Danc­ing to You’ll Never Walk Alone will be emo­tional. I was at Hills­bor­ough that day but I was lucky... a boy I was at school with died

Daily Mirror - - NEWS - BY NI­COLA METHVEN TV Edi­tor ni­cola.methven@mir­ror.co.uk

WI’m do­ing it for every other or­di­nary, mid­dleaged bloke SI­MON ON WHY HE SIGNED UP FOR THE DANCE SHOW

hen Strictly’s pro­duc­ers sug­gested life­long Liver­pool fan Si­mon Rim­mer dance his waltz to You’ll Never Walk Alone, he did not have to think twice.

But the TV chef knows no mat­ter how hard he con­cen­trates on the steps tonight, the An­field an­them will trig­ger mem­o­ries of the fate­ful day in 1989 when 96 peo­ple lost their lives at Hills­bor­ough.

Si­mon, 54, was there that day and wit­nessed the tragedy – and nearly 30 years later he still feels lucky to have es­caped with his life. The pres­sure to do jus­tice to a song that “means the world” to him is im­mense.

“It will prob­a­bly make me feel emo­tional, I feel it now just talk­ing about it,” he says. “It’s not only Liver­pool’s theme tune be­fore every game but it’s got that as­so­ci­a­tion with Hills­bor­ough. I was at Hills­bor­ough that day, so it has an even more poignant mean­ing to me.

“I’m fo­cused and de­ter­mined and I’m work­ing my back­side off but there’s an ex­tra di­men­sion with it be­ing You’ll Never Walk Alone.

“I stood and watched that tragedy un­fold and so aside from the lovely things that You’ll Never Walk Alone gives me, it is also so syn­ony­mous with that ter­ri­ble day.”

A boy from his school, Gra­ham Roberts, was among the vic­tims. And Si­mon, a fa­ther of two, has since be­come friends with Jenni Hicks, a cus­tomer at one of his pubs who lost daugh­ters Sarah and Vicki. He is also now mates with Kenny Dal­glish, who was the club’s man­ager at the time.

“I wasn’t an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant in the jus­tice cam­paign but cer­tainly a fer­vent sup­porter,” he says with feel­ing. He found it over­whelm­ing last April, when it was fi­nally ruled that the 96 vic­tims had been un­law­fully killed rather than be­ing vic­tims of “ac­ci­den­tal death”.

“I gen­uinely cried all day,” says Si­mon. “I ended up com­ing home at lunchtime, when the de­ci­sion was made, I ac­tu­ally just couldn’t cope with be­ing in work.

“I was an emo­tional wreck. At last those fam­i­lies were go­ing to get some clo­sure, that was the big­gest thing. It was one of the great­est mo­ments in Bri­tish le­gal his­tory and showed the power of the in­di­vid­u­als who said, ‘You know what, I refuse to ac­cept this’.” Si­mon was at the match with five of his mates, all hugely af­fected by the hor­rors they wit­nessed as the crowd were crushed, panic broke out and life­less bod­ies were lifted on to the pitch. He was 26 and af­ter a fright­en­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in the Lep­pings Lane stand as Liver­pool played Sh­effield away a year ear­lier, he and his pals had de­cided against stand­ing there that day. Si­mon says: “There was a ter­ri­ble crush and we had made the de­ci­sion not to go into the

stand again be­cause it had felt fright­en­ing. “The hor­ri­ble thing was, as we watched it un­fold, we knew how it had felt the pre­vi­ous year. So that day and every sin­gle day that year, my friends and I just had that feel­ing of, ‘We were lucky’.” This week, Si­mon took Strictly part­ner Karen Clifton to Liver­pool’s An­field ground and showed her the me­mo­rial. He says: “You look at the 96 names and think, ‘I was lucky’. Every time I go back I think that.” So there is no doubt­ing Si­mon will be putting his all into this dance, which he is find­ing slightly more to his lik­ing than last week’s Paso Doble. His stompy ef­fort, likened to some­one crush­ing cock­roaches by judge Bruno To­nioli, earned him just 17 points. He is hop­ing the emo­tional con­nec­tion to this week’s turn will spur him on and the pub­lic will root for him. “Whether you hate Liver­pool FC or you love them, or you’re in­dif­fer­ent to foot­ball, I hope peo­ple will see what it means to me,” he says. Si­mon grew up in Wal­lasey, Mersey­side, and has a de­gree in fash­ion and tex­tile de­sign. Hav­ing taught him­self to cook, he opened his first restau­rant, Greens, in Dids­bury, Manch­ester in 1990. Af­ter that came the first of many TV ap­pear­ances, start­ing out on Granada Breeze then do­ing stints on ITV day­time, in­clud­ing This Morn­ing. He is best-known for his on-screen part­ner­ship with “best­mate” Tim Love­joy, which started in 2006 on BBC2’s Some­thing for the Week­end and went on from 2012 on C4’s Sun­day Brunch.

In 2006, he opened a sec­ond restau­rant, Earle, in Hale and has writ­ten books in­clud­ing The Rebel Cook. Si­mon met wife Ali, 50, when they were both wait­ing ta­bles in Manch­ester.

He says she and their kids Florence, 19, and Hamish, 14, are sup­port­ing his danc­ing by laugh­ing at him.

“My wife rolls her eyes a lot,” he says. “My daugh­ter just started uni. She got a shoutout on the show last week be­cause she posted she wasn’t us­ing her own sur­name so peo­ple wouldn’t know she was my daugh­ter. My son said, ‘Thanks Dad, you’ve com­mit­ted so­cial sui­cide’, but he’s en­joy­ing it be­cause everyone’s talk­ing about it. I wouldn’t want them to be, ‘Oh dar­ling, is ev­ery­thing OK?’. It’s bet­ter that they’re tak­ing the mickey out of me.” Si­mon says he signed up to Strictly sim­ply for the joy of do­ing it. “I’m do­ing it for the fun,” he says. “There’s part of me who feels like I’m do­ing it for every other or­di­nary, mid­dle-aged bloke re­ally.” And he is putting the same de­ter­mi­na­tion in as he did when he opened that first restau­rant. Long days of work­ing, train­ing and trav­el­ling have be­come the norm. “I knew what I was let­ting my­self in for,” he says. “But since I started I haven’t worked less than 16 hours a day, seven days a week.” Si­mon is not even cross with the mark­ing, say­ing: “I don’t dis­agree with the com­ments. I was happy with what I did last week. Karen said, ‘What­ever you do, don’t be beige’, and I don’t think I was. All I can do is my best.” Mate Tim Love­joy has joked that Si­mon could be leav­ing early and book­ies yes­ter­day had him as the favourite to exit first. He very much hopes not, ad­mit­ting none of the con­tes­tants like to talk about it. He says: “It’s the ele­phant in the room when we meet up. I hope it isn’t me – but if it is, it won’t be through lack of ef­fort.” Strictly is on BBC1 tonight at 6.45pm.

SAD BOND Jenni lost her daugh­ters A BIT TASTY In his chef gear

TRAGEDY Si­mon wit­nessed 1989 hor­ror

FOOTIE FAN Si­mon, right, out for a Liver­pool match with pals in the 80s

DE­VOTED At his beloved An­field

UP FOR TI­TLE Si­mon and Karen are train­ing hard

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.