A very special bench
in memory of Saffron Bailey

Quite often, Karen and I train at a theatre school called Sylvia Young. It is near Radio 2 and the ladies at reception are always ultra-friendly. We sign in and spend hours on the second floor. We turn on our Bluetooth boombox and play our song again and again. This week it is “She” by Elvis Costello.

In the corridors outside the room, children who attend the school hurtle up and down the corridors, full of mischief and conversation.

Eventually we need a break. The break is part of the routine too. We walk out of the building, often in the dark, and past the Marriott Hotel to the Edgware Road. We have a rule anything but dancing. So our conversation ranges over football, films, even love. Our families. Travel. Our personal histories. What we like. What scares us. What excites us. The future.

We buy coffees and we sit on a particular bench outside the dance school. Usually we laugh, but one day we stopped. 

You wonder why we are looking serious. It’s because, after a few breaks on that bench, we took the trouble to read the plaque.

Jeremy Vine bench1

The close-up tells you why we fell silent. Saffron was a little girl of twelve when she died. She had just been accepted by the Sylvia Young Theatre School. So she would have become a dancer, or maybe an actress.

Karen and I looked on our phones for more details of what had happened.

Jeremy Vine bench2

We found the story and read it intently. Saffron’s symptoms were a lack of appetite, tiredness and a cough she was being treated with antibiotics for what the doctors mistakenly thought was pnuemonia. No one was really to blame. Sadly she had a cancer of the kidneys that was so rare most doctors never see a single case. The disease was first identified only thirty years ago. Because people have two kidneys, it can envelope one (as it did with Saffron) without being detected. She collapsed in hospital and died soon after, on March 25th 2007. There is a memorial website here.

It made us pause and think about our day and how lucky we are. We are in a dance contest that sometimes feels quite serious, but it is not. Strictly is pure fun the kind of fun Saffron would have had if she had lived.

I wanted her parents to know we use her bench, so I am writing this in the hope they might see it. The school very kindly tried to contact them, but drew a blank.

We will be thinking of you when we dance, Saffron, and all the dances you missed.

Jeremy Vine bench3

Jeremy Vine official website




  • Helen McLean says:

    You and Karen are just so special and thoughtful. That brought tears to my eyes….. I hope her parents see this….it will mean soooooo much xxxxx

  • Lisa Martin says:

    What a thoughtful pair you are. You’re so right…Strictly IS just fun but if you get to know each other as well as this, it really must be dreadful if you suddenly stop rehearsing together. May you stay in many more weeks. Always a joy to watch.

  • Sally Whyte says:

    What a beautiful post, I hope you find Saffron’s parents and they know her bench is being appreciated by you and Karen.

  • Janet Stanley says:

    A very thoughtful, considerate gesture. Your sincerity shines through, good luck to you both on Strictly!

  • Pauline Owens says:

    Life can be so sad sometimes. We should grab the happy moments and really enjoy them.

  • Cordelia says:

    I really enjoy what you write, your videos and the way you speak about life – your interesting-ness shines through on the dance floor and you are by far the most fun to watch! I will think of the little girl Saffron when I watch you dance on Saturday night.

  • You are amazing. I lost a son in 2006, to me he will never be forgotten, however, to hear someone else say that about your child has no words. A truly lovely man; Jeremy Vine.

  • Nuala says:

    You and Karen are changing the face of SCD for the better. I’m really pleased that Saffron’s Mum saw your article. Hope you both will love Saturday night

  • Polly says:

    Ditto to Nuala’s comments However, I do think the judges are quite humorous … we get to tease their judgement style.

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