A REAL-LIFE Billy Elliot has given an inspirational talk to university students who are hoping to follow in his footsteps.

Wayne Sleep OBE is returning to his North-East roots to meet undergraduates studying for a degree in dance at the University of Teesside.Mr Sleep, who was brought up in Hartlepool, gained a Leverhulme Scholarship to the Royal Ballet School aged 12 and went on to achieve national success as a dancer, choreographer and actor.

He met students yesterday during a break from starring as Emcee in Cabaret at the Civic Theatre in Darlington.

He watched them perform at Middlesbrough College as part of an assessment and then spoke to them afterwards.

Ronan Patterson, Head of Performing Arts at the University of Teesside, said: “It is marvellous that Wayne Sleep has been able to take time out from such a busy schedule to come and talk to students at the university.

“Dance is a new programme here, and of course Wayne has been an inspiration to dancers from the Tees Valley for a number of years.