Actor and ex-Flying Pickets singer Brian Hibbard dies

Brian Hibbard enjoyed chart success with The Flying Pickets

The actor and performer Brian Hibbard has died at the age of 65 after suffering from prostate cancer.

Born in Ebbw Vale, he became famous as the singer of the chart-topping Flying Pickets before his acting career.

He had parts in the films Twin Town and Rancid Aluminium and appeared in Emmerdale, EastEnders, Coronation Street and the Welsh soap Pobol Y Cwm.

His close friend and fellow actor Boyd Clack said he was a "fantastic actor, fantastic singer and fantastic man".

He came to prominence after forming the a cappella band Flying Pickets with a group of other actors who used to sing in a coach on the way to appearances.

Brian Hibbard pictured in EastEnders Brian Hibbard pictured in EastEnders last year

Their hit, Only You, took them to number one in the charts in 1983 for five weeks.

After a short attempt to launch another group with fellow Picket, Red Stripe, known as Brian and Stripe, Hibbard turned to acting, appearing in such shows a Making Out and The Bill.

He played Doug Murray in Coronation Street from 1992 to 1993 and went on to appear in other soaps, including Emmerdale as Bobby-John Downes and Johnny Mac in the long-running series Pobol y Cwm.

He also starred in the Welsh-language drama Pam Fi, Duw and took to the big screen for the Swansea-set Twin Town starring Rhys Ifans in 1997.

He was reunited with Rhys Ifans for the 2000 film Rancid Aluminium.

In the period prior to his death he had appeared in EastEnders, Doctors and Casualty, and was a stalwart of Welsh pantomimes in recent years.

The Riverfront theatre in Newport, where Hibbard had performed for four successive years up to 2009, issued a statement saying: "The staff are saddened to hear of Brian's passing and our thoughts at this sad time are with Brian's family and friends."

'Supported every cause'

Boyd Clack, who also appeared in Twin Town and co-wrote Satellite City and High Hopes, comedies set in the south Wales valleys, said he first met Hibbard in a Theatr Clwyd production about 28 years ago.

Brian Hibbard pictured in The Bench Brian Hibbard in the BBC Wales drama The Bench, set in a magistrates' court

He said: "Within two days of meeting him, he'd shown me his naked bum. He was a bit of a character all right.

"He was also fantastic actor, fantastic singer and a fantastic man. He was an old-fashioned socialist [who] was caring and kind. He did a huge amount of work for charity over the years.

"He was an honest person. He supported the miners during the strike; he supported every cause."

Mr Clack said Hibbard had first been diagnosed with prostate cancer about 12 years ago but had only gone public with the news about four years ago.

His health deteriorated rapidly eight weeks ago and he was taken to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, where he died in the early hours of Monday morning with his actress wife Caroline by his side.

The couple have three children, Lilly, Hafwen and Cai.

Clare Hudson, head of BBC Wales productions, said: "Brian Hibbard was passionate, talented, and utterly unmistakeable.

"His wonderful voice was well known to viewers and listeners of broadcast drama across Wales, in programmes such as Pobol Y Cwm and High Hopes - as well as in the theatre. His quirky performances helped bring many a drama to life.

"He will be greatly missed, as an actor, and as someone who cared deeply about the creative health of drama in Wales."

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