The sheer joy of Jibby's new life - Life and Style - The Independent

The sheer joy of Jibby's new life

Monique Roffey talks to a Surrey housewife turned salon hostess and model

JIBBY BEANE is explaining her plan to bring Greenwich Village, New York, to London SW1. She intends to recreate the transatlantic, Bohemian atmosphere of the Poet's Caf, Greenwich Village, at Jibby's Arts Club in Ormond Place every Thursday night. The club, she says, is to be an "unknown entity - a platform, permission for people to do as they like, whether techno-poetry or an impromptu performance. I don't want it to be predictable".

Jibby (real name Mavis) has not always led such a life. Three years ago she was a fifty-something Surrey housewife. Then she met the fashion designer Vivienne Westwood in the loo at an exhibition at the Design & Direction building. One thing led to another: Westwood invited Jibby to try her hand at modelling on the Paris catwalks, and at the age of 51 she found herself alongside the likes of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell. Nerves? No problem. "I just threw myself into it - it's pure showbiz, darling," she breathes huskily. "We got on very well. I didn't think of it as a competition - I'm just me. I get on very well with young people - my boyfriend's 27. I don't really recognise age, it's all conditioning, all labelling. I see myself as 53 going on 23."

The boyfriend is sculptor Jonathan Goslan, whom she met at an art exhibition. The coup de foudre was instant, and shortly afterwards she moved in with him, bearing all her belongings in six carrier bags. "His work excited me so much that I gutted the flat, rang him and said 'We're having an exhibition in five weeks!'" she says airily.

Now Jibby combines modelling, nightclub hostessing and staging private exhibitions at their west London flat.

Her two grown-up children have accepted her move. Her husband, an antiques restorer, takes a less sanguine view.

"I don't want to make it sound easy. It was tough," she admits. "But I had to be truthful. It's my life too. We are on this planet to expand and grow. Now I'm growing all the time."

She has no regrets. "This has all been very cathartic. Life is a gift. We owe it to ourselves to live it to the full."

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