A star of stage and screen is to ring a milestone birthday today surrounded by family and friends.
Jean Southern , who turns 90 today retired from acting a number of years ago, but remains active, regularly catching up with her thespian pals.
She is best known to viewers after popping up as the Food Trolley Lady in the first Harry Potter film, as well as roles in Our Friends in the North, BBC children’s programme Byker Grove and five different screen adaptations of books by South Tyneside author Catherine Cookson.
Despite appearing in such well-known productions, the great-great-grandmother credits the Gazette with helping to spark her passion for performance.
Jean, of East Stevenson Street, South Shields, said: “It all started for me with the Shields Gazette Smiler Club if I’m honest.
“I began performing when I was five and by six I was up on stage as part of the Happy Go Luckies group.
“I can say we were the best concert party in South Shields.” As well as taking in work in east Africa during her career, Jean appeared on the same bill as the likes of legendary comedian Bobby Thompson at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal.
She is also well-known in South Tyneside for playing one of the three OAPs in the Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood play Dirty Dusting and joined with the other two ladies – Helen Russell and Gwen Doran – to form Angels Of The North.
Asked about what her personal career highlights are, Jean says she finds it hard to look past appearing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and sharing the screen with the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson as their three characters made the journey to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
“It was like another world being in Harry Potter, just fantastic,” added Jean, mum to Margaret, 72, and Doreen, 60.
“And I don’t think anybody thought it would be as big as it was even though the books had done well before the films.
“I think it took everybody by surprise.”
Jean is celebrating turning 90 with a party at the Customs House tomorrow, from noon until 4pm.
“It’ll be good to meet some people I haven’t seen in a while and I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.
“I’ve got about 60 people coming so it will be a canny do I’m sure.”