“WHEN children are small and they reach their milestones it’s a celebration for all parents. When Liam reached his, sometimes after a lot of hard work to get there, his achievements were huge to us as a family and we were all very proud. So although some things did take longer I don’t feel that Liam’s Down Syndrome has ever held him back, in fact I think it has made him more determined,” says Josie Bairstow.

She also recalls the words of her health visitor after her son was born. “Always remember that it’s Liam first and Down Syndrome second.”

Josie’s recollection of that sentence more than 30 years later is indicative of the profound effect it had on her - and she has stuck by it ever since.

She cannot contain her pride at seeing her son now gracing the cobbles of Britain’s best loved street - the soap they have watched together since he was young enough to catch up on the drama unfolding on Coronation Street.

The 31-year-old from Allerton made history as the first actor with Down syndrome in the soap’s 55 year history when he landed the role of Alex Warner. Liam plays the nephew of Roy Cropper’s friend, Cathy Matthews. Viewers are used to seeing him helping to serve customers in Roy’s cafe on the Corrie cobbles.

“I love it. I do sit back and I do pinch myself sometimes, but I do take it all in my stride. The only thing I couldn’t get used to is seeing his name on the credits. I feel so proud, excited,” says Josie.

For Liam, seeing himself on screen is a surreal experience, but for Josie it’s a natural progression of seeing her son’s stage career blossom from the early days of attending Bradford-based Yorkshire school of performing arts, Stage 84 - the school that spawned another famous Corrie star, Yorkshire-born Jack P Shepherd who plays long-standing character David Platt.

Josie talks fondly of the cast which she says are like family to them. Recalling a visit to the set, she says: “When Liam first took me to the studios I felt quite cool. We got there and I saw Barbara Knox (the legendary actress who plays Rita Tanner) walking down the steps towards me and I nearly curtseyed.

“They are so lovely. They look after him (Liam) and I have been to a few dos with him and it’s like a family,” says Josie.

Liam recalls feeling overwhelmed when he learned he had landed the part of Alex. “I could not believe it. I felt shocked and emotional.”

He explains how he gets his lines through the Bradford-based learning disability theatre company, Mind The Gap, which creates work for UK and international audiences.

“I get some help and support and after that I know them off by heart,” explains Liam.

He says after joining the cast he was more star struck meeting Bill Roache, alias Ken Barlow - another stalwart of The Street - and Shayne Ward who played the character, Aidan Connor, before leaving the soap last year in a dramatic storyline. Liam says he takes his inspiration from the two actors.

According to Josie, Liam is using his profile to support charities such as Autism Awareness - and his football skills to help raise money for worthy causes by playing in celebrity matches with pals including Emmerdale’s James Hooton, alias Sam Dingle in the Yorkshire-based soap.

“I love playing football with friends,” says Liam, but admits he prefers acting to sport.

Liam was five when he became interested in acting. “It all started when I was five years old. I went to Stage 84 and I enjoyed it,” he says.

Participating in a Rock Challenge event, part of the Global Rock Challenge movement, through Haycliffe School, Bradford, where Liam was a pupil at the time gave him the opportunity to take to the stage.

According to Josie, Liam had the ‘best of both worlds’ attending main stream and special school. He was, she says, the first student with Down’s syndrome to attend St Bede’s School in Bradford.

Liam is also a former student at Shipley College where he discovered the Bradford-based learning disability theatre company, Mind The Gap.

Through the organisation, which creates work for UK and international audiences, Liam has participated in many performances and tours.

He was 21 when he joined Mind The Gap, based in The Silk Warehouse, Patent Street, in 2010 and undertook a four year training course with the organisation.

“I took part in lots of shows, going around national and international tours,” he explains.

Being part of Mind The Gap has expanded Liam’s social life and led to new friendships.

“I have got some new friends and they have been 100 per cent supportive,” he says.

Liam is currently rehearsing for Mind The Gap’s production of Zara in collaboration with Walk the Plank.

Billed as ‘a one-off unique experience for the whole family,’ Zara tells the epic story of one learning disabled mother and her fight to protect her baby. It runs on Friday April 19 and Saturday April 20 at the Piece Hall, Halifax.

Liam is also involved with Leeds-based YAFTA (Yorkshire Academy of Film and Television Acting).

Liam’s agent, Charlotte Armitage, the founder and MD of YAFTA which provides training from drama school trained teachers and experienced screen actors and also runs Acting for Screen, Film & TV Production and Screenwriting including the Acting for Screen course launched in 2015 for people with learning disabilities in collaboration with Mind The Gap, says: “Liam is a fantastic role model for any actor.

“He’s always happy to inspire and support others who are trying to make it in this incredibly competitive industry. By Liam showcasing what can be achieved, we hope will encourage others who have a dream or desire to act, to get involved.”

Liam shared his experiences to raise the profile of World Down syndrome Day - a global awareness day on Thursday March 21 2019 - and hopes his achievements will inspire others.

He and Josie are eager for everyone to have the same opportunities ‘and show them everything is possible.’

“It’s a really good thing that everyone gets the opportunity,” says Josie.

Looking to the future, Liam hopes to pass on his acting expertise to others. He tells me he also wouldn’t mind venturing into the jungle as a contestant on ‘I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here.’ Oh, and he wouldn’t mind a part in a movie either....

“I’m just proud of how far I have come,” says Liam.