It didn’t exactly come as a shock but I was saddened to hear that the singer and former X Factor finalist Rebecca Ferguson had such a tough time climbing the showbiz ladder.

Ms Ferguson was one of several performers who had given evidence to MPs on the Women and Equalities Committee. What it was dealing with was “systematic misogyny and bullying” in the UK music industry. This struck a chord with me.

As a young performer fresh out of stage school in the early seventies I encountered some disgusting behaviour on the part of industry bosses who felt they could say and do anything to young women such as me starting out in the business.  

The school had set us up with an agent, but as I look back I realise that she was incredibly naïve. And so were we bright-eyed beginners. 

At the age of 18 I was one half of a vocal duo called, wait for it, Tender Velvet. The agent was to obtain bookings for us in various venues, including social clubs, the sort of places I’d never been to, not even as a punter.

Still, doing the rounds of the clubs was the only way to get experience, and also make a living of sorts. 

Of course, we had dreams of stardom in a West End show, but to get an Equity card we had to learn the trade by treading the small regional club stages. It was tough and poorly paid work.

We sang in all sorts of places, going on as the first act of the night. Some clubs were pretty rough; most of the time the audience was mainly men who didn’t really care what we sounded like; they just wanted to look at us. 

If we thought it was tough for us it was much worse for comedians who were starting out.

Along the way we worked with a very green Les Dennis and an equally green Jimmy Cricket, both lovely lads, gentlemen who somehow managed to keep going even when drunken, loutish audiences shouted abuse and would often throw things. 

For us girls it wasn’t the punters who could be the problem; it was the club managers. They believed they had the right to say and do just what they felt like. They were the ones who paid us, so if we didn’t like them groping us they’d just point to the door. So, why didn’t we simply walk out? Oh, believe me, we would have, but how would we afford to get home? 

We put up with the clubs for as long as we could take it but eventually Tender Velvet began to wear thin. We parted company and I went solo for a while until a very nasty piece of club vermin threatened to break my legs if I wouldn’t sleep with him.

I made a quick exit. I had no money and no way of reporting the creep. 

On another occasion, working abroad, I had to barricade the bedroom door to prevent a hotel manager from letting himself in with a pass key. Young female singer, easy game, you see. How sad to see that all these years later nothing much seems to have changed, the industry is infested with slime balls. 

I was lucky. I got out of that particular rat race aged 21 and landed a job in TV - which itself isn’t entirely blameless in the misogyny stakes - but that’s another story. 

Remembering lovely Alan

Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to work with some truly charming characters, among them the auctioneer Alan Smith of TW Gaze in Diss, and a nicer man you couldn’t find.

We presented an Anglia series called That’s Your Lot, and he was constantly funny and generous.

He died only recently and there have been many tributes to him. Now let me add mine. I’m so glad to have known him.