Sarah Dangerfield has kindly shared her memories of playing Ivy:
1. How did you come to be cast in the series?
I was in a series called Bluebell which was again based in the 30’s, it was about the Folies Bergère, the famous Bluebell Girls. It was very similar to First of the Summer Wine in that it was all about the formation of the Bluebell Girls, the famous dance troupe at the Folies Bergère and it ran on BBC1. I was in that and the casting director who’d cast me in that put my name forward to Gareth for First of the Summer Wine and my agent applied for the audition and I went along. They said I had a very good face for period drama so that was why I did quite a few period dramas over the years and that was definitely one of the things that they said, that I had a good look for that era. And I could do a Yorkshire accent because I’m from York, so I knew of the series and the Jane Freeman character. So that’s how I got cast, I went along to the BBC through this casting director who’d seen me in Bluebell, and I met Gareth and I presume there was another casting director there at the time and did the audition, and got told that I’d got it very quickly after that.
2. How did you go about emulating Jane Freeman’s performance as Ivy? Did you meet her?
I didn’t meet Jane Freeman, no, I watched lots of Last of the Summer Wine and I really studied her mannerisms and her voice, and she was quite a big lady and I’m actually quite small, we were dealing with when she was young. So I watched a lot of Last of the Summer Wine and watched her reactions and her voice and her mannerisms. She was always bad tempered, she always seemed to be in a mood and telling somebody off, completely exasperated with the men, so I did try to think what she’d be like, I think she was a little bit softer when she was younger. Perhaps she’d got harder through her life. She was always quite an anxious person, but she was always very cross and bad tempered in Last of the Summer Wine when she was running the café. I remember really watching her and trying to observe and pick up on the voice and the expressions and the tones, and trying to soften them a little, to how she must have been as a younger person. But I never met her, she never came onto to set or anything, which is a shame really, I would have loved to know what she thought of the character and all of us really, it would have been nice to know what the older cast thought, of course we had Peter so we had his view on things.
It was a series I already watched. My father grew up in Holmfirth, in the vicarage at Holmfirth, and my grandfather was the vicar of Holmfirth. So when there is an episode where there is a dance, where we did the tango famously, in that particular episode it is the vicar who organises the girls and boys, and had that been in reality that would have been my grandfather because at that time my grandfather was vicar of Holmfirth, and my father was brought up in the vicarage at Holmfirth. That is where my family comes from, so I had a flavour of Holmfirth and I knew of it, I knew the locations and I knew the area from being a child. It was quite interesting to think that at that time my grandfather would actually have been that person, that actor playing the vicar of Holmfirth, organising that dance, would actually have been my grandfather. It was a big coincidence, I found it very funny and enjoyed it very much, my parents did obviously as well, because my father was always watching places he’d grown up and places he knew, because he knew all the locations very well.
3. Which locations did you film at and what are your memories of location filming?
It was just all so lovely, everywhere was lovely and green and beautiful. The cinema was lovely, I really enjoyed that, I loved anywhere where they went with views, looking at them from the caravan. It was peaceful and rolling and green, just a really nice place to film and be outside, it was lovely, you really felt like you were in the heart of Yorkshire when you were doing it. It was very atmospheric, it added to the scenery, I really think it added something, as it does in Last of the Summer Wine. It’s part of the whole ethos, the location is very important, it really adds to it, you know it was just so atmospheric, they captured it beautifully on film. It’s really nice. Another thing is, there weren’t a lot of people. Often when you’re filming you get lots of people watching, that’s fine, but that didn’t happen really because it was so quiet and peaceful everywhere we went, it was quite isolated. I have great memories of all of the locations at which we shot.
4. Can you tell us a bit more about the costumes, sets and vehicles used?
The costumes were very often authentic, the women I think we went to Angels costumes quite a lot. I know that even to the point of our undergarments, everything was authentic, the stockings, the shoes, the petticoats, the hats, they took a long time getting the hair right, and make up and everything, so you definitely felt very much in that period because they had worked so hard to get it right. Because a lot of people do write in and say, down to the point where you’ve got the wrong kirby grips in, people do watch detail, particularly if it’s an era they’ve grown up and know, people are very keen that you get it right. It was part of their lives and what was going on. I just remember how lovely the costumes were to wear, they were very silky, the coats were quite nice because it was quite cold sometimes, but they had quite heavy coats and obviously Dilys and I had those white overalls which were made for us in the Co-op, with the little starched hats on, so again everything was beautifully made and attention to detail was fantastic, as I say right down to what we wore underneath, we had to wear all of the right stuff underneath, as well as on the top. It was nicely done, it really was.
