charity

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Celebrity and charity come hand in hand and the more successful the celebrity, the more charities he is asked to work with.  Alfie Boe is no different and with his recent huge level of success with Michael Ball, has become involved with more charities.  One such is Willow Foundation, founded by former goalkeeper and TV presenter Bob Wilson.  Alfie says “I’m delighted to join The Willow Foundation as an ambassador. I’ve known Bob Wilson for many years and it’s a pleasure to support a charity that does so much good work supporting young people with serious and life limiting illnesses.”

As Alfie says, Willow works with seriously ill young adults aged 16 to 40 to fulfil uplifting and unforgettable Special Days and are the only national charity to do so.  These Special Days enable them and their families to reconnect and refocus on each other while enjoying an activity of their choosing. A day for them, a day about them and a day that will create memories they will all treasure forever. To date, Willow has provided more than 15,000 Special Days for young adults diagnosed with a life-threatening condition such as cancer, motor neurone disease, cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s disease.  Each Special Day provides a positive experience to be shared with a partner, parents, siblings, children or close friends. It costs around £1,250 to set up each unique Day and on average four people attend.

Bob Wilson and wife, Megs, founded Willow as a lasting memorial to their daughter, Anna, who died of cancer aged 31. Anna’s love of life and the enriching experiences of her own Special Days were the charity’s inspiration.

The Wilson’s and Alfie have been friends for many years, as Bob explains.

“I was promoting my autobiography at the BBC in London in 2003 when I first met Alfie. He was also doing the interview rounds, becoming well known for his incredible voice from singing before football and rugby matches. I followed Alfie’s career from that day. Our friendship developed and we often met up when he was in concert or on stage. One of the strangest meetings was in 2016 when Megs and I were celebrating what would have been our daughter Anna’s 50th birthday in a restaurant in the middle of London. Alfie and his wife were seated right next to our table. Alfie has always shown an interest in the work of the Charity and we’re delighted to have him officially join the ‘Willow family’.”

Alfie’s first role as a Willow ambassador is to use his artistic talents to help Willow raise much needed funds. Alfie will be contributing a signed canvas to the 2018 Stars on Canvas art auction. His canvas, along with more than 200 others designed by artists, celebs and sports stars, will be auctioned on eBay in November. Bidding starts at just 99p – I doubt it will end at that price!  After all, it’s not very often fans get the chance to buy Alfie’s own artwork.

To find out more about Willow, click here – details of the artworks up for auction will be available sometime in November.

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In 2017, Alfie Boe and Michael Ball recorded a charity single in aid of children’s charity, Rays of Sunshine.  appropriately enough, the song was Bring Me Sunshine:

Having sung at the charity’s annual fund raising dinner, the pair then decided to record the song they sang that evening.  The Rays of Sunshine children’s choir were also featured and then made a simply unforgettable appearance on stage with Alfie and Michael in London.  Following all this, Alfie then came on board as an ambassador for the charity – I spoke to Sarah May Kershaw from the fundraising team to learn more about what they do.

Rays of Sunshine was founded in 2003 to brighten the lives of seriously ill children and those with life limiting conditions and the work they do mainly consists of granting magical wishes.  Every day, the charity gives these children and young people, aged three to eighteen, the chance to put their illness on hold and enjoy a moment of escape. Wishes can be as unique as the children themselves and whether a child wants to be a princess or a fireman for the day, go to Disneyland in Paris, visit Santa in Lapland, own an iPad, meet a favourite celebrity or even a ‘real life’ mermaid, Rays of Sunshine works hard to make that wish come true.  Hospital wards can also benefit from magical wishes and have included decorating treatment rooms, purchasing equipment, funding sensory room and funding an indoor sensory garden.  Another hospital centred activity are hospital activity days; every week of the year the team bring sunshine to children on the wards of hospitals across the country through entertainment such as Bollywood dancers and imaginative arts and crafts. These events provide distraction and reduce isolation for children receiving long term treatment in hospital.

