For an 83-year-old, whose legs can barely make it to the bus stop and back, Renee Ansell could very well be Brighton's answer to Super Gran.

By day she is on her feet working full-time in Remnants fabric store in Blatchington Road, Hove. By night she is pulling in crowds, belting out golden oldies in pubs and clubs in and around the city.

Being bombed out of her home during the war and booted out of the semi-finals of X-Factor hasn't fazed her in the slightest.

With Remnants now shutting up shop for good so her daughter can travel, it could spell the end of an era for Renee, who has worked there every day for the past 27 years.

Speak to Renee however, and she believes it's the start of a new one. Ever since she re-discovered her singing voice, she's had a new lease of life and as she herself points out: "I've got a few more years of working left in me yet".

I meet Renee at the shop. She's busy measuring a piece of fabric and leaves her daughter Sally in charge while she sits down to reflect on her life.

"They call me the Queen of Jazz'," she says, chuckling as she grips the stair rail, leading up to the lounge. "The legs ache but I've been standing in the shop all these years. If I'd kept the dancing up they wouldn't be so bad."

According to Renee, she's only ever had one holiday in the past 27 years, when she fulfilled her lifetime dream to go to New Orleans. As jazz was so close to her heart, she persuaded the owner of a blues bar there to give her the mic and as soon as he heard her voice, he had her on stage singing every night.

She even got to sing on a riverboat going down the Mississippi. "It was wonderful," she says. "I was the only one who wasn't jet-lagged."

To see Renee, with her tiny frame, belting out wartime songs and jazz classics is a sight in itself. She sings everything from Ain't Misbehavin', to The Man I Love and As Time Goes By.

She has buckets of charisma and attracts crowds both young and old.

She says she's as surprised by her voice as anyone. "I often wonder where it comes from," she muses.

"I think it's got better as I've got older. I'd love to dance but my legs won't go - I'm too old."

Born April 30, 1923, in Southampton, Renee had a thirst for the stage from an early age. Her father Jack Marks was a high-profile booking agent, who looked after all the glamorous film and sports stars when they came over to Britain from America in the Twenties.

Renee remembers waiting for the ships to dock and running up and down the decks asking for autographs. She amassed an impressive collection and has 150 signatures and letters from legends such as Fred Astaire, Errol Flynn, Cary Grant and Bob Hope. "Fred Astaire I met at four o'clock in the morning - charming he was," she says.

At times, her father would invite the stars back to their home and Renee would entertain them with a parrot.

"We had a parrot that used to sing," she explains. "The louder you'd sing, the louder the parrot would sing and my father used to say, Renee, make the parrot sing!'. I used to sing Sonny Boy. The parrot loved it."

Renee was 13 when she first sang in public. Her talent shone through and she was soon singing every week, entertaining wartime troops in concert halls, on board ships and in hospitals.

She even remembers Vera Lynn being in the crowd at one show.

The Second World War was at its height and as great as the atmosphere was in the concert halls, there was no escaping the horrors unfolding outside.

Renee recalls doing one audition in a theatre in London's Drury Lane when the bombs were dropping outside.

"What could you do?" she says, "My mother was petrified.

Our house was next to the docks in Southampton and I remember the doodlebugs flying overhead. You never knew when the next one was going to drop. We used to hide under the stairs. I had shrapnel fall on my feet. It was very frightening. One bomb fell on a family we were close to, wiping them all out. It was terrible."

When Renee's own home was bombed in 1939, she moved to Hove to stay with relatives. It was there she met an antiques dealer called James Ansell. They married a year later and were together for 45 years.

Although she was in love with him at the time, their marriage wasn't always a happy one.

"He was a gambler, a serious gambler,"

she says, quietly. "He was a very clever antiques dealer who knew his business well but he gambled most of it away.

It was an addiction.

"He wasn't interested in the music scene and he didn't want me to go out singing so I stopped. There were many handsome men in uniform back then and he thought I would meet someone else. He'd say, Why do you want to go and sing at your age? You'll make a fool of yourself'. I missed it a lot."

Despite her father urging her not to give up her love of music, Renee chose to stay at home and raise her children Leonard, Sally and Jack. "I thought that was what life was all about," she says.

"I feel very sad when I think about it now. I really think I could have made a good career out of the singing. Tony Bennett is 80 and he's still going strong.

If I'd married someone who shared the same interests and encouraged me, it might have been different."

