Hunslet Carr sports and social club Leeds
August 11th 2016
Producer Mark Ritchie
Stage manager Martin Brown
Sound services by Steve Paige
Lighting and design by HM Designs.
Reviewer Mark Ritchie
This review is a one-off, in every sense of the term, as it is the only review I have ever produced, for any publication, that I myself produced and appeared in. The reason for what may be perceived by some readers as a rather self-indulgent departure from the norm is simple. I was asked to produce the event in honour of a man who has been described as the last of the great characters from the Clubland heydays and The Godfather of northern Clubland, Gordon Kellett.
Gordon was my agent for 18 years before his recent death and when I was seriously ill in 2011, I also discovered the full extent of our friendship.
In front of a packed house in a roomy Leeds social club, a total of 30 Clubland acts gathered to pay their personal tributes to Gordon, in the form of a fully produced charity concert, which raised funds for a local heart disease charity.
The show was produced with a view to facilitating the inclusion of as many of Gordon’s clients, former clients and close friends to perform on the night.
The curtain went up and Gordon’s widow Joan Kellett was on stage, providing the welcomes and the thankyou’s. Joan was then presented with a one-armed bandit type slot machine, which was an in-joke , alluding to Gordon’s passion for fruit machines.
Joan then returned and took her seat alongside the rest of the Kellett family, which heralded the arrival of Gordon’s gang. Enter seven solo singers, all seated at the back of the stage and singing in turn, whilst simultaneously supporting each other. The Commere for this segment of the show was the glamorous Amy Thomas, who was selected for the role due to an impression that she would be good in the role. My hunch was correct. Amy introduced the youthful Joseph Braithwaite, the experienced Steve Rose, up and coming Laura Michaels, Clubland favourite Sheldon Bonner, the larger than life Darren Yorke and Clubland royalty, in the unmistakeable guise of Tony Wayne.
It was then time for some improvised comedy, as comedians Aiden Jay, Johnny Martell and myself were given subjects on cards, which we had to talk about and think on our feet. Aiden Jay spoke on relationships, Johnny Martell on the subject of race and I was given the subject of being fat. Obviously I have no idea why this subject was given to me!
Veteran Clubland stars Brenda Martine and Lyn Day came next, with their much celebrated Fanny and Ada show, which raised many laughs, despite the fact that these great Clubland ladies had not worked together for many years, with Lynn now living down under in Tasmania and back in the UK on a rare flying visit.
Agent Ashley Wheelhouse worked in Gordon’s office for many years and Ashley and friends provided the opportunity for Ashley to pick up his guitar and invite friend and fellow agent Harry Turnstyle on to sing. A further bonus was the appearance of larger than life comedian The Big G, who raised lots of laughs.
A dutch auction conducted by retired Clubland star Joy Lorraine raised lots of cash for the charity and we were soon all pausing to catch our collective breath, with a short interval.
After the interval, I was forced into getting stuck into an increasingly noisy audience and appeal for a little order. Pointing out specific people in the audience and asking them to be a little quieter is on old trick, but it nearly always works. Of course this was a fun evening and sure to attract a noisy and boisterous turn-out, but the remaining artistes on the bill also had to be heard.
Retired cruise ship and Clubland singer Vicki Calvert is now a lecturer in performing arts at Loughborough College. Coming out of retirement for one night only provided a great opportunity for Vicki to show that she still possesses once of the best voices around. Vicki went on to be Commere for the next segment of the show, which was entirely dedicated to tribute artistes.
Leading the tribute charge was Elvis Presley, the tribute delivered with aplomb by Tony Fletcher. Melissa Radway was next up, drawing a fabulous response from the audience for her tribute/ impression of Dame Shirley Bassey. Finally came Michael Jackson-Ultimate Legend, superbly performed as ever by the brilliant Paul Tayler.
All of which led to real high-jinks, with another gang of Gordon Kellett friends and clients, numbering nine in total. In charge of this segment of the show was the vastly experienced Steve Andrews, who really had to be at his best in controlling a motley crew of fine artistes and singing cronies, led by the smashing entertainer Jonathan Carroll. Singer Hayley Rose was terrific and clearly found the whole evening rather emotional. The extraordinary Amanda Jayne gave it everything she had. Danny Andrews was well up for fun during his appearance, likewise John Morgan really got into the spirit of things. Ricky Graham is always worth listening to and he was on tip-top form here. Leanne Dee had the whole room dancing as she performed a version of the Tavares disco hit, Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel. And finally the group was joined on stage by smooth crooner Paul Stewart, who performed Gordon’s personal favourite song, Moon River. The result? Not a dry eye in the house!
An evening like this one had to finish with a boogie. Soon the vast majority of the audience were up on their feet shaking their pants, as lively duo Soul Provider were doing their thing in great style.
The whole evening owed much to Helen Marie of HM Designs, whose team erected a great lighting plot and a big screen, showing a photographic montage of material illustrating Gordon’s life and times. And likewise, sound engineer and PA specialist Steve Paige and his team were pivotal in turning a producer’s ideas and into reality and making it look almost seamless. Stage manager Martin Brown was his usual hard-working, industrious and cool self and deserves enormous credit for his efforts on a hot night in Leeds.
As for Gordon and the Kellett family generally, I do sincerely hope that everyone will remember this as a good enough effort to mark Gordon’s passing. The comments from this attending, on social media and in person have been warm and effusive towards me personally. While this was all lovely to read and hear, not to mention extremely flattering, in all honesty it was a labour of love.
Gordon Kellett RIP