Clare Grogan: ‘I’m still waiting for the bubble to burst’

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Getty Images

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Clare Grogan has enjoyed a 40-year career in music, film and TV

To many Clare Grogan is and always will be Gregory’s Girl.

To others, she’s the Glaswegian teenager who burst on to Top of The Pops singing Happy Birthday.

In 2020, she wears a number of hats, and that’s what she credits for giving her a long career.

She says her 17-year-old self would never have believed she would be doing the same job at 57.

The actress, singer and presenter says she refuses to give in to age.

She said: “I like working, I love opportunity and I get a lot of opportunities despite choosing one of the most difficult businesses in the world.

“I just do my best and give my all to every job. That’s the way I was brought up and I think that’s why I’ve maintained a career of 40 years.”

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Grogan and Sinclair were a massive success in the 1981 film Gregory’s Girl

She added: “I absolutely refuse to give in to the age thing.

“There are less parts for women – that’s a fact. It is changing now, but I concerned myself with keeping myself grounded and enthusiastic and never really taking no for an answer.

“Part of it is hanging onto your own self-belief which is very difficult to do. But the fact that I diversified has really helped keep me working.

“I had bills and a mortgage to pay so I had to just look at what was being offered and go where I am wanted.”

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Terry Lott

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Altered Images achieved success when Clare was just 17 and she went on to marry band member Stephen Lironi (far right)

After worldwide success in the early 1980s with Altered Images and Gregory’s Girl, her tandem career of acting and singing took her from drama Skins to Red Dwarf, EastEnders, Waterloo Road and Still Game amongst others.

Her film credits include Bill Forsyth’s Comfort and Joy and The Wee Man and she has just finished filming Christmas movie Perfect Strangers due out in December.

She jokes: “It’s not like I’m going to get a proper job anytime soon – no one would have me.”

At the age of 57, Clare has just finished filming her first cooking show.

Corner Shop Cook Off will turn Gregory’s Girl into Gregory’s grill as it challenges chefs to whip up winning dinners from the shelves of local convenience stores.

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Clare Grogan and Gary Maclean take their corner shop cook off around Scotland

Masterchef: The Professionals winner Gary Maclean goes up against guest chefs to try to create the best three-course meal with £15 of food from the shop’s shelves.

Clare is well-placed to turn her hand to a cooking programme. Her husband is former Altered Images bandmate, music producer Stephen Lironi, who is also a successful restaurateur in London.

Processed peas

She found the process amusing.

She said: “The competitiveness of chefs is hilarious. The funniest thing for me was watching the chefs’ reactions when they walked into the corner shops.

“For them it’s all about great ingredients and produce and there they were faced with a tin of processed peas. I really loved that moment when it dawned on them that they were going to have to drum up something special with ingredients they would never use.

“You could really see the panic in their faces.”

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Clare Grogan is still keen to get on stage and sing the hits, 40 years after Altered Images had their first hit

This summer sees the return of Altered Images as Clare performs at Summer Nights at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove bandstand with fellow 80s singer Edwyn Collins.

She loves meeting up with musicians who lived similar experiences. She spent the early years rubbing shoulders and becoming close friends with bands such as Wham! and Spandau Ballet and was even named by Gary Kemp as the inspiration for their hit True.

Clare said: “It’s really interesting to me – all those years ago in the Top Of The Pops green room we wouldn’t make eye contact with each other, we were socially inept. Now it’s nice to get the chance to get to talk to people and not go bright red.

“We have all had this incredible shared experience. Most of us were so very young when we hit that first phase of fame. There is just that feeling that we all get it.”

Beyond nostalgia

And she likes to get out on the stage and relive all those moments with the audience.

“Who knows when the bubble will burst, but my shows are sold out and it is beyond nostalgia,” she said. “We do new songs, songs we love and for me I am just delighted that people still want to hear it.

“I look into the audience and they are mostly my peers – we are all music fans, we are all here for the same reason, to have a good time. Simple as that.”

Corner Shop Cook Off is on the BBC Scotland channel on Wednesday 19 February at 20:00 and afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.

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