WHEN Peter Kay announced he was reuniting the Phoenix Nights gang, comedian Janice Connolly was as thrilled as the show's fans.

Now the actress and writer — who played Holy Mary in Phoenix Nights and Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere — cannot wait to don her Princess Diana sweatshirt once again and get on stage.

She will appear in Phoenix Nights Live at the Manchester Arena with the sitcom's full original cast from January 31, including Peter, Paddy McGuinness, Dave Spikey, Neil Fitzmaurice, Justin Moorhouse and Ted Robbins.

Janice said: "Peter rang us all up a while back.

"It's going to be brilliant, being back together.

"I suppose I always hoped we would get back together because it was great fun doing it and people love it so much.

"We have already met up once because we made an advert for the television.

"It was really nice to see everyone, they were all looking great.

"Putting on the Lady Diana jumper again was brilliant.

"It was just one of those great experiences in life to get back together."

The much-loved series followed the rise and fall of scheming club impresario Brian Potter, played by Peter, and his band of loyal staff and regulars at the Phoenix club, filmed at St Gregory's Social Club, Church Street, Farnworth.

First screened in 2001 on Channel 4, the run of 15 live shows are being staged in aid of Comic Relief.

Janice, who is from Stockport and lives in Birmingham, said: "Obviously Peter knows what he is doing. He's really good at working out what's going to be good and he's used to playing in those great big arenas.

"People will enjoy seeing the characters again."

It was 1997 when Janice first met Bolton funnyman Peter at the final of the North West Comedian of the Year at the Palace nightclub in Levenshulme.

She said: "I had been in a competition for the North West new act that Peter had won the year before.

"I was in that and he asked me if I would get involved with his programme.

"It was proper dream come true stuff."

Janice, who runs the Birmingham-based Women and Theatre group, also featured in That Peter Kay Thing and would like to see Phoenix Nights return.

She said: "It would be great if we did but that is completely out of my hands really.

"I think the public would love it."

When asked why she thinks it was so popular, she said: "It's very funny, for a start.

"I think everyone has got fond memories of those working men's clubs.

"Lots of research went into it, Peter went around the clubs of the Bolton area.

"The fun of it really, having a laugh.

"I think it really reflects what was going on and what is still going on."

Aside from Phoenix Nights and Janice performs as her comic alter-ego, Barbara Nice, a middle-aged housewife who believes in bargains, women’s magazine, getting the most from life — and stage diving.

She enjoyed success at the last Edinburgh Festival Fringe with her show, Barbara Nice: Squirrel Proof, and is currently making a pilot episode in a bid to land her own BBC series based around the character.

She said: "I'd really like the TV programme to be taken up.

"I'll have to wait and see. I've got a lot of support, a lot of people from the BBC are really behind me.

"I feel like I'm in a good position, it's been a really good year."