Monday, March 1, 2010

Aid for Haiti in Coventry

The Ricoh arena in Coventry was transformed into a miniature AlbertEmmerdalehollyoakscorriestreetsquare as Adam Woodyatt organised a fantastic fun day of fundraising for the victims of last month’s earthquake in Haiti.

The event got under way with the Heart FM breakfast show presenter Ed James who was the host of the event, well at least until he had to head to Wembley to watch his beloved Aston Villa. First on stage was Adam Woodyatt welcoming the 1000 plus audience to the Jaguar suite, complete with a Shaguar from the film Austin Powers and also a funfair with lots of those spinny roundy things that we all loved as kids.

Adam, Ian Beale, was reunited with his onscreen ex wife Cindy (Michelle Collins) and current kids Peter and Lucy played by teen heart throb Tom Law and the lovely Melissa Suffield. I was even lucky enough to meet his real life family wife Beverley and their two children . Adam’s co-organiser of the event Pellier noir chief Paul Rogers, not the former lead singer of Bad company, but a guy who was very good company and knows everything worth knowing about event photography. http://www.pelliernoir.com/

Adam Woodyatt, is a very keen photographer himself, which is presumably how their friendship began and photos were a massive part of the day, I mean, who wouldn’t want their picture taken with someone you have spent a major part of your life sharing sometimes up to 5 nights a week with, especially when that picture includes the adorable sexy Samantha Janus, I mean Womack, God it’s hard to have to write that fact that she is no longer available. Husband Mark did keep a low profile even when bidding all the way up to £600 on a Fernando Torres signed shirt. A John Terry ‘Away’ shirt fetched an incredible £120. I have some advice for the new owner, permanent marker is removable with vanish.

More about the auction a little later which included some great ‘Chances to own’ items including an amazing portrait of June Brown by Paul Oz and who wouldn't want to have Ian Beale, Tanya Branning and Loretta (Hollyoaks) as your waiters for an evening of fine wining and dining.

There were a large number of kids there, either to see the handful of Hollyoaks stars who were not too hung over to attend, dragged along by their Mum’s who were hoping for an up close and personal glimpse with their on screen hunk, one who seemed very popular with the Housewives was Marc Elliot, the handsome (And hung over) Syed Masood and very popular with the young ladies were Peter Beale, Bianca’s hen night stripper Sam Attwater and Billy Jackson. There were some I missed I'm sure, I have just found out on twitter that I failed to spot, Don Gilet, Lucas from the square, Debbie Rush from Corrie who plays Anna Windass was another one that slipped my gaze, how did that happen? And Michelle Keegan (Tina) also from the Street, I wonder how many more I missed? (Who are the love birds spotted together holding on tight in the pic above?

Mellisa Suffield, Simon Attwater and Tom Law did a nice little question and answer session on stage and Lucy was asked a question from the audience which guy she thought was better looking, playing the crowd like a pro 'Lucy' said "I can't really say, I would have to see them both with their clothes off". You're a little star Melissa with a big future.

First ‘Singer’ on stage was John Altman, yes I do mean Nasty Nick Cotton. Adam explained how after 25 years of knowing John he never realised he could sing, I must be honest and say after hearing him attempt the very aptly titled song ‘Bad to the bone’ I am still not convinced, I would have to hear him sing another song, I'm turning into Simon Cowell. But this wasn’t Xfactor, well sometimes it was as we were serenaded by some acts that featured on the talent show and it was great to see the Evans family there, remember them from Britain’s got talent, the one’s that Simon said “Mum and Dad you need to let Elliot sing on his own, he is a superstar, you cannot sing”. I had a chat with Mum and Dad as they stood proudly watching their son singing a few Michael Jackson songs. I asked them how they are all doing and Mum said he is getting plenty of work and both her and her husband are now singing teachers.

There were continuous queues for fans wanting their professional picture taken with their favourite soap star signed and framed for a very reasonable £10 with the whole amount going to help Haiti. It was very moving as a guy talked us through his experiences in Haiti having just returned from the earthquake zone. I was reminded how lucky I am living in a country where going to the doctors to get some pills for something life threatening like a mild cold is something we don’t even think about, yet in Haiti medicines that could save lives just are not available, people with limbs torn off, the threat of typhoid and diarrhoea which follows every disaster of this type. The money raised from each photo will give a month’s supply of much needed treatment to each of the injured Haitians.

It was a bizarre feeling being amongst all these stars, I felt both elated and very sad and even guilty at times, even times when I was looking at my own life, wishing I could have been a famous actor, everyone wanting my autograph and picture. It then hit me what these celebrities were actually doing, giving up their Sunday which is probably the last thing they need, what with increased episodes these days because of an ever increasing demand by us the viewers. We want want want and they must give give give, but it’s that giving which made February 28th so special, we were all there for the same reason. We were all equal, separated only by a small metal barrier and a tenner.