I asked Sarah about the impact and importance of celebrity ambassadors and she said that having them is “invaluable in terms of awareness and fundraising…since Alfie and Michael, we’ve been able to reach a new audience who weren’t aware of us before.”  This awareness was evident when the children’s choir were invited to perform with Alfie at Kenwood House, London this summer.  Rays of Sunshine staff were in attendance with charity buckets and ,had also benefited from ticket sales to their patrons.  Altogether, including merchandise sales, £7,000 was raised that evening, enough to fund hospital ward wishes for seven hospitals to decorate treatment rooms or provide sensory equipment.  Alternatively, the money could also pay for three seriously ill children and their families to enjoy a UK break together as a family, enable fourteen seriously ill children and their families to have their wish granted to come to London for a day, pay for two seriously ill children and their families to go to Disneyland Paris or fund a seriously ill child to travel to Florida or Lapland with their family.

That’s a wonderful amount of money and the charity are so grateful and say that it exceeded all their expectations.  However, apart from the money, the whole event was like a magical wish for the choir, proving life long memories for them and their families.  They were included in the soundcheck with Alfie and the whole evening, as well as that at the 02 in December 2017, meant they could have a once in a life time, money can’t buy experience.

For more information on Rays of Sunshine, click here – and keep a look out for a fan fundraiser later in the year.

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Fans of Alfie Boe will know that one of the causes closest to his heart is the Fylde Coast hospice, Trinity Palliative Care and Brian House Children’s Hospice.  As patron, Alfie supports the charity in many ways, most recently donating £2 from each ticket sold for his homecoming concert in Fleetwood.

As we know, Alfie’s fans are as generous as him and love to support his charities; for several years now, fans have participated in virtual tea parties in order to raise money.  In 2017, thoughtsofjustafan hosted a weekend YouTube marathon, in which fans watched Alfie videos and donated to Trinity whilst doing so.  The occasion was so successful, raising £570, that we decided to do it again this year.  Over the weekend of 11 – 12 August, fans on Facebook watched a wonderfully diverse selection of Alfie videos and donated the astonishing sum of

£1283.31

– well over £1300 including gift aid.!!!!!  Thank you so much – beyond our wildest dreams!  Trinity are thrilled with the total, with Head of Fundraising at Trinity Hospice and Brian House Children’s Hospice, Linzi Warburton, saying

“We are incredibly grateful to all the Alfie Boe fans out there who made a donation as part of the Alfie Boe YouTube Marathon. The event raised a fantastic sum of money which, when we saw that some of it came from Japan and the US, is just staggering. We are so privileged to have Alfie as our Patron, as events like this prove his name alone encourages people to support our very local charity and hospice care.  We can’t thank thoughtsofjustafan enough for putting on this event in aid of Trinity Hospice and Brian House Children’s Hospice, and encouraging everyone who took part to donate whatever they could help us provide the very best palliative care here on the Fylde coast.”

Huge thank you to everyone who took part and congratulations to Emma Cropper who was picked at random to win the Trinity hoodie signed by Alfie:

If you didn’t get a chance to join in, grab a cuppa, and watch the playlist:

and if you still want to donate to Trinity, click here.

Once again – thank you – you are all

AWESOME!

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A summer evening – albeit a chilly evening – was spent in the grounds of Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath, London in the company of Alfie Boe and his fabulous band, not to mention fabulous friends in the form of Linda A, Linda W, Jayne, Cecelia, Roberta, Annie, Pauline, Jean and Claire.

Alfie’s set was almost the same as at Kelvingrove and Fleetwood, with a couple of differences and at least one new addition, to the encore.  Led Zeppelin’s Going To California was a new song, and Linda W was in seventh heaven (listen carefully and you can hear her gasps of delight at the beginning):

Alfie was, as usual, in fine voice and had all the energy you might expect from a performer at the top of his game and clearly having the time of his life.  I seem to write that sentence fairly often these days, but with every new concert, he just gets better and better and to me, it seems that he never takes his good fortune for granted, which unfolds as seemingly relentless energy on stage.  Just watching the energy on stage exhausts the audience, never mind Alfie himself!

