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Christine Bleakley's a natural as she treads the boards for Give My Head Peace special

By Ivan Little

She used to lay on the tea and buns for the cast of the popular BBC sitcom Give my Head Peace - but glamorous Christine Bleakley was the star of the show at the weekend.

And hundreds of audience members in a Belfast studio cheered as footballer Frank Lampard's 37-year-old wife from Newtownards ditched her old behind-the-scenes role to make a cameo appearance in a recording of a new one-off special of the long-running show she used to work on. Producers of the hit comedy had kept Christine's participation in the Give My Head Peace revival a closely-guarded secret from the audience, who were stunned when the former presenter of The One Show strolled without warning onto the set of Divis Towers, the home of Da, Ma and Cal.

"The place went ballistic," said one audience member. "A lot of people thought they were seeing things when Christine appeared. She was looking fantastic."

News of her appearance spread like wildfire yesterday on social media and most 'reviews' have been positive. The show is due to air in the autumn as part of a new season of comedy on BBC Northern Ireland.

Christine, a former floor manager at the BBC in Belfast, has talked in the past of her pride in having been part of Give My Head Peace. At one time she was second assistant director and worked closely with the writing team of Michael McDowell, Damon Quinn and Tim McGarry who also starred in the series.

Back in 2007 when the programme was coming to an end after 10 seasons, Christine said: "I stopped traffic in the rain, made tea all day long for the cast, organised call times, pick-up times and liaised with the costume and make-up teams while always thinking ahead to the next day to ensure the production ran as smoothly as possible."

Christine said it was often a tough job but the cast and crew who were "second to none made every day worth coming into work for".

She later went in front of the cameras on a number of TV shows for the BBC in Northern Ireland before she was recruited by the Beeb nationally to present The One Show along with co-host Adrian Chiles.

They were later head-hunted by ITV to host a morning show, but were axed after mixed reviews and poor viewing figures.

Now living in America while her husband Frank plays for New York City in Major League Soccer, Christine is to be re-united with Chiles to host a new three-part BBC Northern Ireland series about the nature of friendship.

Her appearance in the Give My Head Peace special is a brief one.

The producers don't want to give away too much about her storyline, but it's understood it may involve Christine saying she's giving Lampard the boot to follow her heart back to Belfast to seek romance with an old flame, one of the characters in Give My Head Peace.

The local woman confided in colleagues before going out in front of the live studio audience that she was extremely nervous about her cameo role. But insiders said she was a natural.

"She glided through it with ease," said one source. "The audience adored her. You could hear the buzz as Christine walked on. At first people wondered if it could really be her but once the penny dropped the audience lapped her up."

After the recording, she joined her old friends and colleagues from the cast and crew for a drink in Morrisons Bar, Belfast.

"It was as if she'd never been away," said one observer. "She's still the same down-to-earth and unassuming girl she always was behind the cameras in Belfast."

In the pub, the Hole in the Wall team drank a toast to the memory of actor Gordon Fulton who died just a short time earlier. He'd played the part of Sammy the Kneebreakers barman in Give My Head Peace for 10 seasons.

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