There were many other acts that gave their time for free, dancers, bands which included local group King Hermit, watch out for them, very very good sound, musicians, the Ricoh centre staff including security, who had a tough job holding back the women from Syed and me from Ronnie Mitchell, good job Phil never turned up he would of duf duf duffed me up. I wasn’t stalking her, I took 149 photos and only 147 of those were of Samantha. As I queued waiting to meet my second favourite Eastender (I will tell you my number 1 and why soon, as this one has a paragraph and personality all to herself) As I stood in the line I was rehearsing what I was going to say, should I say I think you are so beautiful? Nah she has been told that by everyone her whole life, all of a sudden there I was standing next to a woman I had fancied since I first saw her singing ‘A message to your heart’ in The Eurovision song contest in 1991.


Should I call her Ronnie or Samantha, or maybe Mandy from her Game on days? Yes, no one else would of said that and it would sound as if I was a true fan and this wasn’t just some recent crush since she joined the square in May 2007, but now having ogled her, I decided to Google her and found out I had missed her performances in Minder, The Bill, Sandy in Grease, her starring role alongside the late Patrick Swayzee in ‘Guys and Dolls’ and even as one of the many girlfriends of a certain Wicksy back in the earlier days of Dirty Den and Wilmott-Brown. Let’s hope she stays around the Queen Vic for a few years to come, she could be the next Peggy Mitchell? Something else I just learned about Samantha, Calum Best is her cousin, beauty runs deep through their family.

If Samantha was my choice for sexiest Eastender in Ricoh Square, (Marc Elliot if you are female, sorry Adam) without doubt my favourite entertainer there was Cheryl Fergison, (Heather Trott) what a terrific personality, amiable, approachable, time for everyone, nothing was too much of an effort for her, she trotted around the venue signing autographs nonstop, apart from when she would disappear briefly telling everyone “I got to go pee, I’ll be back in a minute”. She was I think, one of the most popular in demand for photos and all in all great fun, particularly in the auction which I promise I will get to eventually.

I want to make it very clear at this point; ALL of the stars who attended the fundraiser were brilliant with their donation of time and effort. They travelled from all over the country to be there to give their support, John Altman for one drove up from Plymouth, but Michelle Collins wins first prize for the longest trip award after flying in from LA, making this a truly globally supported event. Other soap celebs in attendance from Eastenders included Tracy, who apparently has spoken 5 words since she joined the cast (Lucky girl), Himesh Patel, AKA Tamwar Masood, Coronation St was represented by bad boy John Stape played by Graeme Hawley, Emmerdale sent their female equivalent along in the guise of Sally Spode, (Sian Reeves).

Melissa Walton (Loretta Jones) the actress from Hollyoaks looked good as she signed autographs and posed for pictures, as did up and coming talents Gerard McCarthy who belted out a bit of George Michael, bronagh waugh and Stephen Uppal, so there was something for everyone of all ages, even an extremely tall juggler that seemed to lose height as the day went on but his talents never shrunk as he abrocadabra’d himself into a magician, now that’s magic. Also wandering around throughout the day with even fewer lines than Tracy on his CV was the Stig from Top Gear. I say let’s get Tracy on Top Gear to do the star in the reasonably priced car, if only for the conversation during the lessons.

I take my helmet off to Adam Woodyatt and Paul Rogers organisational skills which culminated in an auction to own things from Pat Butchers ear rings to the actual script for the live episode of ‘Who killed Archie Mitchell’, including the 10 alternative endings, if you want to know ‘Who didn’t kill Archie’ but so nearly did, the person to ask is Twitterer @Firequacker, who paid a very generous figure of £1,000 for that particular piece of television history. Firequacker (Monique) is also helping to raise money for the Child cancer awareness campaign. Visit http://www.bechildcanceraware.org/

Other items to go under Adams hammer was a Derby County football signed by all the players, what surprised me about that is they never usually hang onto a ball long enough for one signature let alone 11. Next up for grabs was dinner for 2 in a restaurant where you will be waited on by Adam, Melissa from Hollyoaks and your dessert is delivered by Jo Joyner (Tanya Branning) mmmmmm, naughty but nice, (Sorry Samantha). Adam actually bid for this himself to try and get out of it but unfortunately for Adam, wife Bev stopped him going any higher and someone paid £600 for the privilege of seeing him doing an impression of Manuel.
I got involved in the arm raising fundraising as I found myself bidding for the chance to appear on the Heart FM Breakfast show with Ed and Rachel, there was no way I could let opportunity go being a former morning show host myself. There were various other signed football shirts by Kenny Dalglish that fetched around the £175 mark, Aberdeen, Everton and Stephen Gerrard shirts also helping to raise the total. An Albert square sign fetched £250, but the highest bid of the day was £5,000 for the painting by Paul Oz of Eastenders favourite Dot Cotton and signed by June Brown herself.
All together the event raised over £30,000. My thanks go to every single person in the Ricoh Arena on Sunday, from the stars to the cleaners, not forgetting all the members of the public that turned out on a dreary West Midlands day, but brightened up by our favourite shining soap stars. Thank you.

I apologise to anyone that I forgot to mention, and for any mistakes this article may contain regarding any of the stars.

More pictures can be viewed at http://www.pelliernoir.com/ where you can also purchase your favourite shots.

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