COVER Joanna Lum­ley

With a new TV travel show just started and her first one-woman tour due to be­gin next month, Joanna Lum­ley re­veals why she’ll al­ways live life to the full

YOURS (UK) - - Inside - By Ali­son James

If it were pos­si­ble to bot­tle the essence of joie de vivre that Joanna Lum­ley ex­udes and we could all have a spritz from time to time, the world would be a bet­ter place. It’s a given that Ms Lum­ley is easy on the eye, but her beauty is far more than skin deep. She ra­di­ates such an aura of pos­i­tiv­ity, en­thu­si­asm and all-round good hu­mour that sit­ting next to her feels a bit like be­ing bathed in sun­light!

Our tete-a-tete is in or­der to chat about her new ITV four-part travel show, Joanna Lum­ley’s Silk Road. It’s her most am­bi­tious and challenging TV jour­ney to date as she fol­lows the path from Venice to Iran, a route taken by traders and mer­chants for hun­dreds of years as they brought goods from the East to the West – and vice versa. It’s the kind of trip that many 71-year-olds would shy away from but, if any­thing, Joanna seems to get more ad­ven­tur­ous with age.

“I feel it’s so im­por­tant to make ev­ery sin­gle minute count,” she says. “We all only have a cer­tain time on Earth. The first 20 or so years are taken up with grow­ing up, then there’s work and pos­si­bly rais­ing

a fam­ily. That doesn’t leave an aw­ful lot of time. That’s why you’ve got to ex­plore while you can. Be cu­ri­ous and also a bit brave. Meet dif­fer­ent kinds of peo­ple. It beg­gars be­lief what you end up dis­cov­er­ing and this can only en­rich your life. The kind­ness of the peo­ple I met took my breath away. You could send a four-year-old out to the coun­tries I vis­ited and I hon­estly be­lieve they would be looked after.”

Mak­ing this se­ries re­ally was a dream come true for Joanna. “It was my idea – and one I’d had for years,” she says. “In fact, it be­came some­thing of a mi­nor ob­ses­sion! Many years ago, my ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents trav­elled along the Silk Road as my grand­fa­ther was a diplo­mat. I wanted to fol­low in their foot­steps. We took in eight coun­tries – in­clud­ing Italy, Al­ba­nia, Turkey, Kaza­khstan, Uzbek­istan and Ta­jik­istan. That’s the most we’ve ever done. We were sup­posed to be go­ing from Venice to China, but then China re­fused to let us in. I don’t know why as we don’t make po­lit­i­cal pro­grammes, how­ever they pulled the plug. But Iran said yes. Fi­nally – after three years of us try­ing to get there.”

Did the coun­try for­merly known as Per­sia live up to ex­pec­ta­tions? “Ab­so­lutely,” she replies. “We were interested in the peo­ple not the pol­i­tics and ob­serv­ing how they live. The way the more dar­ing girls, for in­stance, throw a scarf over their hair rather than cover up their heads. That’s very brave when you con­sider that let­ting the scarf slip off may mean im­pris­on­ment.

“The his­tory of that part of the world is the his­tory of how we came to be. It is the cra­dle of civil­i­sa­tion. They were be­ing so­phis­ti­cated and el­e­gant and ahead of their time while we, in the West, were still paint­ing our faces.”

As a veg­e­tar­ian, Joanna was a lit­tle con­cerned about what she would be able to eat on the trip.

‘I had vi­sions of be­ing served up lots of boiled goat, but I was of­fered some of the best sal­ads I’ve ever tasted – the cu­cum­bers and toma­toes they grow are sim­ply de­li­cious, plus I dis­cov­ered that veg­gie dishes such as hou­mous, aubergines pastes and tzatziki are eaten more than meat. The breads were won­der­ful and bunches of fresh herbs were al­ways there to munch be­tween cour­ses to cleanse your pal­ette.”

Away from the Silk Road, Joanna’s about to em­bark on an­other ad­ven­ture closer to home. “For the first time, I’m about to em­bark on a 30-date one-woman show around the UK,” she en­thuses. “It’s called It’s All About Me. I’m so ex­cited by it.”

The first show kicks off at Belfast’s Wa­ter­front on Satur­day, Oc­to­ber 6 and fin­ishes at Northamp­ton’s Royal & Dern­gate on Fri­day, Novem­ber 9. In be­tween, there are shows in Glas­gow, Ed­in­burgh, Manch­ester, and at Lon­don’s Pal­la­dium.

“I’ve done the odd An Evening With… type of event for char­ity be­fore, but noth­ing like this,” Joanna adds. It was ac­tu­ally the idea of the pro­ducer of our travel pro­grammes, Clive Tul­loh. He said, ‘You never stop talk­ing – why don’t you do some­thing with it?’“So, what will she be talk­ing about? “Ev­ery­thing!” she laughs. “I’ve been in this busi­ness for 50 years. I mod­elled in the Six­ties, I’ve done Drac­ula, Pink Pan­ther and Bond movies, the Two Ron­nies, More­cambe and Wise, Sap­phire and Steele, The New Avengers and Ab­so­lutely Fab­u­lous, of course. I’ve writ­ten books and made travel pro­grammes. I’ve even been in Corona­tion Street.”

In­deed! We re­call her play­ing Elaine Perkins, the posh girl who nearly mar­ried Ken Bar­low in the Sev­en­ties!

“I love you!” she beams. “You re­mem­ber my char­ac­ter’s name! And how odd is it that I ac­tu­ally ended up mar­ry­ing a Bar­low in real life – my hus­band, Stephen? Dur­ing the first half of the show, I will be joined on stage by the lovely Clive Tul­loh who will be ask­ing me ques­tions and there will also be footage of some of the stuff I’ve done. In the sec­ond half, I’ll be an­swer­ing ques­tions from the au­di­ence. I can’t wait!”

Nei­ther can we!

■ Joanna Lum­ley’s silk road, starts on Itv, on Wed­nes­day septem­ber 12. For more de­tails about her uk tour, visit www. maid­well­mar­ket­ pro­duc­tions/joanna-lum­ley--it­sall-about-me

above, Joanna pic­tured dur­ing a brief spell in Cor­rie in 1973, left, in the New avengers and be­low left with Jennifer saun­ders in ab Fab

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