Actress Sarah Parish has a busy morning. I meet her at home, just outside Winchester, where she’s sporting gym gear, without make-up, and clutching a take-out coffee from Caracoli yet still managing to look effortlessly stylish. She’s just come back from a planning meeting at No.5 Bridge Street, where she’s hosting a charity dinner, and is full of apologies for being five minutes late.
Actor husband James Murray, who first met Sarah on the set of Cutting It, is home too, on a break from a three-part TV series, while Sarah’s on a breather from a post-war period drama about a Parisian fashion house for Amazon Prime.
“I play an American heiress and it’s all rather glamorous, with wonderful costumes too,” she says. “Over the years I’ve done a lot of very unglam parts, so it’s nice to be able to get all dressed up.”
Sarah kicked off her career with a Bodington’s advert as northern Vera who liked nothing better than ‘a good rub down with chip fat’. Fame led to a series of roles as northern women, including Dawn Rudge in Peak Practice, Allie Henshall in Cutting It and Natalie Holden in Blackpool.
“I was brought up in Yeovil, so I didn’t have a northern bone in my body,” Sarah says with a smile. “But it was a time when Britpop was taking off and cities like Manchester were reinventing themselves, so being able to convince as a northerner was a definite plus.”
Since then TV roles have included GP Katie Roden in Mistresses, Lady Catrina in Merlin, Jenny Bremner in Monroe and evil queen Pasiphaë in Atlantis.
Away from the cameras life at home is very ‘normal’ she tells me. “I don’t get stopped in the streets of Winchester for autographs, and Jim and I aren’t fans of glitzy London celebrity events, so we live a fairly quiet life.”
The couple’s daughter, Nell, goes to the local primary, James has developed a passion for fly fishing and Sarah can regularly be found shopping in Winchester. The Bush in Ovington is a family favourite for a pub outing.
When they’re home, Sarah and James dedicate free time to The Murray Parish Trust, which was set up following the death of their daughter, Ella-Jayne, who died of congenital heart failure in 2009.
“We raise money for the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at Southampton General Hospital, where Ella-Jayne was cared for,” Sarah says. “It’s an incredible unit that saves hundreds of young lives every year. Setting up the charity helped us turn the pain of losing a child into something good.”
Today’s meeting at No.5 Bridge Street was with the management of Ideal Collection, a collective of pubs, bars and restaurants around Hampshire: the company is supporting the trust not only with fund-raising events but also with a donation from each bottle of New Forest Spring Water and every children’s meal sold.
“It’s important to us that we’re really hands-on with the trust,” Sarah says. “If we can save lives through fund-raising, that’s something we can be really proud of for Ella-Jayne. In that way she’s with us in everything we do.”
Support the The Murray Parish Trust this summer at Graze Festival, a boutique music festival in Twyford, Winchester.