Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Janet Ellis: ‘Having a well-known mum was a excessive worth foreign money once I was little’ | Household

Born in Hounslow, west London in 1979, Sophie Ellis-Bextor is the daughter of the broadcaster Janet Ellis and the director and producer Robin Bextor. The sunny face of youngsters’s TV – notably Blue Peter – Janet spent most of her profession on display screen, till releasing The Butcher’s Hook, the primary of two acclaimed novels, in 2016. In the meantime Sophie’s inventive pursuits started as an indie darling within the band Theaudience, earlier than the stratospheric summer time hit Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love) catapulted her into the mainstream in 2000. Throughout the UK lockdown in 2020, her live-streamed kitchen discos noticed her carry out songs from her six solo albums. Her memoir, Spinning Plates: Ideas on Males, Music and Motherhood, is launched on 7 October. She lives in London along with her husband and their 5 sons; Janet lives close by.


From the age of 5 via to seven, earlier than my brothers and sisters arrived, it was simply Mum and me. She had simply bought the job on Blue Peter, and all my friends have been watching it. I all the time hoped she’d carry residence no matter they have been making, which often she did: there was one actually cool Sindy doll toilet, which even had tiny bars of cleaning soap, flannels and towels. I beloved it. Within the {photograph}, I’m 5; I can see the remnants of chickenpox nonetheless therapeutic on my face. Weirdly, I can bear in mind the highest I’m sporting, the texture of it. That 80s vogue sowed a seed for my wardrobe. I might in all probability nonetheless bid on it if I noticed it on eBay.

Having a well-known mum was a high-value foreign money once I was little. Individuals I’d simply met would instantly need to be associates. It wasn’t all the time good, although. Generally they’d say: “Truly, you appear a bit big-headed and possibly you’re exhibiting off about your mum.” I’d promote Blue Peter badges within the playground: 50p for a badge, and when you had £1 you possibly can get a signed {photograph}, too. I don’t suppose I truly ever bought paid, although; what six-year-old goes into faculty with spare change? There’s a number of individuals on the market who owe me 50p.

By the point I began secondary faculty, that was previous information. I met a complete new group of mates at a personal secondary my mother and father very generously enrolled me in. That was clearly to welcome me into the world of academia. However once I joined a band and mentioned: “I’m not going to uni, I’m occurring the NME Brat Bus tour,” they have been surprisingly OK about it.

Being in Theaudience was a lightbulb second for me: “Ah, singing! That’s the factor I need to do!” After all, the press nonetheless introduced up my mum lots. It’s a nifty speaking level and I perceive why, however after some time I discovered it irritating.

It was a blokey time within the media, dominated by males and ladette tradition. It usually felt as if the Blue Peter reference was used as a slight dig: “Don’t suppose you’ll be able to stroll in right here and be mysterious or your individual, credible individual.” I bear in mind occurring By no means Thoughts the Buzzcocks and Mum stored on developing. At first, you sit there go: “Yeah, humorous! Hah.” However the joke is that they’re going to maintain doing it till you break and storm out. Which is sort of bullying, actually.

After Theaudience bought dropped, I used to be the final one holding on. Somebody in my workforce ended up telling me: “You’ve bought to maneuver on. It’s useless. Nobody cares. Do a 12 months out, then go to uni.” I assumed the most important success of my profession was over and I’d solely simply hit 20. It was fairly scary.

My mum and I had a lot of conversations; she stored a watch on how I used to be coping. However when Groovejet got here alongside, I abruptly had one thing exceptional to cling on to. I by no means believed it will get me signed as a solo artist. I simply thought: aren’t I fortunate that I’m singing once more? It was additionally a approach of claiming: “Screw you, NME. You possibly can maintain your little bitchy banter. I’m sodding off to Ibiza.”

On prime of lockdown, we misplaced my stepdad, John, to most cancers in 2020. Making the kitchen disco streams on YouTube was a coping mechanism. After I did the primary one, I assumed individuals would take the mickey. I used to be 41 and sporting a sequined catsuit. The children have been rolling round all over the place. However the reception was unimaginable. There’s such a vulnerability to it, and I’d usually be crying by the final tune.

My mum and I now reside 10 minutes away from one another. She has a terrific relationship with all her 5 grandbabies. Our parenting fashion is just about an identical: Mum has all the time stored the dialog very open, however inside the parameters of what’s acceptable for no matter age I’m. Which clearly means all the pieces is honest sport now.

Not everyone seems to be fortunate sufficient to have this type of relationship with their mum. She’s my go-to for all the pieces.


Sophie’s father and I have been splitting up across the time this picture was taken. My primary focus was ensuring she was protected; that issues in her world stayed as regular as they may – however not being daft. It wasn’t a query of sitting her down and saying: “Mummy and Daddy have determined …” She’s good, she knew. It was about protecting issues fluid.

I used to be 23 once I had Soph. None of my associates had had infants but. I assumed I used to be the cleverest individual for getting pregnant. She wasn’t totally deliberate; actually, once I first instructed the physician, a humorous previous chap, that I used to be feeling a bit off, he went: “Oh! Typical gallstones!”

Clearly, I shortly realised what was taking place. I had a reasonably simple being pregnant and ate for about seven individuals. Eleven weeks after she was born, I went for an audition for the BBC youngsters’s present Jigsaw. Fortuitously, the author adored infants; I feel that’s why he employed me.

I’ve had durations of unemployment; there have been lean occasions in Sophie’s childhood. However I’ve all the time felt one thing would flip up, and fortuitously it has. I used to be not the primary Blue Peter presenter to have a baby once I joined, however you in all probability can’t identify the others as a result of it was not a part of the narrative of the programme; our function was the large sister. I nonetheless bought Sophie on display screen, although; she bought the tough finish of the deal, as a result of she modelled snoods product of dishcloths and as soon as wearing repurposed bin liners.

When Sophie was eight, she grew to become the goal of quite a lot of older children, who discovered her fascinating. But it surely was all for the unsuitable causes. It was as a result of her mum was on telly. I needed to say: “Sure, they’re beautiful individuals, however let’s invite so-and-so to play as a substitute.” I didn’t need to make her really feel as if she’d performed something unsuitable, however I definitely didn’t need to encourage it.

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I used to be broadly supportive when Sophie joined a band. If it didn’t work out I knew she would work out the subsequent factor. On the time, individuals would remark that at the very least she was coming into “a world you perceive”, however that was not true. The music trade is so completely different from something I’ve encountered. I wrote my first novel late and thought that publishers would snigger at me, however it’s a really welcoming world. Music’s not like that; it’s an trade the place you might be judged 50% in your appears to be like and 50% in your expertise. I by no means wished to lecture her, however in fact alongside the way in which there have been issues we’ve needed to put proper. Misogyny shouldn’t be ignored. I’m all the time disenchanted when ladies my age do that bizarre reverse factor of going: “Effectively, you realize, I simply handled it! He was wanking on the bus! You simply needed to snigger!” No, that was by no means high quality. It wasn’t proper then and it’s not proper now.

Sophie and I undoubtedly share a way of humour, and we adorn our homes equally. Neither of us might declare to be minimalists. My poor husband John, who died final 12 months, had a single white wall in our home that I used to be by no means allowed to place something on.

In Soph, I recognise a kindred spirit. I’m categorically not her finest pal, however I’m very proud to be her mom. We’re all the time in a position to catch one another’s eye in a busy room and know precisely what’s occurring.

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