Macca and Klopp lead tributes to Sue Johnston at Freedom of Liverpool ceremony

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Sir Paul McCartney and Jurgen Klopp have led tributes to award-winning TV actress Sue Johnston on receiving the Freedom of Liverpool at a special ceremony this evening.

Sue, best known as Sheila Grant in Brookside and Barbara in The Royle Family, was originally nominated for the city’s highest honour in July 2022 along with former Liverpool FC manager Jurgen Klopp.

And in a surprise video tribute the former reds boss praised Sue for her richly deserved award, welcoming her into the company of the Freemen and Women of the city.

Sir Paul, who is celebrating his 82nd birthday today, also added his praise to the visibly moved BAFTA-winning star, who once worked for Brian Epstein, and jokingly offered some sheep to parade down Castle Street!

Sue, hailed “a national treasure” by Council Leader, Cllr Liam Robinson, received the award at Liverpool Town Hall in the company of fellow Freeman such as her long-time screen husband Ricky Tomlinson, Liverpool FC icon Sir Kenny Dalglish and film producer Colin McKeown.

Also in attendance were comedians Johnny Vegas and Joe Wilkinson, Shameless star David Threlfall, Hillsborough campaigner Margaret Aspinall and Metro Mayors Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham.

There were further video tributes from the world of stage and screen such as writer Jimmy McGovern and actress Alison Steadman, Elbow lead singer Guy Garvey and LFC legends John Barnes, Phil Thompson and Sammy Lee.

Born in Warrington, Sue grew up in Prescot, getting her first taste of acting at a drama group at Pilkington Glass where she was also working.

After working as a Higher Grade tax inspector, when her boyfriend was one of the pop group the Swinging Blue Jeans, she worked for Brian Epstein.

She attended Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and her first professional job was on stage at the Theatre Royal in St Helens.

Working mainly in the theatre in the 1970s, Sue’s first television appearance was on the cobbles of Coronation Street in 1982.

She went on to become one of the most recognisable faces on British TV, most notably as Sheila Grant in Brookside and reunited with her Brookside husband Ricky Tomlinson (who received Freedom of Liverpool in 2014) in The Royle Family, a role which Sue win a BAFTA for in 2000.

A supporter of numerous campaigns such as the Shrewsbury Two, the Miner’s strike and the Hillsborough fight for justice, Sue was appointed OBE in 2009 and had been nominated for Freedom of the City by Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram.

Reflecting on her Freedom of Liverpool award, the lifelong Liverpool FC fan said: “When they announced it on the same day as Jurgen that was breathtaking to me, that I was in the same sentence as Jurgen Klopp!

“It was very emotional for me. I cried because I wanted to tell my dad, who loved Liverpool so much. I was so sad I couldn’t tell him, and I know how proud he would have been.

“I love Scousers. The wit, the heart, they’re cheeky. Just everything. They mean just so much to me. And to be granted the Freedom of Liverpool means so much more than anything that I’ve been awarded really.

“It’s humbling and to be in such great company. Especially with Jurgen!”

Liverpool Waterfront