Masking fair a friend Fair City star helps show's cast cover up for Covid with homemade masks
Fair City actress Una Crawford O'Brien got so fed up with having to wear paper masks during the first lockdown that she took out her mother's old sewing machine and started to make her own.
The popular star, who plays Renee Phelan in the hit RTÉ soap, has now made hundreds of customised face coverings.
And industrious Una has presented one to fellow cast members in the drama series.
"I suppose it started because we all had to wear face masks and I truly hate the papers ones, they're awful," Una tells the Sunday World.
"I also hate the fact that they're one-use only. We walked into town the other day from our home in near Rathgar in south Dublin to the top of St Stephen's Green, I counted 28 on the ground. It's terrible."
During the first lockdown Una decided to diversify.
"It started off when all the shops were closed and I couldn't get material," she recalls. "I had got a dress last year that I didn't like but I liked the material. I started to make face masks out of that and it kind of grew from there."
The veteran admits she tried her hand at dressmaking "years ago".
"I'm in our present house now eight years and it's the first time the sprog machine had come out," she explains.
"I didn't even know it would work. It was one my mother had and it must be about 70 or 80 years old.
"Then I got to enjoy it. It was something to do if I was bored, I'd sit down. Then I'd try and sort fabrics to see if they'd suit people or suit an occasion. The reason I like them is they're 100% cotton and can be thrown in the washing machine."
She liked trying out different designs.
"We have a black Scotty dog, so I came across great red tartan material to use," she smiles. "I have every colour. I'm always looking for different ones, like a liquorice allsorts one."
Una is not sure if any of the cast have actually worn her masks yet as she's been off set for the past month.
"I'm in next week and I thought I might as well start wearing my own ones," she adds.
"I have quite a few of them as I've been off work for the past four weeks and I was thinking of selling them for homeless charities, maybe a fiver each. I've made a few hundred of them. I'd feel there was some good coming from it."
The process can be time consuming.
"I make two different types," she notes. "The longer ones take four in an hour and the shorter ones five in an hour. My dining room table is now the sewing machine table."
Her character Renee goes out with Bob (Bryan Murray) in the soap and in real life the actors are also an item.
"Every material I get he goes 'that's lovely material, can I have one of those?'" she chuckles. "He now has loads of masks. But you do wear them a lot when you're out and about."
Brian and Una found the first lockdown particularly problematic.
"We were supposed to tour with a play, Halcyon Days by Deirdre Kinahan, the following week after lockdown and that all came to a halt, which was really disappointing," she says.
"Then we got new dates for May and that was gone again.
"That was difficult and Fair City was gone as well. We really missed the working because we both love working.
"I find this one is a little bit harder and I find a lot of people feel the same way. This lockdown, even though there's more shops open, it's that little bit harder."
Una is enjoying her time back on the soap, which she has starred in on and off for nearly 20 years.
"At the moment we are ticking over the two of us together," she notes. "When we went back (filming after the first lockdown) we had a fair bit of scenes. It's nice to be in and relax without a heavy storyline."
Viewers were also bemused when Renee and Bob had a snogging scene, which was a lot different to other cast members during these social distancing days.
"There was one fun scene, where he pulled me down on the sofa and everything," she chortles.
"And it was just nice to have that kind of little normality, because we're the only ones in Fair City who can do it.
"One of the soaps, they use Perspex between them, so you can see the people kissing but there's Perspex between them. I don't know how that works but its crazy."
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