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Joyce adapts to her new roles in life

A YORKSHIRE pub landlady and actor who was heartbroken by the death of her husband is back treading the boards and gracing the TV screens. Reporter Peter Lazenby talks to her about her fightback.

"WHEN you've been like a Siamese twin for 40 years, the prospect of starting again was awesome."

Joyce Ives spent most of her life married to her husband Trevor. For much of that time they ran the Cardigan Arms, a fine old unspoiled Victorian pub in Kirkstall Road in Leeds.

They were well suited to each other, and to the pub, which was the centre of the community.

But Joyce led a double life.

When she wasn't running the pub with Trevor, she was auditioning and rehearsing for TV dramas, plays, films.

She was a successful actress, appearing in shows such as Heartbeat, The Practice, Last of the Summer Wine and Emmerdale Farm.

She'd played Alma Walsh, landlady of the Flying Horse in Coronation Street.

She also appeared in both the film and TV series of All Creatures Great and Small under her stage name of Joyce Kennedy.

Outgoing and lively as Joyce was, her life combined well with her other job as landlady at the Cardigan.

The couple left the pub, which they'd run for 17 years, in 1996 when the pub-owning company imposed new retirement rules – Trevor was 60, and had to leave.

They moved into a house half a mile down Kirkstall Road, near Morrisons supermarket, as they'd both been born and brought up in west Leeds and wanted to stay near their roots.

Joyce's acting career continued.

But in 2001 tragedy struck.

Trevor was diagnosed as having mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung caused almost invariably by contact with asbestos.

The disease is untreatable and incurable.

Trevor reckoned it could have been either the pub or the building trade, in which he had worked earlier, which gave him mesothelioma.

The building trade was notorious for asbestos use, and in the pub, asbestos lagging in the cellar had been hanging in tatters for years.

Trevor went downhill quickly and died aged 66 on January 27, 2002.

His funeral service was held at St Matthias Church off Kirkstall Road, where they had married 40 years earlier.

Joyce, who was 62 at the time, was heartbroken. Her life fell apart.

"I was like a zombie," she said. "I was just going through the motions. My concentration dropped. We'd been inseparable."

For seven months she remained in the doldrums. She lost two-and-a-half stones in weight.

She could not work.

"Then in August I got a letter from my agents saying they were closing due to ill-health. I thought 'that's the end of the line'. I thought it was an omen."

Perhaps it meant she should make a new start – although the feeling was strange.

"It sounds a bit weird, but when you've been like a Siamese twin for 40 years, the prospect of starting again was awesome," she said.

"But I contacted a new agent, Northern Lights Management. They were wonderful. They took me on and before long I started going to auditions, and it started bearing fruit.

"I did an audition for Between the Sheets, a Kay Mellor production," she said.

She got the part.

"I played Sister Maria, that was for ITV. Kay's lovely. She'd sent flowers for Trevor's funeral.

"Then I did a feature film called Yasmin. I played a lady called Beryl, a canteen manageress. It was filmed in Keighley.

"It was on Channel 4 recently. It got nominated for a BAFTA."

She was invited to audition for Heartbeat, one of British TV's favourite dramas.

It was another breakthrough, because she'd been in Heartbeat before.

She said: "I was in the first episode of the original series of Heartbeat 13 years ago. Now I was in the first episode of the 13th series. I played Mrs Watson, one of the villagers, a cameo."

More work followed. She won a part in the stage version of Billy Elliot, playing the grandmother afflicted with Alzheimer's.

"Then I did Doctors, which was on BBC TV on December 1 last year. I was a central character, Phyllis Rumpkin.

We filmed in August in Birmingham."

There were many difficult moments, partly because Trevor had played as huge a part in her life as an actress as he had in their lives as licensees of the Cardigan.

"Trevor used to drive me everywhere and stayed with me when we were filming. Now I had to go to London on my own to do the audition for The Doctors. I hate the tube, but I thought 'I really have to do this. I really must.'

"I got the train to London and the train was late. I hadn't chance to read the script, and I thought I'd blown the audition.

"Then three or four weeks later they sent for me to go back. This time I had a fabulous time. I didn't use the tube. I used another line on the surface. I was really up for it and I got the part. Once I had done that, well...."

"Trevor would have been devastated if he thought I was just sitting there. It took some time to get my equilibrium back. Now I have these great agents – fantastic agents.

"We're back on song now kiddo!" she added.

peter.lazenby@ypn.co.uk