Russell Grant vows never to quit astrology job after it helped him deal with grief

Russell Grant gets fired out of cannon in Strictly performance

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But after a career of more than 50 years in showbusiness he is already embracing his next chapter… and he has no plans to retire just yet. From taking up calligraphy during lockdown to keeping on dancing, despite his creaky knees, he said there are lots of things still to enjoy, learn or start – including becoming an honorary adviser on historic counties to the Houses of Parliament. And he thanks his appearance on Strictly Come Dancing in 2011, which he nearly turned down because he felt he was too old, for giving him a renewed zest for life and allowing him to return to the stage.

The astrologer has also pledged never to give up fundraising for Alzheimer’s charities, a cause close to his heart having lost his grandmother and now his mother to the disease.

With charity finances decimated, he said: “It’s been dire and so difficult. We had a pandemic with Alzheimer’s long before Covid – it’s a terrible disease and it was the UK’s biggest killer.

“It’s terrible the amount of funding that has gone down. It is something I will continue with, they are the most important charities for me.” His beloved mother Jo, 93, died from vascular dementia in mid-January while father Frank, 91, succumbed to lung disease a year earlier. He said: “It’s all very raw and very sad – we can’t have the funeral till Wednesday.

“In the middle I had my birthday and it was the saddest birthday ever, having lost my dad last year. My mum was not there for the first time in 70 years.

“I am devastated I can’t be at Mum’s funeral on Wednesday but my belief is life after death and I know I will see them again.

“It is a funny old time but I realise I am not the only person in that position, even though my mum didn’t die from Covid. She had a stroke and passed with vascular dementia.” He added: “But I did have them for longer than most people do. I am very lucky.”

Like many people separated from loved ones because of travel restrictions, he only saw his mum once last year: “I managed to see her for her birthday for three hours at my brother’s in a socially distanced way.”

On December 1, 2019, he gave a lecture to astrologers in Blackpool foreseing the coming year was not going to be easy: “I said the world would become a different place. There would be lots of things that we never envisaged. There would be a lot of soul searching. I did not know it would be a virus that caused it.

“I believed 2020 was going to be one of looking back at your life and getting positives from it.

“For me the past year was all about creativity. I went back to calligraphy because my dad was very much into it – he was a set designer at Pinewood.

“I went back to history and geography, all the things I wanted to be before people knew me for what I am now.

“I’m doing all the things I thought I might be doing when I was 12 or 13.”

He added: “When you reach the age of 70 you want good health, that’s the elusive thing. You do get a bit creaky.

“I still do some dancing, I put on three or four tracks and do samba, salsa and cha cha cha. That gives me half an hour exercise every day.

“And I always find an hour every day to light a candle and just sit and reflect.”

Revealing his motto in life, Russell, said: “Instead of I wish – I do, I can, I will.”

He said his love of history has also been key to coping with the lockdown: “Since the pandemic it has been a daily two to three hours to keep my brain and myself chipper.” And he said the “biggest accolade” was when Andrew Rosindell MP invited him on to the All-Party Parliamentary Group after reading his book The Real Counties of Britain, published 20 years before.

He said: “I basically thought, for a country that is so proud of its past and history, it has failed to protect and preserve its local history and identity.

“I think the happiest thing that happened to me in lockdown was being invited to become honorary adviser to a thing that went back to me as a young lad who wanted to be a geography and history teacher.

“I am lucky I am now doing the things I wanted to do, which is my creative side, my history side, writing books.

“There are lots of things to enjoy and go back to. Lots of new things to start up. Life is not over when you reach 70.”

If Russell could travel back in time he said his advice to his younger self would be “expect the unexpected”.

He said: “Although I have been able to foresee opportunities, it is often not in the way I was expecting.

“And my biggest advice is never turn down an opportunity, it may only knock once. There are a couple of things I might have turned down had it not been for friends and family.

“One of them was Strictly. I nearly turned it down because I thought I am too old. I never regretted it.”

Since his Strictly appearance Russell has gathered a legion of new fans but added: “I am not sure what national treasure means? If people mean it in a nice and kind way I can accept that. I always worry national treasure means you have been around for too long, it’s time to retire. If I retire I would be very surprised with myself.”

Russell’s first memory of appearing on stage was as Dick Whittington’s cat aged six or seven in an amateur dramatics performance alongside his semi-professional singer mother.

But his interest in astrology was piqued as a child.

Russell explained: “My mum and dad used to get the Daily Express and I used to go to two things, Middlesex cricket and then I used to look at the stars. I was only a kid. As an Aquarian I wanted to know.

“It became a hobby while I was sat in my dressing room waiting to go on for the next scene or for rehearsal.

“I am not the sort of person that wants to do nothing. I want to keep busy and if it involves a book, the happier I am.”

But it was when he was pictured with the Queen Mother as she accepted her astrology chart at the 1978 Ideal Home Exhibition that his astrology career went “supersonic”.

He would become a household name but following the deaths of his grandmothers, Russell withdrew into himself until Strictly came to the rescue. He said: “I was very close to them, you are when one has Alzheimer’s and my mum and I cared for her. I went into a depression.

“That was why I was worried about Covid. I knew I was susceptible to downers, that’s why I put on Twitter in March telling people to make sure you keep your brain busy and do something creative. I knew that was important.

“The renaissance I had was Strictly Come Dancing in 2011. It was most wonderful and totally unexpected.

“I had gone through a very deep depression and was very unhappy, having lost both my grandmothers – Strictly came to the rescue.”

But he now fears for the future of his fellow actors because of lockdowns. He said: “The greatest loss for my profession has been the theatre.

“It is so sad to see some of my friends not working. To be honest I do not see our profession getting back to how it was till September or October – it might even be pantomime.”

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