Highlights were The Way You Look Tonight from his forthcoming album, Bring Him Home (very emotional this time), The Who section, particularly Pinball Wizard and the country section.  I love all those songs and having only discovered Wagon Wheel last year, via Alfie, I especially love the joy the band bring to that song.  The songs from Together and Together Again had the crowd singing along and of course we celebrated Ball and Boe’s double BRIT win too. However, the undoubted stand out song was Bring Me Sunshine; Alfie was joined on stage by the children of the Rays of Sunshine choir and they were magnificent:

They were all wonderful and I’m pleased to say that the audience were able to help bring joy and laughter into the lives of seriously ill children by giving to the collecting buckets available.  If anyone wasn’t able to give at the concert and would like to help, click here to donate.

I’m happy to say that I saw Alfie before the show and he obligingly signed some more competition bits so make sure you’re a subscriber to get first dibs on entries – coming soon!

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Just over a week ago, I had the privilege of bring in the audience at Alfie Boe’s homecoming concert in Fleetwood and it was the best concert experience of my life.  Not only the fabulous singing and music from Alfie’s band but the unique atmosphere and mutual love between Alfie and Fleetwood made it such a special experience and one that anyone who was there will never forget (photo: Annie Lloyd).

When Alfie announced this concert last year, he also announced that £2 from each ticket bought would go directly to the local Fylde Coast hospice, Trinity, of which Alfie is a proud patron.  Alfie has spearheaded many fundraising initiatives over the years, resulting in donations coming in from all four corners of the world – one of the most successful was the Alfie Boe YouTubeathon last year, something that we hope to repeat this summer.

Since the concert, it has been announced that sales from tickets have funded a full week of care at Brian House, the children’s hospice on the same site as Trinity.  With space for four children as in-patients, the service supports over eighty families in total, meeting complex needs, providing support for the family and care for children who will not be cured of their illness.  Respite care, which is provided at regular intervals, gives families the opportunity to experience times of relief and normality. When a child’s life is limited it puts enormous pressure on every member of the family as they try to cope with the emotional, practical and financial implications. It can be really hard for brothers and sisters too, so for all the family, Brian House is a support mechanism. This support continues even when the service is no longer required as each child that passes away is named on the memory tree; many families find comfort in being able to return to see their child’s name.

I was lucky enough to be given a tour by Rebecca Ferguson, External Communications Manager and I have to say that it’s an amazing place. The kitchen is a hive of activity and with its sweet shop colour theme and giant marshmallow decorations looks good enough to eat! Each of the four bedrooms has a theme, with one specially designed for teenagers. The lounge areas are spacious enough for group music therapy (beds can be accommodated), and for informal play and relaxation. The sensory room and corridor are an adventure of colour, light and sounds and the sound I could hear coming down the corridor was chat and laughter from children and adults alike.  Here is Rebecca (left)with senior fundraiser Janet Atkins, handing over a card made by Brian House users, (photo Darren Nelson).

Rebecca was also on duty at the Fleetwood concert, along with many volunteers who collected money from concert goers.  The total from these buckets (separate from the ticket sales) was £2,700 and another £3,000 was donated by two very generous local people as well.  If you would like to make a donation yourself, please click here.

Thank you to everyone who bought a ticket or has donated – every penny is used in the excellent palliative care at Trinity and Brian House.

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As we know, Alfie is a long standing patron of Blackpool’s Trinity Hospice and Brian House, the children’s hospice located on the same site.  Alfie has spearheaded a number of fundraising initiatives for the hospice over the years and the latest is Pay For A Day, highlighting the daily running costs.

Alfie says

Brian House is a lifeline for many families in our community – it is a privilege to support such vital work for these children. I was born in Blackpool and grew up in Fleetwood. I know how important the sense of community is to everyone in our part of the world – and how our coastal location makes it so important to have good, strong resources for local people to call upon.  That’s why I’m so proud to be a Patron of Brian House, part of Trinity Hospice. They’re right at the heart of the Fylde coast community, delivering the very best care to life-limited children whose families are going through unimaginably hard times.

