Following on from my previous blog, today I’d like to write about Amy Winehouse again. Why today? Well it’s two years since Amy died at the new house in Camden Square. I distinctly remember the date, not least because I’m good with memorable dates like that (something that I believe Amy was good at too), but also because my nephew Leo was born on the day Amy died.
In my last blog I mentioned that I was going to a private view of the Amy Winehouse exhibition curated by the singer’s brother Alex and his wife Riva. I attended that last Thursday, with my friend and huge Amy fan, Wayne.
I arrived at Camden early and found a pub next to Camden Market with street-side seating. With a glass of something cooling in hand to temper the heat of the day, I really enjoyed people watching. Camden has such a diverse range of people and fashions, I couldn’t help but be entertained and amused for 30 minutes whilst I waited for my friend. This was the place that Amy came from despite where she was born. Wherever she lived in London, Camden was the one place she wanted to return to, time and time again. You could almost touch the diverse glamour, it was “that” tangible.
Wayne arrived, we had a drink and briefly caught up, then made our way to the Jewish Museum where the exhibition was to be held and were greeted by 6-7 large 7ft screens with personal images of Amy… as a schoolgirl… with school friends… with family… outside her dear Grandma’s flat. Ahead of us in a glass case was a pale grey short dress full full mini skirt and belted. As soon as I saw it I could picture Amy wearing that outfit. The first lump of the evening formed in my throat.
My friend, the Mayor of Camden Jonathan Simpson and host of tonight’s evening, had told me to “bring tissues” and I was beginning to see why. After a drinks reception with canapes, and short speeches from both Jonathan and Mitch Winehouse (Amy’s Dad) we were invited to go to the top floor of the museum to view the relatively small, yet hugely personal and poignant exhibition. Greeted with wall of post it notes from visitors who were invited to add their own comments. From the vast array on show, you can feel the love for Amy straight away. We each signed the visitors book as the post its had run out… I added a couple of lines from my “Remembering Amy” poem which was included in my previous blog. I also had the opportunity to give a copy of the poem to both Mitch and Janis, which I was delighted to have been able to have done, but more on that later…
The exhibition itself contained both ordinary items such as Amy’s collections of fridge magnets, as well as personal effects like clothes and accessories. There was a suitcase of photos which Amy had rediscovered after 25 years and insisted her Dad came round to look at them just before he was due to fly out to New York. He humoured her, and went. Thank God he did too, as that was the last time Mitch saw his daughter alive. The next day, she died.
We then moved on to music related items like stage passes, stage outfits and magazine covers. Dotted around the walls were quotations from Amy’s application to join the Sylvia Young Stage School. We also had a map of Amy’s London, and object such as her school jumper with her name tag sewn in…. cue the tissues.
I left the exhibition feeling incredibly sad. Sad, that we’d lost a musical talent such as Amy but sad for her family who are dealing with the issue of her death in an incredibly dignified and measured way. They have lost their daughter. As a mother myself, I can’t begin to imagine how painful it must have been to see that exhibition for the first (or tenth) time.
After we’d viewed the exhibition we returned to the initial reception room and had the good fortune to be able to talk to Mitch for a good 20-25 minutes. He spoke of the things that Amy used to get up to and that her addictions extended beyond the tabloid sensationalism of drugs and drink… she was addicted to shopping, exercise, lots of things. I guess she just had an addictive personality where everything was “consumed” to the max.
I think its very easy to fall into addiction whichever form that may take; religion, shopping, food, drink, whatever. Some people also have “addictive personalities” which makes them predisposed to such repetitive and constant behaviours. We all know the risks of many things, yet it doesn’t stop us from doing them, despite the dangers. Sometimes, its what makes life interesting. Its only when it takes an all-consuming, excessive form and takes over and becomes health/life-threatening, that it becomes problematic and then of course its difficult to stop.
A couple of days after the exhibition my copy of “Amy My Daughter” arrived. I’d ordered it from my book club before I attended the exhibition so the timing of its arrival couldn’t have been more perfect.
I read this heartfelt book in 2 days; Amy’s life story was so compelling and it was interesting to read the facts behind the salacious headlines. I found Mitch to write in an incredibly honest way, ready to hold his hands up when he realised, in hindsight, he was wrong, which made the story seem all the more truthful and human.
Reading this book nearing the 2nd anniversary of Amy’s death has made it all the more sad for me. Such a tragic waste of a talented life. You can easily see how different life could’ve been for her if addiction hadn’t grasped hold of Amy in the cruellest way possible. I would recommend this book to anyone; addiction takes many forms in all our lives and there but for the grace of God go us all. What a tragic shame Amy didn’t make it thru.
The next day I received a message on my Twitter account from Amy’s Dad which read “Dear Ange. I just read your poem. It is so beautiful. Thank you. Mitch”. I was delighted just to have
had the opportunity for him and Janis to have seen it, let alone the fact that he loves it, is the highest praise I could have ever wished for. Tomorrow will be a tough day for Amy’s fans, friends and family throughout the world. 14th September will be the next “big” day; which would’ve been Amy’s 30th birthday. Tough times, and I should know. We lost my youngest brother in 2001, two years before he made his 30th birthday too.
RIP Amy 23/7/2013
My friend Jonathan Simpson is the Mayor of Camden this year and his chosen charity is the Amy Winehouse Foundation. If you would like to make a donation of any size please go to www.justgiving.co.uk/camdenmayor. Many thanks. X