One of Britain's most popular actresses, Barbara Windsor was born as Barbara-Ann Deeks in Shoreditch in the East End of London in 1936. After her school refused her permission to have time off to take part in a local pantomime she persuaded her mother to let her attend the famous Ada Foster acting school.

Her working class background is what gained her her first acting job, in a play set in east London called Fings Ain't What They Used To Be. In 1954 she made her screen debut in The Belles of St. Trinians and she managed to appear in roughly one film a year following that. These were the golden days of British cinema, especially in comedy, and in 1963 she was given a part in one of the early Carry On films, Carry On Spying.

She was not ashamed of the fact that she was blonde, giggly and endowed with large breasts, and as the years progressed and the Carry On films became ever more smutty "Babs" found herself becoming something of a national institution. Living the 60s glamour lifestyle to the full she was often seen in the company of other celebrities, both the famous and the infamous, being frequently photographed accompanying gangsters such as Charlie Kray and Ronnie Knight (both of whom she had affairs with).

Partly due to this her private life has been very closely followed by the tabloid press, and speculation of an affair with her Carry On co-star Sid James continued right up until his death in 1976. To this day she remains coy about whether or not anything happened.

After a comparatively quiet period in the late 80s, Barbara returned to the attention of the British public in 1994 when she took up the part of Peggy Mitchell in the top-rated BBC soap opera EastEnders. Six years on she is still going strong, having made the role her own, and in 1998 she was awarded an MBE for her services to acting. Hard-working and immensely popular, she is often to be found doing various work for charities around her native east London.

Sources: assorted web sites, trivia from the depths of my brain, and bits and pieces gleaned from skimming through her biography "All of Me" in the book shop yesterday.

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