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Watch: Eastenders’ stars lead tributes to Dame Barbara Windsor.
Tributes have been pouring in for Dame Barbara Windsor following her death, aged 83.
The actor, who played Peggy Mitchell in BBC soap EastEnders, died at a care home in London on Thursday 10 December after developing Alzheimer’s.
Her husband Scott Mitchell announced her death and described the star as his “best friend and soul mate,” adding: “my heart or life will never feel the same without you”.
Following the announcement, celebrities rushed to honour one of the nation’s most-treasured entertainment stars and in doing so revealed some pretty amazing insights about the woman that was Dame Barbara Windsor.
Read more: What are the dementia risk factors?
She put kindness before everything
One common theme in the anecdotes and stories shared by Dame Barbara’s celebrity friends and colleagues is the star’s unwavering kindness.
In an interview on Good Morning Britain, Larry Lamb, Dame Barbara’s former Eastenders’ husband, shared a touching memory of how kind she was to his daughters.
Somewhat starstruck at meeting the actor, Lamb revealed his girls were pretty taken with her enormous shoe collection.
“She just said to them, ‘Go on girls! Take a pair each,” Lamb told presenters Ben Shephard and Charlotte Hawkins.
"They've still got them!"
Lamb also recalled a cheeky comment during his first ever meeting with the TV legend, which captures Dame Barbara’s sense of humour.
“She just said to me, ‘Oh, you're so tall. But we're all the same size when we're on our backs, aren't we?!'“ he said.
Lamb certainly wasn’t the only celebrity to touch on the star’s kindness in their tribute.
“I will miss her warmth, her generosity, her laughter and the kindness she showed me,” Matt Lucas wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile Jonathan Ross tweeted: “Barbara Windsor in real life was everything you might have hoped for. So warm, so funny, so kind.”
Sheridan Smith reminisced about meeting the dame, tweeting how “she could not have been nicer”.
While Jake Graf added on Twitter: “She worked with my late father and was always kind, friendly and made time for everyone.”
Watch: Lucy Benjamin says Dame Barbara was never late and always knew her lines.
She was the ultimate work colleague
When Tracy-Ann Oberman joined the Eastenders cast in 2004, any first day nerves were cured by a call from the soap veteran.
Sharing her own tribute to Dame Barbara, Oberman recalled how welcoming the actor, who had been absent from EastEnders for a couple of years herself due to ill health, had been to her on the phone when she first arrived on set.
“She got my number and she rang me up and she said, 'Hello darling. This is Barbara here. I just want to let you know that I've been watching you on-screen and you're fantastic and if there's anything you need call me',” Oberman told 5 Live.
“And she just used to ring me once a week just to check in and see how I was doing, give me any comments on performance. Then when she [re]joined the show it was an absolute honour to work with her.”
Oberman went on to describe Dame Barbara as “like show business's fairy godmother”.
“She was a wonderful, wonderful woman, because not only was she excellent at her work, she was also a really good human being,” Oberman continued.
Danny Dyer also previously shared a story about the touching gesture Dame Barbara made when he was first cast in Eastenders.
Joining the soap in 2013 as Mick Carter, the new landlord of the Queen Vic pub, Dyer told Stacey Dooley, that Dame Barbara sent him a postcard giving him her blessing and saying “he could have it” - referring to her character’s much-loved pub.
She fought for what she believed in
Since being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014, which she revealed to the public in 2018, Dame Barbara has tirelessly campaigned for greater awareness of the condition.
After becoming an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society, the actor met PM Boris Johnson and delivered a letter signed by 100,000 people, calling for better care for people affected by dementia,
She also fought tirelessly for those less fortunate, something the PM touched on in his own tribute to the star.
“So sad about Barbara Windsor, so much more than a great pub landlady and Carry On star,” he wrote.
“She campaigned for the lonely and the vulnerable - and cheered the world up with her own British brand of harmless sauciness and innocent scandal. Thoughts with Scott and all her family and friends.”
So sad about Barbara Windsor, so much more than a great pub landlady & Carry On star. She campaigned for the lonely and the vulnerable - and cheered the world up with her own British brand of harmless sauciness & innocent scandal. Thoughts with Scott and all her family & friends.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 11, 2020
She was feisty
As well as her kindness, several celebrities referenced Dame Barbara’s feistiness. Doctor Who star John Barrowman, who was interviewed by Windsor on BBC Radio 2 in October 2011, said in a video on Twitter that what the 4ft 2 star lacked in height, she made up for in spirit.
“In the 30-odd years of my career I’ve had many, many occasions where I’ve been in company with Barbara – or, as everyone just called her, ‘Babs’ – and she will be sorely missed,” the British-American actor said.
“She was a small woman but feisty and she had the biggest, biggest heart in the business. And she was a genuine, lovely, warm, caring person and she will be sorely missed by the film, television, radio and theatre worlds.
“We all knew that she wasn’t in great health, but it’s still a shock when it comes.
“Rest in peace, Dame Barbara Windsor. You will be sorely missed.”
RIP Dame Barbara Windsor pic.twitter.com/nc29bIkRXM
— John Barrowman MBE (@JohnBarrowman) December 11, 2020
She was an inspiration
Danniella Westbrook, 47, who played Dame Barbara’s onscreen daughter Sam Mitchell in the soap, told BBC Breakfast: “She was the most feisty, hardworking woman I’ve ever met in my life.
“I learned everything I know from her work-wise. She taught me how to listen. The woman was phenomenal.
“She did pages and pages of learning and walked into the Queen Vic and it was like she was always meant to have been there.
“She raised the game of the whole show.”
She stayed true to her roots
Windsor was born Barbara Ann Deeks in 1937 in Shoreditch, east London, and never forgot where she came from.
She perfectly incorporated her Cockney background into her role as Peggy in EastEnders, but didn’t always feel able to reveal her true self.
In her tribute to the star, author Dr Louise Raw, who worked with Dame Barbara on the TV show Who Do You Think You Are, described how the actor once felt the need to hide her East End accent.
“Between takes she talked about the class prejudice that made her hide her East End accent, which then brought her a new wave of fame in Eastenders,” Dr Raw wrote.
Huge pleasure to work with her on Who Do You Think You Are (here at the old Bryant & May match factory in Bow)
Between takes she talked about the class prejudice that made her hide her East End accent- which then brought her a new wave of fame in Eastenders! pic.twitter.com/AkdglMsuNk
— Dr Louise Raw (@LouiseRawAuthor) December 11, 2020
In an interview with Radio 4, Larry Lamb also hinted the star never lost sight of how grateful she was to be given a role in the BBC soap.
“We had lots of conversations that ranged over all sorts of subjects. I remember her saying the years in between were tough when she was trying to put together enough money to live off.
“And it was really really hard because there were those lean years after the Carry On films and she was in the wilderness, and the one thing she never made any bones about was that Eastenders really changed her life and put her back on the map and gave her the means to earn a good living, and that's what she went on to do.
Dame Barbara went on to acknowledge her humble roots after being named in the 2016 New Year’s Honours list.
“For a girl from the East End born into a working-class family and an evacuee during World War Two, this is truly like a dream,” she said. “I am so happy and blessed to say it’s real.”