Friday, 10 November 2023, 17:19
Anyone who went to see the stage version of No Sex Please, We're British in London's West End in the 1970s may well have seen Cútar resident Sally Harrison appearing as Susan, or Kiki in Birds of Paradise.
Originally from Southwick near Brighton, Sally has lived in the Axarquía since 1996 when she came to help run her parents' horse riding school, having decided that the grey skies in London were "getting lower and lower".
In the UK Sally had a long career as an actor, TV presenter and theatrical agent, but her rise to the stage and screen actually started off with ice skating and ballet lessons. When she was 11 she also auditioned for her first pantomime and made her stage debut, aged 12, at Brighton Hippodrome's pantomime.
Sally, 72, explains that at her ballet school "we did everything from Greek, modern, ballet and tap but we also did acting." It was at the Brighton festival that she won first prize "in a mime playing a blind girl" which she explains "kind of switched me to acting from dancing, having won the prize". In fact, Sally explains that she feels she has come "full circle" as one of her latest roles was as Teresa, a blind woman in the 2023 Spanish film Nato 0 – El Origen del Mal, directed by Gonzalo Crespo Gil.
At 15 Sally went to stage school in London and spent her sixteenth birthday on tour in a play. She got her big break as Susan in the 1971 stage comedy, No Sex, We're British, starring Michael Crawford and later David Jason as the lead character Brian Runnacles. She went on to star in the West End with Birds of Paradise and toured with plays around the UK.
On her choice between acting in theatres or with a touring company, Sally admits that when you're in the West End "it's just a job. Most of the time you go in, put your makeup on, act then go home. When you're touring you're more of a family."
Sally moved out to Spain in 1996. She was still doing some acting and presenting at the time, including with Thames television and some freelance work but her parents were living in the Axarquía. They had recently bought a riding school, Hípica Internacional, after the previous owners decided to sell and Sally's parents had been running the bar for a year.
Sally recalls, "I remember walking through London and feeling that the grey sky was getting lower and lower and soon I'd be crawling with my nose on the ground to avoid it. I needed to find a high sky to be able to breathe."
Having had her first pony for her third birthday, Sally was drawn to the idea of coming to help her parents. She trained to get her British Horse Society instructor exams while still working as a presenter for Thames television.
Sally explains that she turned her parents' riding school into "one of only three in Spain that was a British Horse Society approved centre" and she trained instructors that came to the school "from all over Europe".
However, the riding school wasn't big enough to be able to offer students accommodation and realising that she couldn't earn a living from it, she rented the school out and turned her hand to property instead. She started up Axarquía Properties which she ran for 10 years before selling it and retiring. However, with more time on her hands, Sally found herself being drawn back to the world of entertainment.
She has worked with local English language radio stations including Central and Spectrum and presented the 'Costa Living' programme which Sally points out was a "play on words" as she would invite guests to speak about the "cost of living".
While Sally agrees that her first love is the theatre she admits that she "wouldn't want to do it now". She explains, "When I was 12 it was just the most exciting thing ever. Theatre is great, but now I think I enjoy filming more."
With no plans to return to the UK, Sally is settled in the village of Cútar in the Axarquía, where along with parts in films and television commercials (she has recently appeared in a non-speaking part in an advertisement for Santa Lucía insurance), she helps her partner Javier to run Bar Plaza, and is an active member of Costa Press Club.
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