Cherry Gillespie - Biography
By Gary P. Rose
Cheryl Gillespie was born on 7th February 1955 in Hemsby, Norfolk. Her father, John, was a builder and her mother, Sheila, worked in a nursing home. Cherry always wanted to dance and sing but her parents made sure she had a 'normal' education by sending her to Convent School. Cherry has an older sister, Jane, who was also started dancing but, when she was 12, she decided to take up horse riding. Cherry started training as a dancer when she was four years old, taking tap and ballet lessons. Having accomplished ballet at junior school, Cherry was accepted into an adult school called the Bush Davies School of Performing Arts, when she was just thirteen years old. At the Bush, she studied every aspect of the performing arts, from acting to singing and dancing. She performed in several school productions, including 'Mary Hamilton'. She was also one of the schools students chosen to perform in a production of 'Coppelia' at the Adeline Genee Theatre in East Grinstead. She was aged 17 at the time and was given the challenging role of Swanhilda and the performance won Cherry wave reviews. Cherry later became Head girl at ballet school - one of the other pupils being Louise 'Lulu' Cartwright, later to join Ruby Flipper and Legs & Co.
When Cherry left the Bush, she moved to London where she stayed with some friends who went to the Royal Ballet School. It was whilst she was there that she heard Pan's People were looking for a girl to replace Andrea Rutherford, who had recently left to have a baby. So Cherry went along for the audition and got the job. Her first ever appearance on 'Top of the Pops' was on 28th December 1972, when host Tony Blackburn announced that he’d bought Pan’s People a Christmas present. This was the cue for the other girls to unveil the gift wrapped Cherry to the viewers. Her debut performace was 'Without You' by Nilsson.
The delectable Cherry was an instant hit with viewers- and soon became a firm favourite of Pan's People's male admirers. Cherry remained with Pan's People until 1976, after which the group disbanded and re-formed as Ruby Flipper. Joniing Cherry in the newly formed group was another former Pan's People dancer, Sue Menhenick, and Cherry's fellow student from the Bush, Lulu Cartwright. However, Ruby Flipper proved to be unpopular with the audience and, after only a few months, the group split. But Cherry left the group shortly before the split. Her ultimate ambition was to be seen as dramatic actress without having to give up the musical side of her career so, when she was chosen to open the London production of A Chorus Line, she decided the time was right to fulfil that ambition and decided to leave Ruby Flipper. The production took place at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane and was a great success. Following this, she appeared in a number of stage musicals. She was in the world premiere of Lyle the Crocodile at the Lyric Hammersmith in London and appeared in 'Pride and Prejudice' with the Cambridge Theatre Company. Other theatre appearances include ''One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest' for the Horsehoe Theatre Company.
She also acted, or performed, in films and on television. She appeared in the films 'Octopussy', 'The Bitch', 'A Chance to Sit Down' and 'Nutcracker' and on television in 'The Hot Shoe Show', 'The Good Old Days', 'A Family Affair', 'Under the Same Sun', 'Metal Mickey', 'Crown Court', 'Bergerac', 'Casualty', 'Minder', 'The Morecambe and Wise Show' and 'The Funny Side'. In addition, she was a panellist on 'Blankety Blank' and 'WowFabGroovy' and appeared in commercials for Kelloggs All-Bran and Wella Hair Care.'
She had married song writer / record producer David Mindel in London in 1975. David had written the theme tunes for 'Jim'll Fix It' and 'Challenge Anneka', amongst others, and he was also credited on Cherry's solo single 'Here Comes the Band', which was released in 1977. The following year, Cherry did backing vocals on Maddy Prior's first solo album, 'Woman in the Wings'. In 1997, Cherry and David emigrated to France where David opened his own record production company, Mindel Music (now Music by Design). Following their divorce, Cherry married Rob Dickens, CBE, who holds a number of trustee and consultant positions in the music industry. They have a daughter and have homes in London, Grasse in France, New York and Los Angeles.
Since giving up performing, Cherry has worked as a choreographer and still keeps up with dance classes as well as singing lessons. She is one of the Development Committee of Dancers Careers Development.