5 minutes with Helen Lederer
After emerging on to the alternative comedy circuit in the 1980s, Helen Lederer has continued to appear on stage and screen and her distinctive voice has lead to voice-over work on lifestyle, religious and children’s programmes. She is also a newspaper and magazine columnist and has written several books.
You recently turned 60 – how did you celebrate?
I asked my daughter to arrange a surprise – which is almost impossible really – and we had a small, low-key do. Then I spent the following weeks worrying about all the people we didn’t invite!
Earliest childhood memory?
I think probably starting school. I was only 4 – like many children are these days – and I wouldn’t say it was a positive experience. It was a very anxious day in fact, and I carried this anxiety with me for quite a while.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
Thanks to a wonderful, inspiring teacher who passed on her love of literature, by the age of 10 I knew I wanted to write and perform. However I went through a bit of a wobbly phase in my teens and early 20s, and ended up doing a Social Science Degree and going on to become a social worker. I tried hard but I wasn’t very good at it, and, at 28, ended up going to drama school.
Can you sum yourself up in three words?
Anxiously, cautiously, optimistic!
What would surprise people about you?
I’m quite creative, not just with words but with fabrics. I’ve always loved materials – part of the reason why I recently took part in the Great British Sewing Bee for Children in Need. I was tasked with creating a children’s garment inspired by my favourite childhood memories and so I made a girl’s party dress. My mum always used to dress my sister and I up in lovely frilly dresses with matching angora cardigans, shoes and hair clips – so I drew on that. I really enjoyed bringing my idea to life and it must have been ok as the judge said, had we been on the regular show, it would have been named “garment of the week”!
What super power would you most like to have?
To cure people. In this day and age that would be so incredible.
What makes you smile?
A humourous tale of disaster. Like recently I read about a chap that got locked in Waterstones for several hours after closing time. He got out safe and sound, but the ludicrousness of the situation really made me smile.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently doing the final edit on my new book, Losing it – it’s a new genre “mid-lit”, so for women slightly more mature than the ‘chick lit’ generation. So for the time being I can read nothing else!
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Bill Clinton, one of the Watergate journalists – who did much of the original reporting on the Watergate scandal – and Victoria Wood. I think they would each have some engaging anecdotes to tell…
What are you most proud of?
My daughter, Hannah.
What would your perfect day be?
A day without stress. So not one where I have to perform! I’d spend a lazy morning around the house, then take a boat down the river Thames with my closest friends.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It has to be from my dad. He told me “Life’s unfair” – which is a good one to come to terms with and, perhaps more importantly, “You can’t go back” – meaning you have to accept the past is in the past.
The Children in Need Appeal Show will air on Friday 14 November on BBC 1. For more information visit bbc.co.uk/childreninneed