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Photography by Katie O'Neill and Iqra Saied


Roy & Hayley Cropper (Image: ITV / Rex Features)

Julie's award winning performance in 'Wit', the portrayal of an American professor with aggressive cancer  (Image: Jonathan Keenan)

Actor Julie Hesmondhalgh is best known for her role as Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street playing the first transgender character in a British serial. For this role, she won Best Serial Drama Performance at the 2014 National Television Awards and Best Actress at the 2014 British Soap Awards.


Post Corrie, Julie has been productive, with other regular television roles including Cucumber (2015), Happy Valley (2016), Broadchurch (2017), Dr Who (2019) and The A Word (2020). Her stage credits include God Bless the Child at the Royal Court Theatre in London (2014), and Wit at the Royal Exchange, Manchester (2016).


Julie was born in Accrington, Lancashire in 1970 and studied drama aged 18 at London Academy of Music and Art. In 1991 Julie became part of Arts Threshold, a small independent theatre in London, before making her TV debut is a series of TV dramas in the 1990s.

Julie at the National Television Awards 2014 (Image: Getty)

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In 2015, Julie appeared in the BBC film Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster, a television film about the murder of teenage goth Sophie Lancaster. She played the role of Sophie's mother, one which she had previously portrayed on stage. Julie is a patron of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.


She is, with writer Becx Harrison and visual artist Grant Archer, co-founder of Take Back, a Manchester-based theatre collective dedicated to making script in hand rapid responses to the politics of austerity. The group formed in 2015, brings together a community of artists from Greater Manchester and beyond, united by a passion to make our voices heard and be a part of the change. 

I am really lucky that I live in Manchester which is such a vibrant and creative city with a tight artistic community and tight political community. 

Between 2018-2019, Julie performed in a series of highly acclaimed stage productions; The Almighty Sometimes, Mother Courage and There Are No Beginnings. In 2019 she published A Working Diary, a personal creative journal which begins in November 2016, with all proceeds from the book going to youth charity Arts Emergency. In 2021, she is planning to tour The Greatest Play in the History of the World around theatres in the north. Written by her husband Ian Kershaw, it’s a play about loss and loneliness and reaching out across time and space to find love and connection - a subject perfect for these times. Julie is currently filming The Pact for BBC, which will be broadcast in 2021. 

Julie is a passionate fundraiser and is a patron of a number of organisations which include: Trans Media WatchManchester People's Assembly and Reuben's Retreat. In 2019, she set up the group 500 Acts of Kindness, a fundraising community where 500 members donate a pound a week to give to an individual, group, family or organisation in need.


Julie captured the hearts of the British TV viewing public with her portrayal of Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street (1998-2014). Her character was involved in high-profile storylines, in particular her final and most controversial right-to-die storyline following Hayley’s battle with pancreatic cancer. Her final scenes were aired on 22 January 2014, the night she won a National Television Award for Best Performance in a Serial Drama, which she shared with her longtime co-star, David Neilson. Julie subsequently worked with pancreatic cancer charities to raise awareness of the disease, and was involved in a petition and attended a parliamentary debate on the subject in 2014.

THE SHOOT: Werneth Low Country Park, Hyde

On the edge of the Pennines with panoramic views across Greater Manchester - One of Julie's favourite walks close to her home in Broadbottom

Student reflection: Iqra Saied

This was my first photoshoot for the Greater Mancunians project. At first, I was feeling nervous about working with Julie, but she was compassionate and pleasant. Soon, I felt relaxed as we talked and got to know one another. It was brilliant to work alongside ex-student Katie O'Neill who advised and guided me on how to capture the perfect shots. The location - Werneth Low was beautiful, It provided magnificent panoramic views of Greater Manchester... a wonderful backdrop for my pictures. My final images successfully portray Julie's fun loving personality.

It was a privilege to work with Julie and Katie. I hope to get another opportunity to get to work on this fantastic project in the future.

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Katie, Julie & Iqra

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