Vintage singer Kitten Von Mew tells GILL SUTHERLAND how she and daughter Betsy are on a mission to entertain their village on their permitted daily lockdown walks.
You have a beautiful voice – did you have training?
That’s awfully kind. No, I haven’t had training. I started ten years ago and never thought singing would be something I would or could do. I was a nervous wreck for a good two years before I got my confidence!
Where do you live and who are you in lockdown with?
I live in Bearley and am in isolation with my four-year-old, Betsy Rose. My husband is unfortunately still working. It’s good because money is still coming in, but also bad as he is out on a building site and I don’t want him to catch anything. They are all being extremely careful though.
Tell us about your uplifting daily amble. What made you think of it?
I suffer quite badly from depression and love the escapism and joy of dressing up. I’m not talking about my usual vintage attire, I mean fairies, Princess Leia riding an Ewok, Santa or some other transformation. I strongly believe that roleplay and imagination is a great foundation for children and thought that our one hour of exercise could be transformed into a morale-boosting, smile-inducing amble.
It started off as just something for Betsy and me, but people down the street slowly started taking interest. Now we have people smiling and waving from their windows, taking pictures, trying to guess who we will be dressed up as each day. It’s a great feeling.
Can you sum up your mission?
Spreading joy, kindness and colourful memories in a stressful, uncertain and gloomy time.
What songs go down well?
Over the Rainbow and White Cliffs of Dover have been very well received. I’ve been asked for more rock and roll, which is on the cards, and will do some more Disney for the kiddies too. Betsy loves hearing Run Rabbit Run and Tale as Old as Time from Beauty and the Beast.
I think the most successful day was my Santa surprise. Betsy was an elf and I decorated my hand art with tinsel. I’d ordered 55 toilet rolls online and delivered one to each house that waved. It was extremely funny and very hot that day.
Are these all characters you’ve dressed up as before?
Well I’ve never dressed up as Santa before, but he was heaps of fun to do. I’ve dressed as most of the characters, but some are new and scrambled together from bits and bobs that I thought may work. Dorothy was new and that worked really well. I’ve got a few more ideas and then we will be rotating what we’ve done. I wish I had a load more costumes to use.
Your daughter Betsy comes with you. Is she a big help?
I’m sure people are more on the lookout for Betsy than me. I love when she dresses up – it’s a real bonding moment. She enjoys waving to everyone and telling them who she is meant to be.
What have you got planned next?
I can’t tell you that! Every day is a surprise. I made a large list of possibilities in my notebook and add more if I suddenly come across clothing that has potential.
Have you got any advice for people struggling to cope with lockdown?
Don’t be afraid to talk to people, especially on FaceTime, and please please try and get out for a walk each day. It can sometimes feel like you are swimming through treacle and it is very easy to slip into depression. I tend not to watch or listen to the news as it brings on my anxiety. I check the odd thing – the Herald’s Facebook page and BBC news – once a day, but that is it.
The one thing I am suffering with is the fact I can’t cuddle my parents and it really upsets me as I’ve always been a tactile person, but I’ve just got to think of the greater good. Even though we are isolated I have become closer to the people in my street than ever before, just by doing these walks. Even if you just have a silly hat day, paint a rainbow on your windows, tie colourful ribbon on trees in your garden or let your kids do your make-up one morning, make amazing memories.