One of the defining voices of eighties and nineties Light Entertainment, writer, broadcaster and entertainer Cheryl Baker shall forever be associated with the famous skirt pull in the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest as one quarter of the pop group Bucks Fizz. Yet singing was always Cheryl’s greatest passion since she was five years old and this made her journey through entertainment all the more meaningful. This flare for entertaining was something that was cultivated and nurtured and by 1978, as part of the six piece band Coco, she represented the United Kingdom at that year’s Eurovision with the hit Bad Old Days. Unfortunately the song failed to capture the imagination of the Eurovision audience, merely coming eleventh in the grand final. Despite this disappointment, by 1980, the group tried for Eurovision one more time under a new name, The Main Event with the entry “Gonna Do My Best” which unfortunately came last in A Song for Europe and soon afterwards, the group disbanded. However, Cheryl wasn’t done with Eurovision just yet…
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In 1980 an invitation from a friend Nichola Martin to join a brand new pop group under the name of Bucks Fizz which was created to become the Eurovision entry for the following year. Joining the lineup of Bobby G, Mike Nolan and Jay Aston, Cheryl benefited from her past experience of entering Eurovision and this time it was different. However, first impressions to the song weren’t great as Cheryl was rather perplexed by the meaning behind the hit before quickly realising that it was utter nonsense. Making Your Mind Up has since become a pop classic, Number One in eight countries and sold over four million copies worldwide yet Cheryl has always found the irony in the fact that the song remains an enigma. Nevertheless the song proved popular with the European audience and secured the United Kingdom their first Eurovision victory since Brotherhood of Man in 1976.
Before the difficult era of the nineties, Eurovision had always been seen as a carnival of the very best in music. For many, this was the ultimate showcase of entertainment excellence and should you ever be lucky enough to win, you would expect a lifetime of fame. This catapulted Bucks Fizz into the music stratosphere as they were set to become one of the most popular bands of the 1980’s. It was quickly realised that Cheryl and Mike were the most vocal members of Bucks Fizz and favoured speaking to the press and engaging in interviews. Therefore Cheryl became increasingly comfortable with being on camera and the disciplines of television. Unbeknown to everyone including Cheryl, this was vital grounding to the next chapter of her career.
Realising her flare for broadcasting, Cheryl slowly cultivated her career to incorporate this and instructed her representatives to be open to the art of TV presenting. This coincided with the heavyweight children’s show Record Breakers looking for a presenter to accompany the legendary Roy Castle. Despite being a children’s show which was broadcast daily at 4:30 on Children’s BBC, the show was a hit with both adults and children, frequently reaching over seven million viewers. Being at TV Centre gave the series scope to use their location to the fullest potential and therefore anything seemed possible. Iconic moments such as the longest tap dancing line, the most trips climbing Everest or a skateboarding dog set the benchmark for the series to feature everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. Anything seemed possible and an important key to realising this was the show’s location at TV Centre which made even the seemingly impossible stunts seem plausible.
Roy Castle himself broke the record for the fastest tap dance (1,440 taps per minute) on 14th January 1973, a record which he still holds today. Therefore he was not only the presenter of the show but the beating heart of it and this proved the perfect schooling for Cheryl in all round entertainment. Tragically Castle was diagnosed with lung cancer in early 1992 which prompted him to take a step back from public life meaning that Cheryl inherited the series alongside Mark Curry and Kriss Akabussi. This was when her talents as a singer came to the forefront as she was able to continue the theatrical side of the show which had become synonymous with the legendary entertainer and had been an integral key to the show’s success. The variety side of the show was an essential ingredient to its popularity and Cheryl’s talent as an entertainer ensured that Castle’s legacy could continue.
Like most of the significant figures in this celebration, Cheryl has worked in a whole host of different television studios throughout Britain and in 1988 secured her own children’s entertainment series Eggs ‘n’ Baker. Appealing to the social zeitgeist of the time in the era of the rise of the working mum, there seemed to be a whole generation of young people who were growing up without the basic culinary skills to feed themselves. This show took home economics back to basics and made cooking fun for the desired demographic by presenting food preparation in a new way that wasn’t patronising or boring. Eggs ‘n’ Baker was also an entertainment show with celebrity interviews, interactive segments and competitions that captured viewers’ imagination. Filmed from BBC Manchester as opposed to Television Centre, the show adhered to the corporation’s policy to represent all corners of Britain in its geographical approach to programme making.
Despite Cheryl’s extensive television career working on a variety of programmes for a number of different networks throughout the years, she never lost her awe and passion for the magic of TV Centre. This was where all her TV dreams came true and forced her to realise her talents as an all round entertainer which has been vital to her longevity as a performer. Although in recent years, her TV career has mysteriously gone unnoticed which remains a formidable travesty for both Cheryl and all fans of Light Entertainment, Television Centre always had an emotional pull. On seeing the legendary building close its doors in March 2013, she was just as horrified as anyone else who had spent so many happy years in this hallowed turf. So from pop star to TV icon, it remains virtually impossible for Cheryl to overlook the huge impact that Television Centre had on her remarkable career and it was a real honour to celebrate this with her.