Entertainment

Barbara Dickson starts running in her 70s and reveals it helps her from ‘getting stressed’


While others are slowing down, Barbara Dickson is speeding up.

One of Scotland’s greatest ever singers, who also shone as an actress, is 74 but during lockdown took up running.

After a lifetime of body swerving fitness, the Dunfermline-born star now runs 3k every weekday.

And despite her hugely successful career she does it because it stops her “getting stressed”.

She laughed: “You have to be careful not to sound like some old, boring, evangelical running person. I’m not breaking records. I’m doing it for myself.

“I tend to get quite anxious about things, I worry about all sorts of things. I don’t think I’m unusual in that. But it stops me really getting stressed.”



Barbara during a studio shoot in 1981
Barbara during a studio shoot in 1981

After living in England for 35 years and raising her three now grown-up sons, Barbara moved back to Edinburgh seven years ago with husband Oliver to spend the rest of her life in her home country.

Living in Edinburgh city centre she joined a gym and three times a week would do some running, cycling and weightlifting.

But then lockdown hit, the gym shut and Oliver – “much more physical” than her – got her out every Sunday for long walks exploring Edinburgh.

While the walk would have been enough for most of us, Barbara began to run during the week.

She laughed: “At the start I’d run about the length of myself and be over a bench like a wet sock. The next time I’d run the length of myself and run the length of myself back and still be hanging over the bench.

“But eventually I’ve built it up to 3k. The body doesn’t need fitness every day but my brain does.”

Barbara doesn’t pound pavements but goes to a park near where she lives to run on the grass.

As well as helping her anxiety, running has kept her fit during the pandemic. Not one for cosmetic surgery to hold back the years, the singer sees running as her way of looking and feeling great.

She said: “There is a sense of achievement which is true of any age but it’s also kept me a bit more supple. It’s good for the metabolism and for your physique.

“The Covid pandemic has been very, very difficult for mental health. to have your world turned upside down and sail through it is almost impossible.”

Barbara runs in the morning – “as an old person I’m at my best then” – and eats one meal a day – usually a late lunch or early dinner.

Currently raising funds for Doddie Weir’s MND challenge, Barbara can’t believe she’s talking about running.



Barbara in 1983 launching the original run of Blood Brothers by Will Russell

She said: “I love it and I never thought in my life I’d be saying I love exercise because I’m a person who rarely worked up a sweat.”

Her role model is her mum Ruth, who died at the age of 90 in 2008.

Barbara reckoned if she hadn’t had an unsuccessful hip replacement when she was 85 she’d still be here.

“Mum was never ill before that,” she explained. “She didn’t overindulge, wasn’t overweight, looked great, and was very active.”

Barbara has inherited much of her mum’s positivity.

She is always looking for a new challenge and isn’t afraid of using new technology. Last year she presented her own podcast show, Answer Me Ten, and performed her first online show.



Rikki Fulton as Supercop booking Barbara in a 1984 episode of Scotch & Wry

She was also asked to teach older people about music via Zoom.

She was also due to return to playing live last year but the Time is Going Faster Tour – showcasing her 2020 album of the same name which marked 50 years since her first solo album, 1970’s Do Right Woman – was postponed until this year because of Covid.

It certainly doesn’t look like Barbara has any intention of retiring – and prickles slightly at the mention of it. Barbara said: “If I was a painter no one would say at my age are you thinking of stopping painting.

“I’m not interested in being famous, I’m interested in doing good work. I want to keep working until I’m unable to work because of whatever.”

That work involves live shows – something she’s done since she was 16 – but have been curtailed for so many for so long now.

The rescheduled tour in March and April includes three dates in Scotland in Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

She can’t wait to play the capital’s Usher Hall which is now a hometown gig for her and is keeping positive it will happen.

The new show will include songs from Time Is Going Faster which included her first original songs for some time.

She is ready to write for another album and has one song in the pipeline but needs to play the songs from Time Is Going Faster live before she feels she can move on.

She grimaced: “I feel slightly musically constipated. I really need to get these songs out there.”



Barbara (right) with Tim Rice, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Elaine Page with their silver disc for I know Him So Well in 1985
Barbara (right) with Tim Rice, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Elaine Page with their silver disc for I know Him So Well in 1985

The Fifer moved to Edinburgh as a teen and became a folk singer, releasing her first album The Fate o’Charlie with Archie Fisher in 1969. They followed it up with another album before she went solo in the 70s.

After meeting Willy Russell and performing the music for his musical John, Paul, George, Ringo…and Bert, Barbara became a mainstream star, and a resident on The Two Ronnies.

The 80s saw her pop star career, with hits like January February and her duet with Elaine Paige, I Know Him So Well.

In the 90s she had continued success in Kay Mellor’s gritty TV drama Band of Gold and on stage in Spend, Spend, Spend which saw her win an Olivier Award.

Barbara is the biggest-selling Scottish female album artist of all time, earning six platinum, 11 gold and seven silver albums.

Performing music is her first love. She said: “I’ve never stopped playing live even when I was in the theatre. Me with an audience is the very basis of what I do.”

●Barbara will play Perth Concert Hall on March 27, Edinburgh Usher Hall on March 30 and Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on March 31.

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