Jayne Tunnicliffe: From soap star to Street artist
If you’re from the UK, then I challenge you to look at Jayne Tunnicliffe’s artwork without smiling - especially if you’re a Coronation Street fan.
I first came across Jayne’s work on Twitter, when a grinning Hilda Ogden beamed up at me as I scrolled through the doom and gloom of Brexit posts.
For those of you not familiar with Hilda, she was one of the mainstays of a British soap opera called Coronation Street, which has been running since the 1960s. It was a must-see in my house when I was little (hey, who am I kidding? I watched it right up until I left the UK for Madrid and then followed it online. Hayley’s death had me in tears.)
Set in the North and with matriarchs such as Hilda, Bet Lynch, Annie Walker and Elsie Tanner running the show, Corrie was one of the most realistic TV shows for many years.
Consequently, when I saw this fantastic rendition of Hilda, obviously drawn by someone who loved the character as much as I did, I had to find out more so I pinged Jayne a DM. After all, she looked like a nice, friendly woman. Reminded me of someone…
Well, it only turned out that that was because she was in Corrie herself. I watched her just before we left for Spain, when she strutted the cobbles as Yana Lumb, the best mate of Cilla Battersby-Brown (Wendi Peters).
I’ve approached and talked to many celebs, but one from Corrie… I went all shy. I mean, Corrie is such an institution it’s like meeting royalty.
But Jayne proved to be as friendly and helpful as she appeared in her avatar and was more than happy to speak to 50Sense about following a creative career.
Jayne first got her break on The James Whale Radio Show – which was on the telly, natch – and has been a regular in many comedy shows, appearing with the likes of Lily Savage and Peter Kay, who she met along with his fellow Phoenix Nights writers Dave Spikey and Neil Fitzmaurice (Ray Von) on the Manchester comedy circuit in the 1990s, when she was ukulele-strumming stand-up Mary Unfaithful.
Now 51, she marries acting, writing and comedy with her art collections, creating colourful portraits of famous faces past and present. I particularly love the mugs (the Bette Davis one is my current favourite and the link Mr 50Sense is getting sent to him ahead of my birthday!)
Along with writing, drama was my love at school, but it felt like something a working-class girl like me could never do as a career (you can read how I ended up a journalist here). That’s why I find it so inspirational to see people like Jayne following their dreams and moving into visual arts.
Here, she tells me more about her career, the ups and downs of a creative life – and what the Corrie stars think of her work…
Tell us about yourself…
I was born in Saltaire, West Yorkshire, and grew up in the Bingley area – a little market town between Bradford and Haworth surrounded by beautiful countryside. I spent my art student years in 1980s Liverpool and then I lived in Manchester for eight years in the Noughties. Now I now live in North Yorkshire, surrounded by my lovely friends and family, and combine running my art and craft businesses – Crafted Creatures and Voodooville – with acting and writing.
I was last seen on screen last year, in the BBC’s Moving On and before that in the film Funny Cow with Maxine Peake, but I'm perhaps best known for playing Yana in Coronation Street between 2004 and 2007.
I’ve also appeared in That Peter Kay Thing and Phoenix Nights, when I played reporter Debra Quinn, who interviews Brian Potter while Half a Shilling are singing Send the Buggers Back in the Phoenix Club.
And I’ve acted in Clocking Off, written and appeared in two series of Lily Live as one of Lily Savage’s sidekicks, went on to tour with Phil Cool and gigged with Lonnie Donegan, Little and Large, Labi Siffre, Steve Coogan, Les Dennis, Margi Clarke, Lee Evans, Steve Coogan, Jo Brand, Peter Kay, Jason Manford, Lee Mack, Johnny Vegas…
How did you move into art?
I’ve always drawn and painted. I have a BA Hons in art and along the way I’ve added other creative skills like sewing into my repertoire.
My current ventures are mainly celebrity portraits and faux taxidermy – non celebrity!
I have international buyers and love making art and sculptures for people. No two days are ever the same.
Can you remember your first portrait?
The first person I drew or painted would have been John Lennon. I was a teenage Beatles fan!
What do your former Coronation Street co-stars think of your work?
I had an exhibition of Corrie-inspired paintings in Manchester in 2006 and it was attended by a few cast members, including Wendi Peters and David Neilson, and also the creator, Tony Warren. Plus Suranne Jones, who played Karen McDonald, has my painting of Steve and Karen McDonald in her kitchen.
Away from the show, Paul O’Grady – Lily Savage – has bought my painting of Bet Lynch, as well as paintings of Diana Dors and Tara King from The Avengers.
Count Arthur Strong, Tony Maudsley (Mr Kenneth in Benidorm), John Challis (Boycie in Only Fools and Horses) and DJ Sara Cox have also bought art or mugs from me.
Whose mug do you drink your tea out of?
I drink my tea out of a mug that has my portrait of Laurence Olivier as Archie Rice in The Entertainer on it.
Many people are put off a creative career as they think it’s unstable. What do you think?
Pursuing a creative career can be quite a rollercoaster and at times I’ve done various day jobs along the way to supplement my earnings. But I also managed to buy my first property with my earnings from writing and acting in Lily Live, so I truly believe the saying: Do what you love and the money will follow.
I thank my lucky stars every day that I'm not trapped in a job I hate. I love the autonomy of being a freelancer – and it's probably no more insecure these days than working in a bank or a supermarket.
It will probably sound cheesy, but I can't imagine my life without creativity in it.
Who’s face would you like on your mug? Let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to like and subscribe and pass on Jayne’s story to your friends.