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My Cellar
Interview With | Betty Roe

What’s your Notting Hill?

Mrs Eileen Bishop aka Betty Roe MBE was born in North Kensington in 1930 and is an English composer, singer, vocal coach, conductor and all-round inspiration. Over the course of an incredible 87 years Mrs Bishop has seen the area change remarkably, yet still marvels at the community in its modern state. She had been a Junior Exhibitioner at the Royal Academy of Music from the age of 12, which enabled her to study piano and cello. After leaving school at 17, she took a job as a filing clerk before returning to the Royal Academy where she successfully gained a place on the Graduate of the Royal Schools of Music teaching course. Her interests developed towards musicals before she became Director of Music at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. There she taught a diverse group of students, including Jim Broadbent and Patricia Hodge. A composer of songs in all their forms – from religious music, through to instrumentals, musicals, choral works, pantomimes and music for schools, she was appointed MBE for services to Classical Music and to Composition in the New Year’s Honours list 2011.

So, what’s your favourite place around here? I suppose I just like it all here, where I live! I remember it throughout the war years, passing pails of water during the second world war, houses on one side of the street with the loo in the garden! And how most houses had an upright piano… it was just part of the furniture back then.

Any memories? The war was an interesting time, people coming together as a community, although I am sure people would muck in like that now, just like they used to then. I remember St. Helen’s Church, where I was learning the organ, being bombed. I will never forget seeing the old upright piano, strings broken and lying on the ground, all smashed up.

And now? I still love Portobello Road and the market. I love where I live, I’m really quite content here. And of course, I still play my piano every day.