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Ruby Turner is to perform at Canterbury's Gulbenkian Theatre

Ruby Turner
Ruby Turner

Ruby Turner will be showing why she has been dubbed Britain’s First Lady of Soul at Canterbury’s Gulbenkian Theatre. Ahead of the gig, she chatted to Kathryn Tye about working with Kent’s own music legend Jools Holland, meeting the Queen and her unusual addiction.

Soul legend Ruby Turner has a big voice and an even bigger personality. Interviewing the Jamaican-born singer is a memorable experience, as she talks passionately and at speed, the conversation constantly interrupted by her rich throaty chuckle.

Asked what audiences can expect from her show at Canterbury’s Gulbenkian Theatre, she begins laughing, saying: “I don’t know – expect the unexpected! I guess a humdinger of a time. I hope we all enjoy it!”

Ruby, 55, will be joined by a four-piece band for the gig, which will feature songs from her extensive back catalogue, spanning more than 30 years and 15 albums.

She says: “I will be doing the stuff from days of old. You have to enjoy the things that have brought great pleasure to people. I will be picking nuggets from all the various albums and I am writing a new album so I will showcasing songs from that as well.”

Ruby has 23 solo dates lined up around the UK before June, including four nights at famed jazz club Ronnie Scott’s.

She says: “Performing is my life. It feeds and clothes me, it makes me feel good, it makes people feel good, how can I complain? I love touring. If I was doing a nine to five job I would not have seen some of the marvellous things I have.”

Jools Holland
Jools Holland

Her solo dates will be interspersed with performances around the world as part of Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra.

Ruby is full of praise for Kent’s acclaimed musician, who lives at Cooling Castle and is a Deputy Lieutenant for the county.

She says: “For the past 15 years or so I have been part of the unit. I am very lucky to be able to be sharing Jools’ stage. He is a wonderful man. In a world where people are nervous about sharing their thing, Jools is generous and invites so many different people to grace the stage and share with him. I’m very fortunate that I’m one who has been there for a while, enjoying the music and touring with him.”

Jools is just one of many big names in the music industry that Ruby has worked with, but she admits to still being nervous about meeting her idols.

“These are people I have looked up to, they are pioneers, trailblazers. To be in the same room as Bryan Ferry is like, wow! You have to calm yourself down.

Mick Jagger visits the Dartford centre named after him in 2010
Mick Jagger visits the Dartford centre named after him in 2010

"And when I’m doing a session and Mick Jagger walks in I’m like, ‘Oh my god, it’s not the Jagger? It’s the Jagger! When I did the Diamond Jubilee, I was sharing a room with Elton John and Tom Jones. You have to pinch yourself.

“More importantly, I met the Queen! Kylie Minogue was hosting, and she said, ‘this is Ruby Turner’, and the Queen said, ‘I know’. How about that?!”

Despite her success, Ruby hasn’t fallen foul to the self-destructive tendencies that plague other stars. She admits to just one addiction.

“I love badminton! The gym drives me insane. I get bored. I have been playing badminton for two and a half years and it’s fantastic. It’s not only a nice social evening and good laugh, I get to run around as well. People get addicted to things, I’m addicted to badminton.”

Indeed, Ruby remains as down-to-earth as ever, demonstrated when asked how she feels at being compared to the likes of Aretha Franklin and called Britain’s First Lady of Soul.

She says: “I’m humbled to be mentioned in the same breath as the wonderful Aretha. But you have to take those things very lightly.

"I guess the secret of my success is perseverance and the fact I never expected anything. The disappointments have not been that great. I just stuck to the thing I knew and enjoyed.”

Ruby Turner will be at Canterbury’s Gulbenkian Theatre on Friday, January 17. It starts at 7.30pm. Tickets £20. Call 01227 769075.

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