Linda Robson: How we demanded pay parity with Del Boy | ...and tricked the BBC switchboard by pretending to be Birds Of A Feather fans © BBC

Linda Robson: How we demanded pay parity with Del Boy

...and tricked the BBC switchboard by pretending to be Birds Of A Feather fans

comedyLinda Robson has revealed that the cast of Birds Of A Feather got their wages doubled overnight... after they found that the stars of Only Fools And Horses were being twice as much as them.

In her new memoirs, she has also recalled calling the BBC switchboard pretending to be a viewer to try to persuade them not to cancel it... and denied any rift with co-star Pauline Quirke.

She said that she, Quirke and co-star Lesley Joseph were having a drink after work one night when one of the show's accountants let it slip that on Only Fools, David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst were getting paid twice the amount they were per episode.

'We were pulling in just as many viewers on the same channel and working equally hard, from six in the morning till ten at night,' she writes. 'The only difference was that we were women. We were fuming.'

The three of them called a meeting with their production company to demand the same wages.

'We expected to have to put up a bit of a fight but to our surprise, that was all it took,' she said. 'The producer said, "You know what, I think you’re right and I think you deserve it.’ 

'We were really proud of ourselves for standing up for each other. When the three of us were together we felt indestructible.'

The Mail newspapers are serialising Robson's book Truth Be Told, and in today's Mail on Sunday she also recalls how the first episode caused a stir when it aired in 1989.

On the night, they all gathered to watch it, and afterwards producer Esta Charkham called the BBC and found there had been 100 complaints because Quirke had said ‘bastard’ - apparently the first time a woman had said the word in a sitcom. 

'We started panicking that we were going to get pulled before the next episode even went out,' Robson recalls. 'Esta said not to worry – she had a plan. 

'So we poured ourselves another glass of wine and got to work. The four of us took it in turns to ring the BBC complaints line, disguising our voices each time, to say how amazing we thought the new comedy was. "That Birds Of A Feather show? It’s brilliant! And the three actresses in it were fantastic!"

'Obviously we didn’t get cancelled because it was a huge success, and overnight I went from being a little bit known to properly famous. We had millions tuning in for each episode, and fans from all walks of life. I’ve heard Prince Edward was a fan – and Fergie, too. '

The sitcom ran on BBC One for nine years, and then revived by ITV in 2014 for three series and three specials. 

But Quirke did not appear in the last one, in 2020, as she wanted to focus on her family and her performing arts academy - but her decision promted reports of a ‘feud’ and ‘bad blood’ between the stars.

Calling the rumours 'bullshit', Robson writes: 'Pauline and I might not be working together any more, but our friendship will outlive all of that. We have been there for each other through thick and thin and for every single major life event. 

'The decision she made about Birds Of A Feather, however much I wished she felt differently, was never going to come between us. There is simply too much history there and our relationship is bigger and stronger than any TV show.'

• Truth Be Told: Tales from a Baggy Mouth  by Linda Robson is to be published by Penguin Books on Thursday. It is available from, below, which aids local bookstores, or Amazon, where it is priced £16 in hardback.

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Published: 11 Feb 2024

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