Mecca Bingo Brings You the UK Soap Stars who have Championed International Women’s Day

Illustrated female characters standing together holding hands

International Women’s Day comes around every year on 8 March. Recently, this special day has gathered increasing support from UK soap stars – and who better to help increase the visibility of women’s issues than soap stars who almost daily hold the attention of millions of Brits? Mecca Bingo brings you some of our favourite UK soap stars who are supporting the cause.

What’s the reason for International Women’s Day

On 8 March every year, men and women across the globe get an opportunity on Women’s Day to celebrate women’s achievements and increase the visibility of gender rights issues, while calling out inequality.

In 2020, the theme is #EachforEqual, a nifty hashtag for a new generation. But the day of commemoration goes all the way back to 1909 when the Socialist Party of America arranged a Women’s Day in New York City on 28 February. The following year, German revolutionary Clara Zetkin put forward a motion at the 1910 International Socialist Women’s Conference that the 8th of March each year would be a day set aside to honour working women. When, in 1917, women in Russia were given the right to vote, March 8 was declared a national holiday and celebrated mainly within the socialist movement and communist countries until being adopted by the feminist movement in the 1960s. It wasn’t until 1975, that the United Nations formalised the day as one of activism around women’s rights and equality.

The cast of Emmerdale

The cast and crew of Emmerdale were all about embracing the day and heeding the IWD’s 2019 call to action. They said, “collective action and shared ownership for driving gender parity is what makes International Women’s Day successful”.

Emmerdale boss Jane Hudson told the press: “We are going to have an episode that is produced by a female, directed by a female, and written by a female. The entire cast will be female including all the background artists, and we will have almost an entirely female crew.”

This was the first time ever that a soap had an all-female team both on and off the screen. Now some fans weren’t at all pleased with the announcement, but why be a detractor? It was a great way to celebrate women’s achievements in the performing arts and turned out to be a lot of fun! After the episode aired, the consensus was that it had been “poignant, powerful and thoroughly gripping until the end”.

Here are some of the women who made a show of it in the all-female cast for the special International Women’s Day episode.

Emma Atkins

Emma Atkins arriving for the launch of The Wreck My Dress Experience, Worsley, Manchester

Emma Atkins plays Emmerdale’s bad-girl-come-good, Charity Dingle, who is known for her blunt, no-nonsense ways. She’s determined to better herself and knows how to get what she wants. She’s also self-sufficient and more than a little selfish at times but is trying to be a better mother.

Emma, who has played Charity since 2000, was born Lancashire in 1975 and went on to study at the University of Salford. After leaving the Emmerdale cast in 2005, she acted in episodes of the BBC series Dalziel and Pascoe, Mayo, I’m with Stupid, New Street Law, Doctors, and Casualty. She rejoined the Emmerdale cast in 2009 and has stayed put except for a short break in 2015 when she gave birth to her son.

Her work on Emmerdale has brought her several nominations including Best Actress in 2010 and 2018 at the British Soap Awards, several Inside Soap Awards and the National Television Awards in the category of Serial Drama Performance. In 2018, Atkins won Best Soap Actress at the TV Choice Awards and was named as the Inside Soap Awards Best Actress, and Best Actress at the 2018 Daily Star Soap Awards.

Jane Cox

Jane Cox played the role of practical, down-to-earth Lisa Dingle on Emmerdale for 23 years before she left the show in May 2019. She also appeared in episodes of Coronation Street, Hetty Wainthrop Investigates, and The Bill. She played JJ in the children’s entertainment series Allsorts from 1991 to 1995 and appeared on Lily Savage’s Blankety Blank. In 2011, Jane was nominated in the Best Actress category at the 2011 British Soap Awards.

Natalie Ann Jamieson

Isobel Hodgens, Natalie Ann Jamieson, Laura Norton & Michelle Hardwick at The British Soap Awards 2019

The role of the edgy, sassy Amy Wyatt was recast in 2019 and actress Natalie Ann Jamieson got the part. Born in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Natalie trained as an actress at Rose Bruford College where she graduated in 2011. She has appeared in I, Daniel Blake (Sixteen Films), Vera (ITV), and Doctors (BBC).

