellor for ITV, the show revolved around a group of prostitutes in Bradford’s red-light district. In a stand-out performance as sex worker Carol, Cathy helped give a human face to one of the world’s oldest professions. 

The 2000s saw Cathy line up in some of British TV’s most iconic shows. She played headmistress Miss Gayle in Grange Hill and took a role as single mother Andrea Hayworth in Emmerdale. 

After gaining her degree in English and Drama at Brunel University in 2013, Cathy later contributed to a trifecta of top Scouse performances in Channel 4’s Covid-19 drama Help alongside Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham. Her performance as Poll, a care home resident during the pandemic, would earn Tyson a 2022 Bafta Award for Best Supporting Actress. 

Set to return to our screens later this year in Apple TV drama Criminal Record, Cathy Tyson is unquestionably one of the finest talents our city has produced. 

But acting isn’t her only talent. An advocate for diversity in the entertainment industry, Cathy has spoken out about the lack of opportunities for actors of colour. So in 2020, she set up Brown Girl Films to create and direct stories with black and brown people front and centre.

Actress, advocate and Liverpool Icon. Cathy Tyson, we salute you. 

Cathy is currently starring in Bank of Dave on Netflix.

(additional quotes thanks to



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