TRIBUTES were paid yesterday to Valleys actor and singer Brian Hibbard, best known as a member of the Flying Pickets, who died on Sunday night.

Mr Hibbard, 65, who was originally from Ebbw Vale, shot to fame in 1983 with the number-one hit Only You as the lead vocalist of the original Flying Pickets, and went on to appear in Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Pobol y Cwm and in panto at Newport’s Riverfront Theatre.

In a statement, a spokesman from talent agency Emptage Hallett, which represented the actor, said: “It is with great regret that we confirm the sad passing on Sunday evening of Welsh actor and singer Brian Hibbard.

“Having fought valiantly with prostate cancer for some time, Brian will be sadly missed and our thoughts are with his wife and three children.”

Mr Hibbard played karaoke king Dai Reese in Twin Town, garage mechanic Doug Murray in Coronation Street, Bobby-John Downs in Emmerdale and most recently, Henry Mason in East- Enders last year.

The agency spokesman added: “He was one of the original members of the formed in 1982 from members of the socialist 7:84 Theatre group.”

After a stint playing pubs and clubs and a successful self-published record, the Flying Pickets signed to Virgin records in 1983 and released probably their bestknown single, Only You, the same year.

The song went to number one, staying there for five weeks.

After he left the Flying Pickets in 1985 Mr Hibbard went into acting, appearing in a number of TV shows and films over the years.

He appeared in The Riverfront’s pantomime for four years between 2006 and 2009, playing the villain in Cinderella, Jack and The Beanstalk, Sleeping Beauty and appearing as a dastardly Captain Hook in Peter Pan.

A spokeswoman for the theatre said: “Brian was a stalwart of our panto cast, performing to well over 80,000 audience members in that time, as well as of the South Wales theatre scene, and will be sadly missed.

“All the staff at The Riverfront Theatre are saddened to hear of Brian’s passing and our thoughts are with Brian’s family and friends.”

Aside from acting and music, his interest in politics saw him support the then independent AM Trish Law and act as an election agent for Blaenau Gwent independent Assembly candidate Jayne Sullivan in the last election.

He had been interested in politics since he was a teenager and had been involved with political theatre companies.

Brian Walters, 64, former researcher for Mrs Law, described Mr Hibbard as a bubbly character who added light-heartedness to the campaign.

He said: “Elections can be dull affairs but he was full of fun.

“He was instantly recognisable and a big hit with many people across Blaenau Gwent. It is a sad loss.”

Blaenau Gwent councillor Hedley McCarthy said he was a man who never forgot where he came from and would be “sorely missed”.