The Nolans: In the Mood for Dancing on ITV1

by Lisa McGarry

The Nolans: In the Mood for Dancing follows the singing family from their early performances in working men’s clubs, when the whole family with eight children lived in a three bedroom house, to selling twenty five million albums and singing with Frank Sinatra.

To celebrate thirty years since their biggest hit, The Nolans are reforming and the sisters are setting out on a tour. Viewers get to see behind the scenes as the famous sisters reunite in the studio.

Their story begins in Dublin where their parents Maureen and Tommy had a singing act. The family relocated to Blackpool where the couple found work singing in clubs as a double act. Behind the venues they performed in is Waterloo Road, and the three bedroom house where the Nolan family raised their eight children.

The sisters revisit their childhood home and Bernie says: “It’s looking a bit different to when we lived here!”

Stepping into their former family homes brings back a lot of memories. Coleen, the youngest Nolan, says: “I did sleep in a drawer at one point! Because when they brought me home there was no room and no money.”

Brothers Tommy and Brian reminisce about growing up in the small house and say: “With six sisters you used to never get into the bathroom!”

Eventually Maureen and Tommy decided to get the whole family involved in their singing act and the Nolans became Blackpool’s own Von Trapp family performing in the working men’s clubs in the area.

The sisters also revisit The Brunswick club, around the corner from their old home where they were always guaranteed a warm reception. Standing on the dance floor, trying to remember their old routines, Coleen confesses to her sisters: “You all talk about it like you loved it and I have to say, I didn’t. I didn’t love it.”

Maureen says: “I don’t remember anyone forcing us into it, it was just something we did….but I’d rather have been normal.”

In 1973, all of the family’s hard work paid off when they were offered the chance to perform at The Cliffs Hotel, then the most prestigious hotel in Blackpool, on Christmas Day. Linda says: “Mum and Dad asked for a ridiculous amount of money, thinking they’ll never give us that, and they did.”

An entrepreneur staying at the hotel saw the performance and was so impressed he offered the family a five year contract to perform at his clubs in London. The parents and brothers decided to quit, leaving the sisters.

Brother Brian says: “When you’re eighteen… you don’t see the bigger picture and it’s the biggest mistake of my life.”

The girls moved to London and began performing nightly in the West End. Word soon spread about their talent and they were offered the chance to perform on Cliff Richard’s television show, which had audiences of 15 million. Cliff says: “I love it when I can say to people that I introduced them!”

By the end of the seventies, The Nolans were everywhere and Coleen, the youngest Nolan, was especially popular with television audiences. She reminisces about performing a duet with Harry Seacombe and says: “I loved him forever more after that.”

In 1975 The Nolans were chosen to support their idol Frank Sinatra on his European tour. Maureen says: “When the call came there was screaming in our house!”

But Coleen decided not to join Frank in Paris, opting instead to go horse riding. She says: “To this day, it’s the biggest regret of my life.”

By the end of the 1970s the girls were desperate to go on Top of the Pops and perform more disco music. The 1980s were the start of a new era for the sisters as they racked up seven top 20 singles in the UK and sold 25 million records worldwide.

Japan, in particular, went Nolan crazy. Bernie says: “When we got off the plane, there were hundreds of screaming fans and we thought there must be someone famous on the plane!”

Their success in Japan was unparalleled by any other British artist, and they even recorded Japanese versions of their hits.

But by the early nineties, one by one the sisters left the band. Bernie found success as an actress, Linda and Maureen went into musical theatre and Coleen became a tv presenter.

Rehearsing for the new tour, Linda says: “This tour has given me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”

In 2006, shortly after husband Brian was diagnosed with skin cancer, Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer. While Linda recovered, Brian’s health deteriorated rapidly and he passed away later that year. Linda says: “I know that wherever he is he’ll be going, ‘Go for it.’”

But 25 years on it’s as if they’ve never been away as we see behind the scenes on the opening night of their reunion tour.

Coleen says: “I’m so excited…I just can’t wait to do it again!”

Wednesday, 23 December 2009, 8:00PM – 9:00PM, ITV1