Nolly – streaming on the new ITVX – features Helena Bonham Carter celebrating the fabulous 1980’s fashions worn by Noele Gordon when she starred as Meg Mortimer in the long-running ATV soap Crossroads. It can be revealed that forty-two years ago today a bright pink and purple polyester costume was being made for me. My real-life sister and I played Kevin Bank’s younger sisters, appearing as bridesmaids when he married Glenda Barlow on a bright sunny day in 14th May 1981.
We shot one episode at the Barlow family home before being taken to the Church of St Laurence in Alvechurch clutching our fake flowers. A crowd of excited fans began to gather, virtually mobbing Paul Henry who played Benny Hawkins the handyman. He was obliged to scamper through the graveyard, pursued by screaming middle-age ladies in crimplene.
My sister and I were bemused by the whole experience. I remember being interviewed for the part by a female producer with a pretty cut-and-dried attitude. She stared at my feet, horrified by the summer shoes I was wearing. ‘Never wear white shoes,’ she said as I left the room. ‘They make your feet look large.’
The costume designer rang a week later to ask if we could bring our own white shoes.
We were suddenly centre of attention, part of the growing Banks family. I was ‘taken unawares,’ as Glenda might have said, but am ashamed to say that my motivation was not to rock the nation’s consciousness or promote church weddings, but simply to earn enough to pay for my college fees at Durham University.
I was slightly in awe of the Crossroads cast. They didn’t know me from a flatfish but David Moran was enthusiastically inclusive, hugging us at every opportunity.
Most of the other actors arrived dressed as wedding guests. It should have been a joyful gathering but the atmosphere seemed strained. Noele Gordon, famous for playing Meg Mortimer since 1964, sat in the congregation next to Tony Adams but looked grim. She learned she was to be axed a month later.
Crossroads was well known for being recorded live in studio. I had returned to college by 14th May when our episodes were aired. The ladies serving dinner looked at me and asked how I’d managed to drive up from Birmingham to Durham so quickly. Our sequences on location had been prerecorded.
Here is the actual continuity photo taken at the ATV studios by the costume designer.
I wrote about the floral polyester being somewhat brighter in reality in an article for our university magazine, The Idler, edited by Nick Archer, Charles Stewart-Smith, and Alastair Fothergill whose new book Wild Isles has become a bestseller. Looking back, it must have been my first article I ever published. I wrote another on appearing in the Two Ronnies and began working on the cover design.
There was more pink: You can see photos of other productions that I appeared in if you scroll down here and read more in The Secrets of Filming Swallows and Amazons, available as an ebook.
11 thoughts on “How appearing in Crossroads launched my career as a writer”
Thank you Sophie, what a great story. Your first taste of adult stardom?!
It was little more than a walk-on role and a long way from stardom, but ‘Crossroads’ had huge viewing figures and a terrific following. I would say that appearing in the ‘Two Ronnies’ the year before was higher profile.
Sorry, I didn’t know about the ‘Two Ronnies’!
It was a tiny part but great fun.
Oh, I’m sure it was. Working with those two legends must have been a fabulous experience.
Ronnie Baker directed the action, which I hadn’t expected. We were cast by the producer, Paul Jackson, but he took over working closely with the costume designer and must have approved the pink frock. The skirt caught the breeze.
What a wonderful memory. I do hope I get to see this episode sometime.
I was in a few episodes. The whole series is available on YouTube.
I shall be watching, very soon!
The blog of your TV career (which you link to – thanks) is fascinating – and goodness me, ‘Titty’ in furs and tiara in ‘King Tut’! And as Diana!
I must have been one of the first to play the Princess of Wales on television, but appeared as little more than a shadow.