Lulu - the music icon 'shouts' about Derbyshire

Lulu is still entertaining audiences

Lulu is still entertaining audiences - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

She's travelled the world in a hugely successful career but, for Lulu, there's no place quite like Buxton

Lulu Kennedy-Cairns CBE has been singing and touring for decades – hard to believe, in some respects, because she still looks and sounds amazing.  

But it’s true, just as it is true that one of her favourite venues to perform at is Derbyshire’s celebrated Buxton Opera House.  

‘I have toured the whole of Britain quite a few times as well as overseas, she says. ‘There are a number of favourite venues but Buxton Opera House is right up there among the very best. 

‘I have been there more than once and we always have a great night, partly because Derbyshire people love their music but also because Buxton Opera House is such a fantastic venue set in one of the most breath-taking parts of the land that you just know you are going to enjoy every minute of it.’  

Lulu has indeed been everywhere, lauded and applauded from Perth in Scotland to Perth in Australia. 

She has had hit after hit, won the Eurovision song contest, recorded a James Bond theme and is still in huge demand to sing all over the world - yet Lulu has never been dazzled by her own success, never forgotten where she comes from.  

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Born Marie McDonald McLaughlin in Glasgow where her dad was in the meat trade, Lulu’s early life was a far cry from standing ovations at Buxton Opera House and appreciative audiences across the globe. 

‘It was certainly a different world back then’, she recalls.  

‘We were not particularly well off but we never starved, that's for sure, and there was almost always a good atmosphere about the home as I was growing up – I was very fortunate. 

Lulu has enjoyed a stellar career

Lulu has enjoyed a stellar career - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

‘My mum and my dad always liked to have a laugh and I remember vividly that they had the radio on just about all the time. 

‘They loved to sing along with all the songs they played and we all joined in. Yes, they were a normal married couple and had their fall-outs but what I mostly remember is the music. That's what actually motivated me to sing.’ 

In this Platinum Jubilee year, there’s a nice synergy to the start of Lulu’s career, a day she looks back on with great fondness. 

‘I sang at a Coronation party in 1953 when I was four and I loved it, it was my first public performance and that led on to me going in for talent contests,’ she says. 

‘Finally, when I was 14, I started singing with the Gleneagles around pubs and wherever they would have us in Glasgow. We got one pound a night between us and we were thrilled to bits about that. 

It was during one of her regular Glasgow gigs that fate took its course and a meeting with a lady who would change Lulu’s life and would help facilitate a hugely successful career which has spanned seven decades. 

‘One night we were seen by a lady called Marion Massey who said she could manage us and get us bigger and better gigs. 

‘She was true to her word too and at 15 I went off to London and we became Lulu and The Luvvers. I owe that brilliant lady for being there and seeing us that one night in Glasgow when we were sharing a pound.’  

That trip to London when she was 15 continues to this very day, nearly 60 years since a teenage girl from Lennoxtown, Stirlingshire set her eyes on the capital city for the first time – she has never looked back.  

‘It has been a great journey and I am still loving every bit of it,’ she admits – a journey that has seen Lulu secure a number one hit, ten UK top tens. 

Buxton Opera House is one of Lulu's favourite venues

Buxton Opera House is one of Lulu's favourite venues - Credit: Gary Wallis

‘I am never happier than when I am on stage and singing to a live audience. I have appeared in things like 42nd Street and they are magical; I have had done countless television shows - including my own series - and they are all very special to me. 

‘However, there is nothing quite like walking out on stage in a packed venue like Buxton Opera House and getting such a warm welcome from the audience.  

‘You want to give them everything and you might be exhausted by the end of the evening but the sheer thrill of it keeps giving you renewed energy. I just love it - from those days in the band going round the pubs in Glasgow right the way through to today.’ 

Success followed success for Lulu as she became an established star in America as well as in Britain and across Europe. She had proved that she was much more than a one-hit wonder and she is still proving it. 

‘Playing Barbara Pegg in To Sir With Love in 1967 was a great experience and I was very flattered at the time by the nice things people said about my performance,’ she recalls.  

‘Sidney Poitier starred in the film and he was great to work with. I had a hit on both sides of the Atlantic with the theme song from the film and life just could not have got any better. 

Lulu, celebrated also for her charity work which was an element of her being awarded an OBE in 2000 and a CBE just last year, always comes across as supremely confident and comfortable in her own skin. The reason? For Lulu, music is just a way of life. 

‘I never had any doubts that I would be a singer and performer,’ she says. 

‘Not because I thought I was particularly good but it was just that music was my life - and it always has been.’ 

One of the many things that endeared Lulu to the British public when she was 15 was that she was so refreshingly bubbly – and she still is! 

‘We all have our ups and downs in life but I have tried to always look on the positive side and help others to do the same.  

‘I always like to enjoy today and look forward to tomorrow and if tomorrow means I am in Derbyshire again, so much the better.  

“When you tour as much as I have people expect you to know every inch of the country but the truth is that you don’t get much time to really enjoy where you are or even see very much while you are actually travelling,’ Lulu admits.  

‘There are some places though that you know you mustn’t miss and Derbyshire is one of those counties.  

‘I think that is one of the joys of Buxton Opera House, it is set in such a fabulous area, you cannot help but enjoy the views and even if you arrived by helicopter you would still see some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. 

‘The theatre is also breath-taking. When I saw it for the first time I just stood and looked at it saying ‘wow!’  

‘When I went inside and saw that fantastic Frank Matcham design, I knew I was appearing somewhere very, very special. I have been back since and never failed to be amazed by such an incredible performance venue set in such a brilliant area.’ 

Clearly Lulu sees Buxton Opera House as something special, in fact, something to ‘Shout’ about! 

buxtonoperahouse.org.uk/event/lulu-for-the-record