EastEnders: Barbara Windsor on her friendship with Amy Winehouse and why she really left the show

by Lynn Connolly

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mirror, former EastEnders star Barbara Windsor has revealed why she left the BBC1 soap, and she’s spoken publicly about her friendship with tragic singer Amy Winehouse for the first time.

Of her somewhat unlikely relationship with Amy – given the age difference between them – Barbara explained, “I kept our friendship private even though she was often in the news.

“We kept it a secret. We always said our friendship would be very private because we knew what it would be like…‘Friends with Barbara Windsor, what’s that all about?’”

75 year old Barbara then revealed that she first got to know Amy because her husband – Barbara’s – Scott knew the Winehouse family.

Barbara said, “My husband’s family is very friendly with Amy’s family. The two have known each other for a long time…

“I live near Regent’s Park and she used to go to a clinic near us. She would sit out at the back entrance and have a cigarette.

“I spotted her one day and said to Scott, ‘That’s Amy out there having a cigarette, you should go out’.

“He went out and she said, ‘Hello, Scott, I was wondering which house you and Ba lived in’.

“He told her to stop sitting outside and come in. Then, whenever she was there, she knew she didn’t have to sit on a wall and could come and see us.

“She would knock on the door and we would have quality time with her.”

The paper adds, “Barbara and Scott’s home became a safe haven for the singer, far away from the spotlight. With Barbara and Scott she could be herself.”

Barbara and Scott were of course devastated when they heard that Amy had died of alcohol poisoning aged just 27 in July last year.

Barbara said, “I was so upset when I heard the news. She was an amazing, amazing talent.

“It was tragic that she was getting herself sorted out…but that’s life isn’t it?

“We stayed away from her funeral but we went to the third Shiva and said prayers with her family.”

Barbara then moved on to discussing why she decided it was time to leave EastEnders, and her role as Peggy Mitchell…

And it seems that it was her husband Scott who, having told her that she spent more and more of her personal time embroiled in what was going on with her character, made Barbara think it was time to leave Peggy behind.

She explained, “It was a hard decision. We would do the odd Saturdays but they gave us more.

“I am steady, I know the business – I have been in it 63 years. I enjoy it, I like the public very much.

“I never take it home with me. Then one day my husband sat me down and he said, ‘You know, Barbara, you are bringing it through the front door. Everything is Peggy this, EastEnders that. You are not switching off at all’.

“He said we didn’t go anywhere, we didn’t go to the movies or the theatre. So when they gave me that Saturday that was the thing that did it.

“It meant come Sunday I was learning my lines again.

“You hit an age when you have to study that bit harder – unless you are June Brown who, at 84, can pick it up and learn it in a second.

“But that did it.”

Aww, I still miss Peggy. Do you?

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.