Alexis Redmond MBE on her role as Cheshire High Sheriff
PUBLISHED: 00:00 07 May 2018
With her famous husband, Phil, as her sidekick there should never be a dull moment for Willington-based High Sheriff Alexis Redmond MBE, as Janet Reeder discovers
For more than 30 years Alexis Redmond MBE has been overshadowed by her famous husband, Phil, the creator of Brookside and Hollyoaks, but now she finds herself in the spotlight in her new role as Cheshire’s High Sheriff.
When we meet at the couple’s home in Willington she is resplendent in the ceremonial attire she will wear for official occasions. There’s a beautiful velvet frock coat with silver buttons, a black hat, silver buckles on her shoes and ruffles at her neck. It’s not her everyday look but then it’s not every day you step into a role that’s more than 1,000 years old.
‘You can wear a straightforward suit if you like but I decided to go for the jacket which is the same as the court dress the men wear,’ explains Alexis.
‘There are buckles on your shoes and important ostrich feathers in your hat which symbolise the court dress the women used to wear in the late 1700s and early 1800s, which is the era of court dress the men wear.’
There’s one thing that puzzles her, however: ‘It is the oldest office next to the Crown but what I don’t understand is why the costume got stuck in the late 1700s.’
And what does her consort Phil get to wear?
‘This is what I’m looking forward to. How is this going to work?’ laughs Alexis. ‘For 30 years not getting a word in edgeways... this is going to be a funny one. I think the two of us together will make an impact.’
Phil is planning to become the Boswell to wife Alexis’s Johnson as she takes up office, and he will write a column about their year for Cheshire Life from the novel perspective of being the ‘plus one’.
It should be a fascinating year for the pair. There has already been a ceremony dating back to before the Norman Conquest to approve her candidature and another in which the Queen herself uses a silver bodkin to prick the High Sheriffs’ names on a parchment list to give their appointments the royal seal of approval.
It’s not the first time they’ve met Her Majesty - she presented Phil with his CBE and Alexis with her MBE and they’ve also hosted her for lunch when Phil was chair of the National Museum of Liverpool.
‘She also visited Brookside many years ago,’ says Alexis.
‘What always strikes me is that she is just so incredibly beautiful. You don’t expect that. The photographs never do her justice. She has a good sense of humour too. Quite a wicked sense of humour.’
Thankfully Alexis won’t be raising taxes or hanging people, which were part of the High Sheriff’s remit in the past.
‘It’s a more symbolic role than anything else but the High Sheriff does have a responsibility for law and order in the county which stems back in history,’ explains Alexis.
‘You’re very much involved with Crimebeat - a former High Sheriff set up the charity and the police run it. It runs numerous projects which try to get people out of the cycle of offending, or rehabilitates offenders.’
Cheshire Crimebeat is a charity that sponsors young people to enable them to undertake projects in support of their community. Since its launch in 1998 the charity has enabled the High Sheriff of Cheshire to play an active role in the prevention and reduction of juvenile crime with Crimebeat being supported by both the High Sheriff of Cheshire and the Cheshire Constabulary.
‘Every High Sheriff goes about the year differently and they tend to choose one or two charities they support but I’m going for a rather different approach and rather than just name a charity I’m going to look at the area of social prescribing,’ says Alexis.
‘We can all support a charity but how do we help the charity deliver its objectives and its goals? So I will be concentrating on that... not a specific charity but how we link the beneficiaries of the charity and make them more successful. I will be supporting Crimebeat and the Community Foundation. Crimebeat will focus on those who have committed a crime who need support to get back into the normal community. The Community Foundation has a wider remit.’
Phil and Alexis met just before the groundbreaking soap Brookside was about to be aired on Channel 4 back in 1982. Phil wanted a financial systems review of his accounts and asked for ‘someone with brains’ who could help out. He got Alexis and they hit it off. They lived in Frodsham for several years and moved into their current home in 2002.
‘It was a conference centre, for the writers,’ says Alexis. ‘We were running so many storyline conferences at the time - one and a half hours of drama a week - you end up with three major shows and three day conferences. We found that using hotels was difficult, especially with the confidentiality of the storylines too.
‘Also, we used it as a shooting lot, so we could do all sorts on our own land. We had a lot of good times and we couldn’t let it go.’
Television takes a back seat now to Phil’s other work which includes involvement on the City of Culture panel and writing.
He’s also just finished a follow up to his debut novel, Highbridge. ‘That was the scene setter about a fictional northern town - not Liverpool - I describe it as Brookie on pages,’ says Phil.
‘They’re thrillers but with a social context. All the kind of issues that are based in any town in the north. You find that towns that were just a village at some stage and became overflows of people moving out of the cities, like Warrington which just submitted a bid to become UK City of Culture. It wasn’t ready but it’s narrative was great. How do you use culture to create a shared vision for a town that’s grown out of housing estates? How do you meld and bring that together? It’s the same story Milton Keynes was using when it was going for European Capital of Culture. How do you use culture to get people to come behind one common shared view? So that’s the background of Highbridge.’
When they aren’t working - which seems like never - they say they ‘don’t go too far away’ for entertainment. ‘The Fishpool, The Boot, the Dysart Arms. We tend to go everywhere,’ says Alexis. When we were in the business we would say we were always in London but never long enough to get bored and then we’d come back and enjoy what we have here.’