'I've done everything' - Ipswich woman looks back on 40 years in business

Shirley Shelley is celebrating 40 years in business.

Shirley Shelley is celebrating an incredible 40 years in business. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

An Ipswich woman who has got the town spick and span for the likes of the Queen and Tina Turner is celebrating an incredible 40 years of being in business. 

Shirley Shelley has been running the aptly named ‘Shirley Shelley’ cleaning services for commercial and industrial clients since 1982. 

The 75-year-old has cleaned everywhere from prisons to film sets, and is chock full of stories about each and every one of them. 

“I’ve done everything,” she says proudly. “We used to clean the Regent, and the girls all loved it when the Chippendales came. They used to wash their underwear and hang them out on hooks ready for them. 

Shirley prides herself on taking good care of her workers.

Shirley prides herself on taking good care of her workers. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“When the Queen came to Ipswich, we had to scrub the pavements and wash all the walls on the sides of the buildings she was going to be passing.” 

She was on hand to clean up after the likes of Tina Turner, Rod Stewart and Bryan Adams when they performed at Ipswich Town Football Club. 

Tina Turner performed at Portman Road in 1990, with Shirley on hand to clean the stadium.

Tina Turner performed at Portman Road in 1990, with Shirley on hand to clean the stadium. - Credit: Archant

She has worked on water as well as land. 

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“A ship arrived at Ipswich docks ready for a refurb, but we couldn’t get it done in time and it needed to be back in London by 5pm."

So, Shirley and her team set sail for London, cleaning as they went.

“We got off at Embankment and walked up to Liverpool Street to get the train home, carrying all our vacuum cleaners and equipment with us."

Shirley has certainly come a long way since running the business out of her garden shed with her two children, Mark and Petra, who are both now directors at the company. 

Now, Shirley says that her workers have become her family. 

“I look after my cleaners. We give them birthday presents, Christmas presents, presents for the children. 

“A lot of my overseas workers call me ‘Mama Shelley,’ because they haven’t got a mum in this country, and I’m like their mum. 

“I’ve been to births, christenings, weddings.”

When employees have needed to go to hospital, she has gone to hold their hands.

When Gordon Brown visited Ipswich, Shirley was nominated to meet with him on behalf of school businesses. She was not impressed with changes he’d made to laws around benefits, and told him he “hadn’t thought this through.”

"We had a big argument!" she laughs.