Kimberley Walsh: 'My mum was a hoarder, but I love giving things away’
It's no surprise it's show business as usual for the former Girls Aloud star. She talks about being grounded, babies and blogs with Julia Molony
Kimberley Walsh is sitting at a dining table, in the basement kitchen of a rented Airbnb property in deepest Peckham. It is a slightly incongruous setting for a veteran pop diva such as herself, but nonetheless, she looks pretty much at home.
Maybe it's her Fifties pin-up figure, her no-nonsense Bradford accent, her can-do, capable air, but there is something about Kimberley that invokes the spirit of showbiz past. In another era, you could imagine her here, same pose, same spot, but with rollers in her hair, cigarette in hand.
But we're in 2017, and as a modern mum-of-two, she's not the smoking type. And she's here today because it's the location booked by TK Maxx for a shoot to accompany its annual Give Up Clothes For Good campaign, which Kimberley, along with a host of other celebrities, is fronting.
She's spent the morning posing for the camera alongside a group of child models for ads which will encourage customers to drop off their unwanted clothes, accessories and homeware to their nearest TK Maxx. These are then passed on to children's charities.
It has come at a good time for Kimberley, this particular campaign. She was ready for a major wardrobe clear-out. Nine months ago, she gave birth to her second son, a boy named Cole (she also has four-year-old Bobby with husband Justin Scott).
"I've been in that weird clothing stage where it's not really clothes that I would wear normally," she says. "Because they're pre and post-pregnancy. I've just been like 'let's just get rid of it' because, even if I have another child in the future, I don't want to be wearing these clothes for the third child. So let's just say goodbye. And it does feels good."
It's a cause too, that holds more significance for her now "being a mum" than it might have done before. "Because the charities are around children, it does hold a bit more of a place in my heart," she says. In Britain, the money raised by TK Maxx for Give Up Clothes for Good goes to a paediatric cancer charity. "I just can't even imagine what it's like for people going through these things."
Getting rid of stuff, she says, is "therapeutic". She seems the kind of person who has a reflex for order. "My mum was a hoarder so I think she pushed me in the opposite direction. She can't bear it if I'm clearing stuff out. I feel much better giving it to a good cause if I haven't worn it."
Back in the days of Girls Aloud, Kimberley was always the steady one in the band. While Cheryl was getting arrested for a nightclub altercation, Sarah Harding was heading towards rehab, Nadine had one eye on solo fame in America and Nicola Roberts was struggling with low self-esteem, Kimberley was the sensible, stable one, who kept the same boyfriend throughout and always remained firmly in touch with her roots.
In the midst of the chaotic, disorientating experience of sudden fame, she kept her head level. Compulsively punctual, she'd always be the first dressed and ready to go, waiting for the others. "It used to drive me mad because in a band, everyone was always late. It's just the way it is. I'd be the loser sat in the car on my own for half an hour while everybody else was running around trying to find all their stuff."
She met Justin Scott at a gig back in 2003. Born to an Irish mother and Jamaican father, he grew up in Bristol. "It's an interesting mix we've got going on in our family," she says of his heritage. "He talks about it all the time, and I'm like, 'Yes, I know, you're part Irish'. He goes on and on about it. And I'm like, 'Well, so am I somewhere back in the genes, because I'm Walsh'."
It says rather a lot about her that, no matter where her rather exotic day job has taken her, she has always remained safely anchored in the world of home; keeping the same, steady, reliable group of friends she's had since her earliest days growing up in Yorkshire.
"You can't get much more grounded than Bradfordians," she says. "They definitely bring you back to your roots if you even dare to try and get above yourself. I've always had my brothers and sisters and friends from home around me the whole time.
"I do think that massively helped and even through the band I had these friends that I'd been to school with and who had known me my whole life. Even with the band, if we'd done a gig on a Saturday night, my friends from home would meet us for that night out. It was just normal, but just with a few more free drinks thrown in the mix."
Kimberley grew up on a small estate in Bradford, the second child of four. It was, from her earliest days, a childhood steeped in music. Her mother was a music teacher. And her father, she says, "used to sing in a band when he was young. He still hasn't quite accepted the fact that it never worked out".
Though three of the four children have ended up in the public eye, she and her siblings weren't pushed into showbiz by their parents. Quite the contrary. "My mum didn't have time because there were four of us. It was more a case of us driving her mad performing and begging to go to dance class all the time that she just gave in and was like "Okay, I can get rid of them all for a few hours if they all go to stage school every night. And it paid off for her because we all really did take to it - and ended up choosing it as a career."
Her eldest sister Sally had a long-running role playing Lyn Hutchinson in Emmerdale. She's since quit the soap to have a family and now the baby of the family, Amy, has taken up the baton. She currently plays Tracy Metcalfe in the programme.
Her own relationship with fame has changed a lot since she had children. She blogs about motherhood for Hello! magazine, and publishes pictures of her children on social media, but admits to feeling conflicted, and fiercely protective.
"It's hard because you want to talk about them and you want to put up pictures of them but you never know if that's the right thing to do. It is quite hard because everything is not about just you anymore it's about them and every work decision that I make it's definitely they who come first and I come afterwards and that's how it works. But it is just always trying to find the right balance and juggling everything."
She says she "dreads" the day her children start to understand what it means that their mother is famous. "My nephew is six and he's suddenly interested in me, and why people are interested in me and what is this whole thing. He's like why is everybody interested in my auntie? Why does nobody want pictures of us? And he's just trying to work out what it means to be famous. It's quite a strange one really."
At home she does her best to maintain an atmosphere that is as calm, stable and normal as possible. And the key to that, of course, is her relationship with Justin. "I honestly don't know how we've done it, to be honest," she says of their longevity as a couple. "I think if it's right you can just work through things and you sort of get to know each other so well that you avoid any arguments more and more as the years go on. Because you can literally just read each other so well.
"So, it is quite a chilled household that we've got. The boys definitely pick up on it, I think. If I get animated and talk to Justin, Bobby's like 'Mummy. Why are you talking to daddy like that!?' I'm like, 'We're not arguing'. That's what he thinks is arguing, because everything is so chilled. I'm like, we're just getting excited about something."
All this is perhaps of particular importance to her since her own parents split when she was small.
"I didn't lose anything by them being apart because they were still so loving in their own separate ways. But definitely it was bit volatile to grow up in that environment. I wouldn't want my children to."
She's been busy since Girls Aloud ended. She's released a solo album, taken lead roles in musical theatre, has appeared in the TV series The Lodge and has been working away on her own children's clothing range, that will launch, she says, either later this year or early next year.
Her priority professionally, is to be able to pick and choose work that fits around her children. And her blog and social media heavily feature the ordinary, day-to-day life of a working mum, juggling meeting with outings to soft play.
Now that her youngest is past that all-consuming first six months, and is, for now, sleeping through the night, she's starting to feel a bit freer to make more significant work commitments. She picks and chooses work that fits around her children, rather than doing it the other way around. "Even if I have any more in the future it's not going to be for some time," she says. "I've got enough on my plate for a few years."