How Lorna from Ipswich swapped pop stardom for a career in law
- Credit: Archant
Lorna Denton-Cardew tells a great school run story.
“It’s always the shoes, isn’t it?” she says. “You get up early, get everything ready, but the moment you come to leave, they can never find their shoes!”
She goes on: “I remember once I was trying to get my youngest out the door and he was being so naughty, I eventually picked him up under my arm and burst out of the door, carrying him, wriggling and laughing.
“I don’t know what happened but the next moment I was flat on the floor in a muddy puddle with my little boy on top of me, still laughing.
“My dress that day was electric blue. Gorgeous! For about a minute!”
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After meeting Lorna, I share this story with other working mums I know and we all roll our eyes in recognition. Trying to get two little ones out the door in time for school is never easy, and to know that we are not alone in this is comforting.
If Lorna can’t do it, then surely we don’t need to feel so badly!
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Because, really, there’s not a lot else that Lorna can’t do.
The first time I met her was at one of those award small-talk events that I normally hate but within minutes of meeting her I knew I was going to have a good time.
We talked about stuff we’d done in our lives and Lorna claimed to be impressed by my years working in New York as an editor and blah and blah.
But it was then when I asked her about her own life.
“Well,” she said, “I’m a lawyer now, but I used to be a pop singer.”
I remember choking slightly on my canapé. “You used to be a what?”
The story came out, with Lorna laughing and slightly embarrassed.
After growing up in Ipswich – a pupil at Sidegate Lane primary school, then Copleston High School in Ipswich – she was famous in the ’90s as a singer in the band Clock.
“I was doing my law degree ? with Japanese ? at the University of Westminster but I used to go dancing in the evenings at various clubs,” she recalls.
A good dancer – she came sixth in the world ballroom dancing championships aged 16 – she was noticed by one of the club owners who told her and a friend he would pay them £50 a night to dance in the club. It was there she was spotted by Marcus Thomas from the rap band Clock.
“Marcus needed some dancers for a video and he asked my friend and me if we’d come along,” she says. “Obviously, I was suspicious, but he gave us the record company details and I checked it out and it was legitimate.
“Then, very soon afterwards, the lead singer quit, but all she had to do was say a line, three times, at the end of the song: ‘Keep on pushing harder.’ I said, ‘Well, I can do that,’ and the rest is history!”
She says this in an “as you do” tone, as though it is perfectly normal, but I suppose, for her, it is.
Within weeks of meeting Marcus, Clock had a number-four hit record and were appearing on
“I remember Stevie Wonder was also on,” says Lorna. “One of his aides said to us, ‘Whatever you do, don’t call him Mr Wonder. So, of course, the first thing I said when we were introduced was, ‘Mr Wonder, I love you!’ I was completely star struck.”
At first, Lorna tried to squeeze being in the band with being a law student but it quickly proved impossible.
“Our itinerary was ridiculous. It was limos and premieres and photoshoots and riding on the Smash Hits tour bus. I used to stop sometimes and think, ‘Doesn’t anyone realise? I’m Lorna, from Ipswich, and this is ridiculous!’”
The university told Lorna, who was by then at the end of the second year of her law degree, that she could return to finish her final year within five years.
She never made it.
Instead, her life became an unimaginable whirl of parties, and events, touring Japan, (where her language skills came in very useful) touring Europe, touring with STEPs and Peter André and Ant and Dec (who were, at that time, PJ and Duncan.)
“I remember a very surreal evening drinking with Ant and Dec and my mum and brother,” Lorna laughs. “They could certainly drink! They were lovely people.”
Ultimately, Lorna’s band, Clock, had many hits and appeared on TOTP 13 times. By the time the band ran out of steam, the five years had passed.
Lorna – then known as Lorna Saunders – was offered various TV presenting jobs, but life had taken a different turn by then. Her father, who still lived in Ipswich, had developed Alzheimer’s, and Lorna decided to return home to help with his care.
“It was very hard for him at first,” she recalls. “He’d been a psychiatric nurse so he knew what was happening. In the end, he committed himself to St Clement’s. In a lucid moment, he said to me, ‘I know what it is, Lorna; I know where I need to go.’ It was such a poignant thing to hear him say.”
Eventually, her father was moved to a home in Ipswich where he remains today and Lorna visits him regularly.
“He doesn’t really know who I am,” she says, sadly. “But it’s important that I am close by if he needs me.”
Lorna is now married and has two young boys aged six and three. She also works as a legal executive for Jackamans in Diss, while living near Ipswich.
“A few weeks after Dad was committed, I received a letter from a lawyer at a local firm of solicitors. He said that my dad was a regular visitor to his practice. Apparently, Dad used to just pop in as he walked to town and chat, telling him all about his daughter whose dream was once to be a lawyer.
“Dad always used to worry about me giving up the law to sing.
“I will never forget that letter, or the kind lawyer who wrote to me. He told me he wanted to do all he could to help me. And, he did.”
With his help, Lorna began legal executive training – which involves working and training on the job.
It took six years but she has been a fully qualified legal executive, working in wills and probate, since 2008.
“The work I do now is very special,” she says.
“Because of what has happened to dad, I have an affinity for it, for helping people to prepare for the future, sometimes at a very sad time in their lives. I like the work because I feel I can really make a difference to people when they need it most.”
Her life as a singer now seems a very long way away.
“My husband has never even heard me sing,” she said. “And we’ve been married five years! I’ve sort of packed away the old life in a box which I get out now and then, but it bears no relation to the person I am now.
“It’s just something I did, a life I had, a very long time ago.
“I’m very grateful for it. I would never try to pretend it didn’t happen, but I also didn’t want to become a has-been clinger-on-er,” she laughs. “That was for then, and I love my life now.”
Apart from the school run?
“Especially the school run,” she says, smiling.
“Being home in Suffolk with my family and the children; where else would I want to be?”