Cilla: The Lost Tapes – ITV

Cilla Black’s eldest son Robert Willis and friends share some precious memories of his late mum in Cilla: The Lost Tapes on ITV

Take a look back at Cilla Black as you’ve never seen her before in ITV’s Cilla: The Lost Tapes.

Following her untimely death in Spain in 2015, a treasure trove of home movies was discovered in her loft by her three sons Robert, Ben and Jack.

And we get to see and hear them for the first time, alongside her son, Robert, and her friends including Paul O’Grady and Sir Cliff Richard.

The documentary is narrated by Cilla star Sheridan Smith.

One of the earliest reels goes back more than 50 years to a skiing trip with music producer George Martin, while another shows her with Ringo Starr in 1971.

The most moving tapes are recordings from shortly after Cilla’s husband Bobby died in 1999, where she talks about her grief.

Hearing her voice again reminds us what an iconic and much-loved star she was.

Here, Cilla’s eldest son, Robert Willis, 50, chats to us about what the tapes reveal about his mum’s life, marriage and legacy…

Robert Willis Cilla: The Lost Tapes

Cilla’s son Robert in ITV’s Cilla: The Lost Tapes, and pictured top, as a child with his mum

How did you discover the footage we see in Cilla: The Lost Tapes?

It was in 2017 and we’d just sold The Grove, our family home in Denham, Buckinghamshire.

My parents bought it in 1969 and never really threw anything away, so attempting the attic was daunting.

There was everything in there, from my mum’s stage outfits for her Cilla shows to our childhood toys.

Then in these dog food crates were all these tapes from the 1960s and 1970s.

We didn’t know if there was much on them, but eventually I got round to digitising them.

One film canister only had our family dogs on it, but then there was some incredible stuff from my mum’s past that we’d never seen.

Her showbiz friends, including Sir Cliff Richard and Paul O’Grady, are also in the documentary.

Do you stay in touch with them?

Yes I’m still in touch with both Cliff and Paul sporadically with Christmas cards, emails and texts.

I’ll also have a natter with Paul, he’s a dear friend of the family.

While filming I was able to give Paul a painting of my mum that she wanted him to have.

He took a motorbike taxi home carrying it – Mum would have loved that!

People still hold your mum in their hearts.

What’s her legacy?

Both in music and on TV she broke the mould for women.

She was a working-class girl, yet she became the youngest girl to have her own primetime show on the BBC [in 1968].

She was there because of her talent and her personality not her looks, although she looked great, and that’s the way it should be.

She definitely paved the way for a lot of today’s female presenters.

I’m so proud of what she achieved.

She always lit up the room.

For full listings, see our TV Guide.

TV Times rating: ****

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