June from Gogglebox
TV celebrity and avid knitter, June Bernicoff, tells us about life with Leon
As founding cast members of BAFTA-winning TV show Gogglebox, Leon and June Bernico won the hearts of the nation with their warm humour and their obvious a ection for each other. In tribute to her much-loved husband, June has penned a book, Leon and June: Our Story, which look back at their 60 years together. Here, June tells us all about her wonderful marriage, her time on TV and her lifelong love of knitting.
We all know and love you from Gogglebox – tell us about your experience on TV
“Leon was a member of Liverpool Bridge Club, which he went to twice a week and thoroughly enjoyed. One day in 2012, a team of casting researchers came into the club looking for volunteers for a new Channel 4 programme. Of course, Leon was the first and only one to volunteer and he came home that day full of excitement and said, ‘June, we’re going to be on TV!’. I was somewhat sceptical, but two days later, a team came to our home to chat to us, and before we knew it, we were on a new show called Gogglebox. We found people really related to us – it showed the viewers that life doesn’t end in your sixties, seventies and eighties. It showed families and friends sitting down and watching television together as a unit, which turned out to be very popular with the viewers, and what we thought was just going to be a flirtation with television became four years of absolute pleasure.”
How did your wonderful relationship with Leon begin?
“Leon and I met at teacher training college in 1955. I was 18 and Leon was nearly 21. We always had a great sense of fun and enjoyed each other’s company. Leon was a very kind, generous, loving man. There were religious di erences in our families that brought its problems, but we overcame them and the value we both shared was family first – always. We had 63 wonderful years together.”
Why did you decide to write a book about you and Leon, and what can we expect from it?
“Writing a book about our love story and life together was something Leon always said he wanted to do so it seemed a very fitting tribute to him when I was asked to do it. From the book you’ll get an insight into our lives beyond the television screen, hopefully some interesting facts about each of us, maybe our philosophy of life, perhaps some laughter, and joy and possibly some tears.”
We’ve heard that you are a big fan of knitting – when did you first start?
“I began knitting when I was about five years old – I wanted to knit like my mother who was a fantastic knitter. She was never without a ball of wool and a pair of knitting needles. In my wardrobe now, I still have a full length aran coat that she made for me – it’s navy blue and still in great condition. I wore it a little while ago and
everybody was amazed. My mother was still knitting when she was 87 and partially sighted – she knitted a sweater for me to take to my daughter, Julie, who now lives in New Zealand.”
What do you love about knitting?
“Knitting is creative and very satisfying. It’s skilful and can be as simplistic or as complicated as you wish. I find it very satisfying to knit something from scratch – a ball of wool can be transformed into a garment. I knitted clothes for both my daughters and my three grandchildren. Julie, my second daughter, liked to knit and now, Frances, my 21-year-old granddaughter, has asked me to teach her to knit, so it’s a really nice thing to pass through the generations.”
Was knitting therapeutic for you after the passing of your husband?
“Yes, I did find it therapeutic. I did something very simple and knitted six-inch squares for baby blankets using very simple stitches.
My aim was to complete one or more square each evening, and gradually increase the amount over time. It’s for a charity that sends them to people in need.”
What’s your greatest knitting achievement?
“I made a sweater for each of my daughters when they were in their 20s that had a big black and white cat on the front, which looked like one of our family pets. The tail swirled round the back. The two sweaters took me about six weeks. I was very proud of them and Leon thought I was very clever. Leon didn’t normally like the sound of the knitting needles, but when I produced these two jumpers he was so delighted. I never knitted for Leon, but my mother did – she used to knit him aran sweaters to play golf in, with matching hats.”
Do you think it’s important that people still pick up needles and learn to knit?
“I think it’s important because it can develop motor skills in children, and for older people, it’s good to keep their fingers nimble. It’s creative and gives a great sense of satisfaction and achievement.”
Are you currently knitting anything?
“I’m still doing my baby blanket squares, but I plan to do some other knitting in the autumn. There’s a charity looking for baby hats and clothes to be knitted, so I plan to turn my needles to good use.”
What advice would you give others about helping to get through a time of grieving through knitting or another creative passion?
“I think the important thing is that you go out and meet people
– I think socialising is important. There are lots of knitting groups all over the country. You can ususally find them by asking at your local yarn shop or craft events . An important factor is keeping busy and not shutting yourself away. Aiming to do something each day. Knitting is good for that, because you can set yourself small, easily achievable targets to gain a sense of satisfaction.”
Are you planning on any more books or other knitting projects in the future?
“I tend not to plan too far ahead – often in life, opportunities present themselves, like Gogglebox and the book, so you never know what’s around the corner. Or I may decide to retire disgracefully!”
a “We always had fun” great sense of
Leon and June with the BAFTA they won for TV show, Gogglebox “Leon was a kind, generous, loving man – we enjoyed each other’s company” The couple spent a very happy 63 years together
June and Leon always put their family first
June knitted clothes for her children and grandchildren