Award-winning comedian Rosie Wilby tells Zoe Chamberlain how her life has risen from the ashes.
There was thought that the world might end in the year of the millennium.
It never happened, but for Rosie Wilby, she actually felt her world was caving in that year.
The singer/comedian had been singing live on the radio one evening and returned home to find there had been a devastating fire at her home.
“The fire brigade had been and the windows were all boarded up,” says Rosie, aged 40 and from Liverpool.
“It was a huge shock. It turned out that a candle had started the fire. We thought we’d blown it out but we hadn’t.
“When we got inside the flat we couldn’t believe it.
“The pictures had completely melted on the walls, the books on the shelves had burnt to a cinder. Fortunately we had a cat flap so our cats had managed to escape and were running round the garden all confused.
“Then we started to think of all the things we’d lost, like photographs and the computer that was full of information and contacts.
“It was heartbreaking seeing it all wrecked.”
It was made doubly worse by the fact Rosie’s mum died from bowel cancer around the same time as well.
“It was an awful time but it became quite a creatively fertile time for me as my emotions were so stirred up,” says Rosie.
“For me it was a very transitional time, and not just because we were sleeping on friend’s floors for the rest of the summer.
“It was time for me to grow up and deal with tougher stuff as well as the fun stuff of being in my band Wilby.
“Fortunately I had friends, those things keep you going and make you stronger.
“There were funny moments too.
“We had nothing because all of our stuff was so badly smoke damaged so our friends rooted round their wardrobes to find clothes for us to wear.
“One gave me a bag and it had a Brownie uniform in it.
“I’m not sure when she expected me to wear that!
“I did, however, consider wearing it on the album cover as we were doing the launch photo for the album the next day.
“We weren’t sure whether to go ahead but I had one guitar that I kept in an amazing case and when I looked in the flat, I saw it lying on the floor and realised it was OK.”
Rosie’s new show Rosie’s Pop Diary, which she took to this year’s Edinburgh Festival, reflects back to the time of the fire. It is inspired by a column she used to write for a music magazine around that time.
She said: “When you’re a comedian, your life always comes into your shows.
“It’s a dilemma as to how much of your life you want to put in and how much you want to keep to yourself. I put a lot of myself into my new show Rosie’s Pop Diary because I talk about the fire and my mum.
“The show is all about nostalgia and I’ve also brought my music and comedy together as I play five of our old songs acoustically during the performance.
“There’s nothing like a piece of music to evoke memories.
“It’s a bit of a coming-of-age show too as I’ve just turned 40 which is another reason why I’m doing it.
“I didn’t have a big meltdown at 40, I actually really enjoyed it. I often hate my birthdays but this time I got together with friends I really love.
“My twenties were turbulent, and I had to deal with mum’s illness and the house fire during my thirties.
“Everything felt up in the air then so I didn’t really enjoy that. But now I feel optimistic and Pop Diary is an optimistic show. I realise I have come a long way.”
* Rosie’s Pop Diary is at The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Temple Row West, Birmingham on Friday October 7 as part of Birmingham Comedy Festival. For more information, call 0121 200 0946 or visit www.rosiewilby.com