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‘It’s such a rewarding job’: Meet the ABBA tribute act from Dagenham who turned to care work after Covid-19

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 September 2020

Kathy and Lisa with Joan Shave who the duo sing to as they work. Picture: Lisa Mills

Kathy and Lisa with Joan Shave who the duo sing to as they work. Picture: Lisa Mills

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An ABBA tribute act have gone from delighting audiences on stage to laying all their love on the elderly.

Kathy Bishopp and Lisa Mills are Kailis. Picture: Lisa MillsKathy Bishopp and Lisa Mills are Kailis. Picture: Lisa Mills

Lisa Mills and Kathy Bishopp from Dagenham – who together perform as Kailis – toured pubs, clubs and bars, performing in countries including Greece and Bahrain before Covid-19 struck.

Work dried up as venues struggled to survive the pandemic with takings down, early closing and hours limited by government guidelines.

With bills and mortgages to pay, the pair trained as palliative carers, visiting homes across the borough to help people nearing the end of their lives.

Lisa, 45, said: “It’s such a rewarding job. It makes you happy to see them happy. I would 100 per cent recommend it.”

Kailis performed in front of Boris Johnson at a gig in aid of Help for Heroes before he became prime minister. Picture: Lisa MillsKailis performed in front of Boris Johnson at a gig in aid of Help for Heroes before he became prime minister. Picture: Lisa Mills

The duo – who do Cher and Adele tribute acts too – have brought smiles to people’s faces, performing as they make breakfasts, change sheets and do everything to bring some comfort, including musical requests.

One happy client is Joan Shave, who proves the job isn’t all about the money, money, money.

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“We sing to her. Her face – it melts your heart just to see her smile. As we’re doing what we’re doing we sing away, and get a little rehearsal in as well,” Lisa said.

But after spending 20 years of their working lives performing at night, the 4am starts have been tricky getting used to. Shifts can last up to 12 hours, six days a week.

“It’s been a shock to our systems, but we love it,” Lisa said. “It’s definitely a rewarding job and worth waking up for.”

The super troupers, who met when their children were at nursery together and live round the corner from each other in Eastbrook, still perform.

However, Covid-19 restrictions in pubs, such as table service only, mean any dancing queens can’t really take to the floor as they used to.

“We’ll never stop singing, but obviously it’s just dried up with Covid. Whereas before you would get quite a bit of money as a duo, it’s half that now. Everyone is struggling,” Lisa said.

She estimated it could be at least another year before things get back to normal in the entertainment industry, hitting performers’ mental health as well as their pockets.

Lisa said: “I could never see myself doing anything other than singing, but we absolutely love doing this job.”


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