Birds of a Feather star and Loose Women panellist Linda Robson celebrates 50 years in showbusiness and her 60th birthday in March. Here, Linda talks about her life, career and hopes for the future...

Birds of a Feather star and Loose Women panellist Linda Robson on 50 years in showbusiness and reaching the big 6-0…

Best known for playing Tracey Stubbs in the sitcom Birds of a Feather and, more recently, for being a panellist on ITV’s daytime chat-fest Loose Women, Linda Robson celebrates a whopping 50 years in showbusiness this year.

“I can’t believe it, 50 years is such a long time but it’s been fun,” says Linda, who’s gearing up for another significant milestone this year as she celebrates her 60th birthday on March 13th. “I’m still working and still happy and healthy – I feel better than I have done for a long time.”

Here, Linda talks exclusively to TV Times about her career, family and friends, and looks ahead to what the future might have in store…

So, how are you feeling about turning 60?

“I feel good actually. I stopped drinking, cut out sugar and I’ve been going to Barry’s Bootcamp twice a week and I’ve lost weight. A few years back I climbed Ben Nevis and, recently, I went swimming with sharks in Miami. If you’d told me I’d be doing these things at nearly 60 I’d never have believed it. I feel like I’m in my prime.”

Birds Linda Pauline Lesley

Linda alongside her fellow ‘Birds’: Pauline Quirke (left) and Lesley Joseph (centre)

Are you having a big birthday bash?

“Yes. My kids have organised a big party for me at a venue in London. All my close family will be there and I’ve also got about 40 relatives coming over from Ireland. Pauline Quirke will be away and Lesley Joseph [Linda’s Birds of a Feather co-stars] is doing Young Frankenstein in the West End but she’s hoping to come along after that night’s show, and I know a lot of the Loose Women will be coming, too.”

What about a present? Is there anything you’ve asked for?

“I’ve always wanted to go to the Italian island of Sardinia, so that’s still on the list. And, I know it sounds silly, but I’ve always disliked my neck. I put a picture up on Instagram the other day and someone said my neck looked like, er, part of the ‘female anatomy’! So in the next year I might look at having laser surgery.”

The Loose Women will be celebrating your birthday and career on the show on Friday March 9. Do you know what will be involved?

“I know they’ve got something quite dangerous but exciting lined up for me. I do know what it is and I can’t say – but I did agree to it!”

Linda having fun on Loose Women

You started acting at the tender age of 10. What gave you the acting bug?

“I went to Ecclesbourne Primary School in Islington, which is where I met Pauline, and we started going to a drama club run by Anna Scher. Martin and Gary Kemp, Phil Daniels and several others also went there. We started off making films for the Children’s Film Foundation and then Pauline got her own show, Pauline’s Quirkes, and I was in that. It was like a magazine show and we’d do sketches and have a different pop group on every week.”

When would you say your big break came?

“I’d say my big break was playing Maggie on Shine on Harvey Moon. The writers on that show, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, liked the on-screen chemistry between myself and Pauline and came up with the idea for a sitcom featuring two sisters, Sharon and Tracey: one lived in a high-rise in Edmonton and one lived in a million pound house in Chigwell. Pauline immediately said: ‘I know which one I am!’ Then we met Lesley, who was to play their man-eating neighbour Dorien, and Birds of a Feather was born. Birds… started in 1989 and I’m thrilled that it’s still going now.”

Linda as Maggie Moon in the Eighties’ drama Shine on Harvey Moon

So, you’ve known Pauline a long time…

“Pauline and I have been best friends for over 50 years. She lived in the next road to my nan in Hackney; we’d play on the same streets together, went through our teens together and got in trouble together, too! We came home late one night, and I got a clip round the ear from my mum – then Pauline got one as well! Out of the two of us, I’d definitely say I was the mischievous one.”

Have the two of you ever fallen out?

“No, we’ve never once had an argument where we’ve stopped speaking. We’ve been through so much together, like when Pauline lost her mum, and I lost my dad. We had our children around the same time and we’ve both got two granddaughters now. Sometimes I might not see Pauline for a while but we speak, text or Whatsapp all the time, so it’s like we’re never apart. Myself, Pauline and Lesley are all really close.”

In 2012, you became a regular panellist on Loose Women. You seem to have a lot of fun on the show…

“Yeah, we do. We’re all great mates. I’ve known Janet Street-Porter since 1976 when I first worked with her and she lives around the corner from me now. Janet absolutely HATES Halloween and I thought it would be funny one year to turn up at her door wearing a Scream mask. I banged on the door but she wouldn’t open it!”

All the Loose Women are known for their forthright views – would you say you’re opinionated?

“I think so, yeah. I’ve been in trouble a few times with my husband Mark and my kids [daughters Lauren and Roberta, and son Louis] for things I’ve said on the show. In general, I’m just honest. I always say what I think whether it gets me into trouble or not!”

In 2014, you did I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! Would you ever follow in Lesley’s footsteps and do Strictly Come Dancing?

“No. I’ve been asked to do Strictly a couple of times but I’ve always said no because I just can’t dance! I’d be the joke; I’d be the one in Lycra being swung around – I’d be the Ann Widdecombe!”

If you could have your time again is there anything you’d do differently?

“Maybe I would have more children. I had a miscarriage many years ago, so I would’ve had four kids now. Once I started going through the menopause I got a bit depressed because I thought: ‘That’s it, I won’t be able to have any more kids’. But I’ve got my granddaughters – Lila and Betsy – they’re the loves of my life now.”

And are there things you’d still like to achieve career-wise?

“I’d really like to do some more acting, particularly drama. When you do a show like Loose Women or reality shows like Gone to Pot, which I did recently, people see you as more of a celebrity than an actress and you stop getting offered those jobs. I’d really like to be in something like Marcella or Victoria – I could be in the kitchen as one of the servants!”

Loose Women celebrates Linda’s birthday and 50 years in showbiz on Friday March 9 from 12.30pm on ITV.

Loose Women pics: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock, Maggie Moon pic: ITV/REX/Shutterstock