IT is one year since Ben Thompson was catapulted from life as an ordinary Radcliffe teenager to a well-known face in one of the country's most popular television programmes.

Radcliffe Times reporter Gaynor Clarke caught up with the 15-year-old Coronation Street actor to find out how he balances his high-profile role with school work, and his plans for the future.

WHILE many teenagers have aspirations of becoming a TV star, Radcliffe schoolboy Ben Thompson really is living the dream.

Just over a year ago, he won the part of troublesome Ryan Connor, who was set to cause a stir on the cobbles with his mother, Michelle, uncles Paul and Liam, and aunt Carla.

The Connor family have been at the centre of some explosive storylines over the past year, making 15-year-old Ben a household name.

The Radcliffe Riverside High School pupil has certainly been making his mark on the programme, with Ryan painting graffiti on the wall of the local newsagents, stealing a car, and finding out that his mother's fiance was having an affair with her male best friend!

It certainly hasn't been an easy first year in Weatherfield, but Ben has been loving every minute of being on the show.

"It's been a really strange year and a lot of things have happened. It's been absolutely brilliant. The filming is everything that I could have wanted it to be. It's fantastic and I enjoy it more than anything. Everyone in the cast knows me now and I know them. Everyone's really nice.

"My favourite storylines so far have been doing the graffiti and stealing the car. I really enjoyed filming those two."

Ben, of Warwick Road, was originally given a six-month contract on the show, with the option to extend it to a year. ITV bosses have been so impressed with him that he has since signed up until 2009, though the future of his character will be reviewed every six months and he could be written out of the soap at any time.

But the future looks bright for the teenager, and after such an eventful year, Ben is waiting to find out what Ryan will do next.

"People keep saying that I might get a girlfriend soon, perhaps Brooke Vincent who plays Sophie Webster. I don't really get to find out anything though until I get my script," he said.

Working on Coronation Street isn't all hard work for Ben, as he has already been partying with the soap's cast. He recently attended a leaving party at a Manchester bar for Sean Gallagher, who played his on-screen uncle, Paul. But Ben will have to wait another year to walk along the red carpet at glitzy awards ceremonies, as actors under 16 years old can only attend if they have been nominated for an award.

Despite not being able to attend the industry events, Ben's face is still known by millions of people across the country and he is often recognised by members of the public.

He said: "There's a life outside Coronation Street where people recognise me, like when I'm walking around the Mill Gate Shopping Centre. I go to Bury every Saturday with my friends and there are always people who spot me there.

"I get seen in the Trafford Centre as well, when I'm there with my parents. It took a bit of getting used to, but it's all part and parcel of the job. It was really odd at first because I didn't realise why everyone was looking at me. I don't tend to notice it any more though."

For Ben, life outside the soap also means going to lessons at Radcliffe Riverside High School, where he is about to start his final year. He spends between one and three days away from school each week for filming, but an on-set tutor helps to make sure that he doesn't fall behind with his coursework.

He said: "The school are really good about me being away and really co-operative. I'm definitely keeping up with all my work. It will be a lot more difficult next year though because I'll be doing my GCSEs, and I'll be doing a lot of revision on set.

"Everyone at school is very supportive, but there is the odd person who starts singing the Coronation Street theme tune when they see me. There have never been any negative comments though. People always want to know what's happening in the storylines, but I won't tell them!"

Ben also attends the Carol Godby Theatre Workshop in Bury every Saturday, which he joined at the age of eight. His lessons there helped him to win roles on a number of programmes, including BBC children's comedy Stupid and, of course, Coronation Street.

Once he has completed his GCSE exams next year, Ben is hoping to go to college to study his other passion - music. He has been playing guitar for a number of years and enjoys taking his instrument to Granada Studios to fill the time between scenes. He plays classic rock music such as AC/DC and Led Zeppelin in his bedroom at home, but also fronts a tribute act to Manchester band The Smiths, called the Rusholme Ruffians. The band have already played a number of venues across the country and will tour with fellow tribute band The Other Smiths later this year, taking in cities such as Sheffield and Manchester.

"I am a very passionate music lover and really enjoy playing guitar. Somewhere down the line I might want to take a break from acting and do something else. Having a music qualification would mean that I could try getting into the music industry then," he said.

Ben's hopes for the future are also influenced by his other passion in life, which is films. Describing himself as a "big film buff", Ben says he loves comedies and gangster films and is inspired by actors like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.

He said: "I want to stay at Coronation Street for as long as I possibly can. I'm enjoying it a lot. I would love to get into films one day though. My dream job would be to play Batman, whether it's in a film or television series. I really hope that I can make a career out of acting."