This must be a strange time for Heather Bradley. After last week's elections, realising there'll be no more phone calls asking her about bin collections, parking, and other everyday concerns.

Heather, 74, had represented Currock on Carlisle City Council since 1988, making her the city's longest-serving councillor. She decided not to seek re-election.

Before those 30 years, Heather had another life which is little known to many of her constituents or fellow councillors. There was a music career with folk trio Swan Arcade which included six albums, three sessions for John Peel's legendary Radio 1 show, and concerts for thousands of people.

"This was in the 70s and 80s," she recalls. "We were mainly a cappella. We sang all over the UK and Europe. There were some very big festivals with about 10,000 people.

"I remember feeling pretty overawed at the idea of singing on the John Peel Show. The songs were recorded without his being there but he introduced them on the programme. We also sang on the BBC Radio 2 folk music show a couple of times and on radio in Holland and Belgium."

The group comprised Heather, her then husband Dave Bradley and Jim Boyes. "We started off singing traditional songs. Then almost anything. A lot of pop - The Beatles, Elvis Costello, The Kinks. After Margaret Thatcher came to power we became increasingly politicised in our choice of songs."

Many of these were sung during miners' benefit shows. The 1984-85 miners' strike opposed colliery closures and pitted miners' unions against the Conservative government and the police.

Heather remembers singing songs like We Work the Black Seam , Shipbuilding and Coal Not Dole . "It was very emotional singing a song such as Coal Not Dole , which ends 'There'll always be a happy hour for those with money, jobs and power. They'll never realise the hurt they do to men they treat like dirt.'"

The lyrics chimed with the way she had always seen the world. Heather joined the Labour Party while at school in London. Her accent has survived many years in the North. She worked as a teacher in Yorkshire, where she met Dave, and came to Cumbria with him. They ran a B&B at Seascale then moved to Penton.

The couple split up and Heather moved to Carlisle. By this time she had been a city councillor for five years, since June 1988. She describes her motivation to enter politics as "the usual thing. You want to play some part and help the community in some way. Particularly to help people that aren't as articulate or as healthy or strong as you are."

Back then, did she expect to serve on the council for 30 years? The question elicits a "No!" and lots of laughter. "I find it difficult to believe it's been so long," she says.

Heather immersed herself in local life, moving to Blackwell Road, one of Currock's main arteries. She has never come close to losing her seat. "Which isn't to say I've never been worried. You're always on edge at elections."

She juggled much of her time on the council with bringing up her daughter Jenny and son Davoc, and teaching part-time at local schools and colleges.

Not even the most meticulous time-management can make a councillor's life predictable. "I was once rung at about 2.30am by a woman whose neighbour had switched on the washing machine and she wanted me to hear it.

"I remember once being stopped in the Co-op down the road. I had to ask if they had a bit of the end of the till roll so I could make a note."

In terms of achievements in her ward Heather names "stuff that's very minor. Like getting HGVs banned from Beaconsfield Street. Getting a parking bay at St Nicholas made into residents only."

And the perennial issue of dog muck? "It's not as bad as it used to be but it is still a source of complaints. So is parking. Some things just never change."

Heather has also been instrumental in some of the biggest issues facing Carlisle. From 2014 she was part of the council's ruling executive, as the economy, enterprise and housing portfolio holder.

"A large part of that is planning. Things like the Local Plan. That took a few years because it's highly complicated. The St Cuthbert's garden village: there's been some very positive feedback. Some people thought it would be a 10,000-house estate. That isn't the idea at all. It's up to 10,000 houses, spread over 25 years or more with green corridors.

"The Borderlands project [a cross-border alliance of local authorities]. Housing, homelessness. We have very good staff working on all these things.

"I'm just part of the Labour team. We've dealt with some very big projects. It was under Labour that the university came here. We set up the law centre. They can give independent legal advice. And the benefits advice service from the council.

"These things have had a huge impact on local people's lives, especially people that are not the most affluent. More recently the Old Fire Station, a venue that puts on different types of entertainment for a huge range of people.

"I'm really proud of that sort of thing. Those are the big things. I wouldn't say I was particularly responsible for them."

It's 20 years since Heather began her 12-month term as the city's mayor. "The best bit was meeting all the people in the organisations and charities that are working in Carlisle. They work tirelessly. I didn't have any idea of how big that network is and the contribution they make. I remember playing dominoes with some blind ladies. I lost all my loose change!"

She was leader of the council's Labour group for seven years until 2006, helping to rebuild it after the party lost control of the authority in 1999. The ill-fated plan to build a glass pyramid at Tullie House to mark the millennium had contributed to Labour's downfall.

Whether councillors are appreciated by the public at the best of times is debatable. "I think generally people are pretty tolerant when you're knocking on the door. Sometimes you get labelled with labels that people put on national politicians, like with the MPs' expenses' scandal.

"Someone on the doorstep told me that I was corrupt. I called one of the others over and said to the man that said it 'Would you mind repeating that in front of a witness?' He just spluttered and closed the door.

"You get people that give you the leaflet back and say 'I don't want that.' I always say 'Thank you very much. We're running short of them.'

"More people are relying on social media to read opinions which are not always the best informed. At least with TV and most of the press you get a reasonably balanced view.

"A lot of things that concern people who are involved in politics, others might not be bothered. One of the jobs of local politicians is to help people understand the ramifications of what's happening."

Over the years there have been some much-admired colleagues. Heather has fond memories of former council leader Lawrie Eilbeck, who died in 2002. "It was a privilege to have been in the group with Lawrie. He had a very astute brain, intellectually and politically. Hugh Little was another.

"Lawrie was always good at speaking. Colin Glover is good. Trudy Whalley always spoke from the heart. There quite often is humour at council meetings. It's spur of the moment. Sometimes it's only one side that laughs!

"I have a habit of thinking something amusing and saying it. Not everyone might agree and sometimes I might have been better keeping my mouth shut but no malice was ever intended."

Heather claims party lines are less deeply ingrained than at Westminster. They are often apparent when it comes to voting - and drinking tea. "I haven't got any Conservative friends that I drop in on for a cup of tea. But I'd say I've got people I get on well with. I have had respect for them as individuals although I cannot agree with their political views."

Such matters are no longer a direct concern for Heather. She'll be 75 next month and is looking forward to relaxing... to some extent. "I don't know what I'm going to do yet. My son nags me and says 'Mum, you can't just sit and read all day.' I'd quite like to do that! He and his wife bought me a whole lot of paints and canvas and charcoal and stuff. I haven't painted since school.

"I'd probably like to do some volunteering. I don't think I can just sit and do nothing. I need to be involved in something. I've got two grandchildren and another on the way. Lots of family and friends. I don't think I'll be stuck for things to do."

Asked if there will be anything to mark her 30 years of service, she laughs and says: "I don't think so. At the end of the last meeting [before an election] people usually say something about those who are standing down. You don't get a clock for the mantlepiece or anything like that. I hope they think I made a worthwhile contribution to the council and the local community. I'd also like to think that they appreciated my sense of humour."

Will she canvass for Labour in future elections? Heather does not seem hugely keen at the prospect of yet more knocking on doors. "I don't know - it might depend how far up my back my arm is twisted."

She mentions having been nipped by dogs while putting leaflets through letterboxes. She won't miss that. She will miss the councillors and staff she has worked with and the constituents she has worked for.

Any regrets? "Things like when you can't manage to get something done for somebody. But what's the sense of having regrets? You can't go back and do it again, can you. You've just got to get on with it."