Joanne Heywood has kindly shared her memories of playing Dilys:
- How did you come to be cast in the series?
I was in my dressing room at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London (I was in High Society at the time) when one of my dressing room colleagues read out an ad in The Stage, looking for “authentic, Yorkshire actors and actresses”. The ad didn’t say what the programme would be but it did say that Gareth Gwenlan would be directing. I phoned my agent to ask if he had put me forward. It transpired that he hadn’t, so I was very glad I made that phone call!
When my agent submitted my details, he suggested me for the role of “Nora”. However, in the pilot, Nora didn’t have much dialogue, as they were trying to keep some suspense as to who the young Nora was. So, at the audition, Gareth wasn’t going to ask me to read for the role… just chat. I explained that I had hoped to read for him as, although I’m from Yorkshire and had an authentic Yorkshire accent, I could also “lose my accent” – 3 years at drama school wasn’t wasted! – so I hadn’t gone into the audition in full “Yorkshire accent” mode. Gareth then asked me to read some of the script for “Dilys” and that was how I came to be cast.
- Was it hard creating a character not in the parent series? How did you go about it?
I was delighted to be cast as “Dilys”. I loved the character and had total freedom with her. As she hadn’t appeared in the parent series, I didn’t have to follow somebody else’s pre-established version of her. She came off the page so easily. Roy Clarke’s characters are so fully formed; they are all there in the writing. She was a joy to play and I was more than a little disappointed when a 3rd series wasn’t commissioned, especially as we had left her with her husband going off to war and a baby on the way.
- Which locations did you film at and what are your memories of location filming?
We used some of the same locations as the parent series (e.g. Sid’s Café was our Fish & Chip Shop) as well as a few “new” ones. Because of the 1930s setting, some locations for “Last Of…” had too many modern features to be used. If I remember correctly, our main base for the Co-op (where Dilys and Ivy worked in Grocery & Provisions) was a lovely village called Netherthong.
- What are your memories of studio filming?
I love working with a studio audience, so this was a dream role. We had 5 days in the rehearsal room then the day at the studio for camera and dress rehearsal before the audience arrived. So, with all the preparation in place, it was a wonderful atmosphere and a joy to be a part of.
In the final episode, there was a scene with the famous Neville Chamberlain speech on the radio announcing “we are now at war with Germany”. Dilys was found sitting on her bed with a wedding photo in hand and a tear rolling down her cheek. After the usual humorous scenes, I thought it might be a difficult moment but just listening to that radio speech raises goose bumps, so the tears came naturally.
- Can you tell us a bit more about the costumes, sets and vehicles used?
Most of the costumes were original, vintage ‘30s clothes but the white overalls Dilys and Ivy wore at the Co-op had to be made. That would have been fine but they needed to be “broken down” a little and, as it turned out on the pilot shoot, not quite enough. We had finished filming and had a celebratory glass or two the night before. However, when the rushes were checked, there were some flares off the white overalls in the glorious Yorkshire sunshine, so we had to reshoot a couple of moments.
I didn’t have too many scenes involving the vintage vehicles; maybe an odd moment getting on or off the bus. However, I did have the honour of being driven in a fabulous vintage car for the Quiet Wedding episode.
- Did you enjoy playing the bride in the episode Quiet Wedding?
“Quiet Wedding” was a very special episode for me. I loved the beautiful vintage powder blue suit I had to wear. It was all hand-stitched and in such pristine condition I had the feeling that perhaps it had been worn for a real wedding back in the 1930s. The matching shoes were also originals and I was determined to wear them, even if they were a little snug!
It was fairy tale really and the moment when the happy, “good luck”, telegrams were being read out by “Clegg” senior, then suddenly “Brad” was called back to base “immediately” and the horror of impending war thrust upon us was heart-breaking.
As that was the end of the series, we had what would now be called an “after party”. There was a nice spread, including Dilys & Brad’s wedding cake, which I had assumed was just iced cardboard, so was quite surprised to discover is was a real fruit cake… and very tasty. I’ve kept a horse shoe from the cake and some confetti too.
- What are your memories of working with the older cast members? Peter Sallis, Maggie Ollerenshaw, Derek Benfield
I didn’t have many scenes with Peter or Maggie but I do remember lots of chatting with Maggie when we were between scenes or on a break and I had lots of scenes with the lovely Derek Benfield. I don’t have a particular memory other than that we seemed to be laughing a lot.
- Do you keep in touch with any of the cast?
Over the years, your lives go in different directions and you lose touch with people. I was in touch with several of the cast for many years after the series ended but, sadly, we gradually lost touch. I’m delighted you have started this blog/website, as I’d love to know what everyone’s been up to?
- Do you have a favourite memory and/or favourite episode?
It’s hard to single out a favourite memory or episode, as there were so many funny moments. Riding bicycles in the Gypsy Fiddler episode… it transpired that Judy Flynn had never learned to ride a bike as a child. I’ll leave her to tell you about that… needless to say, she didn’t manage to stay on the bike for very long. Dancing the Tango with Sarah Dangerfield in one of the studio scenes… I can’t even remember how that fitted into the plot but I do remember we giggled a lot. Sitting under the hairdryer in the middle of a field of sheep whilst the lovely hair and make-up artist was creating my 1930s hair do. There are so many happy memories but Quiet Wedding has to be my favourite.
10. What have you been doing since FOTSW ended?
I was lucky enough to be cast in many BBC sitcom’s following First Of The Summer Wine. Mike Stephens, who took over direction of the series, also directed two series of Grace & Favour. Having been in a “prequel” to Last of The Summer Wine, it was quite strange to then be in a “sequel” to Are You Being Served.
Almost 30 years down the line (I got my Equity card in panto in 1985), I’m still working as an actress and First Of The Summer Wine still holds a very special place in my heart.
Many thanks to Joanne for providing this contribution and supporting the site.
Joanne’s website is www.joanneheywood.com