Living North meets her to discover the secrets of her success and hear of her future plans, which include a new departure: writing her first book with husband Chris
When I first met Rosie Ramsey, she was backstage about to host our Living North Awards. She looked calm and her greeting was friendly. I was hassled – as usual – but trying not to show it. I needn’t have worried. The night was a huge success and Rosie played an absolute blinder.
Today, some months later, we’re chatting again and I’m hoping to learn a little more about her. After only a short while I realise that, as I suspected, Rosie is someone really special, though she would be the last to admit it. She also has the North East etched into every grain of her existence. Together with husband/friend/colleague Chris (he of comedic and Strictly fame) they carry the torch for the Tyne and the greater North East with genuine pride, and with considerable success too.
Sitting in her orangery, Rosie once again appears calm and relaxed. It’s not surprising really – she’s at home and life is good, she’s happy. Her main plan for the day is to continue writing her first book, which is due to be published in September. It will be another arrow in the couple’s impressive and varied quiver. For Rosie this includes acting, presenting, singing and working as a Radio DJ. I’m keen to find out which is the one that resonates most with her.
She answers with consideration: ‘I don’t really know what my forte is, I just know I’m a bit of a hard worker. I like to try everything, so every opportunity that comes my way I never think, “I can’t do that”. I just say, “you know what, let’s give it a try.” And if it works out then great, and if it doesn’t, well, at least I’ve tried. And that’s kind of been my mantra for my whole life really.’ It’s a formula from which many of us could learn. It’s also indicative of her pragmatic persona. Make no mistake though – you also sense from Rosie a real determination to give whatever she turns her hand to the very best chance of success.
One thing is also apparent: both Rosie and Chris love to entertain. ‘I’ve always wanted to entertain,’ she says, ‘but I’m not following in any family footsteps, nothing like that, but the schools I went to I was really lucky with. I always got picked to sing in church and that’s where it started for me. I also had some really good teachers who were interested in theatre, they were important in getting us all involved, and I always did. I think I’m a bit of a show-off to be honest!’ she concludes, laughing. I sense she doesn’t want to overstate her success or ability but is quietly very confident she will give everything she does her very best shot. There are a few other lessons in life there, and if anyone needs reminding how important schools and teachers are then there’s some excellent evidence. Equally, it demonstrates how important it is to keep trying new things. That’s maybe easier said than done for many, but another good mantra to keep in mind.
‘It’s like the Instagram thing, that was never really meant to be,’ continues Rosie. ‘When I had my little boy it became sort of a release and something to fill my time, which spiralled into something bigger and now it’s part of my job. I feel lucky’ – although lucky is a silly word, she adds – ‘that all these things are happening at the same time and I’m just riding the wave and enjoying it.’ I remind her of the legendary golfer Gary Player’s mantra which was in rebuke to an ill informed journalist: ‘It’s funny, the harder I work the luckier I get.’
While it’s clear that Chris and Rosie are a great double act, it’s worth emphasising how significant Rosie has proved to be by herself. ‘I feel so glad that everything I’m doing right now I’ve entered into being completely myself,’ she explains. ‘I think if you’re not yourself in this business people see through it.’ At 33 she admits much has changed in the last decade, but her optimism for life remains and it’s infectious. ‘I’m quite looking forward to being 40,’ she says. ‘I’m enjoying life more as I get older.’
This positive and refreshing outlook is rubber-stamped by her genuine love of the region. ‘I absolutely love living in the North East,’ she says, with enthusiasm. ‘Chris and I have hummed and haa’d about going down South for work, but we just can’t do it. Life would probably be a lot easier work wise, but there’s something about the North – all our friends and family are here. It’s just so beautiful. Yesterday we went along the coast and it’s only a five-minute drive, and the countryside is so close too, I just love it here.’ As an ambassador for the region, she takes some beating.
For many, Instagram is a somewhat nebulous and inconsequential part of life, but for others it’s hugely important. The figures tell their own story: when Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 it was valued at $1 billion – today its value is 100 times that. Rosie’s Instagram is phenomenally successful, with nearly 400,000 followers at the time of writing. ‘I’ve got a lot of female followers and I think what they really like is my honesty, and they like to see a person in a similar situation to them. Instagram often presents life with everything being perfect, and it’s sometimes tempting for people to think “oh, why aren’t I like that?” I think what people like with mine, and yes I do put lovely things on it too, is the reality of it. People can really relate to it.’
From Instagram success, Rosie decided to think about a podcast. ‘We had thought about it a year before we started, and we finally thought well, why not give it a go?’ she explains. ‘I knew we could get the equipment, I think it cost £450, and we got started. We thought if anyone listened that would be great, but let’s just see. Chris and I get on really well and have a good laugh together, and people had in the past said they had liked listening to us just chatting together, and it’s become quite successful.’
Her modesty is endearing. The podcast has struck a chord with huge numbers who love its honesty, humour and its matter-of-fact Geordie joy. It’s a bit blue for some ears, but its day-to-day cutting simplicity is a real pleasure to listen to and it gives a few life lessons along the way, as well as being very funny. Rosie explains a little more: ‘One of the most important things in life is to be able to laugh at yourself. Chris and I are both from mickey-taking families, but in a lovely way. That’s what we’re trying to teach Robin, our little boy. You’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself and not take life too seriously.’ That said, it’s not a complete free for all and there are areas which are off limits. ‘It gets edited by our management company and we do occasionally think, you know what, let’s not say that. We are still a married couple and we do have a private life.’
