Monday, 30 November -0001

‘Everybody’s good at cooking something...’

From underdog to Princess the Hypnodog, the hopefuls on Britain’s Got Talent have captured the nation’s heart. Melonie Clarke meets Lorraine, the organ-playing teacher with a song about cooking crumble

Written by Melonie Clarke
By the time you read this, Lorraine Bowen will have primed her Casio keyboard, ironed a sparkly frock, handwritten a sign with her name on it and hung it on the front of her ironing board so that there can be no mistake who we are watching. But there can be no mistake.

There is only one Lorraine Bowen, the quirky 53-year-old piano-teaching comedy musician who won over David Walliams with her self-penned tune The Crumble Song (chorus line: ‘Everybody’s good at cooking something, and I’m good at cooking crumble’). Amidst a rousing ovation from the audience, Walliams overruled the other three judges’ ‘No’ votes and pushed the gold buzzer, thereby catapulting Lorraine straight through to the semi-finals.

‘It was an amazing feeling, especially because it was David Walliams’s gold buzzer. I can’t think of any better thing to happen this year,’ Lorraine tells me, confessing that she is a complete Walliams devotee. ‘I dream of performing a duet with David.’

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Despite outward appearances, Lorraine is no showbusiness ingénue. She has released five albums (paid for by herself, after an evening class), but so far stardom has eluded her. ‘I’ve given up a little bit with the music industry; I think that’s what made me go on Britain’s Got Talent. Young people don’t ever want to buy anything; it’s only the over-40s who buy a CD, and those in between may get out their cash card and buy something on iTunes, but it’s very rare. So it’s difficult for a musician to actually exist.’

Still, like all the acts, she is hopeful of making it to the Royal Variety Performance. So how does she feel about getting the chance to potentially perform for the Queen? ‘It would be the most amazing honour; as a Queen’s Guide I did all my badges and got to a very high level. To do that would be a very fulfilling part of my life.’

She doesn’t plan to release any new albums. ‘I think we need to have something new, something that comes out that people want to buy and collect. I have a huge vinyl collection and I love looking at the covers, reading the credits.’ She also reveals that she won’t be writing a new song for the semi-final. ‘I’m getting it out of my back catalogue, because you want to have stuff that’s really well known in your brain – you don’t want to be flummoxed on the lyrics or anything like that,’ she laughs. ‘I’m really excited.’

Lorraine says that even if it isn’t her, she would dearly like a lady performer to win (she was delighted when I informed her that she has huge support here at The Lady). ‘I know there was a woman behind Pudsey the dog, but ultimately the dog won, not her. So I think it’d be quite good for a woman to win, and there aren’t very many of us who do comedy in music around, so that would be quite good.’

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When she is looking for inspiration for her music, she returns, like many of her new fans, to the British greats. ‘I’m massively influenced by the great British Carry On films. Things like that make me really chuckle, and things like the early St Trinian’s films. I’ve got a massive British tradition of comedy there on my DVD shelves.

‘I really like quirky performers,’ she continues. ‘People like John Hegley, who’s a great performer and really gets the audience going. John Shuttleworth is an immediate inspiration; he plays the Yamaha organ, whereas I play the Casio organ. He creates funny songs – not as poppy as mine, but he is a great inspiration.’

Having played at the Glastonbury music festival, does she have any tips for the members of the Women’s Institute who this year, for the first time, will be setting up a tent and serving cake and tea from china cups to music fans? ‘All you want is really good portions, because students, hippies and Glastonbury types – although they’re not all like that these days – need feeding up. A good cake and a portion of crumble at the end. Go for it, ladies!’

As an afterthought she adds, ‘And use pure butter, not margarine. Don’t go for the cheap option.’

Her wardrobe, meanwhile, is eclectic. ‘I’ve got quite a big polyester fashion collection,’ she says. ‘I love vintage polyester, especially the textured, very embossed kind of stuff like Crimplene – really bright colours. I love a structured outfit, especially as a lady of vintage years. I think there’s too much grey around and dull colours – somehow we’ve got to get a bit more sparkle in the world.’

Despite her assertion that is ‘good at cooking crumble’, Lorraine confesses she isn’t a whizz at much else in the kitchen. ‘I live with a chef, and he’s a brilliant cook and doesn’t let me into the kitchen much. If we have friends round for Sunday lunch, I’ll be mucking around on my organ upstairs and then I’ll do my cherry crumble. I’m a bit lazy, and sometimes I don’t even bother making my own vanilla custard or anything.’

Lorraine hopes that her wacky tune will encourage even those with limited skills to start whipping up crumbles. ‘I really hope that everyone will get into crumble and learn – or relearn – the rubbing-in method.’

The last semi-final of Britain’s Got Talent is on 29 May, 7.30pm, and the final on 31 May, 7.30pm; both on ITV.

THE OTHER ACTS WE HAVE LOVED

Persuasive Pet… Princess the Hypnodog

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Princess the German spitz and her owner Krystyna Lennon are the stars of Hypnodog, a canine hypnotist act. Lennon, a trained hypnotist from Leeds, claims Princess is the only dog in the world with the power to put humans into a trance-like state. Lennon took over the act last year from her uncle, hypnotist Hugh Lennon, who developed a similar performance with his dog Oscar. Hypnodog has become one of the show’s most talked-about discoveries, with Simon Cowell himself seeming to fall under the dog’s spell. The duo have made numerous TV and radio appearances, and wowed the crowds at the Reading and Leeds festivals.

Disco Dads… Old Men Grooving

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Dad dancers Old Men Grooving have delighted audiences with their impressive dance act. They describe themselves as ‘a group of friends out to show the UK that age should never stop you dancing and enjoying dance’. The group formed when long-time friends (and dads) David and Fred met Patrick, Phil and Bret at the audition for a Sainsbury’s advert. The group arranged to stay in touch, and began meeting up once a week in David’s dance studio to ‘get a pizza and have a dance’. The group’s ages range from 40 to 60, a refreshing change from the usual dance acts that appear on the show. After initial reservations, they now have the full support of all their children, who often advise on their routines.

Tapping Grannies… The Cocooners

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These groovy grannies aren’t your average dance act. Comprising Michelle, 63, Heather and Maxine, both 75, and Lynne, 80, The Cocooners put most young tap dancers in the shade. Appearing in conservative outfits in pastel shades, the ladies went on to surprise audiences with their faultless footwork, seamless routines and gold jumpsuits, unveiled once the music had got going. The golden girls were a hit with the judges too, with David Walliams revealing that he loved the ‘stripping off’, and Simon Cowell calling them ‘little minxes’. With a combined age of 293, the girls offer some serious competition to Old Men Grooving, with both acts proving that age is just a number when it comes to sizzling dance routines.

The New Subo… Emma Jones

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Emma Jones, 23, was almost overcome with nerves when she stepped onto the stage, but with her rendition of Ave Maria she delivered a truly magical moment. When asked why she had decided to audition, Jones, from Wigton in Cumbria, replied, ‘I just want to give it a try and see if you like my voice’ – leaving Simon Cowell and the other judges totally unprepared for her incredible operatic tones. The budding star has already been compared to Britain’s Got Talent runnerup Susan Boyle, one of the show’s most surprising performers and now an internationally acclaimed artist. The judges were unanimous in their praise of Jones, urging her to be more confident about her remarkable talent.


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