WHEN Linda Payne first donned some Victorian clothes she could not have predicted that it would eventually land her a role in a Hollywood blockbuster.

Linda, who is a founding member of a Victorian re-enactment group, had a small part in Les Miserables alongside Hollywood stars Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman.

She had the privilege of hearing the stars sing live on set and got to chat with them on a daily basis.

Linda says: “I listened to Anne and Hugh sing live on set with just a piano accompaniment, which is not very forgiving.

“Hugh in particular had an incredible voice. It was amazing to hear him sing before the music was added to it for the film.”

Linda, who is part of the Victorian Strollers, also saw first hand the results of Anne Hathaway’s two stone weight loss for her role as the starving prostitute Fantine.

Anne, 30, who has referred to her diet as “starvation”, shed 25 pound for the role – ten pounds in three weeks before filming and 15 pounds during production, admitting she had to stop eating for 13 days during filming.

She says: “Anne did look very thin because she had to lose a lot of weight for the part of Fantine. “She didn’t eat with the rest of the cast and would occasionally nibble on a little bit of food from a lunch box.”

Linda, 55, who grew up in Billericay and now lives in Witham, had a great time mingling with the stars.

She says: “I didn’t know who any of them were to start with and I was chatting to Hugh and Anne and Russell Crowe, as I do with everyone.

“It was only when I noticed they had they own make-up crew looking after them and when someone said don’t you know who they are?

“They were not starry at all! Even when Russell Crowe came on set he went and got his own coffee.”

Linda enjoyed her time on set so much she didn’t much care about actually appearing in the finished product.

She says: “My part was as a quality controller in the factory. I would not have minded if my scenes had ended up on the cutting room floor because I had had such a great time. “I am happy to say though that my scenes were kept in the film!”

Linda and her husband Ray helped found the Victorian Strollers in 2000. The group, which started in Colchester, has spread all over the country and overseas. It hosts regular events where members dress in authentic Victorian clothing.

Linda says: “It started with a Dickens festival in Rochester, where I went along with my niece who was over from Australia. “We went to a fancy dress shop to get a Victorian costume and saw they were for sale so went and bought them instead.

“Then friends and I took part in a charity Victorian Christmas fair in Colchester and afterwards we spoke about forming a group and that’s when we eventually came up with the Victorian Strollers.”

Once the society was established and a website was created offers for various TV and film roles came flooding in.

Linda says: “The members have taken part in so many events, including some for the National Trust, and my brother, Phil, starred in the Horrible Histories series.

“The Strollers has gained so much popularity over the years. “We don’t meet up regularly like some groups, because we are spread out all over the world, but we all wear the Strollers badge.”

Linda has a strong interest in the Victorian era, which was sparked by her love of Charles Dickens’ novels as a child. “I rem-ember being read Great Expectations as a child and being in awe of it. “No one creates characters like Dickens, he painted such a vivid picture of that time.

“It was that which got me interested in the Victorian era and I have been hooked ever since.”

She is interested in how people lived at that time.

Linda says: “There were extremes in the way the very poor live, compared to the very rich.

“Can you imagine having to bow your head every time you saw a member of the upper-class?

“The only people who seemed to have it made were rich men. “Even rich women had it hard back them. Girls had to wear corsets so they could barely move.

“There were positive things such as the emergence of the Suffragette movement. “However, medical care has definitely improved and you wouldn’t want to have a toothache and have to go a Victorian dentist or to be ill at that time.”

Since buying her first Victorian outfit Linda has become obsessed with making her clothes and collecting authentic Victorian accessories.

She says: “I have accumulated a lot of stuff since becoming a stroller. “We are about to move all of the outfits from the smaller spare bedroom to the master bedroom. “As I have become more interested in the era I have also become more obsessed with making the outfits as accurate as possible. If you are creating an outfit from 1850 you want the right hair and accessories to go with it.

“I like to have the right hair pieces for the right outfit, plus a bonnet is great for hiding a bad hair day!”

Linda has researched the changing fashions of the era.

“The fashion didn’t move that quickly, but it was quite specific. Especially when they invented dyes for clothes and colours like purple because the fashion for the rich,” she says: “Beetles were used for red dye and the chemicals used in purple actually was lethal and ended with many women dying.”

Linda enjoys the theatre of dressing up and attending events.

“I was never into drama before the Strollers but now we view attending events as street theatre.

“It is a lot of fun to dress up and become a character for a day.”

Delving into characters is something that comes easily to Linda who is a keen short story writer.

She says: “I enjoy writing in my spare time and have won several short story competitions, including the Society of Women Writers and Journalists writing competition last year.

“I enjoy creating a story surrounding the Victorian characters I dress as. With characters, which is something Dicken’s did so well, it doesn’t matter what age you were born into or whether you are rich or poor.”

Linda counts her blessings that her husband, Ray, shares her passion for Victorian costumes.

“A lot of our time is spent attending events,” says Linda. “It is a big part of our lives and something we really enjoy. These days January and February are the only months we have off.”

Visit the website www.victorianstrollers.co.uk for details.