|Haigh Hall’s star in the making
IN recent years he’s forged a reputation for transforming leisure venues and hotels.
But Haigh Hall’s new manager has a secret theatrical past that’s seen him cast as a killer in Corrie and an apostle in Jesus Christ Superstar.
To say Chris Walne’s lived a colourful life is somewhat of an understatement.
The 48-year-old, now in charge of one of Wigan’s most recognisable buildings was once responsible for one of the darkest days in Coronation Street history!
Back in 1978 his cameo role in the soap saw him shoot and kill Emily Bishop’s husband, Ernest, during a bungled raid on Baldwin’s Casuals.
He later appeared in popular 80s drama Harry’s Game when he was also cast as a killer.
Chris, Wigan and Leisure Culture Trust’s new Enterprise Manager said: “It was just a stage in my career when I seemed to be cast as a killer but I’ve appeared in many biblical rock musicals so I’m not really a bad guy.”
After years appearing on the bill alongside top celebrities, under the stage name Chris Byrne, he moved into the hospitality and leisure industry “by complete accident” at the age of 31; spending nine years with Scottish and Newcastle before helping transform Blackpool Tower as their Ballroom and Events Manager. He was later appointed general manager for two major hotel chains that focused on Conference and Banqueting. He has similar grand plans for Haigh Hall.
Chris said: “Haigh Hall is a sleeping giant. It’s immensely loved by visitors and has a quality ambience that is second to none.
“There’s an opportunity at Haigh to make it one of the best conference, banqueting, wedding and business centres in the region.
“We have a committed team here who I am proud of, who want Haigh to become number one and that’s our goal.”
Chris’s acting and singing career started at an extremely early age. At 13 he became the youngest person ever to headline a performance at Dartmoor Prison where he encouraged inmates to sing a rousing version of “Bless This House”.
At 16 he turned professional entertainer, supporting Les Dawson, Lulu and Ken Dodd on the UK cabaret circuit. Chris has recorded three albums and in the 80s spent two years involved in theatre productions of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”.
He also appeared as a French farmer in Rik Mayall’s six part BBC series “Happy Families”.
Now Chris is hoping his flair for the theatrical will help transform Wigan’s jewel in the crown into a regional gem.
He added: “Who else can beat our setting or facilities?”