Coronation Street star Kimberly Hart-Simpson has been volunteering at the British Heart Foundation store since October after her sister’s diagnosis
Bargain hunters would be forgiven for doing a double take at the familiar face behind the charity shop counter wrapping up bric a brac.
For while many celebrities relish the glamour of fame, Coronation Street actress Kimberly Hart-Simpson has gone a different direction – volunteering at a British Heart Foundation store since October.
“I’ve gone to their shops near me for years, not just to shop but to chat with the staff because I became friends with them,” says Kimberly. “The charity have done a big volunteering drive as the numbers of shop volunteers they had fell after lockdown, so I’ve been doing it around my schedule and it’s become a home from home to me.
“I often tend to stick downstairs in the stockroom where I can rummage through the donations and steam them to prep them for sale, but I have worked on the shop floor as well and it’s lovely chatting to customers coming in. You meet the best people.”
There is also a poignant reason behind 35-year-old Kimberly’s work at the BHF shop in Manchester, as her sister Emma Simpson, who is in her forties, was diagnosed with a chronic heart condition a few years ago.
And Kimberly says donations to the charity helped save her much-loved sister’s life, as these go towards funding scientific research for new medicines and other treatments for people affected by heart problems.
Kimberly works at the BHF shop in Manchester
Emma’s condition, dilated cardiomyopathy, causes the walls of the heart muscle to become stretched and thin, which weakens them. This means the heart can’t contract properly and struggles to pump blood to the rest of the body, causing symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath and heart palpitations.
“From coming from a low-income household, the BHF was somewhere we always shopped and a big part of our upbringing,” says Kimberly, who spoke with Emma, on the BHF podcast The Ticker Tapes in July about her condition.
“Then, a few years ago Emma became poorly and after going back and forth to the doctors for a long time she was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy.
Kimberly says donations to the charity helped save her much-loved sister’s life
“The condition has been life-altering for her – she has a lot of different symptoms and has good and bad days but can’t predict when they will be, it can be frustrating when she feels fine one day but can’t do anything the next.
“Because of Emma’s experience, it has pushed me to use my platform so everybody knows about the charity and it’s a definite driver for me to carry on shopping there.”
Kimberly regularly shares pictures of her BHF charity shop buys with her 133,000 Instagram followers as a way of promoting the organisation, but also to showcase her love of sustainable fashion.
The actress loves sustainable fashion
She says: “I try not to buy fast fashion. When I do get clothes made by these retailers I’ll get them in the charity shops so my money is going to a good cause and I’m saving clothes from going to landfill.
“It’s much more sustainable. I do understand fast fashion, especially for people from lower income households who don’t have a lot of money to spend on clothes but the solution for it is to go to the charity shops where they are cheap and you can still be on trend.
“A lot of the stuff I’ve picked up from them is so new it even has the labels still on them.”
Kimberly was born in Rhyl and moved to Oldham, Greater Manchester, with her family when she was 16.
Kimberly has been on the soap for two years
Before becoming a professional actress, she was a manager at McDonald’s, worked at a Fitness First gym and also made props and clothes for stage shows.
TV roles in the Sky series Mount Pleasant and Hollyoaks followed, but her big break came two years ago when she was cast as sex worker Nicky Wheatley in Coronation Street.
This, she says, was her career highlight – especially as just before her father Kevin passed away in 2007 he told her “just do me a favour and get Corrie, love.”
Kimberly adds: “There’s been so many great things I’ve done that I’m proud of, but I would definitely say Corrie.
“Going on the soap was one of my personal life goals, so achieving that has been something quite special.”
Nicky left the Cobbles in September 2020, after her ex-boyfriend Daniel Osbourne (Rob Mallard) paid off her debts so she could quit being a sex worker.
But she’s set to have an explosive comeback this spring, when she returns to Weatherfield to see that Dan is now in a relationship with scheming barmaid Daisy Midgeley (Charlotte Jordan).
While Kimberly can’t reveal anything about her upcoming storylines and what has brought her character back to the street, she says she “can’t wait” to reprise her role in the ITV soap, adding: “I’m just so excited, it really is a great place to be.”
While she was away from Corrie, Kimberly appeared on Celebs Go Dating: The Mansion in early 2021, looking for love alongside Joey Essex, Wayne Lineker and Chloe Ferry.
Kimberly went on to date Dreamboys dancer Shane Finlayson, 33, for six months after meeting him on the show but they split last May.
Currently single, Kimberly is tight-lipped on whether she is looking to meet anybody else this year but says she is still in touch with Shane and her Celebs Go Dating co-stars.
“Going on the show was something completely different that I never thought I’d do,” she says.
“I’m still in touch with every single person from it, including the people that moved in to the mansion as well that we dated.
“There’s a group chat going on and we speak to each other all the time. I really enjoyed the experience.”
As well as Coronation Street, Kimberly’s big focus for 2022 is on spending more time with her family including Emma and her mum, who suffered a serious accident last month and was in hospital over Christmas.
“Mum is out of hospital now thankfully,” says Kimberly. “At the moment she needs one-on-one care, so I’m her full-time carer and have her with me.
“This year’s focus is to really hone in on the family aspect of things. I’m going to be enjoying working in an amazing job and being around my family. Last year really taught me the importance of being around the people you love.”