Interview with Robin Cousins
PUBLISHED: 00:17 29 December 2011 | UPDATED: 12:29 11 January 2018
Robin Cousins MBE, Olympic Gold medalist,and world free skating champion talks to Jess Alldred about why he loves living in Brighton
He is an actor, a television judge, a choreographer and an official team GB ambassador in the run up to the London 2012 Olympic Games depending on what day you catch him. Today he is off duty, spending rare and cherished time at his Brighton home. But Robin Cousins wouldn’t have it any other way.
Robin was awarded the M.B.E. by Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 1980 for his services to sport, a far cry from his humble beginnings aged nine when he took his first tentative steps on the ice. He and his family were on holiday just along the coast in Bournemouth and they visited the ice rink. He had a go and found he cwas a natural. Within three years he won his first national title and he was junior champion at 14.
“Although I grew up in Bristol,” he says, “I spent a lot of time during my childhood travelling south to Brighton to take part in skating competitions. We would stay in little bed and breakfast places near the rink.”
Now Robin lives in Brighton, towards the eastern side, and he couldn’t be happier. His lovely home overlooks the Marina and he has a garden that’s ideal for entertaining.
“I love where I live,” he enthuses. “I really enjoy spending time at home. It’s probably because I travel so much that I really appreciate being here because I am often torn away.”
It was important to Robin to be near the sea. He always wanted to have a coastal view and enjoys the different images of the Brighton seascape. “I actually overlook the sea and I get to see the coastline in all its guises. It can be quite spectacular.”
He admits that winter holds as many intrigues as summer. “Watching the waves crashing on the beach and thunder up the shore is even more exciting than when the sea is calm and a gorgeous, blue colour in the summer. As long as you’re dressed for the weather in a thick jacket and woolly hat, you are set.There are fewer people in the winter so you feel it’s your own.”
As well as the coastline, Brighton has a lot to offer Robin. Eating out in the local area is a great way for him to catch up with his friends.
“I like the cosy atmosphere of a pub or family-run restaurant. I am not interested in fancy food, just tasty food. Finding somewhere to sit in comfort and relax is vital to enjoying a meal.”
He agrees that there are plenty of options.“Brighton has some great local eateries. There are a few that I will always gravitate towards because you know what you’re going to get. They are reliable. I’ve known the people at Donatello’s for a long time and it always has a great atmosphere. That’s the Italians for you!”
Despite all the great local eateries, the best place to dine, says Robin, is at home.
“Being at home is especially good when I can relax and prepare a barbecue or a meal for friends. More and more I suggest a meal where we all contribute dishes. If you don’t see your friends as often as you would like, you really do not want to be in the kitchen all evening missing the action. You want to talk, have some fun and socialise, not whisk cream and stir gravy!”
Robin is arguably one of the busiest people in showbusiness. As well as his choreography, theatrical engagements, sporting involvement he also runs Cousins Entertainment, a company designing and managing ice rinks throughout the country.
More recently he has been able to take on some more theatrical work. Last year he toured in Grease as Teen Angel and stole the show. “I loved getting into the groove!” he admits with a laugh. “I couldn’t wait to quiff my hair and step into that white, spangly suit and my silver shoes.”
It was theatre that first inspired Robin and he would have taken the actor’s path had he not been so very good on ice. So it is with a genuine excitement that he takes roles on stage. Cats, The Rocky Horror Show and the pantomimes Santa Claus and The Return of Jack Frost are included in his theatrical credits.
“I always wanted to be Gene Kelly as a child.” he adds. “I was forever singing and dancing. So it is always fantastic to get back on stage. Theatre, especially musical theatre, is a short leap from the rigours and glamour of ice-skating. “
His theatrical nature is certainly displayed in the stunning choreography of the ice shows. Indeed over the years his sensational choreography has won him both critical and popular acclaim and his tenth production, Tropicana, opened to rave reviews on its European tour. It will be in Brighton this month.
When he has a rare free day without commitments what is the best way to spend it?
“That’s easy...having friends round to my home for a lazy and relaxing evening. It’s not only about the food; its about getting together and having a lovely time. And,” he adds, “the wine is so much cheaper at your own home!”
Robin looks forward to spring, for the simple fact that he can start to enjoy his garden again.
“I love my garden and after a hard winter, I long for that late spring smell you get in a garden. The lawn is mowed and looking good; the air is fresh and the warmth of summer is nearly here. You can’t beat it! I love it when the garden is looking inviting.”
Robin chose Brighton as his home because of its proximity to the sea, but its very nature attracted him too, with its pockets of old-fashioned charm alongside modern amenities.
“I just love the Downs, where there is nothing. Why would you go there? Because there’s nothing and sometimes you need that. I like going along to Eastbourne and there are some lovely waterways and coastal walks and views to marvel at.
“We are absolutely spoiled in Brighton – we have the sea, the countryside and the unique Lanes. Depending on your mood, you can either do the Lanes or North Laine.
“North Laine is the more bohemian, hip and trendy,” he says, “so clothing-wise, it’s not always age appropriate for me! Having said that, it is crossing over and becoming a little more fun. There are some unusual shops and it is great for picking up bargains. It’s just a maze of twisting alleyways. It’s extraordinary.”
There is a unique selection of shops in the Brighton area with so many items for sale that you don’t normally see on the high street. It is this eclectic nature of the town that appeals. The anonymity of strolling Brighton’s Lanes must be a great advantage to someone so well-known.
“I like the fact that in Brighton you can wander into little shops and pick up unusual presents or gifts. And, happily, business seems to be booming and they are doing extremely well.
“I particularly enjoy taking non-local people to the Lanes and seeing their reaction. I am so lucky that it’s all within walking distance of my home.”
When he is in town, Robin can often be found walking the Marina walls. “I just love the view from the Marina looking back to the shore. It’s something people just don’t do very often. You have the sea, the fantastic Georgian architecture, the prom, the people looking out. I love reversing the perspective.”
What does he miss most when he is away from home?
“To be honest, when I am on tour, I suppose I get a bit homesick for the sea if I don’t see it for a while. Wouldn’t you?"