The Yorkshire-born producer caught the drama bug at school in Keighley and in the 1980s formed a theatre company for drug addicts after initially volunteering at an Edinburgh drop-in centre for junkies and ex-prisoners. The experience inspired his first play and in the early 90s he moved to Manchester to work with a community arts workshop.

He eventually landed a job as a storyliner on Emmerdale, going on to work for The Bill and Ballykissangel, and after a first spell at Coronation Street, returned to Emmerdale as producer in 2009.

When Phil Collinson left for another ITV role in 2012, Blackburn returned to Weatherfield and successfully managed the move to MediaCityUK. He still lives in Yorkshire, but spends half the week in Manchester.