Tales of schooldays set to be TV hit

My Mad Fat Teenage Diary stars Sharon Rooney as Rae Earl, centre
My Mad Fat Teenage Diary stars Sharon Rooney as Rae Earl, centre
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The turbulent teenage years of a Stamford schoolgirl are the subject of a new television series which begins on Monday night.

My Mad Fat Diary tells the story of Rae Earl, who was a pupil at Stamford High School in the 1980s.

The six-part series, on Channel 4’s E4, is based on a book written by Rae which was released three years ago.

Rae, now 41 and living happily with her husband and son in Hobart, Tasmania, based the book on a journal she kept as a 16st 16-year-old girl with issues. She will be played by actress Sharon Rooney.

The programme has fast-forwarded Rae’s story 10 years to the mid-90s and the height of Cool Britannia. It is described as an honest but funny look at life from the perspective of a music-mad teenager with an eccentric mother and major body issues.

Rae spent time on a psychiatric ward as a schoolgirl but never lost her lust for life – or boys!

She is hoping that the programme will help lessen the stigma of mental illness for other people.

In an interview with the television station ahead of the launch, Rae describes making the programme as “the most bizarre, wonderful experience you could possibly have”.

She said: “I think the team at Tiger have done a fantastic job and Tom Bidwell, who wrote it, has made something wonderful from it.”

“I love Sharon’s portrayal of ‘me’. I’m absolutely thrilled, I watched the first episode and I was just blown away.

“I just think it’s saying something that’s not been said before and I am really proud to be associated with it.”

Rae’s former schoolfriends are excited and were planning a surprise for her this week. They were also hoping to get together to watch the first episode from their favourite Stamford haunt of old, the St Mary’s Vaults pub.

Emma Drury, formerly Emma Mortimer and once a news editor with the Mercury, is Rae’s best friend and features as such in the book and the programme. Now working as a contributing editor for The Guardian and living in Grantham, Emma said she and Rae communicate every day.

“We became best friends in the sixthform and did the same A-levels,” she said.

“She was a larger than life character who was always making jokes. I was head girl and she was my greatest ally – when I used to give an assembly she would come and read one of her fantastic poems to help me out.”

Emma said Rae was overweight, had eating issues and hated having her photo taken. She hid behind a clown-like front and made a joke of everything. She always kept a diary and phoned Emma every night.

Emma said: “She lived in a council house in Stamford and they had no phone so she would ring from a phone box and if we talked about boys we would give them false names such as battered sausage or haddock – all strangely food-related – and this is what she did in the book and what they’ve done in the programme - morphed characters so that they’re not really recognisable.”

Emma says Stamford High School staff were extremely supportive of Rae and she went on to get her A levels, although she deliberately flunked one, go to university and get a job as a radio presenter.

“Very few people really knew of her problems or that she was in a psychiatric ward in Peterborough for two weeks,” she said.

“For me she has been a guiding light and she means so much to so many people. She has had an impact on lots of people’s lives.”

Ruth Deane from Uppingham, now editor of Every Model Magazine, was also at school with Rae.

She said: “I remember her to be as she remains, a very quick-witted girl with a genius streak, able to make even the likes of a romantic 80s Goth like me laugh. I think it is wonderful to see how much Rae has achieved and after reading her book I will certainly be tuning in and watching the C4 adaptation.”