The life of a "forgotten icon" who grew up in Redbridge is being brought to the stage in the borough.

Singer Kathy Kirby came second for the UK in the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest and even had two series of her own television programme The Kathy Kirby Show on BBC.

She grew up in Barkingside and went to the Ursuline Convent School in Ilford before shooting to fame.

Her story has now been dramatised in a play being performed at Redbridge Drama Centre in South Woodford on Friday (March 11).

Ilford Recorder: Kathy during rehearsals for the Royal Variety Show at the London Palladium in 1964Kathy during rehearsals for the Royal Variety Show at the London Palladium in 1964 (Image: PA Archive/PA Images)

The show's writer Steve Casey, who has penned episodes of TV soap EastEnders, said Kathy was "Britain's golden girl" of the mid-1960s.

He told the Recorder: "What first attracted me to the story was she was this local girl who had done so well.

"In an era where we didn't have the ubiquitous celebrity culture, it really meant something to be a star. And she was that.

"She was top of the tree in that period of time. She's a forgotten icon.

"To recognise people that have come before us and who are from the borough and have gone on to achieve such heights, I think we need to pay more attention to those kind of stories.

"She's a great inspiration for young people in the borough."

Steve, who calls himself a "lifelong Ilfordian", spent six months researching Kathy, including anecdotal stories from those who knew her but mostly at archives such as the British Library and Redbridge Central Library.

Ilford Recorder: Kathy took part in Eurovision and had her own BBC TV showKathy took part in Eurovision and had her own BBC TV show (Image: PA Archive/PA Images)

Playing Kathy is Christy Gilbert, from Woodford, in what is her first professional stage role as an adult.

Christy admitted she asked her nan about the star she would be portraying.

"I said to her, 'do you know Kathy Kirby?' She was like, 'yeah but you've got the wrong hair colour!'"

Christy, who has been acting, singing and dancing since the age of two, said she enjoyed researching Kathy.

Ilford Recorder: Christy Gilbert, who is playing Kathy on stageChristy Gilbert, who is playing Kathy on stage (Image: Jennie Scott)

"I feel the thing with her is it's such a waste of what an amazing talent she had that I hadn't heard of her.

"The fact she was so local and she did what she did has been really inspiring to read about."

Kathy died at the age of 72 in 2011 after living reclusively in west London following her retirement.

Director Liam Noble said the show imagines Kathy at the end of her life looking back on her younger past.

"When Steve sent me the script, I was blown away. It's such a rich story and I'm really excited to be able to share that story with people because she was an incredible woman."

The show, which is supported by Arts Council England, is part of a week-long festival of performances to celebrate International Women's Day.

Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure's head of theatre Sally Polden said: "Why do one play when we can do a whole week's worth?

"Seven plays all about women, featuring women, starred and written by women, directed by women or all four.

"It's also a little bit of a way to say to the community, 'we're back'.

"Let's get back in the theatre, let's get bums on seats and start talking about something other than the pandemic."

Ilford Recorder: The show is taking place at Redbridge Drama Centre in South WoodfordThe show is taking place at Redbridge Drama Centre in South Woodford (Image: Archant)

For Sally, it's also about bringing older people back to the theatre.

"The older generation are terrified coming out and about again and there's very few places they feel safe.

"For me, it's as much embracing them and having a good reason for them to come back and come to the theatre and feel safe."

Christy said she's feeling "a lot of pressure" to be playing Kathy but revealed her excitement at performing to a live audience once again.

"We're meant to be in front of people, we're meant to be interacting with people. This is what we do it for and we love it."

Kathy is on at Redbridge Drama Centre in Churchfields, South Woodford from 7.30pm on Friday, March 11.

For tickets, visit