As far as the vehicles go, there weren’t many scenes, I don’t think Ivy ever went on anything, I know Dilys went on a bus once didn’t she, but apart from that I don’t think we were ever really in any vehicles. We seemed to spend a lot of time behind the grocery counter at the Co-op. The set was quite amazing and I really did enjoy those shooting days when we were in front of a live audience, which was quite something really, because I know a lot of actors don’t like, I know Derek didn’t like that, he got very nervous about shooting in front of a live audience, even though he was such an established actor, and such a lovely man. The Co-op set up was amazing, all the weights that we had , right down to the brown paper bags, how we had to weigh out the butter, the proper paddles that you had to use to pat the butter and cut it and get it into the right shape, the sugar weights, all of those kind of things. We had to learn how to do that properly, how they would have done it when you went in to get your groceries. All of those details in that set were fantastic, they really were, and I enjoyed very much doing those.
5. What are your memories of studio filming?
They were quite rigorous in those days, you got quite a lot of rehearsal time, we did about 5 days to a week of rehearsals before we actually went in and did the live studio shows. And that was very nice because it is always lovely to have an audience there and get those audience reactions when you’re first doing it. You do feel very much like you’re in the theatre and you’re playing to the audience and getting their participation, so that was really lovely. As I say, a lot of our studio shots were mainly in the Co-op, I can’t remember any other shooting that we did. We did a lot of rehearsals up at the rehearsal studios. It was just nice to be at the BBC and to be doing something in front of a live audience. It was quite nerve wracking as well, you had to get it right, I did enjoy it, it was very good.
6. Were you ever told of where the storyline with Ivy and Sherbet’s romance was intended to go?
No, no, nothing at all, in fact Sherbet was a strange character and I’m not entirely sure why they brought him in. May be as Ivy’s love interest, I don’t know, that could be why. May be she’d been thwarted by him and that’s why she’s in such a bad mood later on, I don’t know. He certainly wasn’t Sid, that’s for sure. I never knew why he was there to be honest, what his character was, unless Sherbet was a nickname for Sid. We were never told who Sherbet was or why he was there, or where Sherbet came from, you know. I don’t know, I can’t answer that I’m afraid. Because everybody else, even Wally, we were all in Last of the Summer Wine, they were all characters that grew up and you see in Last of the Summer Wine. But Sherbet’s not there is he? So I can’t… We used to have our own little stories between us, Paul and I, but I’ve no idea really, they never said anything happened to them or they stayed together, so maybe he was just a local lad Ivy had her eye on, I don’t know.
7. What are your memories of working with the older cast members? Peter Sallis, Maggie Ollerenshaw, Derek Benfield
Well Peter was quite a quiet soul and kept himself to himself, it’s amazing that he’s 95, but lovely to watch obviously. As I say he did keep himself to himself, but had a wonderful, very dry sense of humour and used to come out with some marvelous tips and advice and sort of odd one liners and he did used to have all of the youngsters really laughing but he was quite quiet and he would keep himself to himself.
Maggie was absolutely lovely, I got on very well with Maggie, and she’d sort of be in the throw of all of us, she’d be out with us and doing things with us, and very supportive and very funny comedic actress, lovely person and she was always around.
And Derek was just the most lovely gentleman and he really took Joanne and I under his wing, because we had a lot of scenes with him in the Co-op being Mr Scrimshaw, he was our boss. So he was always very supportive, very lovely, looked out for us, was such a lovely charming man. When I got married, I got married after the series had finished, he actually sent me a telegram on my wedding day as Mr Scrimshaw. I can’t actually remember what it said but it was very much in character, don’t be long before you get back here, sort of thing, and you’ve got three days leave, you know, but he wrote it in character as Mr Scrimshaw which was typical Derek, just a really lovely, kind, thoughtful thing to do. So that was lovely I got a telegram on my wedding day from Mr Scrimshaw. He was delightful. That kind of person did exist, Mr Scrimshaw, the manager of the Co-op was highly regarded, he was always so smartly dressed, beautiful suit. I do remember one line which I had with him, which I loved, which he said, “I hope you girls are watching your weights,” and Ivy said, “Well I’ve a little bit more on my hips than I’d like Mr Scrimshaw, but nothing too excessive.” Obviously he was talking about the sugar weights and the weights in the shop, and Ivy thought he was having a go at her for her weight. He was lovely and Maggie. It was a very nice balance of older established wonderful comedic actors and actresses, and then all of us coming up learning and watching.
8. Do you keep in touch with any of the cast?
I don’t unfortunately, life takes its courses doesn’t it, I haven’t come across them in work, I moved away from London, I don’t see any of them unfortunately, I occasionally hear about them you know.
