Nothing altered about the image of Clare Grogan on stage
With 33 years in ‘the business’ under her belt, Clare Grogan has spent much of her adult life either on screen or on stage.
Depending on who you talk to, Clare is best known as Shelley, the mother of Mini McGuinness in ‘Skins’, Dave Lister’s would-be love-interest Kristine Kochanski in ‘Red Dwarf’ or for her breakthrough role as Susan from the classic 80’s movie, ‘Gregory’s Girl’.
But a legion of youngsters are becoming fans of her Altered Image persona as she tours the country with fellow 80’s alumni.
Clare, who lives in London with her husband and eight-year-old daughter will appear as part of ‘The 80’s Strikes Back’ at Lytham Proms on August 2 alongside Heaven 17, Tony Hadley, Jason Donovan and Sonya amongst others.
And she can’t wait.
“When I first went back to doing these shows I hadn’t been near the Altered Images songs in 18 years and at first I didn’t know if I could do it.
“Kim Wilde played her part in it though.
“ She said, “You’re going to find that you still have a hint of that lead singer ego and you’re going enjoy having it massaged by 10’000 people sing your songs back to you” and do you know what? She was so right , it’s lovely and so unexpected.”
Clare admits that back in the 1980s music was labelled as kind of flimsy, disposable pop but argues they’ve stood the test of time.
She says; “There’s a huge element of nostalgia in these shows for all of us but in the audience there are lots of young people.
“Mums and dads are bringing their kids which automatically creates a new audience, everybody is having a good time.
“When people ask me to describe the show I say it’s a cross between a school disco, friends reunited and the best episode of Top of The Pops.
“This sounds a bit corny to say but I feel such a big connection with the audience, much more so that when I was younger because I know what we’ve all been through.
“Nowadays we all have a big desire to be 18 again and just have that rush of memory that all these songs bring to you - it’s pure escapism”.
Though she has spent much of her life in the limelight, Clare has never gotten used to fame.
“It is quite weird to talk about yourself endlessly in interviews but I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s odd, but you get used to it.
“You’d have to ask my friends but I see myself as quite a friendly person and I’m quite approachable so quite often I can be standing doing my shopping and people will come and talk to me,
“Sometimes they recognise me for the smallest of things , I did a documentary on running for Radio 4 and the number of people who came up to me to speak to me about that it was really extraordinary.
“I just thought to myself, so that’s what everybody does on a Saturday morning - listens to Radio 4?!”
Clare admits to still being surprised that anyone wants to employ her she still tries to balance her work life and home life as best she can.
“Last weekend was my daughter’s school fete so I volunteered at that.
“For the last five weekends in a row I’ve been away doing shows at lovely outdoor events so it was my first weekend off in a while.”
Clare continues, “I have a tendency to miss a lot of things like school fetes and, as most working mothers know, it’s torturous missing stuff like that.
“This year I’ve reigned things in a bit because last year and the year before I was incredibly busy.
“We’re based in London but I was filming skins in Bristol, and Waterloo Road in Glasgow, every job I got seemed to be away from home and for all us working mums it’s tough anyway but when you have to relocate to another city and you have an eight-year-old you just have to prioritise.
“When my daughter was younger I could kind of get away with it; I missed her more than she missed me, but these are all nice problems to have though so we just try and make the most of it.
“There’s no ideal to it, you just kind of muddle through and hope for the best that no one comes to any real harm.”
Clare shot to fame as a 19-year-old in the 1981 film, ‘Gregory’s Girl’ and instantly became a pin up for young boys up and down the country.
Though the roles offered to Clare nowadays are, let’s say, a little more mature, they’re nonetheless pin-up worthy, as her role in cult teen series, ‘Skins’ revealed.
“I played one of the lead character’s mums and she was a delight, the whole young cast are very funny and lovely it’s such a great series and when I got approached to do it I was delighted to be part of it.
“Had I known at the beginning of my relationship with them that they would eventually persuade me to wear a small cushion only as a costume I might not have said yes but that’s what Skins does to you, they just try and push you.
“It’s funny when you get to my age you don’t really care that much, you’re not as precious about all these things.
“I would never have done that when I was younger but now I’m 50 I just think it’s a laugh.”
As well as the entertainment side of her life, Clare is one of the patrons for British Association of Adoption and Fostering, a role very close to her heart.
“Last night I was hosting an event with hairdresser Andrew Barton, who is also one of the patrons so we had posh night auctioning lots of handbags for the charity which was a lot of fun.
“I’m really proud to be a patron, it’s an amazing organisation and I’m not serious that often but I go around the country and talk to people about adoption because it’s staggering the amount of children in care in the UK.
“At any one time there are 100,000 children in care and I just find that so depressing.
“I know that there’s people out there who would love to help with that so it’s about encouraging them to pick up the phone.
“I wouldn’t be a mum without adoption so I owe it a lot, it’s given me the greatest pleasure in my life.
“I think there is a slight fear of the unknown.
“I was a bit naïve about adoption before I started the whole process, you almost can’t imagine that it will happen that you will find a child that will become completely yours.
“I’m quite a private person but it’s made all the difference to my life - I feel quite evangelical about it at times.
“Very occasionally people will say to me are you not a bit sad you didn’t have your own children?
“I just tell them my daughter is my own child we just arrived to each other via a different route and I wouldn’t be a mum without it.”
Back on the road, Clare is just a big a fan of the acts on the tour as people are of her.
“When I was younger I was a massive Heaven 17 fan so it’s great to stand at the side of the stage and sing along.
“We’re all at the side of the stage for everybody, there’s a really great support network, we want to put on a brilliant show and part of that is applauding each other.
“There’s a lot of loved up vibes going on backstage - as corny as that sounds!”
With the majority of the music played during the show present at most of the audience’s key life moments such as birthday parties and weddings, Clare says it is a privilege to be part of.
“It’s kind of the sound track to people’s lives and being part of that is a privilege.
“You see it in the faces of the audiences, they remember what the songs meant to them and it’s a lovely thing to witness.
“Its really funny when we all stay at the same hotel particularly if there’s a wedding on and they’re all dancing to our songs, we really do have a nice time together, there’s no rivalry, we’ve all grown out of it.”
And her daughter looks like she may have caught the bug too.
Clare adds, “My daughter absolutely loves watching me on stage, she always wants to come on stage with me.
“I’ve done my best to protect her from it but she likes to do it though when she actually gets on stage she just freezes which puts me in a dilemma - do I carry on with my song as a professional singer or do I comfort my daughter as her mum who is now coming out in hives because she’s suddenly confronted with 10,00 people who collectively let out an ‘ahhhhh’ as she walks on stage?”
Clare has no plans to hang up her microphone just yet but with a new one off drama for Sky Atlantic airing later this year, the acting side may just win out.
“Acting was always my first love and singing is just a fantastic hobby that has worked out rather lucrative for me so I work hard at it,
“I know how tough this business is so to be given the opportunity to present shows and act in great dramas just makes me really chuffed.”