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Bucks Fizz Cheryl Baker calls for probe into worst wartime civillian disaster

PUBLISHED: 07:33 05 October 2012 | UPDATED: 11:38 05 October 2012

Cheryl Baker

Cheryl Baker

Archant

Former Bucks Fizz star Cheryl Baker has 'made her mind up' to back a campaign for a government apology to the people of London's East End for Britain's worst wartime civilian disaster when 173 people lost their lives.

1943... Staircase leading down to air-raid shelter where 173 people were crushed to death1943... Staircase leading down to air-raid shelter where 173 people were crushed to death

The singer performs in the East End tomorrow evening (Saturday) with two of her former Bucks Fizz co-stars, Mike Nolan and Jay Aston, raising funds for Bethnal Green’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ memorial to those who were crushed to death when a crowd surged down a narrow staircase into a public air-raid shelter in 1943.

Her aunt Ivy Silver managed to survive the disaster when she was pulled clear from the crush on the staircase going down to the shelter—but scores of men, women, children and even babies died.

Now Cheryl, whose first 1980s Bucks Fizz hit was ‘Make Your Mind Up’, has joined the call for an inquiry into the disaster which was wrongly blamed on the crowd panicking.

“The government of the day knew the staircase leading down to the shelter was unsafe,” she told the Advertiser.

“It’s shameful that they refused three times to make it safe before the tragedy.

“I understand that blame was swept under the carpet because of wartime public morale.

“But after 70 years—it’s time the government acknowledged it was not the people of the East End to blame.”

It has an uncanny similarity to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster nearly five decades later when 96 people died and the crowds were blamed, for which the government finally apologised in the Commons last month—after 23 years.

The Hillsborough apology lent new weight to the campaign over the Bethnal Green disaster.

Author Rick Fountain has uncovered wartime papers showing Bethnal Green Metropolitan borough council had twice warned in 1941 of the dangerous staircase, but was gagged afterwards with threats by the-then Home Secretary Herbert Morrison under wartime regulations.

Now Cheryl Baker has joined the call for a fresh inquiry. Her concert at St John on Bethnal Green Church is raising funds towards a permanent memorial now under construction.

Cheryl, who grew up in the East End—just minutes from the staircase that nowadays is the entrance to Bethnal Green tube station—appears on stage with Mike Nolan and Jay Aston performing their three No 1 hits, ‘Make Your Mind Up’, ‘Land of Make Believe’ and ‘My Camera Never Lies’.

They also include tracks from their soon-to-be released album ‘Fame and Fortune,’ a few copies of which might be available.

The 7.30pm concert is also a family affair. Cheryl’s 18-year-old twin daughters Kyla and Natalie Straud perform as singer-songwriters in their own right.

Tickets are £20 from The Fountain pub in Sceptre Road, phone 020-8980 4010.

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