Jackie was the magazine which teenage girls in the 1970s waited with bated breath to read. Now it has formed the inspiration for Jackie the musical, the story of a 50-something woman in a mid life crisis who turns to her editions of the magazine and the memories of her younger self for guidance. Senior reporter Flora Thompson finds out what the magazine meant to the women involved in the musical.

IN a world before mobile phones, television shows available at a touch of a button and Twitter, Jackie was a source of solace for a nation of teenage girls.

Accustomed to hiding under woollen bed covers as they listened to the hit parade on Radio Luxembourg, 1970s youngsters were desperate for entertainment aimed at their age group.

They lapped up the magazine's pop posters and interviews with the stars but were equally eager for guidance on subjects they felt they could never discuss with their mothers. Problem pages guided millions of girls through boy trouble, as well as hair and beauty dilemmas making it the highlight of the week and a best seller.

More than 20 years since its last edition, many women of the generation still think back on it with fondness.

Those feelings are revived this year as Jackie the musical tours the nation, with a stop at the Theatre Royal, Brighton, in April.

Written by Mike James, choreographed by ex-Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips and directed by Anna Linstrum, the story - to the backdrop of 1970s hit songs - draws on this nostalgia to help a 50-something woman through a mid-life crisis.

She turns to her old magazines, finding comfort in memories of her younger self and the sage advice of Cathy and Claire to move on from her troubles.

Commissioned by the Gardyne Theatre in Dundee, where Jackie's editorial offices were once based, the musical premiered in 2013 and publishers DC Thomson are supporting this year's tour.

The stars of the show Janet Dibley, Nicholas Bailey and Graham Bickley, are now busy with rehearsals drawing on an insight into life at Jackie from former editor Nina Myskow.

It is something which has brought fond memories flooding back for Nina, who wrote for Jackie before becoming its first female editor in its golden years.

Nina, now 69, said: “It is a brilliant idea and a great storyline. I have lived through it for 12 years so help bring authenticity to it of what it was like. The audience will be transported back to a time when we were all young, and not just young at heart. Anyone who was fond of Jackie or the 1970s will enjoy it."

For Nina, the magazine was a source of entertainment, fun, romance and fantasy for these girls, with a “healthy dose of realism”. She was eager for the publication to instil a sense of value, self-worth and ambition into its readers.

“Jackie was a girl’s best friend. Girls lead a black and white existence. You were isolated, it was much duller. If you had your own room, you would have a transistor radio with Radio 4 and maybe Radio Luxembourg. The telephone was in the hall and you had to ask your parent’s permission to use the phone. You didn’t have a support group of friends to text at any time, but also there was no pressure on Instagram from girls looking perfect.”

Along the way, she had fabulous fun working there – getting to know celebrities like a young Elton John. Her very first trip to America was courtesy of the 20-something star who jetted a string of guests out there while he was on tour.

“I had a blast, it was really great fun interviewing all the music stars. I was also flown out to France to see Donny Osmond on tour. It was fantastic training for the rest of my career.”

The publishers DC Thomson also felt a responsibility to look after the “wee lassies” which is why Nina thinks it stood the test of time for 29 years while other magazines came and went.

“I wanted the girls to know there was more to life than growing up, finding a man and having children. It wasn’t quite the dark ages but there was still a feeling your interests and career would not continue after that.

“It’s very easy to take advantage of a teenage girl and separate her from her mummy. We were a lifeline, a big sister to the readers. I think it’s why it still resonates today and the others don’t.”

Now she fears young girls are expected to grow up too quickly and urges young girls to allow themselves to dream and work hard for their ambitions, and always, always be themselves.

She added: “It seems to me to go from Barbie to bondage without drawing breath. The insecurities are still there, these girls still need to find out who they are and where they fit in. It’s a very anxious time and this is not really acknowledged. Now the magazines just scratch the surface.”

For Janet, who plays the title character, being asked to audition for the musical prompted a renaissance of her love for Jackie as a reader but also a path ahead as she navigated her way through her own doubts for the future.

“In the musical Jackie is having a mid-life crisis, she doesn’t know where she fits in. And I suppose I felt that too. I was asking myself ‘Where do I fit in? What do I do? I had come to a cross roads.

“This is worlds apart from anything else I have done but something I very much wanted to do, having started out in musicals, I wanted to return. Sometimes I find I make more sense singing than talking. I got my voice in shape again, I was invited to audition, I read the script, I listened to the music and I was hooked.

“She finds her old Jackie magazines, she gets help from Cathy and Claire, she meets her younger self and this helps her to go through the process of sorting her life out. It’s something everyone can relate to – and this is why I chose to do the show. She keeps going. It’s a great story and really very moving.”

The 57-year-old, who now lives near Lewes, became a household name in the 1980s when she co-starred with Nicholas Lyndhurst in The Two of Us as Elaine Walker. She re-appeared on screens as Lorna Cartwright in Eastenders, and more recently as Chaz Moore, in the drama Broadchurch.

She too was an avid reader of Jackie in her teen years.

“My older sister is called Jackie and I answer as much to Jackie as Janet, I got used to it. Everybody read the magazine. My mother used to buy batches of back copies in jumble sales for the holidays. There was the fun of knowing every week it was coming – you would discuss with friends ‘Did you get that poster?’

“You became obsessed with boys, they lived in your fantasy. I was in love with a boy I had never spoken to. I would scour the pages of Jackie to find out how to kiss and other things you could not talk to your mum about. It was a sweet and naïve game really.”

Some argue entertainment and information now available to teenagers now is too sexualised and less playful and innocent, Janet thinks youngsters today have more control.

“They have a better handle on their own lives than we had – it’s good for them. We were quite naïve with our Jackies. We weren’t able to prepare for things, they [adults and society] didn’t take much notice of us and because of that we were vulnerable. Jackie was unusual, it had a great modern feel to it and it was exciting.”

She is looking forward to performing at the Theatre Royal and being able to come home to her own bed while on tour.

What is Jackie magazine?

THE magazine was founded and first edited by Gordon Small, a former RAF aero engine fitter, who wanted to design an exciting new read for "go ahead teens".

It launched on Thursday, January 11, 1964 at the cost of 6d, the equivalent of 2½p. It offered a mix of fashion, beauty, pop gossip, posters, fun quizzes, love stories and advice as well as tips on romance. It became the highlight of the week for most teenage girls.

In the early seventies sales reached an all time high peaking at over a million and it became the best selling teenage title for ten years.

The address printed in the magazine was 185 Fleet Street, Fetter Lane, London EC4A 2HS, but in reality it was actually produced hundreds of miles away in Dundee by publishers DC Thomson. This was to make it appear that Jackie was produced at the centre of the cool capital.

The name was nearly dropped due to the association with Jackie Kennedy after her husband John F Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. It is rumoured the magazine was named after Jacqueline Wilson before she became a famous children's author but this has never been proven.

The Cathy and Claire problem page received 400 letters from readers each week, many of which were sex-related. DC Thomson decided to keep the editorial brief but created a series of help leaflets to send to the letter writers.

When the NHS made the contraceptive pill free on prescription in 1974 editor Nina Myskow introduced a Dear Doctor column, which covered what were termed as "below the waist issues".

A total of 1,534 issues later, its last edition was printed on July 3, 1993 after the publisher chose not to follow the more sexualised and high fashion direction newer magazines were taking.

Since then it has inspired nostalgia with Jackie annuals, a radio broadcast dedicated to the magazine and Jackie the musical.