FEATURE: Multi-tasking Sheffield mum steps into limelight for the role of a lifetime

Kate Parkin in Made in Dagenham. Photo: Mark Feakins
Kate Parkin in Made in Dagenham. Photo: Mark Feakins

Businesswoman, mother-of-three, homemaker and leading lady - the expression ‘multi-tasker’ describes Kate Parkin perfectly.

As an entrepeneur, Kate is the woman behind Sheffield business Make or Bake, which opened on Furnival Gate in the city centre 18 months ago.

Kate Parkin.

Kate Parkin.

By day, she can be found behind the counter, selling a wide range of cake decorating supplies. And in the evenings she heads home to Totley to start on the other side of the business, baking and decorating bespoke celebration cakes.

At the same time, she’s also mum to 18-year-old Jaimie, 10-year-old Ashleigh and Mia, aged five. And with husband James often out on the road as a salesman, that means a lot of juggling, to keep both her own and her children’s busy schedules flowing smoothly.

“The business was a matter of necessity,” she says.

“James was made redundant from his previous job and I’d started making cakes, really just playing at it, but when you’ve got to pay the bills you start to look at new ways of making a living.

Kate Parkin in Made in Dagenham. Photo: Mark Feakins

Kate Parkin in Made in Dagenham. Photo: Mark Feakins

“We started on the outdoor markets, places like Chesterfield and Bakewell, then we went into Sheffield’s indoor market before eventually opening the shop.

“I’m in the shop six days a week and then at home baking in the evenings. Of course it’s difficult sometimes, especially when it’s Saturday and I have to work while James and the kids are out doing stuff I’m missing, but we have really supportive family and my staff are fantastic, and help make it easier to manage everything much better.”

And if that weren’t enough, Kate has now taken on another big role in her life - as leading lady of a new production coming to Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre later this year.

“I love the theatre,” says Kate, a lifelong member of Sheffield’s amateur theatre scene - a hobby which she admits eats into what little spare time she has left.

“It gives me something that is just for me, a complete break from the business and everything else, and James understands because he does shows too - which means even more juggling of schedules of course!”

With Mary Newey - one of the region’s best known leading ladies - as her mum, it was perhaps inevitable that Kate would spend a lot of time backstage and be bitten by the acting bug.

“My very first time on stage was a play called Bad Day at Black Frog Creek - and I’m pretty sure I was dreadful!” laughs Kate, who started as a pupil at the Constance Grant Theatre School before joining Sheffield’s Splinters Youth Theatre Company. She appeared in everything from Barnum to Cabaret before going on to take roles in shows at venues like the Lyceum and Buxton Opera House.

“It’s my only hobby and it gives me time to be me, it’s something I thoroughly enjoy,” she says.

And Kate’s family are thrilled for her since landing the starring role in part in STOS Theatre Company’s regional premiere of West End musical ‘Made in Dagenham,’ which comes to the city in November. It’s based on the true story of a groundbreaking industrial dispute of 1968 in which the women of the Ford sewing machine room in Dagenham went on strike over equality of pay and conditions.

Kate is playing Rita, the woman at the centre of the storm, and she says the similarities between her own life and her stage counterpart were just too great for her to miss out.

“Rita is 38 and I am 38,” she explains.

“She’s a working woman too, juggling all the time and above everything else it’s a great part, something you can really sink your teeth into because it’s real life. something we can all identify with.

“Rita finds it hard to balance the demands of the strike with the needs of her kids and the family - and I think we can all sympathise with that.”

“I really didn’t think I stood a chance of getting the part and then, the night before the audition, Ashleigh was rushed into hospital so I was with her all night and thought there was no way I’d be fit to do the audition.

“But the audition panel waited for me and in a funny way, perhaps everything that happened in real life helped me to be Rita because I got the part, even though I felt completely overwhelmed!”

Now busy with weekly evening rehearsals, it’s just one more piece of the Parkin family jigsaw that has to be fitted into place.

“There are so many people I don’t want to let down - my family, my friends, the rest of the cast and that’s why I’m giving as much as I can,” she says.

“It’s not easy - but I’m not used to having an easy time so why should this be any different?”

‘Made in Dagenham’ opens at the Lyceum on November 15 and will run until November 19.

Visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk to book tickets.

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