The entertainer - Grimsargh's Helen Longworth

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A MULTI talented actor, singer and musician from Grimsargh is leaving no stone unturned in a varied and successful career.

As was revealed to fans of the Archers in last week's Longridge News, 32-year-old Helen Longworth is currently the voice behind 'pig lady' Hannah in Radio 4's popular farming soap; absolutely loves radio and live theatre; has appeared on television and sings with upcoming Lancaster-based rock band 'Heroes of She', alongside former Madness and Selector keyboard player James Mackie.

But how has Helen achieved her success to date? It hasn't always been easy and she once had to work as a telephone debt collector to pay her way!

"You have to really stick with it, but what I have also tried to do, particularly for the last two to three years, is to try and get more strings to my bow.

"The more strings you have to your bow, the more employable you are," says the hard working actor who relishes fresh challenges - be it directing the sellout Christmas musical miscellany at Lancaster Castle which finished on Sunday, taking up a further musical instrument or working in schools.

Another factor behind Helen's success, she says, has been the steadfast support from family and friends, in particular her parents, James and Kath.

Many will know Kath through her long association with amateur theatrical society Grimsargh Players and Longridge-based costume agency Dress Circle.

Helen - a former pupil of Grimsargh St Michael's, Longridge High and Clitheroe Grammar schools - first appeared on stage with Grimsargh Players - who nurtured her talents - as a 12-year-old in 'The Crucible'.

"This gave me a real love for theatre," says Helen, adding that in those days there wasn't much on offer drama wise in schools - something she has been delighted to discover has now changed.

On leaving school with 'A' levels in history, French and English literature, Helen took the plunge and went to study theatre, film and television at Aberystwyth University from where she auditioned for and won a coveted place at RADA - recalling three gruelling auditions and massive competition.

She was also awarded a Cameron Mackintosh scholarship to cover costs and although RADA meant a further three years of study, Helen says it was too good an opportunity to miss.

"It was a great, all round course and covered all sorts of things," she says, recalling learning sword dancing one minute and flamenco the next. There was also experience of live theatre, radio and television - learning from the start that you never know on which skills you might later be required to call.

At RADA, Helen won a Carlton Hobbs award which paved her way into radio, enabling her to work with the BBC's Radio Drama Repertory Company.

She describes this as "a fantastic opportunity" which saw her working alongside actors of all ages, making up the casts for radio plays, mainly on Radio 4. Her contract was also extended from six to 12 months and she has continued with her radio work over the years, enjoying the many characters - and accents - she has had to portray.

But determined to leave no stone unturned in her career, Helen branched out into her passion for live theatre.

Theatre

She has performed in Shakespeare productions at Hoghton Tower and Lancaster Castle and joined Penrith-based touring theatre group, Quondam, a company dedicated to new theatre and encouraging people to participate in the performing arts.

Whether in village halls or urban theatres, Helen has travelled all over the country with Quondam, also working in secondary schools, which she thoroughly enjoys, also making use of her musical talents - which include singing and playing the flute, guitar, and more recently the ukulele.

Opportunities to appear on television have also arisen and included parts on Heartbeat, Hollyoaks and Emmerdale.

Meanwhile, Helen's role in the Archers continues and there has been much speculation on the internet as to a romantic involvement between feisty Hannah and one of the other characters.

Recordings have already been made into January, but Helen remains tight lipped as to how the tale progresses. She is also due to record another play for the radio in January.

Finally, Helen will be starting an eight-week tour with 'Heroes of She' - who recently released the single 'Don't Love Me' - in January, with venues booked in Manchester and London.

Enjoying each new challenge, the new year bodes well for Helen, who describes it as "all very exciting".