I trained as an actress and spent the first twelve years of my professional life doing just that. I worked with the legendary Ken Campbell, the infamous Sylvester McCoy and the vintage Alan Plater.
When the Arts Council gave out grants, I was instrumental in creating ‘Belt and Braces’ left wing political theatre group that performed everywhere from the York Arts Centre, where I nearly got arrested for impersonating a police officer, and ‘The Wyndham’s Theatre’ where I nearly got arrested for impersonating an actress.
My television career started in Oxford Road, Manchester on BBC 2’s ground-breaking feminist comedy programme ‘Revolting Women’. Feminist it was. Ground-breaking it wasn’t. Funny? Well, Geoff Posner is the man to ask. He’s the single most successful living comedy producer and they sacked him for not being a lesbian. I rest my case.
One programme led to another and I was finally head-hunted for TVam. I was sacked on the first morning of transmission only to be re-employed three minutes later with Fred Metcalf, David Frost’s script writer. We still send christmas cards to each other. Not to Mr Frost but to Mr Metcalf.
Four and half years of writing and performing my own material, learning how to wear an ear piece and read autocue whilst stealing gags from whoever was funny at the time gave me some kind of mini celebrity status, but I breast fed my three month old daughter on air and returned to work wearing a black leather jacket. Hauled into Bruce Gyngell’s office, I was accused of being totally tasteless. Apparently my attire revealed an attitude that was redolent of arrogance and defiance. Not surprisingly, I was sacked on the spot.
I was told by an extremely intelligent journo that being sacked once is okay but being sacked three times is de riguer otherwise you ain’t worth the paper you’re suing. I have been sacked from pretty much every job I have done.
I’ve learnt my craft from the crews I have worked with. My advice to anybody starting in the business is to make friends with the techies and the back room mob. They know a lot more than the most of the names that go up on the credits at the end.
Four and half years at London Weekend Television taught me how to survive live outside broadcasts, how to find my way around the M25 and how to work with Danny Baker. He was the easy bit.
I birthed the first ever travelling gardening road show, wore dungarees, got reprimanded on the 18th floor for not being sweet and simpering and got sacked for wearing a bra. Charlie Dimmock owes me one, or should I say two.
Four and half years at the BBC introduced me to airless, faceless hotels from Birmingham to Norwich, taught me how to write scripts in the back of a car and how to risk it for a biscuit with the wonderful Netty Martin, an exemplary director producer who was let go because the BBC is as sexist and ageist as the next man.
I learnt the importance of my family and the seasons when I spent the next four and half years at home with my lovely husband and daughter, She is now 20. He is much older. And now I almost completed my sentence with GFL, which has taught me more about olive oil than Popeye ever knew. There isn’t a chef in teflon who hasn’t cooked for me and not one of them has charged me except for… now that would be telling.
The future for this veteran actress beckons, and what with all these new fangled thingies like ipods, blackberries and you-tubes I smell a new re-invention. So watch this space… literally!