A FORMER actress from the Ricky Gervais Office series and the business partner she happened to meet in a shop in Peterborough two years ago are set to open a new business in Ellington on Saturday.

Disabled actor David Proud (Adam Best from BBC TV's Eastenders) will officially open the new shop, Bee Crafty, at Brook Farm, and cut a ceremonial cake for his friend Julie Fernandez, pictured right, and her partner Sarah Payne, left, a computer software trainer in another life.

The two discovered a shared interest in patchwork quilting when they first met, and decided to abandon their previous careers to pursue crafting professionally.

"Unlike our competitors, who specialise in selling and training for a single craft, we shall be covering the whole range," Julie told The Hunts Post.

Julie, who comes from London, now lives in Stilton, and played disabled Brenda in The Office, and Sarah, from Rutland, settled on the Ellington premises after an extensive search for premises that could be made wheelchair-accessible and had adequate long-term parking.

"We didn't want to be in a high street: we need very good free parking because many women will be bringing their own sewing machines to sessions and will need to park nearby for the day.

"And it has to be wheelchair-accessible, because I have been in a wheelchair all my life."

Julie, 37, suffers from brittle bone disease and has needed a wheelchair throughout her life. "I've already had 100 fractures and 70 operations," she confided.

"We eventually found the unit at Brook Farm, and the landlord has really supported us in making it accessible, not just putting in an accessible toilet and a ramp but improving the pavement outside.

"Most people say it takes 18 months to set up a shop. When we open on Saturday, we shall have done it in just eight months."

With household budgets tight, crafting has done well in recession as families eke out the available money, and the two women hope to capitalise on the shop's accessibility to disabled people and attraction to elderly people who would not otherwise venture from their homes.

"The 'blue pound' is extremely important," Julie said. "Disabled people usually have a companion, so there are two people spending money."

She added: "Bee Crafty will be a centre for people to indulge and enjoy the shop, the classes or to bring their own craft projects in with them and enjoy the relaxed, fun atmosphere of a group session.

"Bee Crafty will welcome everybody and will currently concentrate on the three main areas of the growing craft industry: patchwork quilting, knitting/crochet and beading."

There will be a coffee bar area, and the shop will stock a range of wools and knitting patterns.

INFORMATION: Bee Crafty is at Brook Farm, Thrapston Road, Ellington PE28 0AE: telephone 01480 891746: www.beeingcrafty.co.uk