June Brown MBE, 82, plays Dot Cotton, now Branning, the "legend of the launderette" in Albert Square. She is the only actress to appear solo in an entire episode of a soap and was nominated for a Bafta. She was recently awarded an honorary degree by the University of East London.
My character says "I don't never", which is dreadful. I'm absolutely pedantic about language; it must go back to my schools. In 1930, when I was three and my sister was four, my father sent us to Miss Tracy's, a little "dame's school" in Ipswich. I do remember playing with an abacus. He took us away after a term because he thought we weren't learning anything.
We went to St John's Church of England school, also in Ipswich. The headmistress, Miss Mills, had a desk in the middle of the hall, which had two classrooms on either side partitioned off by curtains. We had blackboards all round the room; you had your own blackboard and you did your work on it.
We could all read; I read the whole of Dickens when I was 10 and had two "pupils" at school who weren't as good and I helped them.
My handwriting was so good I won a prize, a cardboard cut-out of a farmyard; my mother threw it away when we moved. We were all well-behaved and there was no question of mucking around. I don't think we painted or did anything playful like that.
My sister died when she was eight. One teacher was rather sarcastic to me and I told my mother: "Miss Rae bullies me." I didn't know for years that my mother went up to the school and said: "Be a bit kind: her sister's died." Miss Rae was kind after that.
I didn't realise I was clever but I won a scholarship to Ipswich High, part of what was then the Girls' Public Day School Trust. The headmistress looked down her nose at the scholarship girls. She said: "You should not be proud of your brains, you should be proud of your birth."
It was a very good school but it didn't do me any good, because they put me in the class with the 10-year-olds instead of the 11-year-olds and I was just marking time for a year; I lost the will to work.
I was a procrastinator and a bookworm but I passed all my School Certificate exams, the equivalent of O-levels; I got three distinctions, three honours and three good passes.
I loved French translations and would start the homework as soon as the teacher left the room. I loved biology and would sometimes stay at school until six with my eye to the microscope.
I wanted to go to a school of osteopathy but my father said: "I'm not paying for you to do that: you're a girl and will get married."
When I was 17-and-a-half I volunteered for the Wrens. I auditioned for a play and we took it round the Southern Command area and I really enjoyed it. I got laughs and that was when the bug got me.
I got a grant for the Old Vic Theatre School in London, which had just started. It was only five terms; they used to break you down and never quite put you together again but it was an excellent training.
One of the people who ran it was Michel Saint-Denis, who had broadcast to France during the war. He had once sat on Churchill's knee when Winston came in to make a broadcast in his terrible French; there was only the one chair.Reuse content