It’s been less than a year since Girls Aloud’s Sarah Harding tragically lost her life last September to breast cancer, aged just 39.
And, last week, her bandmates confirmed that they would pay tribute to their late friend by reuniting in order to raise money for vital medical equipment to beat the disease.
Sarah had discovered a lump under her arm in 2019 but scans were delayed due to the pandemic. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020 and had chemotherapy and a mastectomy, but tragically the cancer had spread.
Speaking in an interview, Nadine Coyle recently revealed, “We’re planning a night for an event to raise money in honour of Sarah. She’s very much in the forefront of our minds. We definitely want to do something to help others.”
And despite her well-publicised fractious relationship with some members of the girl group, an insider tells Closer that it is in fact Cheryl who has been the brains behind getting them back together again.
“Cheryl was the driving force in getting the remaining members of Girls Aloud back together to honour Sarah,” says the source. “It wasn’t easy, but Cheryl felt she’d be the best person to make it happen and personally reached out to all of them, including Nadine – who she’s famously had quite a frosty relationship with in the past.”
After getting together on talent show Popstars: The Rivals in 2002, Girls Aloud – Cheryl, 38, Nadine, 36, Kimberley Walsh, 40, Nicola Roberts, 36, and the late Sarah – went on to storm the charts with 20 consecutive top 10 hits and four number ones including Sound Of The Underground and The Promise.
But in 2009 – the same year the group bagged a Brit Award – they took time out as Cheryl began her solo career, which saw her reach the top spot with five of her own singles – setting the record for the British female solo artist with the most UK number ones until 2018.
Three years after their break, Cheryl rejoined the rest of Girls Aloud – but just a year later, while on their tenth anniversary tour, they announced they would be splitting for good via Twitter.
While the other members all continued their showbiz careers, it was Cheryl who continued her reign as the golden girl of he group. Enjoying a glittering TV career, she dipped in and out as a judge on The X Factor from 2008 to 2015, and was later on the panel of talent show The Greatest Dancer. She also enjoyed lucrative deals with brands like L’Oréal, released two books and starred in Hollywood blockbusters such as What To Expect When You’re Expecting and Five Children And It.
But the years haven’t been without their challenges. Poached by Simon Cowell to sit on the judging panel of America’s version of The X Factor, Cheryl was dropped from the first series of the show three weeks after it began in 2011. She later sued the US producers and received £1.1m for the series, and also settled for an undisclosed amount and damages for the second season.
And after splitting from former One Direction star Liam Payne, 28 – with whom she shares son Bear, five – Cheryl effectively bowed out of the spotlight for a quiet life.
“I’m not doing that to myself again,” she said last year of ditching her hectic work schedule. “I’m only going to do stuff that makes me truly happy... Only happiness. Only authenticity. I won’t spend time on anything that makes me feel stressed or nervous. I haven’t got the energy.”
Although Kimberley last week clarified that the girls “won’t be getting back on stage” as they “still don’t feel ready without Sarah”, insiders say that their friend’s death has sparked something in Cheryl and she is throwing herself into organising the event in her memory.
“Cheryl has openly admitted how she’s spent years in therapy and it’s given her so many amazing tools to deal with hardships in her life, so she has used some of that wisdom in this situation,” says the source.
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“After going through tough times herself and being a single mum, Cheryl now feels strong like a ‘mama bear’ in everything that she does – and she’s feeling very protective over the girls and the band, their legacy, and how they’ll remember Sarah.
“It’s been really emotional. Everyone has been in tears just talking about it because there are so many painful memories. But Cheryl has reminded everyone to be strong and remember that they’re doing this for a good cause that would make Sarah proud. Nadine was one of the first of the girls to get on board with Cheryl. Their past disagreements seem like a thing of the past now. They’ve gained a lot of perspective with everything that’s happened and have realised it’s not worth holding grudges.
“Cheryl has been keeping a close eye on Nicola as she’s always seen her as a little sister. Now they’re all on the same page, they feel stronger together and Cheryl knows that they can do this as a group.”
The source adds, “There’s no time for disagreements – they want to put on the best show possible to make Sarah proud and raise lots of money and awareness for a good cause. They know it’s going to be emotional but Cheryl’s determined to make sure they see it through.”