POPULAR North-East comedian, actor and radio phone-in host Mike Elliott has died of cancer aged 68.

The Sunderland-born performer, who also had roles in the hit film Billy Elliot and long-running BBC TV children’s show Byker Grove, had been ill for some time.

He taught English at Dyke House School, Hartlepool, before finding a national audience for his comedy with the Channel 4 show 'At Last It’s Mike Elliott.'

He worked for Tyne Tees Television in 1992 presenting regional documentary series, including, Down Colliery Way, about North-East coal miners.

In Billy Eliot he played boxing trainer George Watson and had roles in several TV dramas, including Catherine Cookson adaptations, Crocodile Shoes, Byker Grove, Spender, and Harry.

Mr Elliott had a controversial career as a late-night radio phone-in host, starting at Century FM in 1995, where he acquired the nickname Mike The Mouth.

He was suspended for swearing at a woman caller who said she was a benefits swindler but was reinstated after fans protested.

In January 2000 he was taken off the air in the middle of his show and sacked following an expletive-filled outburst - he blamed a mixture of cold remedies and two glasses of wine – but again was reinstated.

He had a long association with Newcastle pop band Lindisfarne, for whom he was a warm-up comedian and compere.

For several years he compered the Stanley Blues Festival, held every August in the former pit town in County Durham until 2008 when funding sources dried up.

Tributes flowed in from friends and former colleagues.

A statement from Lindisfarne on the band’s Facebook page said: ”We're so sorry to hear of the passing of the great Mike Elliott.

“Mike was a great friend to the band for many years, joining them on tours and appearing at many of the City Hall shows.

“It's a relationship which endeared him to Lindisfarne fans, and he'll be missed.

“We send our condolences to his family and friends - rest in peace, Mike."

The Durham City-based comedienne and BBC Radio Newcastle presenter Sue Sweeney Tweeted: “ Devastated to hear we have lost Mike the Mouth. Top man and fantastic entertainer. He will be missed. X “

Former Century FM colleague John Myers Tweeted:” RIP. Very sad to hear that Mike Elliott (Mike the Mouth) has died. Top phone in host for Century NE plus actor and comedian."