Natalie Pinkham explains to Natalie Li why leaving a positive legacy for Caroline Flack is behind Flackstock, a one-day festival celebrating the life of her close friend
Weeks before the world entered lockdown, a well-loved and popular presenter took her own life. Caroline Flack’s death on 15 February 2020 shocked the nation, with tributes flooding social media platforms. As Covid-19 took its hold, there wasn’t a chance for friends and family to process and grieve together, explains close friend, Natalie Pinkham, a Formula One pit lane reporter for Sky Sports F1.
“One of the things I found the hardest was processing Caroline’s death and not being with friends to do it because of Covid. It was awful, we went straight into lockdown,” she says. “We wanted to create something for her mum to focus on. The advice I was given when Caroline died is that when the noise calms down the loneliest time can be when you feel your loved one has been forgotten.
“I think about Caroline every day and we wanted to show her mum how much she matters to us and impacted our lives,” Pinkham continues. “Caroline loved dance, music and comedy so this festival felt like the right thing to do. It’s a kind of memorial as Covid didn’t allow us.”
The festival in question is Flackstock. The celebratory event takes place at Berkshire’s Englefield Estate on 25 July and features appearances from Natalie Imbruglia, Fleur East, Louise Redknapp, Paddy McGuinness, and Noel Fielding.
Organising the event alongside Caroline’s best friends Leigh Francis and Dawn O’Porter, Pinkham is pleased that the family day out is almost sold out – the money raised from the festival will be split equally between the charities Choose Love, Mind, Samaritans and the Charlie Waller Trust.
“Choose Love was Caroline’s favourite cause, set up by her two best friends,” adds Pinkham. “The other charities are fitting as Caroline’s death and Covid-19 has brought mental health into sharp focus particularly over the last couple of years. A lot of people have struggled, it just feels like the right thing to do, creating a positive legacy for Caroline. Two years on it’s still a weird feeling to talk about Caroline in the past.
“I’ve been blown away by the response, which is no real surprise as she was so popular – a household name,” Pinkham says. “Suicide is an incredibly hard thing to come to terms with. I haven’t met anyone who wasn’t in some way affected by Caroline’s passing.
“Englefield is a wonderful venue – another venue we had booked pulled out after nine months of planning. I had a good old cry and got up the next day and found a solution. Giles Cooper Entertainment and Live Nation suggested Englefield. It’s such a beautiful venue and you feel such immediate calm there.”
Pinkham met Flack in 2005 while working on the same late-night poker show. An immediate connection was formed. “We thought it was hilarious that we were doing this show. We had such a giggle, Caroline was brilliant company and she’d make a seemingly banal evening fun. She saw the humour and fun in the smallest thing. Her laugh was infectious and the tragic irony is that she brought so much laughter and life to us and left this world in the most tragic way.”
While Flack went on to become a household name, Pinkham, who went to school in Hertfordshire and grew up in Gayhurst, Buckinghamshire, carved a successful career in sports presenting. Pinkham recalls being taken to nearby Silverstone, home of British motor racing and being blown away by Formula One and Nigel Mansell. Pinkham later became the first woman to commentate on a Formula One session on Sky Sports F1. “I always loved TV and my earliest memories include the 1984 Olympics when Zola Budd fell over – she was my hero. Seeing her fall out of contention was my first life lesson. My dad said life isn’t always fair, you have to get back up and try again.
“I loved the idea of sport being broadcast all over the world,” she adds. “It was always my hope to work in TV. It really is the dream, but it’s not straightforward; it can be a real juggle with two young kids. I feel lucky and grateful. Today I have just done the school run, am heading to a shoot in Ascot, and then off I fly to Monaco.”
Despite her busy career and home life, Pinkham is intent on getting the fine details of Flackstock in place. In honour of Flack and to raise awareness of mental health, Flackstock Summit necklaces and bracelets have been specially created for the event. “A friend of my husband climbs mountains and is a conservationist – he has taken imprints of the glaciers at the top of Mount Everest and created a bracelet that symbolises the biggest and physical mental challenge you can face,” explains Pinkham.
“You can give one to your best friend, parent or sister. It’s like the ultimate friendship band. Once it’s tied it can’t be broken, it’s made out of climbing cord – it represents the support that we all need to give and receive from others. We are selling this in her memory and all the money will go the charities involved.”
It’s another small touching addition to the special day where friends, family and fans will gather to honour an unforgettable star. Pinkham ends by saying: “I think Caroline would have laughed and cried to see us all together – I can hear her little voice now. I think she knew how much we all loved her and this is a tangible collective effort from her friends and family. I hope she is looking down and knows that she was, and is, immensely loved.”
Tickets for Flackstock are on sale now at heritagelive.net/whats-on/flackstock