In an attempt to do my part, I’m thrilled that a donation from every ticket sold for my ‘homecoming’ concert in Fleetwood this summer will go to our local hospice – enough to pay for a whole day at Brian House, and much more.

It’s hard to imagine the rollercoaster of emotion that the family of a life-limited child must experience and I urge the community to get behind Brian House in order to help them provide the type of care we would all hope for.  Pay for a Day is a brilliant idea. It doesn’t matter how you give or raise the money, whether it’s something you do on your own, or a way for you and your family to come together and achieve something amazing. If you Pay for a Day, you’ll be funding expert care for kids living just up the road from you!

Please, join me in supporting Brian House. I know it’s a place full of happiness, music and laughter, as staff work hard to ensure the most fragile youngsters in the Fylde coast area can make the most of every day.

Alfie mentions here that a donation from each ticket sold for his Fleetwood concert on 2 June will go to the hospice so if you haven’t yet bought a ticket or have and want to encourage everyone else to go, click here for tickets.  Hopefully it will be good weather, but if not, the one thing I can guarantee is a fabulous performance from Alfie.

Fans will be doing our bit over the summer –  last year, we held a two day YouTube marathon and raised over £500! We had so much fun, we’re going to do it all over again! Watch this space for the date to be announced! If you would like to donate before then, click here.

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Merry Christmas everyone!  It’s the time of year to look back at what’s happened and what’s been achieved and oh my goodness, if you thought 2016 was good for Alfie, then 2017 knocked it out of the park.  What an awesome year he’s had!

Regular readers will know that I love to look back, so here are my 2017 highlights:

  • Seeing Alfie in Carousel – wasn’t he fabulous as Billy Bigelow?
  • A few stage door hugs with Alfie during the Carousel run:

  • The Trinity YouTubeathon in which we raised over £500 for one of Alfie’s charities
  • Alfie and Michael achieving a world record at HMV in October and meeting some fabulous fans too – click here to see the fan videos we made
  • Seeing so many fans in Australia and USA happy to see Alfie and Michael
  • Together Again reaching the number one chart position upon release – and now going Platinum!
  • Attending the ITV special, Ball and Boe: Back Together
  • Interviewing Alfie – if you haven’t yet seen part one, make sure you’re subscribed!

Thank you to each and everyone one of you who reads thoughtsofjustafan – your messages of support are very much appreciated.  I’m thrilled to reveal that we recently sailed past the 250K hits…I’m looking forward to half a million!

There are some special people to thank who make this whole thing happen:

Debbie Bannigan for continuing to believe in me and more importantly, to show me how far I’ve come and how far I can still go.  In the words of Michael Ball on this tour, “dream big and follow your dreams”; Debbie has shown me what can happen when you believe in yourself.

Carole Hunt for continuing to allow me the use of her photo for the site banner.

Linda Wellington for the use of her wonderful photos and videos.

Thank you to everyone who allows me to use their videos here.

Roberta Kappus, Cecelia Powell, Carole Hunt, Barbara Wren, Heather Crosskey, Heather Moore, Pauline Hyland, Claire Shorter, Kate Griffin for being such wonderful guest reviewers.

Linda Anstee, Linda Wellington, Carole Hunt, Karen Rogers, Pat Watterson, Cecelia Powell, Sue Redfern for being there – thanks for keeping me sane.

Linda Anstee, Ellen Rook and Rachael Hailey for being my top social media sharers.

Linda McCann, Sue Redfern and Cecelia Powell for being my top commenters.

Huge thanks to Emily and Andrea at Vector and to Ash and team at Decca – you’ve been amazing and a joy to work with.

Finally, it’s a massive thank you to Alfie for his unstinting support and generosity – without you, there would be no thoughtsofjustafan!

