My most recent memory of the beautifully, infectiously funny and positive soul that is Dame Barbara Windsor came before I knew about her devastating dementia diagnosis.
We had just finished a press screening of the docudrama Babs in which Sherdian Smith portrayed the journey of the EastEnders and Carry On icon in a beautiful fashion.
Babs had been instrumental in the development of her story on screen and worked with the cast and writers to ensure it was an authentic display of her successes and her struggles.
The screening came to an end and tears filled the eyes of a silenced room after a poignant and honest portrayal of a woman we all knew and all loved.
After a press conference with the cast and writers, it was seemingly off home to start transcribing quotes and writing reviews.
But no, a treat was in store.
Babs danced onto the stage to huge applause and cheers, giggling and tearful at the adoration she received, still after decades not accustomed to how beloved across the UK she was.
She was humble, she maintained her filthy sense of humour but what became poignant in hindsight was the realisation that she had by that stage been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and what she had helped create and what we had all watched may have been her last full memory of a life richly lived.
Babs worked her baside off from a young age, taking on the toll of a rigorous and unfair theatre of the time. She eventually raised through the ranks, playing to strengths that were attributed to her through not necessarily any choice of her own.
She will be remembered for Carry On antics, for yelling Get Outta My Pub and for her ‘You Bitch, You Cow’ slapfest with Pa Butcher.
But moreso, she was a comforting constant in the lives of a UK household through the 90s and 2000s – nobody needed to actually watch EastEnders to recongnise the name Barbara Windsor.
And just as she could make us laugh and smile, could she make us cry – with Peggy’s harrowing breast cancer storyline, her heartache at Frank’s betrayal with Pat and those unforgettable final scenes with Phil and Pat before Peggy died.
Outside of her role, Barbara was a delight – zero ego and all of the time and gratitude in the world for those who supported her.
I recall chatting to her and knowing due to our mischevious senses of humour that the bulk of the interview would never make print.
Humble, she rarely attended awards dos, but when she did, she had time for everyone, fans, colleagues across the channels and strangers alike – she was a beacon of warmth and everything that you would consider good about Britain.
I have known Barabara as Peggy, I have known her as an interviewee and I have known her as a friend – and all three were an absolute dream.
What we have all lost today is a huge gain to the heavens that welcome such a glistening, bright star who defined many an era.
Our love and thoughts go to husband Scott and everyone who knew and loved Dame Barabar Windsor.
RIP, beautiful soul.
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