Interview: Sally Walsh on her star siblings & opening a drama academy in Woodford Green
- Credit: Archant
Actor Sally Walsh, sister of Girls Aloud’s Kimberley and Emmerdale’s Amy, is opening a drama academy for kids in Woodford Green
As the old Noel Coward song goes: ‘Don’t put your daughter on the stage Mrs Worthington’. But clearly Mrs Walsh had no such qualms, with all three of her daughters going on to forge successful careers in the performing arts. Most famously there’s Kimberley of Girls Aloud, and Amy, a regular on Emmerdale. But the one who’s making people sit up and take notice in West Essex is Sally, a former child star and more latterly a soap actor (Emmerdale, Heartbeat, EastEnders and Coronation Street), who has just opened a children’s drama school in Woodford Green, and it’s already attracting the attention of budding young actors keen to learn the tricks of the trade.
For Sally it’s the fulfillment of a long-held plan. “I had something similar years ago in Bradford, where I’m from, and it was a huge success,” reveals the now Buckhurst Hill-based mum of three. “I had to close that business when I moved here, but I knew it was something I’d like to return to - and now felt like the right time.”
Located in the All Saints’ Woodford Wells church (Sally has a soft spot for the place, having attended numerous baby/toddler groups there over the years), the academy is open to children aged five to 12 and is split into two age groups, with no previous experience required.
“The aim is to build confidence while having plenty of fun,” explains Sally. “The classes will involve some improvisation along with prose and scripted pieces. Ultimately, children will be offered the opportunity to enter LAMDA examinations, but this will be as and when they feel ready.”
There can be little doubt that Sally and her sisters (she also has a brother Adam) were ready to step into the limelight from a very early age, having all attended a local stage school.
“We were quickly bitten by the bug, and all appeared on TV or in theatre as kids. If we weren’t at stage school, we were making our own shows in the living room,” she recalls.
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When asked to describe her relationship with her siblings, Sally says: “We are and always have been close - freakishly so according to some people - and we’ve always been very supportive of each other.” Indeed, Sally went with Kimberley to her first audition for Popstars: The Rivals. “I stood in the queue with her and was there at every live show, cheering her on,” she says. And when Amy got her role in Emmerdale, Sally texted some of the people she was still in touch with from her time on the show.
“I asked them to look after her - we’ve always been each other’s biggest supporters,” she attests.
For Sally, her first big break came when she was just eight years old. “It was a children’s series for ITV called Tumbledown Farm and it was just me and the author Dick King-Smith, who played my grandad - the rest of the cast were puppets.” she chuckles. “The series ran for two years, and considering it was my first ever audition, I was very lucky to get it.”
At 16, she had even been cast as a lead in a Disney movie. “It was The Old Curiosity Shop and I was opposite Sir Peter Ustinov,” says Sally proudly. “It was filmed in Ireland at Ardmore Studios, where Braveheart was also being filmed, so Mel Gibson could be seen around regularly.”
Such is the fickle nature of acting, however, Sally hit some hard times in her 20s. “I was doing odd jobs to make ends meet. A lot of my friends had got good jobs by then and there were times I really questioned my life choice.” But her love of acting prevailed. “If you enjoy and believe in the work, there’s nothing more gratifying,” she enthuses.
And now Sally will be sharing her passion with local children, but what of her own? “Strangely my three sons are quite shy, which is ironic considering I spent my childhood being told to ‘stop showing off!’”
Finally, what advice would she give to anyone with ambitions to be an actor?
“Do it because you genuinely love it and not because you want to be famous.”