If there’s a more famous kitchen in the whole of the United Kingdom than Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s, it can only be Mary Berry’s… and that’s probably just a studio set-up.

Sophie’s Kitchen Disco videos, where she and her children dress on up to get on down – with Sophie singing, her kids dancing and Instagram camerawork all over the place – have been one of the big hits of both lockdowns. So much so that there is now an album and a full Kitchen Disco tour planned for 2021.

‘I definitely didn’t realise my kitchen would become so famous,’ laughs Sophie, live from, well, her kitchen, obviously.

‘But then there are a lot of things this year that have surprised me. I thought there was a good chance people were going to mock me for putting on my sparkly catsuit.’ Sophie says the kitchen discos gave her and her husband, Richard Jones, bass player with soft-rock band The Feeling, something to focus on.

It also gave them the feeling that they had done an actual gig afterwards, even if it was actually just half an hour on a Friday stolen in between doing household chores and corralling kids. ‘It was a bit of escapism, cathartic and nice to have a community to share it with,’ she explains.

Sophie admits she was initially worried about reading comments on the Instagram posts where the shows went out live.

‘Because it was my real house, my real kids and my real emotions, I think I would have been really sensitive if people had been too personal in their critique,’ she says.

‘But I think our house became a medium for all the good stuff that can come from music and fun when you’re not actually feeling that fun in your day-to-day life. Because we weren’t. There was a lot of tension and a lot of stress but music has always been the thing we do around here to make ourselves feel better. But a lot of people do, as well. I didn’t invent kitchen discos.’

As for the paraphernalia of the kitchen disco – the bunting, the smoke machines, the mirror ball and the lights – that was already in place. ‘We didn’t put anything in,’ she chuckles, ‘which is rather revealing.’

Today, though, Sophie is giving us a peek inside the rest of the family home, as she begins to set the scene for Christmas. She is bubbly, fun and her super-sparkly personality shines through in the rest of the house, too.

So with that set-up, that energy level and so many willing disco-ers already in-house, how do you ramp things up for the Christmas season? ‘Oh, there’s always more you can do,’ she laughs. ‘I found myself this morning buying tinsel because I love a decoration and get very excited about anything metallic or brightly coloured.

‘I’ve got a whole loft full of favourite baubles. Is that normal? Oh, and on Christmas Day, you know those snow-making machines you have in the garden? Well, that finds its way into the room at some point.’

As for her five boys, ranging from nearly two to 16 in age, they were not so much willing participants as mostly oblivious participants.

‘The kids weren’t really aware that anyone was watching anyway,’ she says. ‘And that’s why their emotions are incredibly natural from fights to boredom to over-excitement and everything else.

‘Sometimes they’ll come, sometimes they prefer to do something else. And remember no one’s had a birthday party, so it’s a good excuse to have a bit of an occasion. And if you can’t have a bloody disco at Christmas…’

Plans are still in the works – ‘things are very much last-minute around here’ – but one thing that needs to be organised is the post-disco cocktail.

‘Richard’s a very good mixologist so we do have proper negronis and cosmopolitans after,’ she says. ‘And that’s the closest we’ve come to a night out, to be honest.’

Sophie’s attitude to her home is it’s there to have fun with. ‘I want a house that is used and I’m not that precious about things: I want people to sit on the sofas and play with the toys but I want it to be nice,’ she says.

‘I say to the kids, if you put love into the home, it’ll feed you back. It’ll make you feel good. I don’t want wanton vandalism but a creative house that can take the emotions of what’s going on…’

A usual Christmas involves Sophie, Richard, the boys, and a general ‘scooping up’ of family members: mum Janet (Ellis, the 1980s’ Blue Peter presenter), brother, sister, other halves.

‘It can be anything up to 25. But we’re quite good at mass catering and it’s fun. I love Christmas, I have really nice positive associations and love getting the real tree and decorating it, the roaring fire, mulled wine, martinis and the rest of it. I’m well up for it.’

There were some serious Christmases around the time her parents were splitting up but from around the age of eight, when her half-brother was born, ‘it was really positive’. She would alternate between her mum’s and dad’s, year on year.

‘Because I couldn’t have all my family in one place at one time I got taught that Christmas was a season, rather than just a day,’ she says. ‘The good thing about that is it stops you putting too much pressure on Christmas itself to be perfect, because it doesn’t always work like that.

‘We can put ourselves under a lot of pressure to deliver an idea that’s unattainable. As long as you’re with the people you like, nice things happen and there are songs, decorations and traditions… what more do you need?’

Quickfire Christmas Q&A: Sophie on…

…the Christmas dinner

‘I actually really like turkey. I think it gets a bit of a bad rap but I only really eat it at Christmas so it’s very much the association. And then we do the works really: I love sprouts, roast carrots, roast potatoes, stuffing, bread sauce, pigs in blankets… this is actually making me hungry talking about it.’

.. the kitchen disco

‘I’ll have to have a real think about what’s in the Christmas Kitchen Disco. Mariah is phenomenal and I love the Phil Spector ones, you can’t beat those. I like Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses but that’s really hard to sing, I’ve tried it.’

… giving

‘I don’t splurge but I think it’s nice if you can get things people will genuinely enjoy. I don’t like it when it feels like you’re just ticking the boxes. I try to buy with someone in mind. It’s quite tricky not to get wrapped up in the emotional tug. If the kids really want something, I find it hard not to say, “Well, they’ve been really good, they’ve worked really hard at school.” But it’s definitely not “money’s no object”. I try and rein it in.’

… Santa Claus

‘What’s really sweet is that even my 16-year-old has gone along with the whole Father Christmas legend because he appreciates what it means to the little ones.

‘The older ones don’t want to make the little ones feel bad or sad and it’s comforting to go back into it for Christmas time. Even the bigger ones will do their stockings. They’re not cynical about it even if it’s not something they’re thinking about for the rest of the year.’

… Family

‘I’m pretty strict about Christmas, so I think even my older kids will have to be around for Christmas for a while yet. Family holidays, I’m thinking that the next one might be the one where it’s, “I’ve been offered to go away with a mate…” but Christmas I might put my foot down for a bit longer.

‘I have a really good relationship with [eldest son] Sonny and he’s a really nice boy. He signed my birthday card, “from your therapist” because he’s used to giving me his take on my stuff. And I say to him that it’s thanks to how he’s turning out that I wanted other babies. I’ve had my eyes wide open that they get bigger and it gets complicated but if I can raise them all to be like Sonny, I’ll be happy with that.’

Dressing Up

‘I semi-dress up for Christmas Day. I don’t put shoes on because that feels a bit formal for being at home for the day but I might put on maybe a nice frock or something. Nothing restrictive, though, because I’m planning on eating a lot.’

Listen to Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s festive Kitchen Disco on December 31, 7-9pm on BBC Radio 2. Her greatest hits Songs From The Kitchen Disco and podcast Spinning Plates are out now.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing [email protected]

Source: Read Full Article