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Tomlinson in 2011
26 September 1939
|Occupation||Actor, comedian, author, political activist|
(m. 1962; div. 1986)
Rita Cumiskey (m. 2003)
Eric "Ricky" Tomlinson (born 26 September 1939) is an English actor, comedian, author and political activist. He is best known for his roles as Bobby Grant in Brookside, DCI Charlie Wise in Cracker, Mike Bassett in Mike Bassett: England Manager and Jim Royle in The Royle Family.
Tomlinson was born in Bispham, Lancashire, and has lived in Liverpool nearly all his life. His father was a baker and he was born in Bispham because his mother, Peggy, was evacuated there due to the Liverpool Blitz in World War II. He attended a technical school after passing an exam when he was 13, but his favourite subject was English.
A qualified plasterer by trade, he worked on various building sites for many years becoming actively involved in politics.
As an actor, he has appeared as Bobby Grant in the soap opera Brookside from the show's inception in 1982 until being written out in 1988, followed by DCI Charlie Wise in Cracker and as Jim Royle in the sitcom The Royle Family.
In 2002, Tomlinson starred in the BBC Series Nice Guy Eddie playing a Liverpool private investigator. Using down-to-earth cases - actually based upon real-life ones from Liverpool private investigator Tony Smith - the show also starred Tom Ellis and John Henshaw.
Tomlinson has fronted a series of television adverts for the utility company British Gas. In January 2010 he began to appear in a series of advertisements for the frozen food chain Farmfoods. In 2017, he provided a voiceover for an advert for McCain Foods.
In March 2007, Tomlinson presented BBC's One Life: Guilty My Arse, detailing his version of the Shrewsbury Two case, in which he compared his political activism as a trade unionist to the work of the suffragettes.
Tomlinson has also starred in several films, notably Mike Bassett: England Manager, Raining Stones and Hillsborough, a made-for-TV film about the families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, in which he portrayed John Glover - the father of victim Ian. Tomlinson is a lifelong fan of Liverpool Football Club.
Tomlinson is also a keen banjo and harpsichord player, and has played the instruments in many episodes of The Royle Family. In 2001 he teamed up with fellow Brookside actor Michael Starke and other friends for his own rendition of well-known folk songs including "It's a Long Way To Tipperary" and a cover of Shane MacGowan and The Popes' "Are You Lookin' at Me?" that reached No. 28 in the UK Singles Chart in 2001. A CD album entitled Music My Arse was released the same year, peaking at No. 127 in the UK Albums Chart. He released a single at Christmas 2006 entitled "Christmas My Arse" which reached No. 25.
In 2006, Tomlinson toured to theatres across the UK with his show An Evening with Ricky Tomlinson where he was interviewed about his life by Elton Welsby.
During 2008 and 2009 Tomlinson took his Laughter Show theatrical revue on a UK tour with fellow comedians Tony Barton, Duncan Norvelle and Pauline Daniels.
In 2009 he took a lead role as the Head Judge in the "VMH Club Star Talent Trail", a local talent-based competition held at the VMH Club in Garston. A large number of North West-based performers entered the competition, which was ultimately won by 14-year-old Shaun Walsh from Liverpool.
In May 2010 Tomlinson opened his own cabaret club the Green Room, in Liverpool, teaming up with brothers Richard and Simon Wallace, from Liverpool production company Red Hot Media, to open the 250-seater cabaret lounge on Duke Street. In March 2011 Tomlinson acted in an advertising campaign for UK retail chain the Range.
He had three children with his first wife.
In 2003, he published an autobiography, entitled Ricky, which spent five weeks at the top of the UK best-selling new books chart. In the book, Tomlinson admitted to having affairs as well as describing in detail his time in prison.
On 19 October 2007 Tomlinson had a major heart operation and underwent a quadruple heart bypass at Liverpool's Cardiothoracic Centre. Consultant cardiac surgeon Aung Oo said: "The operation went according to plan and he is now recovering within the hospital's critical care unit."
In his youth, Tomlinson was attracted to right-wing politics and was a member of the National Front for a short while. In the early 1970s however, Tomlinson's political views shifted strongly to the left after reading the book The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists.
In 1972 he joined the flying pickets in a building workers' dispute in Shrewsbury. Following allegations of violence during this protest, in 1973 Tomlinson was charged with "conspiracy to intimidate" as one of the Shrewsbury Two. Despite pleading his innocence, he was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison. After his release in 1975, he disrupted the TUC conference by shouting from the wings after he had been prevented from speaking from the stage. In 2012, Tomlinson and others sought to have the convictions overturned by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. In 2013 a paper petition was launched, alongside the existing e-petition, for an Early Day Motion by MP John McDonnell to be brought. In July 2013, at the Durham Miners' Gala, he again campaigned against the convictions.
Tomlinson is a good friend of Arthur Scargill and often appears on party election broadcasts for Scargill's Socialist Labour Party, most recently for the 2009 European Parliament elections. He is a long-time member of the Socialist Labour Party, and is the party's most prominent celebrity supporters since its formation in 1996.
He has also expressed support for the Campaign for a New Workers' Party. A public meeting was hosted by the CNWP in Liverpool on Monday 12 February 2007, which was addressed by Ricky Tomlinson alongside Tommy Sheridan and Tony Mulhearn in which he used the slogan: "New Labour My Arse".
On 5 February 2010, Tomlinson revealed his plan to stand as the Socialist Labour Party candidate for the Liverpool Wavertree constituency at the 2010 general election in protest at the selection of Luciana Berger, a 28-year-old Londoner as the Labour Party candidate. Kim Singleton was ultimately selected for the seat; in a statement, the SLP said that he could not contest the election due to "personal and contractual commitments". Tomlinson added: "I am disappointed not to be able to stand. But I am pleased to give the chosen candidate my wholehearted support." He also commented, "People say you could be letting the Tories in. But there is no difference between the Conservatives and New Labour".
In a guest appearance on an episode of the ITV lunchtime chat show, Loose Women, broadcast on 17 August 2015, while discussing the upcoming Labour Party leadership election at the time, Tomlinson said:
I know both of them and I know Andy (Burnham) quite well, and he was my choice right up until I went to listen to Jeremy Corbyn and I went to the Adelphi Hotel where there was 3,000 people there, the room holds 800 and were out into the streets, they couldn't get in". "And everything he said with I agreed with you know, leave the National Health Service alone, get rid of Trident, stuff like that, so it doesn't matter to me who gets the Labour leadership, it really doesn't matter. But whatever happens both of them will be in the Shadow Cabinet."
In March 2017, Tomlinson claimed during an interview that the late journalist, broadcaster and game show host Richard Whiteley had been an undercover agent for the British security services and had assisted them in securing his 1973 imprisonment by co-presenting a television documentary called Red Under the Bed, which was critical of his political and trade union activities and had swayed the jury.
In 2008 Tomlinson donated £200,000 as patron of the Human Milk Bank of Cheshire and North Wales. The charity provides babies on Special Care Baby Units with milk from donor mothers, significantly improving their chances of survival and long-term development. He said: "Due to my own recent experiences with my health, I know how much hospitals and appeals appreciate help and assistance. This is such an important service which can help so many families and I'm very honoured to be the patron."