Hi Gina, it's great to talk to you, thank you so much for giving us some of your time. Can you tell us what you were doing before you found yourself on the cobbles please?
Hi Christine, it's my pleasure. I have been a Butlins Redcoat and a Pontins Bluecoat, I started out as a dancer, although I have always sung too, and turned professional on 23rd May 1969. It was the best thing I have ever done. I have had the pleasure of working with some big names, just one was Morcambe and Wise, when I stood in as a compere for a friend, however she didn't tell me who the top of the bill was going to be.
That must have been a thrill, if a bit scary! Have you worked mostly in the UK?
During my career as a singer I have had the pleasure of working all over the world. I love the UK and have sung all over but the buzz you get working abroad is amazing...I have worked regularly in Spain and the canaries also Germany Austria and Italy The US and the Emirates ...Although most of the time it was wonderful, there have been times I would rather forget, and have had to call on Equity to get me home.
I love the song we are listening to now, it has the apt name of 'This is My Life'. If fans would like to hear more, there is another beautiful song HERE . Gina tells me she sang the latter one to her husband on their wedding day.
So you are a member of Equity, is that a requirement of turning professional?
If you wanted to do big shows or work abroad, being in equity was a condition of employment. But it was always the Northern clubs that brought me back home and that led me to work as an extra now called an SA (supporting artist) but I will always think of it as being an extra. A friend asked if I had thought of doing extra work, and I said quite honestly that they wouldn't want me. How wrong was I? I was introduced to Nigel Martin Smith and joined his agency, NEMESIS, and along with Coronation street I have done lots of productions.
Can you tell us some of the other productions you have worked on?
Too many to remember all, but there was 'Emmerdale', 'Prime Suspect', I played a nurse in 'First Amongst Equals', 'A&E', 'Doctors', and the infamous 'Big Babs' in 'Last of the Summer Wine', 'Band of Gold' as a 'Street walker', 'Albion Market', and loads more.
I have also been lucky enough to have done some photographic work for ads. One of the best would be the Tizer 'Refresh your head' campaign. I am pictured as a stern headmistress, and after a drink of Tizer I turn into 'Ginger spice'. They died my hair ginger for that, took me ages to get it out, and when I did a TV job on a program 'Going for Gold' they had to give me a hat to wear.
I also did a job for a central heating firm and the caption was 'How to refresh your old boiler' the picture was me and a very nice young man.
You have by now realized I get ALL the glam jobs...not....
Ha ha! Thank you for including the wonderful photo of yourself as 'Big Babs' (below), it will probably make my sister's day, as that was always her favourite show, so I am sure she will remember you. Thank you too for the Tizer and other ads, they are brilliant!
So have you been a part of Corrie for a long time?
I have been doing Corrie for many many years and have seen some of the nicest people come and go. Cast and extras, we are like a family and I love them all dearly. There is nothing better than arriving at Corrie on a bitterly cold morning, and being greeted by loads of laughter - wonderful.
Can you remember some of the storylines you have appeared in?
Its a bit hard to remember story lines from years ago but I have been fortunate to do a few weddings namely Les and Cilla's pretend wedding along with Status Quo. Liz and Vernon's,Tracy and Steve's, Rita and Dennis, plus Fred Elliot and Bev Unwin's non- wedding followed by Fred's funeral.
Wow! That's a lot of weddings, they must use you because you look great in hats! What other iconic episodes have you taken part in?
I have been lucky enough to be there for Hilda Ogdens leaving party, Ken and Mike Baldwin fighting in the Rovers, Maxine Peacock's death (Doreens 50th birthday party) and recently, Text Santa.
Now, getting away from Coronation Street for a minute, we really have to talk about another big interest you have, a little bird tells me you breed West Highland Terriers, my all time favourite breed of dog.
I have always had a love of animals, and sort of fell into breeding dogs. I got my first Westie in 1980 although I had had a Shetland sheepdog before but having done all the reading up about Westies I decided they were the dogs for me, and although I personally have had little success in the show ring, some of my puppies have, which is lovely.
I did however have the 1990 Siamese cat winner, as I started to breed Siamese. But my love of Westies has always brought me back to them. I am very proud of being a Kennel Club Accredited Breeder, a high honor indeed, and have always striven to take the breed forward. Some people think of these little dogs as yappy and bad tempered, but I can tell you categorically that it is a myth. I breed for temperament, and if you get a show ring winner, then that is a bonus... My pups are to the highest of standards as any of the people who have them will be happy to tell you.
What is the name of your company Gina? Plus I know I speak for many people out there, can we see some photos of your pups please?
It's called Mayclair Westies and I am more than happy to include some photos in my gallery below.
They are SO adorable. I urge all dog lovers to check out Gina's website, but I warn you - you will want one - or more than one!
Now, can we get a little personal? We mentioned above that you are married, can we talk about your husband?
Yes, I am married to John Groom, who is a star in his own right, doing 10 years playing a hard drinking, leather jacket wearing, pony tailed regular in the Jockey in Shameless.
He was in Episode one, and when the series ends he is in the very last episode. The last series is being shown here at the moment.
Really? So he's kind of like the William Roache of Shameless!
Not only is he a singer in his own right too, but is one of the best drummers ever, and was with headlining band Stack Waddy for years. You can hear some of their stuff on You Tube, he is the drummer. He also cruised as a drummer on the Royal Viking Star, cruising from San Francisco round Alaska and Canada with Dave Brubeck, Della Reese, and George Shearing.
That's great Gina, I have been listening to a few, what a great band!
Now, how about your children?
I have a daughter Paula, who is married and has two children, Madison and Jaxon . My son Chris and his wife also have two, Amy and Ryan, and they are expecting another boy any day now.
That's exciting, do they live nearby?
No, they live in Folkestone, Kent, where I understand you are originally from Christine?
Oh my goodness, yes I am! What a small world! Are you going down to see the new baby?
Absolutely! Nothing could keep me away.
I wish I could come with you - I really do!! I haven't been home for a couple of years.
Paula and Chris were both in Corrie and other productions when they were young, I have added a couple of photos of them to my gallery. One with a very famous and really lovely lady, and the other on the corner of the house, waiting to do their bit. Nice one of the crew! LOL!!
Those are great Gina, thank you for sending them! I bet there are a lot of kids out there who would love to do that job for a day. Never mind kids, there are a lot of adults I know who would kill for your job!
Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your life story with us, it has been both interesting and fun. From now on we are going to enjoy picking you out of the background and being able to put a name to you.