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

xxxx

Long time fan Lisa Tootill has really found the best way to combine work with Alfie and Michael.  Lisa, who has been following Michael since Aspects of Love and first saw Alfie perform on his 2012 Storyteller tour, works at the Guide Dog Breeding Centre near Birmingham and is responsible for bringing new dogs into the centre to enhance the gene pool for future breeding.  Recently, Lisa found two Curly Coated Retrievers in Estonia (they’re a rare breed), and upon bringing them back to the UK, managed to christen them Alfie and Michael!

Alfie is on the left and Michael the right.

Although the traditional image of a guide dog is a Labrador, there are in fact, many breeds used, including Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Flat Coated Retrievers as well as the Curly Coated Retriever.  There is even a Standard Poodle and Border Collie in the breeding programme.  One of the most famous guide dog owners is David Blunkett who always uses Curly Coated / Labrador crosses, as they are good, solid, working dogs.

Each year, Guide Dogs UK breeds puppies to go on and eventually train and work with visually impaired people around the UK.  The usual practice when naming litters is that all the names should start with the same letter, for tracing purposes but Lisa was adamant that with these two sweethearts, the rules should go out the window and Alfie and Michael were thus named.  In fairness, Lisa says that the theme for name picking was ‘my favourite things’ and Alfie and Michael are two of her favourite people, as all the staff at the breeding centre are well aware!  Here is Lisa with Alfie:

 

Thanks Lisa for sharing your story of marrying work with Alfie and Michael.  To find out more about Guide Dogs UK click here.

If you would like to share your fan story, I’d be delighted to hear from you, just click here to send me a message.

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The Ball and Boe Together Again tour 2017 finished in style at London’s 02 arena this week and I was very lucky to have a front row seat (courtesy of Claire Shorter) and witnessed one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to.  In fact, only Alfie’s solo shows have surpassed it.  My review of the show and the tour in general follow but first we hear from Sarah Buttifant, for whom this was her first concert of the tour:

Just over a year ago I didn’t know who Alfie Boe was. I happened to watch Ball and Boe One Night Only on TV and the sound of his voice gave me goosebumps! Since then I’ve seen him and Michael at one of their summer concerts, I was extremely fortunate to be in the ITV studio for the recording of this years Ball and Boe Back Together and now I’ve seen them live at the 02.

I’ve got to admit I was expecting this concert to be amazing and it did not disappoint. Having deprived myself of spoilers for the two weeks leading up to the concert (no mean feat in itself!) I couldn’t wait to see what the boys had planned. The songs from the new album performed live were brilliant. Bring Me Sunshine, when they brought the children onto the stage was heart melting.

The evening just kept getting better and better. They rocked out with an epic Queen medley and the songs from Les Mis that we’d not heard them sing before were sublime. Their solo songs hit just the right note and the show stopping Wham finale had the whole of the 02 up on its feet. The friendship between these two shines out and their enthusiasm and love for music is completely infectious. I think it’s safe to say I’m addicted – roll on 16th June 2018, Kenwood House here I come.

Thank you so much Sarah for your thoughts – I agree, it was an amazing evening.  Although I had seen the concert in Brighton at the beginning of the tour, I knew that the running order was not necessarily the same and that there were hints of extras for the end of tour, London finale.  The main change for me was the addition of Alfie’s most popular live song of the last two years, Run which had been exchanged for Elton John’s Tiny Dancer after the first two shows.  Another addition was the inclusion of the two choirs, Mountview School and Rays of Sunshine, seen above (that’s me, Linda W and Jayne you can hear oohing and aahing on the video!).  The children were word perfect and totally rocked the stage, melting several thousand hearts along the way – if you want to raise money for them and help get Alfie and Michael to number one for Christmas, then click here.  Mountview students featured in the ITV special in October and more returned to sing alongside Alfie and Michael on Thursday evening; the result was just stunning, as can be seen from You’re The Voice:

Those students are having just the best time with Alfie and Michael, and the feeling’s obviously mutual!  These were my highlights from this concert although Alfie’s Bring Him Home (tears again from me and so emotional for him, singing that back at the 02) and the Wham medley were phenomenal.

