Boycie, Richie and Sybil back the Shropshire Star

For three decades, he's been one of the most recognisable faces on television.

Boycie, Richie and Sybil back the Shropshire Star

For three decades, he's been one of the most recognisable faces on television.

Actor John Challis – best known as Boycie from BBC1's Only Fools And Horses – is one of the UK's most popular comedy actors. He has strong connections with his local newspaper.

The actor, who lives on the county's southern border near Ludlow, regularly features in the Shropshire Star.

When he headlined the 2011 Ludlow Festival, in which he played Malvolio in Twelfth Night at Ludlow Castle, there was a string of newspaper interviews.

In more recent times, he has granted interviews to promote two performances in which he will talk about his life: at Hereford Courtyard, on May 26 at 6pm and a sold-out performance the previous evening at Shrewsbury's Theatre Severn.

Mr Challis said: "I am fortunate to have exceptional relationships with local newspapers. I try to help them and they are also helpful. It's a two-way street.

"In recent weeks, I've been talking about my theatre performances. The date for Theatre Severn on May 25 has sold out but tickets are still available for Hereford.

"A strong local press is important for our region."

Mr Challis made regular appearances in his local newspaper when he brought a film crew to Ludlow to film The Green Green Grass, a spin-off series from Only Fools And Horses in which he resurrected his popular Boycie character.

The series was shot on Bromfield Road, on the outskirts of Ludlow, and the Shropshire Star ran regular reports on the boost that the filming had given the town.

Mr Challis is not the only recognisable face to have a strong bond with his newspaper. Former boxing world champion Richie Woodhall said the Shropshire Star had been 'instrumental' in his rise through the ranks.

"I had an exceptional relationship with Shropshire Star right from day one. They respected my privacy but were always happy to report on fights, wherever I fought. One time, they sent a reporter out to Washington to cover a bout.

"The newspaper was instrumental in my success, really. They reported on me as a boy and I always had a great relationship with the sports desk.

"As a sportsman, there were times when I needed to get information out to my followers and the Star always, always helped.

"At other times, the paper was respectful not to go too far. It was a good relationship. I think I was very lucky to have a local paper that was so supportive. Though I've retired from boxing, I've still got a good relationship with the Star to this day."

The Shropshire Star has also been instrumental in helping to launch the careers of top journalists. It has an impressive alumni.

Former BBC stalwart Sybil Ruscoe, who was brought up in north Shropshire, started her career with the Shropshire Newspapers group.

She said: "In the summer of 1978, I was in the sixth form at Adams School in Wem when I spotted an advert in the jobs section of the Shropshire Star that would change my life.

" 'Do you want to be a journalist?' it read, and I thought: 'Yes'. The Midland News Association's training team saw something in me and I was lucky enough to be taken on as a trainee journalist.

"What I learned set me off on the road as a journalist – a career that's taken me all over the world and allowed me to enjoy many exciting and high profile jobs.

"I've worked on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show, Top of the Pops, presented on the BBC World Service, Radio 5 Live, Radio 2, C4 Cricket and written for the Daily Telegraph.

"Writing has always remained my first love and I'm now using the skills the Shropshire Star newspaper group taught me to write "London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – The Official Commemorative Book".

"As a proud Salopian, I'm overjoyed to be involved in London 2012 because Much Wenlock is the home of the modern Olympics. Although I now live in Gloucestershire, I still read the Shropshire Star and Shropshire weekly papers online."

Sybil is not the only star journalist to have emerged. Nicky Briggs was part of the newspaper group's 1988 intake of trainees and went on to become the deputy editor of the Daily Express and Head of News at Press Association.

And the BBC's Paul Wood, from Tong near Shifnal, is one of the best known faces on TV news, having served as the organisation's defence correspondent and Middle East correspondent.

He was the BBC's Balkans reporter during the Nato bombing in June 1999. He has also reported from Croatia, Bosnia, and Macedonia, Chechnya, Algeria, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, including Darfur.

In more recent times he has reported from Iraq and Syria.

Emily Smith, from Bridgnorth, also learned her trade at the Shropshire Star before moving to The Sun.

She is presently one of the most influential celebrity reporters in the USA, working as Page Six editor at the New York Post.

Tickets for the John Challis date at Hereford Courtyard are available on (01432) 346500 or

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