Sunflowers, cakes, and naked calendars

Lynda Bellingham is starring in the final tour of Calendar Girls, which will be at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton from March 5-10.
Lynda Bellingham is starring in the final tour of Calendar Girls, which will be at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton from March 5-10.
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One fine sunny day in the Yorkshire countryside, a group of women were clustered in a house getting ready to pose for their Women’s Institute calendar. Standing behind flower pots and home-made cakes, they had no clothes on.

Immortalised in the 2003 film, Calendar Girls is one of the most heart-warming British tales as a group of friends decided to raise money for leukaemia.

Adapted for the stage in 2008, the most successful play ever to tour the UK is now on its final tour, and arriving at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton from March 5-10.

Loose Women star Lynda Bellingham has played the feisty Chris, who comes up with the idea for the calendar, since 2008.

Having just been stood outside in the rain in Dublin, posing in her dressing gown, she says: ‘I have a really fondness of the play. I took the part in my 60th year, and I got married again.

‘I think it’s to do with the fact that older women particularly are expected to go away and disappear. I’ve worked harder than I’ve ever worked, and it offers wonderful roles for women. It’s not just taking your clothes off.’

Now in her fourth year with the show, she’s loved every second of the role.

She adds: ‘It’s brilliant. It never ceases to amaze me that people come two or three times. We’ve all been touched by cancer in some way, and to be able to sit in a room, and laugh and cry in equal measure about it, is a great thing.

‘Tim Firth has managed that fine line. Just as you think you’re going to cry, he makes you laugh.’

Enjoying her role as an inspirational women in the play, Lynda’s involvement with fashion line Isme, and her spot on the Loose Women panel has made her a voice for the older generation.

She explains: ‘I’m very lucky if people do look at me as a role model. It’s fantastic that finally people are taking note that just because you get to 60 doesn’t mean you don’t want to wear nice clothes, and have them fit properly.

‘It’s given the baby boomer a voice. We are out there making it work. We don’t get pensions any more. We have to keep going!’

She’s even been commissioned to write a novel on the back of her 2009 autobiography, Lost and Found.

Lynda says: ‘I have to deliver the first draft at the end of May, as it’s being published at the end of 2013. It’s about women, and it’s a family story which spans over three generations of children.

‘Finishing Calendar Girls is the end of a chapter really.

‘My life does seem to go through chapters. I go somewhere new, and it’s scary, but exciting.’

Tickets cost £15 to £29.50 from the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton on (023) 8071 1811 or go to mayflower.org.uk.