My feelings about this tour are nothing but joy – it has been a privilege to witness such warmth, happiness and superb vocals from Alfie and Michael and in my opinion, everyone should see these two perform together at least once…although once would of course never be enough.  Happiness and joy are sometimes in short supply and these two go a long way to getting us there so if you haven’t been lucky enough to see them live, or want to relive the experience, click here to see the a YouTube playlist from the wonderful Linda Wellington.  My personal favourite from this tour is Alfie’s new song, Wagon Wheel:

This gives me the perfect opportunity to thank the wonderful musicians, in particular, Murray Gould, Sam Grimley, John Tonks, Callum McLeod, Neil Angilley, Don Richardson, Marsha Skinns, Ulrika Bergelind, Tor Hills and Emma Osei-Lah.

Thank you to Alfie and Michael for the fabulous music and to everyone I met in Brighton and London – all your messages are really appreciated. Special mentions to Linda Anstee, Linda Wellington, Jayne Templeton, Claire Shorter, Roberta Kappus, Cecelia Powell, Tienne Lockwood, Carole Hunt, Cheryl Stenason, Emma Brimacombe, Gail Slinn, Nicola Lange, Ellen Rook, Leanne Miller, Jo Cassidy, Heather and Jay, Mitsuko and Ayano, Sally Cook, Pat Watterson, Janet Baldwin and Annie Lloyd, not forgetting my guest reviewers Carole Hunt, Pauline Hyland, Heather Crosskey, Heather Moore, Sarah Buttifant, Claire Shorter, Barbara Wren and Kate Griffin. Hopefully I haven’t forgotten anyone but if I have, I’m sorry, it’s been a busy few weeks!

To donate to Rays of Sunshine and propel Ball and Boe to the tip of the singles charts, click here to download Bring Me Sunshine with all star cast.

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How would you like to help Alfie Boe and Michael Ball get the Christmas number one in both the singles and album chart and feel good about helping others at the same time?

If the answer to this is of course you would, then all you have to do is send some sunshine to your friends by sending them a download of Ball and Boe’s charity single, Bring Me Sunshine. Click here to download from iTunes and send as a gift.  Click here to download via amazon. And when you’ve done that tweet it with the hashtag #SendSunshine!

Let’s face it, everyone’s Christmas would be made better by listening to Alfie, Michael and friends singing this Morecambe and Wise classic:

The charity benefiting from the proceeds is Rays of Sunshine, a charity that grants wishes for seriously ill children and teenagers across the UK. The charity was founded in 2003 and has since granted more than 6,000 wishes for brave and deserving children. Their work provides hope and creates lasting and precious memories for thousands of families across the UK. The charity receives no government funding, so proceeds will enable them to help more children who greatly need help.  Some of the children in the choir appeared on stage at the 02 and raised the roof so please help them to raise as much money as possible.

Alfie and Michael are joined by other artists including Al Murray, Angela Rippon, Aston Merrygold, Bryn Terfel, Calum Scott, Collabro, Danny O’Donoghue (The Script), Gareth Malone, Gregory Porter, Imelda May, Imelda Staunton, Jason Manford, Kelsey Grammer, Lesley Joseph, Loose Women (Kaye Adams, Nadia Sawalha, Stacey Solomon, Linda Robson), Mark King, Mel Giedroyc, Miranda Hart, Ore Oduba, Pauline Quirke, Rick Wakeman, Seal, Shirley Ballas (Strictly Come Dancing), and the Rays of Sunshine Children’s Choir.

I earlier mentioned that Alfie and Michael are in the race for two number one slots this Christmas and of course they clinched the top album spot in 2016.  Having debuted at number one upon it’s October release, wouldn’t it be best thing to end a fabulous year if Together Again returned to the top spot?  The only thing to better it would be Bring Me Sunshine reigning supreme and raising lots of money for Rays of Sunshine.

Click here to download from iTunes and here from amazon, or you can text GET SUNSHINE to 84222 (£1 + standard message rate) and send some sunshine to all your friends – thank you!  Please share with the hashtag #SendSunshine as well.

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