Belfast Telegraph

Fun-loving gran Carmel is taking her new-found fame as a TV star with a pinch of salt

By Stephanie Bell

The storm may still be raging online about the BBC's controversial new TV show Radio Face, but one of its stars Carmel Polland was making no apologies for voicing her outspoken opinions.

In fact, the fun-loving 66-year-old was taking it all with a pinch of salt yesterday and had only one message for its critics: "Everyone is entitled to their opinion - sure it's only a bit of fun."

Carmel, who provided a light-hearted moment during the show with her candid views on the naked rambler, was still laughing last night as she talked about her TV debut.

She said: "I was invited to see it before it went on TV, but I said I didn't want to see until it was going out on Wednesday night.

"I just laughed when I saw it and thought: 'Do I really sound like that? I'm as rough as a badger's bum'."

Carmel, a divorced mother-of-two with two grandchildren, has spent a large part of her life in Scotland, where she worked as professional country singer.

She also sang as a young woman at Wembley Stadium as part of a battle of the showbands event - an experience she described as "amazing". Nashville star Dee Reilly, who is a friend, was one of the first to congratulate Carmel on her TV debut, having watched the show online.

Like the rest of the feisty characters who were shown airing their views, Carmel is a regular caller to Stephen Nolan's morning radio talk show, which is how she came to be invited to be part of the five-part series.

She said: "My phone rang one night and when I answered the guy said he was Stephen Nolan and I said: 'Aye, right, you're having a laugh'. Then he asked me if I didn't recognise his voice.

"He explained about the show and asked if I would like to come down and talk about it, and I said that certainly I would.

"I've always been the type to give my opinion. If I hear something I don't like on his show I would always ring in and tell him." Carmel was shown in her kitchen giving her views on what she thought of naked rambler Stephen Gough's seven-year jail sentence for hiking in the buff.

She had viewers in stitches with her forthright reply: "Stephen, I'm a woman of the world. I've seen bits before - large bits, small bits, medium bits, round-the-corner bits, all sorts of bits." She then asked the presenter: "Now, what about your bits, Stephen?"

Carmel said she had great fun inviting the BBC TV crew into her home to film her talking to Nolan on her phone from her kitchen.

She added: "The team who came to record it were brilliant and I was very at ease and we had a good laugh. It's all good fun."

Most comments about the show have focused on its two biggest characters - best pals Marie Aldridge (47) and Anne Marie Lee (59) from Andersonstown, who tore into the broadcaster about the BBC licence fee and their rights to be on benefits.

Marie's frequent use of the F-word made for shocking viewing, but Carmel revealed that she was one of the girls' biggest fans.

"I thought the two Belfast girls who everyone is talking about were fantastic," she said. "They just said what they thought and there was nothing they weren't afraid to say.

"I thought the whole show was great.

"It just showed what Northern Ireland people are like, and that we tell it as it is and we don't dress it up."

Carmel has already become a bit of celebrity in her home town, and although she is now set to become a household name in Northern Ireland, this very grounded granny is not letting anything go to her head. She said: "I went to my local shop the next day to get milk and the wee woman behind the counter said: 'Oh, here's the TV personality'.

"I told her to get control of herself and talk to my agent.

"My daughter had it on Facebook and she thought it was great.

My friend Dee Reilly, who is a country singer in Nashville, sent a message to say she loved it.

"I'm used to being recognised because of my singing, so it doesn't take a fizz out of me.

"The way I look at it, nobody is any different than anyone else.

"I'm delighted to be part of the show.

"I just thought I might as well grab the bull by the horns and just go for it. I don't take life too seriously."

Radio Face is broadcast on Wednesday on BBC One NI at 10.45pm

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