9. Do you have a favourite memory and/or favourite episode?
I think the one I really liked was the cinema episode when Ivy and Dilys were in the toilets, you know they were waiting in the queue and all very excited and apprehensive because they’re going to put make up on. Obviously it was something they couldn’t do at home, they had to wait to go out, so they spent all the time talking about that they were going to put this make up on and it was all a massive thing. All the boys were there as well. So they go in to the toilets and they put the make up on of course and they’re all so nervous, because it was a big deal for girls to wear make up at that point, really daring, they’d probably never done that before. Of course then they go into the cinema and watch the film, and it’s sad isn’t it and they cry, and of course Ivy’s make up runs all over the place. I just thought that was a lovely episode and even the antics of Compo and all of that going on, and all of them being together, because there were a lot of scenes where we weren’t together, you know the girls did their scenes and the boys did their scenes, and then obviously they put it together all as one, but there weren’t many scenes where we were all playing together, the gypsy scenes obviously were and the cinema scenes, but apart from that it was more sort of the boys walking passed the girls and making comments, or the girls walking passed the boys and the boys making comments, you know. We didn’t have many scenes where we were all together but I did like that. And I mean the relationships between Ivy and Dilys was really lovely, and I just thought that was lovely because it was such a time of innocence, now girls wouldn’t think anything about putting make up on, but at that time to go out and put make up on, to sneak into the cinema and into the toilets to put it on, so I did like that episode. And also as Joanne mentioned we did have a lot of hilarity in the dance sequence with the tango, that was great fun. Yeah, it was nice when the girls were altogether, I really enjoyed those scenes as well. Yeah, so probably the cinema was my favourite one, yeah.
Although we rehearsed together, there were two camps really and it was nice when we all came together. The bikes, when we were all riding on the bikes, the gypsy fortune teller, that was great fun as well. We were all up on the moor, I can remember sitting in this very wet horrible weather in these caravans on the side of the moors, for hours on end, being silly and telling silly stories to try and pass the time. And it’s very true what they all said about being at The Huddersfield, we were all incredibly naughty and partied, we were very young and had a great time, and they were terribly nice with us and put up with us, they loved us being there and they were great fun and they really looked after us while we were there. I remember it as being a very nice time. I think we all felt quite honoured to be in such a big series, you know BBC period comedy and with the legacy of Roy Clarke and Last of the Summer Wine. I felt very privileged to be in it and I look back on it with great fondness, and it was nice to be up in Yorkshire as well because I haven’t been back to Yorkshire, Yorkshire I’d left when I was quite young and lived in London most of the time, so it was nice to go back up there and spend time up there, because I do have a big connection with that area and with Holmfirth particularly because of my father and grandfather, really nice.
I think it’s a very nice slice of life at that time of life in that area, it captures it really well. I think everyone would have liked it to carry on, it was only just the beginning of the war, that would have been a very interesting period to go through the Second World War and to see how that affected them, and that is very interesting because you would have seen how that area was affected and how young people at that time were affected. That’s possibly what could have happened to Sherbet, killed in the war and never came back, and that’s a story to be told, and of course Dilys married, so her husband might not have come back. I think there were lots of things that could have gone further really.
It was a shame they didn’t carry on, I think Roy Clarke quite believed in it. That often happens with television. A lot of people really liked it, there was a lot of feedback and a lot of fan mail from it, lots of people wrote letters in, they loved the countryside scenes, they loved all the things like Last of the Summer Wine, there was that extra bonus of having it during that time period and I think a lot of people loved that it was going back in time and was more gentle and more easy going than it was in Last of the Summer Wine. It got very good reviews when we did it. I got lots of letters from all over the place, it was very popular, shame really but as I say that’s what happens in the TV world.
10. What have you been doing since FOTSW ended?
Well I carried on acting for about another 15 years and I did lots of theatre and television. I went straight into another series which was written by Kay Mellor, who has got In The Club on at the moment, and has written The Syndicate and Band of Gold and Fat Friends, she’s written a lot of things. In her early days she wrote a series called Us and Them which was a bit like The Brady Bunch, about a big family of two people who marry who’ve both got four boys and four girls and I played the sister, I went straight into that and did three or four series. Kay Mellor was actually in that and I played her sister in that and that ran for quite a while and that was great. I did a lot of other bits and pieces of television, I did All Creatures Great and Small, I did The Comedy Playhouse, 2Point4 Children, I did lots of telly. I did lots of voiceover work, I worked on a lot of cartoons, doing the voices, I did one called Juniper Jungle which I did all the voices for. Quite a lot of theatre and then corporate videos, you know the usual things that you do. So that went on for another 15 years or so. I did also teach dance and drama and run a company called PACE, which was Performing Arts Company Education, in between doing lots of acting work and theatre and pantos and telly and what have you. And then I had after about 15 years, I had by that time three very small children so I sort of concentrated more on them and I stopped acting as much and I then, as they grew older, I have run a photographic company, which I run with my husband, we have studios and shops in Oxford, Cheltenham, London so we got quite into photography and photographic services and that kind of things, so the acting took more of a back seat, as my family got bigger as well, it had got more to do with that. But I did quite a lot of work after First of the Summer Wine, quite a few period dramas as well on the back of that and theatre things, kept quite busy, and then as I say the children took over and I started this company up. But it was very interesting to read about everybody else so that was lovely.
Many thanks to Sarah for providing this contribution and supporting the site.