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Photography by Katie O'Neill and James Taylor

Comedian, actor and TV presenter Paddy McGuinness was born in Farnworth, Bolton in 1973. He rose to fame with the help of Peter Kay, who invited him to appear in his programmes That Peter Kay Thing (2000) Phoenix Nights (2001) and Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere (2004). Paddy played the hapless doorman Paddy O’Shea. He is best known for his roles within C4, ITV and the BBC presenting game shows such as Take Me Out (2018) as well as, since 2019, being one of the three hosts of BBC's Top Gear. In 2021, he became the new host of Question of Sport.

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Max & Paddy's Road to Nowhere

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Top Gear

Paddy attended Mount St Joseph High School. It was from his school days in Farnworth that he formed his close relationship with Peter Kay. Paddy grew up in a two-up, two-down terrace in 1970s Bolton. In his 2021 autobiography ‘My Lifey’ he explains ‘They were happy times, but money was tight’. Paddy slept on a mattress he dragged in from the street, and at 17 he struggled severely with the stress of supporting his mum, juggling a college course and two jobs stacking shelves and working at the nearby Warburton’s Bakery. It was at Bolton College when he was reunited with his old school pal Peter Kay. Peter was trying to break into the comedy scene at the time and Paddy would accompany him to open mic nights at Manchester’s Frog and Bucket Comedy Club. It was then that Paddy decided that comedy could be a lucrative alternative to humdrum low paid jobs. Peter asked Paddy to appear in Phoenix Nights and the two of them began a successful acting and writing partnership… the rest is history.

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Paddy's 2021 autobiography

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Paddy & his mum Pat

He made his TV debut in 1995 as a contestant for the show God's Gift. Paddy’s CV is extensive and diverse. His TV work includes: Rory and Paddy's Great British Adventure (2008); The Paul O'Grady Show (host 2006); Paddy's TV Guide (2014); Benchmark (2015); This Morning (host, 2010); Mad Mad World (2012); Your Face Sounds Familiar (2013); The Keith Lemon Sketch Show (2015); Coronation Street (2015); The Keith & Paddy Picture Show (2015); Through the Keyhole (2014); Sport Relief (2018).

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Back in Bolton - Paddy & his beloved Raleigh Chopper 

Paddy is passionate about all things northern and in particular, his hometown of Bolton. For the Greater Mancunians shoot he returned to Auburn Street where he grew up. Paddy insisted on bringing along his beloved Raleigh Chopper - not before an impromptu visit to Halfords on the way to have the tyres pumped up. The purple Chopper bike is the same bike he used to ride up and down the street as a kid.

All of the values you have as a child stay with you as you get older, It’s very much a working class mentality. When I come back there are so many families I knew still here and everybody’s so friendly. The only difference now… more cars.

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Paddy married Christine Martin in 2011. The couple have three children; twins Penelope and Leo and Felicity. All three of Paddy’s children are autistic, as is mum Christine. This was the subject of the compelling BBC documentary Paddy and Christine McGuinness: Our Family and Autism.

THE SHOOT: Auburn Street, Bolton

The neighbourhood where Paddy grew up.

Student reflection: James Taylor

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Photographing Paddy was so much fun. The poignant setting and the Raleigh Chopper were the guarantee of a memorable shoot. We arrived early to seek out suitable locations and decided to do the posed shots in the back alley directly behind Paddy’s childhood house. He didn’t want to draw too much attention, so the shoot was fast paced. Everything flowed, chatting as we photographed, with Paddy going above and beyond to make sure we got what we wanted. 

He then suggested that he should ride his Chopper down the Main Street so we could get some action shots. He did this twice and provided us with some great images. It was at this point that locals were gathering to watch Paddy in action. Paddy recognised his childhood pal Billal, so the shoot paused while the two enjoyed a catch up. We rounded off the shoot with Paddy pulling a few posed wheelie’s outside his old house, before he chucked his bike in the back of his van and said his farewells.

It was fantastic that Paddy gave up some of his precious time for the project… I’m confident that our final images capture the character, of the Paddy McGuinness we all know and love.

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Katie, Paddy & James

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