I’m keen to know whether it’s commercial. ‘At the moment it’s not,’ Rosie admits. ‘Hopefully something will come along soon, but we’re still really doing it for the love of it.’ She explains some of the details and it’s fascinating to note their biggest audience is in London (though there are more podcast listeners there) and it seems a great way to export ‘Geordieism’. ‘I use “howay” a lot, and “geet”.’ We also agree that all couples should try a podcast to clear the air. ‘When we do our section “What’s your beef?”, I’m always getting lots of people saying that they do that as well now and it really helps them. Sometimes all it takes is to talk over those irritating habits.’ It helps that the podcast is based entirely on real life, which is why it’s important that it’s always recorded at their home, where they’re most happy chatting… and it clearly works.
Of course, social media can come at a price. ‘It’s taken me some time to ignore the criticism and I’ve doubted myself, but I’ve now learnt to brush it off,’ she says. There are always people who want to put down success – the cursed keyboard trolls – but her pragmatic approach and advice is laudable. It has to be especially considered when the couple’s pride and joy regularly appears on Instagram: their son Robin. ‘Whenever he is on my Instagram I check it over carefully and never put him in an embarrassing situation, or something he might not like in the future. If you’re going to put children online you have to be careful, and for me there might come a time in the next couple of years when I don’t put him on as much. At the end of the day, he’s our child, and that comes before everything. But he does love it and I think he’d be very annoyed if we took him off!’
We discuss numerous scenarios and the one abiding trait that Rosie displays is a sense of warmth, wrapped in a dedication to get on and do. It’s hugely uplifting and her advice (if you should be planning your own podcast) is fairly straightforward. ‘You should do it on something you’re passionate about and interested in, you must be authentic. If you’re looking back over a few recordings and they sound boring, everyone else will probably find them boring too! Whatever you do, don’t try and be someone else, it just doesn’t work – but definitely give it a go.’
The Ramseys’ podcast, from which the book will take its name, is called Sh**ged. Married. Annoyed, and the world rights have been acquired by Michael Joseph (Penguin) so the book has every chance of being a major hit. Early pre-ordered signed copies have sold out and the initial reaction looks exciting – all that Chris and Rosie need to do is produce a great job. As the publisher, Charlotte Hardman, says in The Bookseller: ‘The guide will explore the highs and lows of dating, relationships, marriage and everything in between. It will have readers crying with laughter and nodding along in solidarity. I’m so excited to be working with such an incredibly downright hilarious and genuinely lovely couple.’
The main objective may be to entertain but there will no doubt be some good lessons in life too. ‘It’s going to be very conversational, using different fonts for me and Chris,’ Rosie explains. ‘There will be questions from the general public and one of us will take the lead while the other comments. Then there will be stories from our childhood and from life as it is now, with some advice along the way. So far I think it’s very good, and my Mam thinks it’s good too.’ There are no ghost writers involved and if it mirrors the success of the podcast (which was included in Apple’s Best Listens of 2019) it could do extremely well. ‘And because we’re writing it together, if we think something will work better we can go with it as we go along. It’s coming together and it’s really good fun.’
In many ways, Chris and Rosie Ramsey are a remarkable couple. I guess it helps that they both have an abundance of humour in their lives, but of course, that’s no guarantee of perpetual happiness and challenges come and go, as with all of us. I reminisce back to comedic duos Eric & Ernie, The Two Ronnies, Steptoe and Son, and we can even give a nod to Ant and Dec, but in terms of keeping it in the family – the Ramseys have it. What the future holds, who knows, but it’s certain to include a lot of laughter. ‘Chris and I have known each other since we were 14 years old,’ Rosie explains. ‘We went to different schools and we used to play out in the same street, and then we went to the same college. So we’ve always known each other. Then we met properly on a night out and it went from there, the rest is history.’
I guess, like all couples, there must be issues amidst the mirth, but the podcast is the best way of dealing with them, it seems. This week her beef is that ‘his snoring is getting worse and a dig in the ribs is common. When he wakes he’s really apologetic, saying “I’m so, so sorry”,’ she confides, laughing. ‘Mind you, I’m always annoying him. This week it’s probably me wanting to move house.’ She wants to move locally, but to a period house.
Rosie is such fun and a pleasure to talk to. Her love of her school days, her friends and, above all, her family is as genuine as it is warming. She’s clearly been successful in many ways already, but do these many and various irons in the fire define her success? ‘I just want to be happy,’ she says. ‘Don’t get me wrong, earning good money and living in lovely places is absolutely wonderful, but if you’re not happy it’s all pointless. My ambition in life is to stay as happy as I am now and see my friends and family happy in life too. I feel I will have succeeded if we’re all happy.’ It’s a sentiment which resonates, as I’m sure it will with you, and when it’s mixed with laughter it’s a winning formula. As for Chris, Rosie concludes: ‘What you see is what you get with Chris, he’s a happy chappy.’ Well, who can blame him? He has a charming wife who is talented and genuine, and who, as well as loving her friends and family, loves the North East too. Life always has its issues, but happy people make for a happier place. The people of the North East appreciate and understand this as well as any, don’t you think?
Favourite Restaurant: ‘Colmans Seafood Temple. We go here all the time, it’s just great.’
Favourite Place: ‘I’ve got a lovely walk over the Cleadon Hills we used to do as kids, and I still do. You can see all of South Tyneside and you end up in Whitburn. I love it.’
Desert Island Rescuer: ‘Shall I be really sweet and say Chris? (with Robin beside him).’