Tributes pour in for ‘larger than life’ actress and dementia campaigner Dame Barbara Windsor

Dame Barbara Windsor’s former EastEnders co-stars have paid tribute to the “larger than life” actress following her death aged 83.

The much-loved star, who suffered from dementia, died on Thursday evening at a London care home, husband Scott Mitchell said.

She was best known for the Carry On films and for her role as Queen Vic landlady Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders.

Shane Richie, who played Alfie Moon in Walford, said in a statement to the PA news agency: “I’m absolutely devastated as Barbara was a friend as well as my TV boss in the Queen Vic.

“We shared many a story in between filming – to amazement of situations (we found ourselves in) to laughter.”

Adam Woodyatt, who plays Ian Beale in Walford, said: “I grew up watching ‘Babs’ in the Carry On films and for me to then work with her was a privilege and honour.

“I have so many happy memories and moments that I will always cherish, even when Peggy floored Ian with a punch.

“My thoughts are with her amazing husband Scott, her family and friends. Rest in peace Barbara.”

Larry Lamb, who played Peggy’s love interest Archie Mitchell, recalled the first time the pair met on the set of the BBC soap.

“The reason I was there was because she decided she wanted a new man in her life in the show, and I was the one that got chosen,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“And she just looked at me because she was such a tiny thing, I did not realise, and she said: ‘You are tall, never mind darling, we’re all the same height lying down.’

“She was larger than life. She was the head girl at EastEnders, she was the one everybody respected and she liked everything to run smoothly.

“She was an old-school actress… She knew how to keep everybody together and make it a team, she was really special.”

He said she made her mark in the Carry On films as this “extraordinarily funny lady… very sexy, very funny, very alluring, very naughty.”

Patsy Palmer, who played Bianca Jackson on EastEnders, wrote on Instagram: “We shared such magical times together and I’ll cherish every one.

“I can hear that laugh now as I sit and think about her. I hope it’ll ring in my ears forever. She always looked out for me.”

Actress Danniella Westbrook, who played Dame Barbara’s on-screen daughter Sam Mitchell, tweeted: “My heart is broken. Bar you will always be in my heart forever.”

A representative for actor Steve McFadden, who plays Dame Barbara’s on-screen son Phil Mitchell, said he was “devastated” by her death.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “So sad about Barbara Windsor, so much more than a great pub landlady and Carry On star.

“She campaigned for the lonely and the vulnerable – and cheered the world up with her own British brand of harmless sauciness and innocent scandal. Thoughts with Scott and all her family and friends.”

TV presenter Jonathan Ross remembered Dame Barbara as “warm, funny and kind”.

He tweeted: “Barbara Windsor in real life was everything you might have hoped for. So warm, so funny, so kind. Goodnight sweetheart.”

Phillip Schofield wrote: “Farewell to gorgeous Barbara Windsor a real icon, showbiz lost a lot of sparkle today sending love to Scott and all her family.”

Amanda Holden wrote on Instagram: “I was a big fan and was thrilled to meet Barbara on several occasions .. she was an absolute joy. . #queenofourhearts .. Goodnight … my thoughts go out to her wonderful husband Scott.”

Lucy Benjamin, another of Dame Barbara’s former EastEnders co-stars, posted: “What a sad sad day. Rip my darlin Babs. You were a true star in every sense.”

Ex-EastEnder Ricky Norwood tweeted: “Such sad news to wake up to. I was lucky enough to work with her .. full of energy, Big smile, so warm and welcoming.

“Loved that you always had time for young actors and fans. Legend. We miss you already.”

Les Dennis tweeted: “So very sad to hear that Barbara Windsor has died. She was a great talent and a lovely woman.”

Actress Sheridan Smith wrote: “She was one of my idols… and she could not have been nicer.

“What a career and what a woman. Our national treasure. Rest in peace.”

TV host Piers Morgan tweeted: “Barbara Windsor was the funniest, warmest, naughtiest, kindest and most big-hearted of people.

“She was also a fabulous actress with the world’s most infectious giggle. Absolutely loved her. RIP Babs, and thanks for all the laughs.”

Susanna Reid wrote: “She always had that twinkling smile when you met her, she was kind and good-humoured. She was gorgeous.”

Doctor Who star John Barrowman said “she was a small woman but feisty and she had the biggest, biggest heart in the business”.

Dame Floella Benjamin, comedian David Baddiel and singer Aled Jones all remembered the star as a “national treasure”.

Dame Barbara urged people to ‘make a stand against dementia’

Dame Barbara Windsor and her husband wanted to raise awareness of dementia after the star was diagnosed with the condition.

The former EastEnders and Carry On actress discovered she was suffering from Alzheimer’s in 2014, and the couple went public four years later.

Dame Barbara’s decision to do so helped bring the disease – which has no cure – out into the open, charities said.

The star herself was said to have been “thrilled” by the response to going public, saying “I’m helping people”, according to her friend, columnist Jane Moore.

Husband Scott Mitchell said that the couple were “really nervous” about revealing she was suffering from the condition.

“But when we did, there was such an incredible reaction of love and support,” he later said.

A year later, the TV star delivered a letter, signed by 100,000 people, to Boris Johnson.

It pleaded for better care for dementia sufferers, saying the system is “completely inadequate, unfair, unsustainable and in dire need of more money”.

At the end of their chat, Dame Barbara turned to the Prime Minister and asked: “Can I have a kiss?”

Dame Barbara appeared on video, in her home in 2018, to speak publicly about dementia.

Her husband and former EastEnders co-stars raised more than £150,000 by running the London Marathon in aid of a dementia campaign.

And Dame Barbara was credited by her friend and former Albert Square co-star Ross Kemp for helping to change the way people think about the condition.

“For a lot of people, when they get that diagnosis they don’t know what to do, and I think someone like Dame Barbara talking about it lifts some of that stigma,” the actor, who made an ITV documentary on dementia, told The One Show.

In early 2020, Mitchell told how his wife’s condition had “deepened”, and how she often asks where he lives and does not know who he is.

It worsened during lockdown and she was moved to a care home in July 2020.

“I walk around, trying to keep busy, then burst into tears. It feels like a bereavement,” Mitchell told The Sun.

“It’s always been my biggest fear, that one day I would have to take her somewhere and she’d be thinking, ‘Why would he do this to me?’.

“That fear has become a reality. It’s something I never wanted.”

Less than two years earlier Dame Barbara appeared on a video in aid of a campaign to raise funds and change attitudes towards the condition.

“I’m asking you to make a stand against dementia,” she said.

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