THEN just seven-years-old, Neil Hughes starred in a one-off documentary about a group of children from vastly different backgrounds, each talking about their hopes and dreams for the future.

It sparked the acclaimed Up series, revisiting those children at seven-year intervals to see how their lives have changed - and whether their childhood circumstances had an influence on that.

The stars of that original 1964 show are now approaching retirement age, prompting the latest three-episode instalment, 63 Up, which has been airing on ITV this week.

The Westmorland Gazette: Eden councillor Neil Hughes in ITV documentary 63 Up, then aged 14. Picture: Shiver ProductionsEden councillor Neil Hughes in ITV documentary 63 Up, then aged 14. Picture: Shiver Productions

Eden councillor Neil is perhaps one of the series’ most memorable faces.

Over the years his dramatic life events have played out in front of the cameras - seeing him going from a young boy in Liverpool who wanted to be an astronaut, to becoming homeless and struggling with mental illness at the age of 28.

The Westmorland Gazette: Eden councillor Neil Hughes in ITV documentary 63 Up, then aged 35. Picture: Shiver ProductionsEden councillor Neil Hughes in ITV documentary 63 Up, then aged 35. Picture: Shiver Productions

But he has since turned his life around. After years living a nomadic life in Shetland, he moved to London, became a Liberal Democrat councillor and a lay preacher in the Church of England.

He settled in Cumbria about 20 years ago. He now lives in the Eden Valley, sits on Cumbria County Council and preaches at St Patrick’s Church in Bampton.

63 Up was mainly filmed while Neil was on holiday in France. He finds it all quite strange to talk about.

“It’s one of those things I just have to live with. Just grin and bear,” he half-jokes.

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Neil isn’t in regular contact with the others on the show, but does speak fondly of his fellow Up stars.

Ironically, Neil doesn’t watch TV or have a mobile phone. “It doesn’t interest me. I never have the time. I’m so busy with council work and if I do have free time, I’d frankly rather go for a walk.

“I’m told there are some celebrities that watch the show, but I’ve never heard of any of them,” he laughs.

Despite his previous ups and downs, Neil said he’s never considered backing out of the show. He also revealed he’s written an autobiography, but has yet to find a publisher.