Aberdeen’s Eileen Pike – an 81-year-old retired teacher – can’t wait for her friends and family to see her perform in the new BBC Two series Rock Till We Drop.
The four-part show – which premieres tomorrow (Tuesday March 1) – follows Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp and award-winning grime artist Lady Leshurr as they each attempt to form a band good enough to perform at the iconic Isle of Wight Festival. But there’s a twist – all of the musicians must be over 64.
And relentlessly upbeat Eileen – who was awarded the British Empire Medal for her services to music and musical education in 2018 – is one of the show’s stars and part of Martin Kemp’s band.
“It was all quite incidental,” said Eileen when we asked her why she decided to audition for the new series.
“My family have a habit of – shall I say – giving me a challenge. One morning, my daughter (Laura) said that BBC were going to be in touch and that they wanted to talk to me.
“I said ‘Why?’ and she said there was something on Facebook about elderly musicians who were going to be in a rock band. She said she filled in the form and sent it in on my behalf.”
And after Martin Kemp got in touch, Eileen – who lives in Rosemount – only had about a week to get ready for filming.
“I take each day at a time and it was a challenge – but I quite like a challenge,” said Eileen who plays the keyboard and also sings.
Rock Till We Drop helps Eileen Pike bring her mojo back
The musician, who only stopped teaching two years ago, said the show helped her bring her mojo back.
“I was blessed with very good health but last year was quite a difficult year for me because I had an operation. Other than having my children that was the first time that I had been in the hospital.
“This came about a few months after my operation and I thought this would give me my mojo back and it would give me my confidence back. And it did.”
Eileen, who also taught music in various north-east schools, said the filming was “just lovely”.
“The team from the production company was so good – we had so many people looking after us. They made sure we were well hydrated, well fed and well looked after.
“It was lovely to get to know the other guys in the band. I ended up being the only lady in the band – but that’s not a problem. We got to know each other’s families and I really felt we were part of a good team.
“We’re still in touch – we’re very good friends.”
Performing at the iconic Isle of Wright Festival
Eileen, who has never been to a festival before, said performing at the Isle of Wright Festival was “amazing”.
“It was an amazing experience – there were 70,000 people there.
“I gather it was a competition but the competition really wasn’t important to us – we never really talked about it. What we were trying to focus on was gelling together as a band.
“And Martin was a superb mentor – he talked to each one of us, he gave us advice.”
Both mentors also called in help from musical director friends as well as renowned stage performers including X Factor finalist Fleur East, soul singer Mica Paris, and the Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins, to help Eileen and other musicians prepare for the festival.
Eileen, who only stopped teaching two years ago, was delighted her daughter was able to come see her perform at the festival.
She said: “My daughter came to the festival. My son Craig didn’t because he was involved in the Aberdeen Student Show at HMT.”
25 years of performing for the royal family
In addition to playing the Isle of Wight Festival, another highlight of Eileen’s music career would have to be performing for the royal family for 25 years at their annual ball.
Over the years she has met the Queen Mother, the Queen and the late Princess Diana.
Eileen said: “I played every year for the Ghillies’ Ball at the Balmoral Castle. It was such an honor and such a delight. On one occasion, we were able to meet them. I have some wonderful memories of that.”
Rock Till We Drop premieres at 9pm on Tuesday March 1 on BBC Two.