AofA People: Barb Jungr – Jazz Singer

5 mn read




I live in a small red brick block of flats in Pimlico, and this has my home for thirty years although I long sometimes to live by the sea and l do look at Rightmove Flats for Sale whenever I am avoiding doing something I ought to be doing. I long for a balcony looking out towards the sea. I think that must be something akin to living in some kind of heaven. I look out on trees and I do love that, the changing seasons are writ large when you can see trees every morning with your extremely strong and properly made coffee. Pimlico is a great base for a singer because it’s walking distance to the West End. I can get buses home from gigs which seems like a luxury now that public travel in London is free for me. I’m Barb Jungr and from Pimlico the world is my oyster.

And it’s great to have that travel thing because I use trains and buses and tubes a lot in London, and I walk. Walking is wonderful, it’s one of the greats. It’s a mobile office, it’s meditation, it’s relaxation and it’s health-giving. Although possibly not in the middle of the pollution. Also walking is something I can still do, as running I can’t do as much as I used to. I am, I discovered, while running in Central Park NYC recently, the slowest runner in the world. People with Zimmer frames were faster than me. It was galling at a deep level. We soldier on.


Of course when I was 25 I was able to stay slim through other means. Performance (which included performance enhancing substances) and general mayhem. Now fitness is down to yoga, which doesn’t include acrobatics. I loathe and detest classes where people use yoga as a means to display prowess that ought to be in a circus. I like yoga classes where there’s a lot of quiet meditative unfolding (and creaking). At 25, I had no interest in quiet meditative anything unless it was listening to dub, and I didn’t creak. So in a way I’ve learned patience. I say, “in a way” because I am possibly the least patient person in the world, still.

Which means I have little patience now for the insanity of being in love but lots of patience for the act of loving. That’s to say, the state of loving, of learning and loving as much as is humanly possible. If anything, I think that is the benefit of meditation, which I do daily, even on tour. There are some things that test that though – they include the government destroying education and the NHS, the developers with no taste or care for community. I would like to encounter these people in a lift. They need to be informed about different opinions. Pelted with kippers. They need to be made to understand. Its up to us to make sure there’s something for those who come after us. So I’m a meditative, not very patient, raging storm and flame Goddess, often.


Free as a bird is how I feel. But I know and am deeply aware that’s a huge blessing and a luxury and not how most people feel or experience life. I’m pretty sure this is down to music, people and nature.

Over the years I’ve been incredibly lucky to be able to travel and make music and meet musicians everywhere and then when I started to do more theatre work, meet other practitioners and learn.


I’m proud of going over ‘The Bad Step’ on Loch Coruisk on Skye. I’d seen pictures of it and many times walked from Sligachan over the Coruisk and also from Elgol at the other end of the loch, but I never dared try fully because of ‘The Bad Step’, which is legendary. It has reduced grown men and experienced climbers to tears. The path connecting Elgol and the loch mouth goes down to the icy water’s edge and then appears to stop as a massive piece of near vertical sheer rock intervenes. You traverse the rock by hanging on to it for dear life and edging along a tiny ledge with tiny hand holds. It’s my idea of hell, actually, as it combines two of my least favourite nightmare scenarios – height and water, in one delightful package. I was encouraged to try by a couple of young Czech hitchhikers I had given a lift to, who went one in front of me and one behind, coaching me over the rock face. It was, for me, a hell of an achievement.

I’m also proud of walking overnight for 40 miles nearly non-stop around Rutland raising money for The Corby Core Theatre and operations for kiddies a couple of years ago.It was my biggest endurance test. I’m proud of that.

I’m proud of nearly every musical or theatre performance or recording I’ve been a part of, because you always start from the same place of nothing no matter what. I’m proud of doing Aikido for 10 years despite the bruises, and of doing yoga now for going on 20 years despite being rubbish at handstands.

I’m proud of my sis (now gone from this plane) who got all her staff out of a building that was a target in DC on 9/11and had a limited time before leaving herself. I’m proud of my other sis (also gone from this world) who faced death and dying with more dignity and humour than I could ever imagine. I’m proud of my mum for leaving war torn Germany and making a new life as a young woman in England. I’m proud of my dad (now gone) for surviving the work camps during the Second World War and learning to laugh again. I’m proud of my friend Ernest for coming here on kinder transport and at 86 receiving an OBE (whatever I think of the system, it was magical). It’s a long list.


The sea, mountains, travel, great books, good films, wonderful people (this isn’t in any order by the way), friends, laughing, collaboration. All of it: books, cinema, theatre, great TV, terrific writing, wonderful melodies. Flowers, I find flowers inspiring. Seeing a ladybird on a concrete wall. Watching a lazy lizard sleep in the afternoon sun on a style in Kent. The trees outside the window, bare in winter, lush in a summer breeze. Nature, music, food, and life. I think life is a gift, you get one, do your best with it. So many people start life with so little, we are so fucking lucky.


So I’m happiest making music, writing music, making theatre, walking, laughing, yoga-ing, cycling, loving. That’s when I am happiest.


I dream of walking across the desert again, and of performing in opera houses for some reason. Of returning to visit friends in Africa and Burma, Sri Lanka and other less frequently visited places. I dream of playing the piano properly rather than as I do which is like a five year old beginner. Of speaking French fluently rather than like Mr Bean. I dream of having two dogs and what their names will be. Of horse riding across the Carmargue, and walking around the base of Mount Kailash.


And Outrageous? Moi? Oh no. I couldn’t say. That would be telling.

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