Alexandra Burke on her 'regret' at staying on tour after mum's stroke

About sharing

Alexandra Burke with mum Melissa Bell in 2012

image copyrightGetty Images

Singer Alexandra Burke has spoken about her deep regret at staying out on tour after her mother suffered a stroke.

The star was appearing in Sister Act when her mum Melissa Bell fell ill.

Burke drove to the hospital after every show and slept on the floor, but said she felt she had “lost” nine months before Bell died in August 2017.

“I regret going on tour,” she said. “I regret it so deeply, because I had so much more time in my car and on the road than I did with my mum.”

Speaking on the podcast How To Fail With Elizabeth Day, the 2008 X Factor winner said she told her mum, also a singer, she was going to leave the musical’s tour after her stroke.

But she said her mum replied: “Quit? Sorry? First of all, I didn’t raise a quitter… You’d better get that black backside on to that stage tomorrow. People have paid to watch you. It’s only nine months, come on, let’s just get the tour over with and then we’ll have time.”

Alexandra Burke in 2009

So Burke stayed on the road, giving her phone to the stage manager every night so he could give her any updates on her mum’s condition during costume changes.

“And then I’d drive from wherever I was – Manchester, Sheffield, name it – sleep on the hospital floor, back to London, see to my mum,” she said. “I bought a blow-up mattress bed, I would see to my mum with the family, stay the night, and go back and do a show, wherever I was in the country. It was three or four hours’ drive.”

She went on: “Then on the last day of my show, I finished in Blackpool, I was driving back to London and I got a call saying, ‘Alex, you need to come to hospital now’.

“So I got to the hospital and she passes in my arms within 10 minutes of me being there. So I lost those nine months.”

Continuing with the tour “really burns me because I should have just gone with my gut”, she said.

Alexandra Burke

“I should have listened to myself. I should have just told my mum, ‘Look you’re the priority, let me just quit this tour and let me be with you.’

“But instead I listened to her, which she wanted me to do, and she didn’t want me to let anyone down, she was very adamant that you can’t let your fans down.

“That’s been her thing since I won X Factor. You cannot let your fans down. They are the reason why you are who you are, so they came first, and my mum wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

“I’d done my best. I drove from every show, I slept on the floor, I was there. I’d done everything I could possibly do, but putting work first – that is something I now won’t do at times.”

Later on the same day that Bell died, Burke took part in the Strictly Come Dancing red carpet launch, saying at the time that her mum “would have wanted me to carry on”. Burke went on to reach the final of the BBC dancing contest.

Bell, who performed with Soul II Soul, was 53 when she died. Remembering her mother, Burke added: “Just thinking about the love I have for my mum puts the biggest smile on my face, because there was no love I’ve experienced like it.”