Sheila Hancock on sexism, classism and the double-edged sword of being seen as a "strong woman"

Today’s guest is nothing less than an acting legend. Although she probably wouldn’t have any truck with that. Dame Sheila Hancock is that rare thing – a successful actor with working class roots, an 89 year old who’s still beating off offers with a stick and a woman who refuses to be afraid to speak her mind.

Sheila has done EVERYTHING from Shakespeare to sitcoms. A member of the National Theatre Company, she was the first woman to direct at the Olivier Theatre in her 50s and has been nominated for 6 Olivier Awards, written two novels and a loose trilogy of memoirs (the second of which was about her marriage to Morse and Sweeney legend, John Thaw). The third is Old Rage, which started out as a book about the wisdom and fulfilment of old age ended up…. not!

Ninety next year, Sheila is taking less prisoners than ever. She joined me from her living room to talk education and inequality, corruption, climate change and Brexit, suffering from the empathy “disease” and why being seen as a strong woman is a double-edged sword. She also told me what it was like being a working class woman in TV in the 1970s, how she learnt the consequences of speaking out the hard way and why she’s no longer bothering to conceal her rage. Sheila Hancock for PM!

You can buy all the books mentioned in this podcast at, including OLD RAGE by Sheila Hancock, Sheila's book recommendation, Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, and the book that inspired this podcast, The Shift: how I lost and found myself after 40 - and you can too, by me!

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The Shift (on life after 40) with Sam Baker is created and hosted by Sam Baker and edited by Emily Sandford. If you enjoyed this podcast, please rate/review/follow as it really does help other people find us. And let me know what you think on twitter @sambaker or instagram @theothersambaker.

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