Natalie J. Robb

Natalie Jane Robb, who plays the role of feisty, vivacious and independent farmer’s wife, Moira Dingle, is a graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. She was just 9-years-old when she made her screen debut playing opposite veteran Scots star Tom Conti. Four years later, she was awarded the BBC Young Entertainer of the Year award on the kids’ TV show, Going Live! Her first soap opera role was Trish McDonald in Take the High Road – she was just 14 at the time.

She has also acted in a number of drama series, including Sea of Souls, New Tricks, Waterloo Road, The Shepherd: Border Patrol with Jean-Claude van Damme, and appeared in the Sky One series Dream Team, Doctors, The Bill and EastEnders.

Natalie was once in a band called The Kinky People and released a single with dance group Partizan called Keep Your Love.

Nicola Thorp

The Coronation Street star, who portrayed Nicola Rubinstein from 2017 to 2019, has been outspoken about gender inequality in the workplace and is sure to have Women’s Day marked off on her calendar.

In 2016, she made headlines when she went public about being fired as a temp receptionist in London for refusing to wear high heels – which was part of a “female grooming” policy at the employment agency that had assigned her. It was thanks to Nicola’s online petition that garnered 110,000 signatures and an appearance before a Parliamentary select committee, that the company was forced to change its policy. Nicola pointed out that she wasn’t anti-high heels, she just didn’t think it had to be compulsory for certain jobs. Now there’s some girl power for you!

Born in Blackpool, Nicola studied acting at the Arts Educational Schools of Acting in London from 2007 to 2010. Apart from her role in Coronation Street, she has appeared in episodes of Doctor Who, The Guilty, Father Brown, and Doctors.

Since 2018, she has written a regular column for – her first piece focused on period poverty for women.

Elisabeth Dermot Walsh

Elisabeth Dermot Walsh at British Soap Awards 2016 at Hackney Empire

Doctors actor, Elisabeth Dermot Walsh, was vocal about her support of Time’s Up on the British Soap Awards red carpet, even wearing a pin to this effect on her dress. The Time’s Up movement was started in 2018 as a response to the widespread sexual harassment of women and the #MeToo campaign following the arrest of Hollywood Director, Harvey Weinstein. Although founded by Hollywood celebrities, the movement has been widely supported in the UK. We have no doubt Elisabeth will continue to be involved in Women’s Day activism.

The daughter of Irish actor Dermot Walsh and English actress Elisabeth Madeleine Annear, Elisabeth was born in 1974 in Merton and is best known for her roles as Rachel in Doctors and as Zara Carmichael in the BBC sitcom Unfinished Business. She has appeared in Love in a Cold Climate, Midsomer Murders, Holby City, and ITV’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Sad Cypress.

She trained as an actress at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and has also acted in a number of theatre productions.

Lysette Anthony

The Hollyoaks star wore the #MeToo slogan on her wrist at the 2018 British Soap Awards and called for women to stand together against endemic sexual harassment and other forms of gender discrimination. Lysette, along with dozens of other women in the film industry, alleged that Harvey Weinstein attacked her in her London home in the late 1980s.

Lysette was born in 1963 in London to actor Michael Adam Anthony, an actor from Jersey, and actress Bernadette Milnes.

At age 16, photographer David Bailey hailed Lysette as the “Face of the Eighties” and a successful modelling career followed. By the time she was 20, Lysette had appeared in music videos for Bryan Adams, Depeche Mode, and Simian Mobile Disco.

She first appeared on stage at age 10 at the Cambridge Theatre and went on to perform with the National Youth Theatre. She has acted in the 1992 film Husbands and Wives, the first season of the ITV comedy-drama series Auf Wiedersehen, the BBC sitcom Three Up, Two Down, ITV’s Murder in Suburbia, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, in the award-winning soap opera Night & Day and has many other credits to her name.

Ways to celebrate International Women’s Day

Three female friends make a toast over dinner at restaurant

If you’ve been inspired to celebrate the extraordinary women in your life this or next International Women’s Day, why not hold an event at your local Mecca Bingo club? A great night out starts from just £15 and it’s the perfect destination to celebrate, play bingo or slots and enjoy a party meal.

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