Likely Lads star Brigit Forsyth is loving life in Broadbottom, Hyde

Brigid Forsyth appearing locally

Brigid Forsyth appearing locally - Credit: Archant

Brigit Forsyth is thankful for her role as long-suffering Thelma in The Likely Lads. It may be years ago, but she tells Natalie Anglesey from her home in Broadbottom village, near Hyde, it means she is always busy.

Mention The Likely Lads, the popular Sixties’ television series starring James Bolam, Rodney Bewes and fresh-faced Brigit Forsyth who played long-suffering girl-friend Thelma and usually the reaction is a nostalgic smile.

Fast forward four decades later and I’m sitting opposite Brigit on her sun terrace in the charming village of Broadbottom and she doesn’t look much older.

‘It must be the genes and all the walking and swimming I love to do here,’ Brigit chuckles from underneath her straw sun-hat. ‘I came to Broadbottom because so many of my friends were already living here and I love this view from my terrace of Coombe Edge which I think used to be a quarry. I gather some of its stone was used to build parts of Stockport.

‘I enjoy the beautiful walks around here and I swim a lot. Although at one time it must have been a bustling mill town because most of these cottages belonged to the workers. It’s so tranquil here that I doubt if I’ll ever leave - apart from when I’m working of course.’

That’s exactly what Brigit will be doing soon when she joins The National Theatre tour of People, a new play by award-winning playwright Alan Bennett who happens to be one of her heroes. She even relinquished her place on a family holiday she’d organised to do the tour.

‘I’d jokingly said to my daughter-in-law that the only reason I wouldn’t make this holiday was if I was offered a job by The National Theatre and blow me who’d have thought it!’

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Proudly Brigit shows me a hand-written post-card Alan Bennett had previously sent her in praise of her performance as the Queen in a BBC Radio play.

‘Wasn’t that a kind thing to do? I’ve treasured that for years and now I’m going to be in one of his plays with my old friend Sian Phillips, so who knows, perhaps we’ll finally get the chance to meet.’

Although she’s originally from Glasgow and trained at RADA, Brigit’s lived in Cheshire for most of her married life. Although she’s now happily single and settled in Broadbottom, she hasn’t lost touch with her friends in Mellor where she once lived.

‘I’m still president of the Mellor March which has been going for nearly twenty years. It’s a twelve-mile walk of the Mellor boundary and has raised huge sums of money for charity - mainly for cancer. This is entirely due to the efforts of Paddy Whitham, a local businessman and his team. I handed out cheques for over £15,000 this year! I think it’s wonderful and am so pleased I‘m still president.’

Brigit is one of those actors who seems rarely out of work. ‘I’ve been so lucky. The Likely Lads, written by Dick Clements and Ian la Frenais, opened all sorts of doors for me and in the Seventies we made the sequel Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? I remember at one time we were filming the feature film of The Likely Lads during the day and I was appearing in Alan Ayckbourne’s Norman Conquests in the West End in the evening - a manic time!’

In a mixture of theatre and television we’ve seen Brigit in Sharon and Elsie, Tom, Dick and Harriet, Boon, Murder Most Horrid, Wycliffe, Poirot and The Practice in which she played Dr Judith Vincent. From Noises Off to Calendar Girls Brigit has thoroughly enjoyed herself.

‘In Calendar Girls I was one of the lucky ones as I didn’t have to take my clothes off! But my favourite role was in Playing the Field opposite the wonderful Ricky Tomlinson. I played his wife and she was such a horrid person to play but great fun. Recently I played a small role in Coronation Street as Babs Fanshawe - for a laugh and the cast were so welcoming.’

Brought up in a musical family, Brigit is an accomplished cellist and tries to practice every day. ‘I’ve recently joined a band with some friends and I’m doing a gig in London then straight back here for a radio play and rehearsals of course.

‘In People I play Iris who is a rather mysterious, dishevelled character who turns out to be more than meets the eye. It’s a far cry from Thelma. I don’t want to give too much away except to say it’s really about family values - and it’s going to be fun.’

Family is very important to Brigit and she’s obviously rightly proud of her children.

‘My son Ben’s an accomplished engineer and my daughter Zoe is writing a screenplay as well as a play with roles for us both. We’ve actually performed together before in a Studio production at The National-and here we go again!’

With her three grand-children, her band and her cello practise to fit in - as well as touring with People - it looks like Brigit will have to put her cherished walks on hold for the time being.

People is on at The Lowry, Salford Quays, from October 15-19