Local author Iris Lloyd, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday, says that you can accomplish a lot in a long life and in her case this is certainly the case. Iris has lived in Hungerford since 2005 and has enjoyed a long career of performing, teaching dance and writing.
Born in Clapham in 1931 into a large family with 32 cousins, Iris was taken to her first dancing lessons in tap, ballet and acrobatics when she was just three and a half years old. She really took to it, and was soon dancing with other pupils in her dancing school in hospital wards in Putney to cheer up the patients.
Her family was in London on the first night of the Blitz before they were evacuated to Chesham, Buckinghamshire where Iris’s dance teacher concentrated on ballet. On returning home after the war, her third teacher enabled her to gain her teaching qualifications in tap and encouraged her to venture into professional panto. Diminutive in stature at 5 foot nothing, Iris was consigned to the chorus but she loved being on stage with all the make-up, costumes and glamour.
At Amersham Grammar School, English and French were Iris’s favourite subjects and she hated needlework, cookery and sport. Writing was passion and she went to Hendon Technical College to learn shorthand and typing which she still uses a lot. Her first inspiration was Enid Blyton’s fairy stories. The magic stayed with her and inspired her future love of story-telling.
Iris become a Christian when she was 17 and joined the local church Youth Club. Everything felt exciting after the war and she enjoyed several years not only performing and choreographing pantomimes but, having learnt the trade from backstage, she ended up writing the scripts as well, and three of Iris’s pantomime scripts were professionally published and they are still performed today.
Focused on having a good time in her pantomime career, Iris did not marry until she was thirty. Her husband Denis became a successful builder in the Newbury area and expanded into the crane hire business. When they moved to Hermitage, Iris became the local correspondent for the Newbury Weekly News and also their dance critic.
By this time Iris had two daughters, Julie and Meryl, and she taught dance to children and also tap-dance to adults which was very rewarding and she kept teaching right into her eighties. Due to losing a bit of her balance in her latter years, Iris now enjoys a seated version of tap but her writing career has blossomed.
When Iris reached 70 she decided it was time to fulfill a life-long ambition to write a novel. At that time she had been working on the archaeological dig in Beedon where finds included a very rare fish brooch and numerous baby skeletons. One evening she drove past the site in the rain and wind and wondered what life would have been like then. To answer her question, she created a character called Bron who was born there in AD385 and follows her life, loves and adventures over five (rather racy) novels.
When this series of novels was finished, Iris missed Bron and her mind searched for a new inspiration which she found in her satnav nicknamed Sabrina! Iris imagined what would happen if Sabrina had a mind of her own and the result became her sixth novel, Flash Black, about Sarah Randall whose satnav slips her back into the village of Purton Tendril in Dorset during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Two more novels followed, one set in the court of Henry VIII and one contemporary.
Dancing at D’Avencourt
Iris’s latest novel, Dancing at D’Avencourt, set in the fifteenth century, was inspired by a painting of an elegant lady wearing a wimple coming out of a cathedral watched by a crowd (see painting here). Iris wondered who the lady was and, true to form, decided to create her story. Iris was also curious where the original painting was and spent months during lockdown researching it, contacting museums and art dealers around the world. She finally discovered the painting was sadly in a private collection but hopefully still in England.
Signed copies of all her books are available from Iris and also from Hungerford Bookshop. For more information please visit www.irislloyd.co.uk
Iris’s advice for anyone who wants to write, is to join a creative a writing group that will support you and just get down and do it. It is very therapeutic. They say there is a book in everyone but most people don’t get around to writing it.
To hear more about Iris’s amazing life please listen to Iris’s interview with Chris Capel on 4LEGS radio, 56 min 50 sec.