TRIBUTES have been paid to a much-loved "local arts hero" who has died aged 56.

Karen Harvey has been described as a "committed and hard-working" member of the Turnpike Community Theatre.

She joined TCT in 2018 when she responded to a call for chorus members for the Christmas production of Sleeping Beauty.

She went on to win the director’s award that year for her contribution and commitment both on and off the stage; something that Karen was personally very proud of.

Karen continued to come to TCT the following year and joined the committee where she has been an active member and secretary until her passing with COVID.

Her colleagues at TCT say that, from day one, Karen was "one of the group" and that she "took to the stage like a duck to water" and had been taking singing lessons over recent months.

She has been described as having the amazing gift of being able to enter a room and talk to anyone and after half an hour they would think they had known her for years.

In tribute, the Turnpike Community Theatre said: "She was committed and hardworking, caring and passionate. She made fabulous props and would do anything and everything to make the productions ready for opening night. She was inspiring and a great role-model for the arts.

"Karen had a real love for the arts and studied drama as part of her nursery nurse training at college and she also wrote her own play as a teenager.

"We will always fondly remember the last night of Jack and the Beanstalk in 2019 when she entered the stage prematurely and ad-libbed to try and cover it up, it was hilarious.

"She was due to perform in the 2020 production of Danny Champion of the World but this production was cancelled due to the pandemic.

"However, she had worked hard to start collecting and making props and costumes and we will definitely be using these when we finally bring the Roald Dahl script to the stage.

"Karen has always been a vibrant and energetic member of the group and her artistic flair will be missed.

"It is so unfortunate that COVID meant that we were not able to say goodbye to Karen as we would have wanted – all her friends at Turnpike will miss her very much."

The statement added: "Over the past week, it has been so positive to see the arts community of Leigh and the local areas to come together to acknowledge the news of Karen’s passing with members of St Joseph’s players, New Garrett Theatre, Leigh Film Society and the Turnpike Gallery all making contact to pass on their condolences.

"It is wonderful to see how the arts unite people and communities even at such sad times. Our local arts community is still very much alive and we look forward to taking to the stage again in the near future where we will be able to honour local arts heroes like Karen."

Karen leaves behind husband Jon, son Dean, 36, and two grandchildren, Madison and Honey.