News Column

Freedom of Borough... and to hang up dancing shoes too!

November 10, 2013


SHE foxtrotted her way to victory in Strictly Come Dancing... but North actress Jill Halfpenny admits she has hung up her dancing shoes.

Gateshead-born Jill - who was awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Gateshead this week - was crowned winner of the BBC 1 reality show in 2004.

But, while back in the North, the former Eastenders star admitted that she hadn't kept up her dancing.

She said: "I haven't kept up with the dancing.

On the show I had two years worth of training pushed into 12 weeks. When I finished I was happy to take off the dancing shows and let someone else have them."

Jill admitted to watching this year's show but said it was tough to call a winner.

She said: "Only in the past year or so I have stopped feeling sick when I hear the music. I used to feel so anxious when I heard the music but now I can watch it as a punter.

"This year is very difficult to call.

Natalie is the best dancer but when your top of the leader board each week with points it's difficult to see who people are voting for.

"You don't know until week three or four who is getting the votes. Abbey Clancy is an amazing dancer too and she could win or it might even be Dave Myers - it's so difficult to call."

Jill, a former St Edmund Champion RC School pupil, started her acting career in Byker Grove before going on to star in a number of popular TV series' including Coronation Street, EastEnders, Peak Practice and Waterloo Road. She is also a previous winner of BBC's Strictly Come Dancing. Jill has also enjoyed a highly successful career on the stage with roles ranging from panto-mime to West End productions, including Chicago, Abigail's Party, Calendar Girls and Legally Blonde. She is also an ambassador for the children's charity Kidscape. She has just finished filming for Danny Boyle's new police show 'Babylon'.

Jill with Darren Bennett on Strictly Come Dancing She said: "It's really exciting. It comes out in January and we will begin filming the second series in April.

"Danny Boyle was amazing to work with. He is such an enthusiastic man and is always full of energy. He was just inspiring to be with and infectious to be around. It was great fun to do the series and I loved it."

Jill, originally from Leam Lane, has been working and living in London after splitting from husband, actor Craig Conway, in a very amicable separation in 2010.

But she was happy to be back in the North. She said: "Craig and I are still quite close. We have a very amicable relationship and Harvey is the most important thing. Craig's doing great and I'm doing well and we just make the whole thing work."

Jill has become the 22nd person to receive the honour of being awarded the freedom of Gateshead, joining sportsmen Jonathan Edwards, Brendan Foster and Bob Moncur as well as businessman Sir John Hall and TV legend Mike Neville.

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