Singer-songwriter Beverley Craven is back on the road with the Woman to Woman tour just a few weeks after finishing gruelling chemotherapy. Catherine Scott met her.
When Beverley Craven got the all-clear from cancer there was only one thing on her mind – getting back on tour with fellow songsters Julia Fordham and Judie Tzuke.
The trio had been forced to postpone the second leg of their sell out Woman to Woman tour which had been due to take place this March, after Craven was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time following the discovery of a lump in August.
“I worked out that I would be in the middle of chemotherapy,” says the singer-songwriter who rose to fame in the ‘90s with hits including Promise Me.
“We took the really difficult decision of having to postpone the dates until I had finished treatment.” And that’s exactly what she has done.
Her treatment included a double mastectomy – which she decided to fund herself as she felt it would give her longer to recover in time for the rescheduled tour – and five months of chemotherapy.
“I decided to go privately. If I’d waited and gone on the NHS I wouldn’t have had the operation until October and it wouldn’t have given me long enough to recover.”
Although she realised that next month’s rescheduled gigs would be a challenge to her physically and emotionally, it was one thing that kept her going through months of treatment.
“We have become great friends and the show is brilliant. Knowing that I had to get better for June gave me something to focus on and aim for. And I have done it.”
Craven, whose family has been blighted by cancer, has bravely decided to talk openly about her treatment in a bid to inspire and give hope to others going through a similar time.
“There a definite gene on the Craven side of the family although it isn’t the BRCA gene that people now know about. It has affected so many women on that side of the family.
“My sister died of breast cancer five years ago – was only 44. She had a double mastectomy and felt really embarrassed about it. She found it really helpful that Angelina Jolie had talked openly about her decision to have a double mastectomy. When you are going through something as big as cancer it is helpful to know other people are going through it as well. A few months after I was diagnosed the first time Kylie Minogue went public and I found it really helpful and so I felt I should do the same. I believe in honesty it just the way I am.”
Craven was born in Sri Lanka. Her family relocated back to the UK when she was 18 months old and settled in Hertfordshire.
Encouraged by her mother, an accomplished classical violinist, she began taking piano lessons at the age of seven. She also proved to be a talented swimmer, going on to represent her county in national championships.
Leaving home for London at 18
Craven left home aged 18 and moved to London, intent on carving out a career in the music business. The next few years saw her struggling to find a break, pursuing her musical ambitions with session work and pub gigs.
In the late 80s her perseverance paid off when she was offered a job as a backing vocalist on a European tour with soul legend Bobby Womack, and then in 1988, the big break finally came when one of her demo tapes fell into the hands of Epic Records who immediately offered her a recording contract.
After a stint in the States, developing her writing and performing skills, Craven commenced work on her self-titled debut album which was released in the UK in 1990. Its success was almost unprecedented – within a year it had been certified double platinum with sales of over one million copies and 52 weeks on the UK album chart.
The debut single, Promise Me, reached number three on the UK singles chart and charted across Europe. Further hits followed with Holding On, Woman To Woman and Memories. In 1992 she received a Brit Award for Best British Newcomer.
Craven married musician Colin Campsie and they had three daughters. The couple have since divorced. She says she had amazing support from her daughters, Mollie, Brenna and Connie, during her illness. “They have been with me through it all – even coming to chemotherapy with me.”
She says having cancer for a second time was actually easier than the first time.
“I was almost expecting it,” she says. “When you are diagnosed with cancer you are always looking over your shoulder. I have been angry and upset and scared but at the end of the day you have to concentrate on getting well.
“People say I have been amazingly strong but I didn’t have much choice. It was a process I had to go through to get rid of it and making sure it didn’t spread. You can sit down and start feeling sorry for yourself and thinking about what you have been through, or you can be grateful for what you’ve got and that’s what I’ve learnt in my 56 years.”
'Cancer changed the way I think'
She says having cancer has changed the way she thinks about life and made her more determined to complete the Woman to Woman tour. “In many ways having cancer has been a positive thing. It has strengthened my relationship with my daughters, my best friend and my boyfriend. It is easy to get stuck in a rut, having something like this happen makes you seize every opportunity. I feel I have been given another chance.”
It was Craven’s idea to team up with Julia Fordham and Judie Tzuke. “I don’t think any of us were prepared for the reaction we have had. I was touring at a similar time to Judie and we were doing similar smallish venues and it just made sense to team up. The I saw my agent also represented Julia and I thought the three of us would work well together, We appeal to a similar audience. We don’t appear as individuals and I think that’s what makes it different. We all sing each other’s songs and act as backing singers for each other – it is a lot of fun.”
But Woman to Woman is not the end of Craven’s touring ambitions. She is planning a solo tour next year to coincide with the republication of her biography, first published in 2012, which she is currently updating. “It has been very cathartic,” she says. “I’m not really ambitious, one of the good things about getting older is that you know what makes you happy and feel fulfilled.”
Woman to Woman Yorkshire Tour Dates
The Woman to Woman tour comes to Sheffield City Hall, June 12 and Harrogate Royal Hall, June 14. For more information and tickets visit www.wtwlive.com