Gaynor Faye joins Christine Talbot, Rachel Peru, Bernadette Gledhill and Annie Stirk at Goldsborough Hall to find their Midlife Magic
It began with a coffee date, four friends catching up, and talking, as friends do, about what was going on in each of their worlds, as women at different stages of midlife and facing the wide variety of challenges it brings.
As these friends - Rachel Peru, Bernadette Gledhill, Annie Stirk and Christine Talbot - shared with and supported each other, they realised that what they were experiencing was a kind of magic - the magic of female friendship.
A seed was planted, and earlier this month it bloomed when together they hosted the first Find Your Midlife Magic event at Goldsborough Hall, near Knaresborough, where more than 100 women aged 45 to 90 gathered to take part in a day all about navigating and enjoying midlife years and its after-years, covering health and wellbeing, style and hair, grief, confidence and meeting life’s challenges.
“One thing we are all united in is refusing to be told who we should be and what box we should fit in, just because of what society expects, because of the date on our birth certificate,” said Christine in the welcome address.
The first special guests to be introduced to the audience were the winners of a makeover competition run with the Yorkshire Post. Becky Capstick, 53, a farmer and estate administrator from near York, shared that she felt lost, style-wise. “My uniform is jeans and T-shirts, and that’s it. To come out today or to go to the Great Yorkshire Show is a huge event for us.” Her daughter Emily moves to New York this month, and Becky said felt daunted at the prospect of visiting her there, because of her appearance.
Winner Linda Thompson, 69, from Wakefield, a retired occupational therapist who wanted a new look for her 70th birthday and Golden Wedding anniversary next year. She saved the life of her husband, Malcolm, with CPR when he collapsed seven years ago - he made a full recovery. “I tend to dress down,” she said. “You’re a mum, grandma, you just get to the bottom of the pecking order, and sometimes I think they just forget who we are.”
Both were whisked away to be transformed by celebrity hair stylist Andrew Barton and fellow British Hairdresser of the Year winner Robert Eaton of Russell Eaton in Leeds, with clothes and make up by Chris Hartley and the style team at John Lewis & Partners in Leeds. Andrew and Robert answered audience questions about mid-life hair challenges. “Hair is a part of a woman's identity. Your hair should be bespoke to you,” said Andrew. “The amount of times that a woman has sat in my chair and I’ve said come back in six month's time when it’s a little bit longer.”
Robert said: “Think about colour placement, the products that you use and the shape - there are all sorts of things you can do with colour to enhance that - deeper sections can encourage the shape to look thicker and healthier.”
Other guests included motivational speaker Lisa Clifford on being unstoppable, and campaigner Manraj Sanghera who told how grief following her son’s death made her change direction.
Dr Jane Gilbert talked about health, ageing and the menopause, including the issue of some women being offered antidepressants rather than HRT. “Menopause can affect your cognition, it causes brain fog, anxiety, sleeplessness, and that’s while we are struggling with adolescent or early 20s kids or parents who are ill, so it’s a lot, and it can really affect your self confidence,” she said. Women, she added, were blaming themselves rather than asking their doctors why they were not following up-to-date guidelines.
Actor Gaynor Faye, who recently appeared in Channel 5’s The Inheritance, spoke for the first time publicly about life after the sudden death of her mother, screen and stage writer Kay Mellor, who first rose to fame with drama series Band of Gold. “It was always about giving those people a voice that did not have a voice, and women in particular, working class women - and still is,” Gaynor said.
She is continuing the legacy Rollem, the production company founded by her mother, and plans to take The Syndicate on a stage tour next year.
There was a raffle, with a prize including a break at the Casale San Pietro, a wellbeing retreat and boutique hotel run by Yorkshire couple Alana and Joe Mazza. It raised £1,420 for the Little Princess Trust.
At a panel with the four friends themselves, Rachel shared her story of becoming a model aged 46, after modelling at the Ilkley Macmillan fashion shows, then being signed by a London agency, taking assignments across the world.
Annie told how, as a home economics teacher, she began hosting food slots on Radio York, found herself working on ITV’s This Morning, formed a food PR company, retired at 67 and then began a new career as a model. She said: “There will be a point in your life when there is a this way or that way, and you will find that you have a strong gut feeling - and it doesn't matter what age you are.”
Bernadette talked about her life as a model until her late 30s and her continuing work producing events such as the Great Yorkshire Show catwalks. She spoke movingly too about the death of her husband, Robert, last year, and how work and friendship have been her support.
Christine, who told of her anxiety in the run-up to her decision to leave ITV Calendar, said: “We are real women. I know it all sounds very glamorous, models and TV presenters, but we are in the same boat.”
The finale was the makeover reveal of Becky and Linda, who both said they had found new confidence. Becky said: “I feel 20 years younger, and I can see myself again.” Linda added: “I’ve made friends for life. Age is just a number and I’m refusing to be told what I should be and look like.”
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