Jill Helders: Arctic Mummy
Whatever you do, don’t introduce this woman as ‘Arctic mummy.’ Jill Helders is a woman who is a mum and wife. She talks to us about the differences between being 'Matt's mum' and the inside story behind a monkey...
Jill Helders and born in Hillsborough, Sheffield. She’s married to Clive and has two children Gary and Matt. Matt is the drummer in the Arctic Monkeys.
Jill lives in High Green with her husband Clive. Their two children have flown the nest. She is possibly referred to as ‘Arctic Monkey mum’ more times than her real name ‘Jill'.
Lands End family photo in 1979 and 1996
As soon as you step in to their house you see her love for her family. There are photos everywhere and she creates scrap books from her photos, from girly holidays to her sons. One of the most used and well looked at scrapbooks is Matts. He is the twenty-something heart throb who is part of the band which brought the spotlight back on Sheffield with such singles as ‘Mardy Bum’ and ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dance floor.’ To Jill, its just the other son who still brings his washing home and leaves his bedroom in a mess.
Life for this woman started in Hillsborough…
“I went to Malin Bridge junior school, I was always the tallest girl at school at 5’2 but then I stopped growing and everyone shot past me and I remained at the same height.
“I then moved on to Myers Grove comprehensive, it was a new school when I was there with 1100 pupils."
But what Jill like as a teenager, did she go through that angst period that we see so many teenagers go through now?
“I wasn’t particularly quiet but I wasn’t particularly loud either.
“I met Clive when I was 14 and he was 17 at the local youth club, Path Finders in Hillsborough. I think other people thought I was rebellious but I didn’t think I was, my mother wouldn’t let me be even if I had wanted to be.
“I never thought anything strange of it. I look back now and think if my nieces were going out with someone and had an age gap I’d be quite worried. My mum and dad didn’t bat an eye lid so it was quite normal.”
Jill left school at 16 and went straight to work…
“I went straight to work at a solicitors in Sheffield. I walked the streets of Sheffield delivering post which kept me fit. There wasn’t a post to move up and progress to so I left.”
From there Jill worked across the city, including Sheffield’s Children Hospital, Lloyds bank and progressed on to be a finance secretary. “I’ve not done anything brilliant, I’ve done normal jobs but I’ve enjoyed what I have done”
Jill got married when she was 18. 2009 will see the couple celebrate their 31st year together.
“Once we were married we got a house in Hillsborough. Clive was working for his dad in Crookes, which made boiler suits and overalls. All our curtains and bedding were made from the fabric from there so we had bright pink curtains. In fact a lot of my clothes were made from the fabrics, although they weren’t boiler suits!”
A young Matt and Gary
So when did life turn from Jill to mum?
“We didn’t decide to have children. When I was younger I was told that I couldn’t have them. So it was quite a surprise when I found out I was pregnant. We’d been married four years it wasn’t like we’d done everything straight away. Gary was born 2 days before my 22nd birthday.
A few years later...
Four years difference
“I worked right up to Gary being born, I didn’t work for 18 months after he was born. I then got a local part time job working at an estate agents. The pay was rubbish! The pay was so bad (£1.50 an hour) I had to work locally. The child minder fee was 75p an hour so half of my pay went on that. She was really good, it was a funny time because it was during the miners strike and the child minder's husband was a miner. She was short of money because her husband wasn’t working, I remember I was sat on the bus talking to Gary and I asked him if he’d had a nice day and he said, ‘Yes mum, I’ve been to the soup's kitchen for my dinner.’ He had a lot of experiences during that time, doing things that he didn’t do with us. Her husband had a really broad Barnsley accent though which started to rub off!
“Four years later Matt was born I had a lovely time off work. I had two kids, it was difficult to get childcare. I didn’t start work until Matt was about four/five years old. I used to like being at home with the kids. When your children are small it’s nice to spend that time with them because you never get that back.
“We’re a very close family. Gary was so excited when Matt was born, and bonded really quickly.
“When Gary was 17 he couldn’t decide what to do after college so he went to live in Cayman Islands with my sister-in-law and took a gap year. He became a diving instructor and the gap year continued. He met an American girl out there and got married three years ago. They now live in St. Thomas and now he’s 27 he’s studying at university now. As he said himself, he’s now applying himself! If I’m lucky I see him once a year, I miss him dreadfully. I went for a week in August 2008 and won’t see him until Christmas 2009. I love phoning them using the internet, it’s so cheap and we can see each other using webcams. What with Matts life now it means the two of them can keep in touch too.”
So how much responsibility can the parents take for Matt's taste in music?
“We used to play Motown. I remember one of the first albums we used to play was Michael Jacksons, Bad album. We all used to sing along. I dread to think about some of the other stuff we played though.
