Sarah Manners took a step back from acting to focus on being a parent until a very special job about a very special man proved too good a role to turn down
Lovely Brummie Sarah Manners of The Bill, Casualty and Doctors fame as well as Circles by Rachel De La Hay, now lives in London with her other half and their daughter. While she is relishing spending time with her little girl ‘just being a mum’ and doesn’t want to miss a thing, there are certain jobs she finds hard to turn down.
A remarkable short film documenting Birmingham legend ‘Blind Dave’ Heeley’s mammoth effort to run seven marathons across seven continents in seven days to raise funds for charity was one of those. Called 7 Days: The Story of ‘Blind Dave’ Heeley produced by another Brummie, Nigel Martin Davey at Pixel Revolution Films and directed by Ian and Dominic Higgins, the film has been gaining a lot of love from the industry picking up numerous awards at festivals in Europe and the US.
Sarah plays Dave’s wife Debbie Heeley and says taking on the role was a no-brainer. She says: “I was so happy to do this. What an amazing man. He does things that most able-bodied people can’t.” Sarah got to know Dave’s family including his ‘lovely’ daughters and was staggered by his story. “Not many people know that as well as raising a huge amount of money for charity, Dave’s a genius at woodwork. He actually uses a circular saw and builds things, blind! It’s astonishing.”
The 45-minute film is a true story of grit and determination starring Jack Lane and Robert Harrison alongside Sarah and premiered in April. A screening at Dave’s beloved West Bromwich Albion – his marathon effort raised funds for the club’s Albion Foundation – was a success.
Dave says: “This doesn’t happen to people like me, I still can’t get my head around it. I feel very privileged that Nige and the team thought about covering my story. It’s still a dream, a lovely dream at that.” Sarah never expected the film to win awards, so that’s a very nice bonus.
While Sarah’s picky with projects and says she never wants a nanny, she would interrupt her mothering duties for another job should it be offered. Her dream gig The Archers. “It’s such an institution and would allow me to pop home and see the folks regularly!” When Sarah’s in the Midlands there’s plenty of family to catch up with. “I’m one of four children and all the rest of the family still live in the area. There’s nothing we like better than going for a lovely walk on Lickey Hills or for a meal in the local villages.”
A former Blue Coat and King Edward’s Grammar School for Girls pupil, Birmingham still has a certain pull for Sarah and she says it’s the people she loves the most about the place. “I come away thinking how nice everyone is.” In contrast she feels people get the wrong idea about London where she’s lived since 1993.
“Yes, the Tube is cramped and horrible and everyone is squeezed in, but there are pockets of London that are great and Central London is walkable which gives a different perspective.” She adds: “I’ve just done a photo-shoot in Bermondsey which was very un-London-like. Warm and friendly with everyone chatting.”
REALITY OF TV
The reality of a regular acting job, let’s say on The Bill would mean a one-and-a-half-hour trip from one end of the Tube to the other and getting home at around 7.30pm. Sarah explains: “I want my daughter to have a normal upbringing. I’m very happy to dip in and out of acting, but she’s my priority.”
Sarah puts her grounded attitude down to being a Brummie. She’s retrained as a pilates teacher which gives her flexibility to work around motherhood and which she credits with her positive outlook.
“I think being fit and taking an interest in fitness makes you a more positive and rounded person,” she explained. “That’s where the pilates comes in. Looking back, I think I would love to have been a physiotherapist actually…”