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Actress Julie Graham on life in Sussex

PUBLISHED: 16:56 19 July 2016 | UPDATED: 17:02 19 July 2016

Julie Graham © Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Julie Graham © Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Copyright (c) 2016 Rex Features. No use without permission.

The Scottish actress Julie Graham has lived in Brighton for almost 20 years. She recently returned to our screens as matriarch Sheron Dawson in Benidorm but in real life camping is more her style, as Nione Meakin discovers

When Julie Graham first moved to Brighton, she only knew one person. Almost 20 years later, the Glaswegian actress is so attached to the city she’ll happily withstand family teasing about becoming a southern softie. “It’s true,” she laughs. “I get cold when I go back to Scotland now.”

A fixture of TV dramas including Doc Martin, New Tricks and Midsomer Murders, the 50-year-old recently joined ITV’s gloriously camp comedy Benidorm as harassed mother Sheron Dawson and is currently filming the ninth series on the Costa del Sol. Despite the conspicuous absence of the sol – “It’s raining, if you can believe it” – Julie is having a blast with her fellow cast members, many of whom have quickly become good friends. “Tony [Maudsley, who plays hairdresser Kenneth] recently did Hairspray at Theatre Royal Brighton, which was a hoot. I went to see the show twice and got to hang out with him every day.” Still, she’s looking forward to getting back to Sussex and her home in Queens Park, where she lives with children Edie, 12, Cyd, 10, and the family dog, a border terrier called Striker who likes nothing better than long walks on the beach in nearby Kemp Town. “We all love going for long walks,” says Graham. “We’ll often head over to Ditchling or visit a friend who lives near East Dean and head to The Tiger for lunch. A Sunday roast and a log fire is my idea of heaven. If we’re not at The Tiger, we’re often at The Ram in Firle or The Bull & Pump near Middle Farm.”

Home also means a catch-up with friends, including journalist Julie Burchill, who Graham even managed to sneak in as an extra on Benidorm. They met in 2014 when Burchill organised End Of, a fundraiser for Sussex domestic abuse charity RISE that also featured Caitlin Moran, Suzanne Moore and Alison Moyet. The pair immediately clicked and they now see each other “as often as possible” – usually over long, boozy lunches. “I love the buzz of The Dorset on Gardner Street, which does a great Bloody Mary, and there are some great pubs in Hanover of course, especially The Hartington.”

RISE isn’t the only local charity to which Graham has lent her support. She’s one of several famous faces to have contributed artwork to Chestnut Tree House’s Big Heart art auction after getting involved with the Arundel children’s hospice around a decade ago. “I’ve always been so blown away and moved by what they do,” she explains. “As well as supporting children who are dying and have life-limiting diseases, they also support the families who are left behind, which is so vital. I’m not much of an artist but many of the others involved in the auction are, and we’re hopeful it will raise significant funds for a very important charity.”

In the next few months, Graham can be seen in the three-part BBC thriller One Of Us before a summer she intends to spend touring with the kids in their campervan (the WoWo campsite near Uckfield is a favourite haunt) and swimming in the sea – not such a softie, after all.

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