Monkey in the making
“Matt used to have keyboard lessons in Meadowhall shopping centre. We bought a great big keyboard for him because they said, ‘Oh he needs the same keyboard that he has lessons on and that will help him pass his exams.’ Muggins here paid £800 on a keyboard, Matthew took one exam passed with flying colours and that was it, never went back. We had this keyboard in the house in various places and in the end I gave it away to the local school."
“Matt started off when he was at high school and an idea started between him and some other lads that they were going to start a band. A couple of lads got guitars for Christmas and then by the time that they decided Matt was going to join, the only thing left was the drums. So we went out and bought a £200 drum kit, they used to practise here and Alex [Turner, lead singer] who lives on the next road in their garage too.
The Helders on vacation
“At the time me and Clive were working together in a warehouse in Wath with a mezzanine so they used to leave their kit there. Three nights a week we used to run them out there to practise. We just used to leave them and then pick them up a couple of hours later. If they knew you were there they would just stop so we had to sneak in really quietly so we could sit and listen. They used to play a lot of covers, like 'The Strokes.' Half the time though they were playing table tennis.
“He left school and went to Barnsley College studying music technology and art. His artwork course was photography which he still loves now. By the time they’d left college they started with the band and started to get gigs, such as ‘The Grapes’ and under ‘The Boardwalk’ so we used to go support them, we were the roadies at first! Clive and I used to drive them around up until they got a manager. We’d often be the only people there watching."
“Once they were an established band we were told about what used to happen when me and Clive went on holiday. The lads were 17 and they used to come round our house whilst we were away. They would have the whole kit set out in the living room and practise. If they hadn’t become a good band and established, the neighbours would’ve been complaining about the noise!"
The ladies of the round table
“I know Alex Turners mum as our two sons went to primary school together. It’s only since they’ve been as a band that we go on girly holidays together, one of her friends and also the Reverend and the Makers mum (John McClure) ‘the Reverends mother’ so she comes out with us too. We went out for my birthday in January.
“We don’t tell people who we all are. It’s weird because when we’re out with the band and we’re backstage I’m not introduced as Jill, ‘This is Matt's mum.’ You lose your persona, you’re not anybody apart from their mum. I know kids are like that anyway. Kids don’t introduce their parents as real people, ‘This is me mum."
Keeping it real
“I don’t tell anyone unless they ask. People who I work with at the University tend to introduce me as ‘Arctic mummy’ which is fine but it gets a bit wearing. I’m not there as the parent of someone who is in a band, they tend to think it is a bigger deal than I do. When you’re in that situation you don’t think about who they are. It is only when you hear a song on the radio and I think, ‘Ooh that’s my son.’ That is when it hits home.
Matt on holiday
“People outside that life they imagine it’s going to be different and it’s not. They’re still my kids. Matt still comes home with his washing and ironing. He still leaves his bedroom in an absolute tip and I still shout at him. I do think that people think he comes home and sits about like P Diddy or something! He’s just Matt to us, he’s not anybody else and neither are the other band mates. They’re just the same, they come home and get the same treatment they’ve always had."
“We never had a plan for them, as long as they’re happy and healthy and doing something that they’ve always wanted to do and doing it well, that’s all you can ask. That’s all we’ve ever wanted.
“They’re quite happy and lucky enough to be living where they want to live."
Just the two of us
“The house is quieter now, we’re both busy but it’s weird when the boys aren’t here. When Gary comes back to visit it’s like Piccadilly because everyone comes around to see him. I’m providing food, its one big BBQ. We once had 27 people in the house for his birthday, they were just everywhere.
"Matt's got his own house so it’s different. He has still sort-of got a bedroom here, he’s left quite a bit of his stuff there. If the band [Arctic Monkeys] are on tour in England often a lot of his friends go too. It goes quieter when Matt comes home.
“We try and get to as many gigs as we can, we always pick a nice place in Europe to go to so we can make it into a short break.
Jill with her husband Clive
“Clive works full time and I work part time at the university in Sheffield."
Despite working part time Jill always has something on the go, from meeting friends, to the gym. She also has a hidden secret of creating scrap books from photographs that she takes to making invitations, "At the moment I’m making 80 wedding invitations for a friend.
“You get a new lease of life when your kids leave home, you can either sit in front of the TV and veg and grow old miserably or get on with it. When I was working and the kids were younger, I knew where my mum was if I needed her to baby sit. She was always there. When she retired I have no idea where she went to and now that is me and Clive. Now when Gary and Matt try and get hold of us they are like, ‘Where have you been?’
"The tables turn when your kids grow up. You start being a bit more rebellious and doing things differently. You start getting a bit of yourself back, you’re not constantly thinking ‘I need to pick him up, I need to go out and do this.’
last updated: 21/04/2009 at 10:40