Ex-EastEnders star John Partridge: ‘I’m doing Tumble for you, Mum!’

BBC1’s new Saturday night gymnastics show Tumble (BBC1, Saturday) is helping one celebrity contestant, ex-EastEnders star John Partridge, during difficult times…

So have you been enjoying Tumble so far?
“It’s great to have this physical challenge at my age. I have no injuries to speak of but I do live in fear of that, especially as I’m 43.”

What do you think of the Tumble line-up?
“There’s something for everyone isn’t there, like a little smorgasbord. Funnily enough everyone is on a level playing field as far as fitness is concerned. We’re all sort of in the same place which makes it a good competition. We’re all even. None of us have any gymnastic experience which makes good viewing.”

Is your dance background a help in Tumble?
“Having a dance background is in no way a help for gymnastics. It’s completely the opposite of everything you’re taught in dance. In dance you’re taught to pull your shoulders down and in gymnastics you have to pull your shoulders up. I do know timing and aesthetics, and know what a nice line is, but it’s a dance line not a gymnastic line. So I’ve been trying to get rid of all that dance knowledge and have been training my brain to go another way, but it’s quite difficult as I’ve danced all my life.”

So, will we be seeing any topless routines?
“Once I hit 40 I was like right, that’s it, no more, the clothes are staying on, nobody wants to see that mess! But hey anything for the viewers, now I’m thinking tighter shorts, no vest! I’m here to please!”

You look like you’ve lost a lot of weight…
“Yeah I’ve lost about 4 stone since I left EastEnders full time in November 2012. My mum’s not been well so a lot of it was stress. She has Alzheimer’s and I’m her primary carer.”
How do you fit the time needed for Tumble with being your mum’s carer?
“I’m currently doing two hours training a day, but I do have help from carers and a great family. Mum spends a week with me, then a week with my sister. It gives me great pleasure to know that on a Saturday night Mum will switch on the TV and see me. That’s a great comfort and I like to think I’m doing Tumble for her.”
Has she always supported you?
“I joined the Royal Ballet School when I was 10 so we’ve always cried at every leaving and every hello. That’s the bond I have with Mum. My family’s from a small town just outside Manchester and they were so proud of me to win a scholarship.”
Do you get a lot of support from your civil partner?
“I’d have nothing without Jon. He puts up with my nonsense. We’re civil partners and in my eyes that means we are married, so I can’t see us upgrading to ‘full marriage’ now it’s become an option. Our civil partnership ceremony was the most beautiful, life-affirming day I’ve ever had. There’s no way we could ever top that.”
Do you plan to have children together?
“Listen, I’ve got soft furnishings – so there won’t be children! We have the compulsory gay dog, who’s like a child anyway, so we’ve covered that base. Plus I’ve got two great nieces, and my sister’s kids are like my own, they’re my pride and joy.”