It took a cousin who came to stay in the early-Seventies to restore Renee's confidence. He took her to see a local concert and Syd Dean, the band leader, recognised her from when she used to sing at the former dance hall Sherry's in West Street, Brighton, and persuaded her to get up on stage to do a number.

It was the first time she'd sung in 25 years. "I was reborn," she says, her eyes lighting up. "It was as if it had never gone away. They told me they wanted me to sing every week and I couldn't get there quickly enough. I was over the moon."

Since then, there's been no stopping Renee, who has performed at Pride and in front of 5,000 people at the Boxing Day concert at The Bandstand, Eastbourne.

"I don't rehearse," she points out. "I just get up and sing. I do forget the words from time to time but if I can't remember them, I make them up."

One thing not on the agenda in the near future is another appearance on The X-Factor. Although Renee ended up beating 55,000 candidates, she got knocked out in the semi-finals.

"I knew I could sing as well as the others. But I had to climb these stairs to get up to the stage," she recalls.

"When I saw there was no hand rail, I said, I'm never going to make it - my legs won't go'. I had to crawl in the end," she says. "I was so disorientated when I got to the top, I thought I'd topple over."

If the show had provided a stair lift or she'd been allowed to sing for the judges at the front of the stage, Renee is convinced she'd have got through.

"Then again, it's who you know, not what you know these days," she muses.

"I don't think Simon Cowell would have wanted anyone as old as me."

Ask Renee if she has any respect for Cowell, she soon pipes up: "Respect?

No. He's a lucky man. He's made a tremendous amount of money. He's just a very lucky man. I would have liked him to hear me sing properly, though. There was nobody as old as me. I don't know what I would have done if I'd got through. I'd have had to sell the shop and my life would have changed."

Renee is actually quite sad about the closure of Remnants, which has been her life for so many years. She has got used to the banter and eclectic mix of customers, who range from Elvis impersonators and drag queens to former Coronation Street stars. "We get asked for a lot of unusual things," she says matter of factly. "We get a lot of requests for leather, bondage stuff and fetish wear. I say, We don't sell that sort of thing, thank you'."

As if her days aren't full enough, she is also set to appear in a BBC documentary about her life.

Her one gripe, however, is that she still gets hounded by the Press for being related to Jordan (whose late grandmother Essie was Renee's first cousin).

Jordan worked in the shop for Renee when she was 16 but the subject is a closed box as far as Renee's concerned.

She has lost contact with the former glamour model and is nearly driven to distraction by the relentless phone calls from journalists. "I don't know anything. I keep telling them - but they don't listen. I don't know anything," she says, jabbing the table furiously with her finger .

For all her good humour, Renee is clearly not someone you'd want to cross on a bad day so I swiftly steer the conversation back to the good ol' days.

Looking back over the years, Renee says her happiest times were accompanying her father to the dockyards, and watching the famous film stars as they came off the ships.

"My father was a brilliant man," she says, nostalgically. "He loved music.

He would have been thrilled to bits to see me singing if he was alive now."

Despite thinking about selling her memorabilia a few years ago, as yet Renee has been unable to part with any of it. All the photos and letters are stored in a secret box and brought out to show the family on special occasions.

"I feel they're part of my life. They're all I've got," she says. "A lot of the hearthrobs now seem a bit fake and manufactured, whereas the acting years ago was superb."

That said, she's up to speed with all the latest gossip and frequently reads her daughter's celebrity mags - Renee is no fan of Beckham ("all he does is kick a ball") but does have a soft spot for George Clooney.

Apart from her aching legs and eyesight which isn't what it was, Renee's in pretty good shape and "touch wood", she says, she's only been in hospital a few times - to have her tonsils out and when she had her children.

According to Renee, the secret of old age is looking after herself and eating good food. She cooks a proper meal with meat and veg every night and avoids take-aways. She puts the strength of her voice down to the fact she's "never, ever, smoked or drank".

If there's one thing in life she'd still like to do it's a duet with Tony Bennett and appear on Parky, who she notes is a fellow jazz lover.

"He'd appreciate the songs I sing because he loves jazz," she says, pausing momentarily. "Then again, there's the stairs. I don't know if my legs would make it."

  • Renee will be appearing at The Lion and Lobster, Sillwood Street, Brighton on Sunday and the Landsdown Arms in Lewes on February 7. Call 01273 705718 for details.
  • Have you seen Renee sing? If so we'd like to hear what you thought of her performance. Let us know by leaving a comment below