It’s been over 30 years since Cheryl Baker won the Eurovision Song Contest as a member of Bucks Fizz with the insanely catchy ‘Making Your Mind Up’ (and a little help from those disappearing skirts).
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The four-piece bucked the trend (ahem) of most other Eurovision acts by going on to score a string of hits during the 80s, including three number 1 singles.
When the hits dried up, Cheryl went on to have a hugely successful TV career but the band have never really gone away and continue to tour today, albeit with a different name and a line-up.
It’s been quite a ride for Rita Crudgington from Bethnal Green, so we wanted to know just how she manages to de-stress and find balance in her busy life, and what she’s learned along the way.
Cheryl Baker: ‘My cup’s not half full, it’s overflowing’
What do you do to switch off from the world?
I do Sudoku and Hanjie. I love all of those Japanese word and number games. I run. I cook. All the family cook, my husband, my kids… and sometimes we all cook together, which is great. I love it.
How do you deal with negativity?
I don’t deal with it very well because I’m an extremely positive person. In fact I re-posted something on Facebook which said ‘Avoid negative people they will find a problem for every solution.’ I am possibly too positive and I have to stay away from negative people because they bring me down. My husband tells me to cheer down in the mornings! Negative people bring about their own downfall. You can make good things happen by being positive. I have got into altercations in the past where people have been negative over an issue without knowing what the outcome would be, but they were assuming it would be negative. So my glass isn’t half full, it’s overflowing.
When and where are you happiest?
On stage and when I’m with my family. My daughter has just got back from New Zealand and to physically hold her again just filled me with joy. But equally, going on stage in front of the Bucks Fizz audience and seeing the reaction, it’s like no other feeling. I’ve done lots of other jobs – musicals, plays, pantomimes, TV… but when I’m on stage with Bucks Fizz it’s like being paid to do my hobby. It’s just something I was born to do. Ever since I was a child I’ve wanted to be a performer. I just love it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The wonderful thing my mum and dad did, especially my mum, she left me to my own devices. She guided me but she never said ‘don’t be a singer’ even though she knew the probability was that I would never make a successful career from it as all the odds are stacked against you. But the greatest advice I ever had was to look after my health and that’s what I try to do. I need to look after my hearing because of the industry I’m in. My husband is 50% deaf. He’s a bass player and the reason for his hearing problems is that his monitor has always been so incredibly loud. Likewise for me, in this industry you have to have everything so loud. Your health and wellbeing are so important. The older you get the more you have to look after yourself. I still run, I still do marathons and as long as I can, I will.
What has been the hardest lesson you’ve learned?
To do your homework. It’s the same as at school – if you don’t revise and learn then you’re not going to pass your tests. It’s the same throughout life. If I hadn’t read up on something if I was interviewing someone, or if I’m doing a show and I haven’t learnt my lines properly… the worst thing is if you die on stage. You just have to know what you’re doing and be confident.
What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
That’s a hard one as I don’t regret anything. Even the bad stuff you learn from.
What 3 things are at the top of your bucket list?
One of them will never happen and that’s to play Eliza Doolittle because I’m too old now. I’d like to see St. Petersburg. But the top of my bucket list is to see my children succeed. And I’d like to be mortgage free! But really I’m very lucky because the top of my bucket list when I was a child was to win the Eurovision Song Contest. I watched Sandie Shaw win in 1967 and I thought then ‘that is about as good as it can possibly get’. It’s like winning Olympic Gold and to think I actually achieved that, it’s amazing. I’ve also done so many things because of the shows I’ve done especially ‘Record Breakers’. I’ve wing walked, I’ve abseiled, I’ve chucked myself out of a plane, I’ve done all those crazy things that people want to do, so my bucket list is quite practical.
What do you think happens when we die?
I don’t think ‘that’s it’ when we die. I’m not religious at all but I do think we’ve all got a sense of humour, personality, compassion, emotion, temper… all these things are a force as opposed to a bodily thing so I hope that force moves on. Whether it looks after other people or materialises in other people, which I think it does because when you are born you always have aspects of other people who have gone before you. But if we die we die, it’s the one big adventure that we’ve all got to look forward to isn’t it? We just don’t know.
When do you feel a sense that we live in the presence of something bigger than ourselves?
Every night when I walk my dogs and look up to the sky because I live in the middle of nowhere and so I don’t have any of that orange glow you get in towns. All I see is the black sky with twinkling stars. And if I see a shooting star it fills me with awe. It takes your breath away and just makes you realise how small you are. We are part of this massive thing. We can call it what we like but we don’t really know. We could be living in a great big fish bowl and the bloke who owns the fish bowl could one day knock it over and we could all be gone. We’re so insignificant, which is why I try and make a difference. I know I make a difference to a lot of Bucks Fizz fans. If we are only here once, we should try and make a difference, don’t just exist.
What do you try to bring to your relationships?
Everything I possibly can. My friends are my school friends. I still see the girls I went to primary school with. When I changed my name from Rita Crudgington to Cheryl Baker, my mum and my friends asked me what they should call me and I said ‘Rita’. I was still the same person and I don’t think I have changed. With my kids I’m just their mum, I’m nothing special. I’ve been married to my husband Steve for 23 years now and give as much as I possibly can to this relationship to make it work. We very rarely argue, maybe once a year, if that. I am who I am and I do what I do. I think I give loads of love. I would do anything for them. I would die for my children without blinking. Not for Steve though, you’ve gotta draw the line somewhere! (laughs)
What keeps you grounded?
I didn’t have big success in my career until I was 27. I lived in a council flat with three brothers and a sister and my mum and dad so there was no way I could get above myself. I’m surrounded by ordinary people who mean so much to me. I don’t want to be airy fairy and starry. I do enjoy going to a posh do every now and then but at the moment I’m sat here in jeans, jumper and slippers. I’m an ordinary person who has an extraordinary career. I love both sides of my life.
What was your last good deed?
A couple of days ago my friend was really, really low so me and another friend visited her to give her a boost, which meant a lot because someone was taking time out of their day to give them some advice. But I do stuff because I want to, not because I have to, but we all do, don’t we? I’m very fortunate being in the public eye that I can help a lot of charities and people just because of who I am, which is an absolute privilege for me.
Cheryl Baker is an ambassador for high street hearing specialists, Hidden Hearing’s ‘Music to Your Ears’ campaign which aims to highlight the pleasure that sound brings to our daily lives and the importance of looking after your hearing. Hearing loss currently affects 10 million people in the UK, yet 4 million of these are ignoring the problem and putting-up with poor hearing needlessly. For a free hearing test or to find your local Hidden Hearing centre, please visit www.hiddenhearing.co.uk/branches or call 0800 037 2060.