Popular presenter Matthew Kelly and Shakespearean stalwart Sir Anthony Sher have a big reason to thank a Manchester institution celebrating its 55th birthday this year.

So too does Educating Rita star Julie Walters, along with celebrated actors Richard Griffiths and Bernard Hill, and Cold Feet veteran John Thompson.

For they all learned their craft at Manchester School of Theatre, which started life in 1964 as a training course for professional actors at the city’s College of Art and Design.

The theatre school was officially established as part of Manchester Polytechnic in 1970 and was based at the Capitol Theatre in Didsbury.

David Threlfall as Frank Gallagher, April 2007

David Threlfall as Frank Gallagher, April 2007

During the 1970s and 80s, the school earned an international reputation for training budding performers and actors – many of them from the Manchester area.

Local stars who studied there include David Threlfall, born in Crumpsall, Coronation Street’s Kevin Kennedy, from Wythenshawe and Steve Coogan, born in Middleton.

Kevin Kennedy returns to Coronation Street set, July 2014

Kevin Kennedy returns to Coronation Street set, July 2014

In 1998, the school moved to Manchester Metropolitan University’s All Saints campus, aligning it more closely with Manchester School of Art.

Third year students at the school perform at the Home Theatre in Tony Wilson Place as part of their annual showcase. They also appear at the Soho Theatre in London.

Local actor Bernard Hill, born in Blackley, was at the theatre school at the same time as Harry Potter star Richard Griffiths. Hill is rightly regarded as one of Britain’s most gifted stage, film and TV actors.

From his brilliant portrayal of Yosser Hughes in Boys from the Blackstuff to playing King Theoden of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, Hill has enjoyed an amazingly diverse career.

Born in December 1944, he was brought up in a Catholic family of miners and attended Xaverian College in Lower Park Road, Rusholme.

Bernard Hill in cap, June 1994

Bernard Hill in cap, June 1994

He remains one of the few actors appearing in three films to have won the Academy Award for Best Picture – Gandhi in 1982, Titanic in 1997 and The Return of the King in 2003.

Our photo shows Hill as John Lennon, left, in Willy Russell’s 1974 play John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert. Alongside him are Trevor Eve as Paul McCartney, Phillip Joseph as George Harrison and fellow Manchester theatre school graduate Anthony Sher as Ringo Starr.

Bernard Hill and Anthony Sher on stage in Beatles’ play, June 1974

Bernard Hill and Anthony Sher on stage in Beatles’ play, June 1974

Richard Griffiths, April 2010

Richard Griffiths, April 2010

Classmate Richard Griffiths played Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potters films, Uncle Monty in Withnail and I and Henry Crabbe in the police drama Pie in the Sky. Like Hill, he also appeared in the film Gandhi, playing a British journalist.

Julie Walters met her future comedy co-star Victoria Wood when she was in Manchester. She studied at the theatre school after working as a nurse for 18 months.

Walters shot to international prominence in the title role of the Willy Russell play Educating Rita, both on stage and in the 1983 film version directed by Lewis Gilbert.

She appeared alongside Wood in Wood and Walters in 1981 and Dinnerladies in 1998. She also came fourth in a 2006 ITV poll to name the 50 greatest British TV stars.

Wood, born in Prestwich, was brought up in Bury. She attended Fairfield County Primary School and Bury Grammar School for Girls.

Julie Walters and Victoria Wood in TV sketch, June 1987

Julie Walters and Victoria Wood in TV sketch, June 1987

Actor and presenter Matthew Kelly, born in Urmston, was in the same year at Manchester School of Theatre as Walters and Pete Postlethwaite.

A pupil of Urmston Grammar School, he started acting at Urmston Musical Theatre by playing Louis in a 1963 production of The King and I.

On TV, Kelly hosted the shows Game for a Laugh, You Bet and Stars in Their Eyes. His West End stage work includes Troilus and Cressida at the Globe Theatre and Waiting for Godot at the Theatre Royal.

Matthew Kelly, July 2001

Matthew Kelly, July 2001

Kevin Kennedy played Curly Watts in Coronation Street for 20 years after attending St Paul’s Catholic High School and Manchester School of Theatre. He was also in the band Paris Valentinos with Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke.

Brookside actress Amanda Burton studied at the theatre school before playing lead roles in the BBC crime drama Silent Witness and the school series Waterloo Road.

David Threlfall went on to play Frank Gallagher in the Channel 4 series Shameless after graduating from the theatre school. The Crumpsall-born actor attended Wilbraham High School and has been a keen Manchester City supporter since childhood.

Amanda Burton on Brookside set, August 1983

Amanda Burton on Brookside set, August 1983