The Gramma Sutra doesn't know about her sex life, but DJ Mamy Rock seems like a Gramma Sutrian to us!
For a 69-year-old woman, Ruth Flowers certainly knows how to party. In the past week, the British DJ, also known as Mamy Rock, has taken no less than six flights, and DJ’d almost every night. She hasn’t had a weekend off in nearly two months, and when she speaks to me from her hotel in Italy, has a slight croak in her voice.
“I’ve got a terrible cold, and I could do with being in my bed,” she tells me. “But I’m sure once I get on stage in a few hours, I'll be back in the mood. I’m just lacking a bit of my usual energy, that’s all.”
Flowers, originally from Bristol, first developed an interest in becoming a disc jockey in 2005. It was her grandson's birthday, and rather than simply popping round to wish him happy returns over a cup of tea, Flowers decided to join him at a London nightclub. After fighting her way past a rather incredulous bouncer - “This fellow outside the door said ‘You don’t want to go in there, madam’ and I told him, ‘Yes I jolly well do, it’s my grandson’s birthday!’” - she fell in love with what she saw.
“It was frightfully noisy of course, and there were all these lights flashing,” Flowers remembers, “but what I realised was that these young people were just having so much fun. So I said to my grandson, ‘You know what darling, I could arrange things like this, for the local kids.' And he said he thought that would be very cool.”
Soon after, Flowers met Aurelien Simon, a French music producer, who suggested to her the idea of becoming an elderly DJ. “To be honest, I just thought that was the craziest thing I’d ever heard. But what did I have to lose?”
Fast forward five years, and Flowers is now a regular feature on the European club circuit. She still has a home in Bristol, but life is increasingly lived on the road, in planes, and in a variety of what she refers to proudly as “rather nice hotels”. In the past few weeks, she has zipped between Belgium, France, Italy and Austria and will add several more countries to that list before the month is out. Though she has never cracked her home market (“They don’t seem to want me in the UK, do they?”) she has been overwhelmed by how positive the reaction has been to her elsewhere.
“I don’t know why they make such a fuss of me, but it’s like adoration,” she tells me, with a touch of bemusement but considerably more delight in her voice. “It’s all photograph, photograph, kissy kiss kissy. They try to hug me, they tell me they want me to be their grandma, they even throw roses at me - which let me tell you, is quite amazing for a woman of my age!”
Does she find the travel tiring? “I do, but it’s wonderful to see all these different countries. I expect I’ve got friends who think I’m quite insane but they can do what they wish, and I’ll do what I wish. If you can’t do what you want to at my age, when can you?”
Flowers’ taste in music errs on the old-fashioned - “I love Queen and Freddie Mercury, Mick Jagger, the oldies” - but she intersperses her personal favourites with more contemporary electro-rock. She thinks this eclectic mix is probably part of her appeal. "You know, I have to be honest, I knew nothing about electro-rock when I started, but it’s what the young people want, and I give it to them,” she reflects. “I’ve learned the job like a parrot.”
Her appeal is undoubtedly strengthened by her rather extraordinary appearance. On any given day, the DJ will sport a combination of what she calls “glamorous sports gear”, statement jewellery and oversized sunglasses, topped off by her crest of spiky silver hair. When she's in the clubs, she likes to add diamante headphones. I ask if this look was a marketing decision rather than a reflection of her personal taste. “At the start, it was definitely more what more the stylists wanted,” she concedes, “but I get much more of my own choice now. I have my own ideas, and I like to wear what I want."
Flowers is quick to dismiss any suggestion that her career as a disc jockey has rescued her from a life of knitting and Women’s Institute cake sales, but admits that her new role perhaps suits her more than anything she has done before. As she recounts to me her colourful career history (village shop owner, fabric shop owner and trainee drama teacher, the last only until she realised she didn’t want to teach “little toads with no interest in what I was doing”), one gets the impression of a woman who can easily be bored.
She’s used to being based abroad, having spent a decade living the retired life with her late husband in Portugal; a place she at first found very tedious. She ended up running singing and theatre groups to keep her occupied, and proudly tells me she directed the first English pantomime in the Algarve. “I’ve done what I wanted with my life, but life does take its turns. Becoming a DJ is certainly one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
by Leah Hyslop