By Mathew Leech
With the 20th anniversary of Live Aid in the headlines at the moment,
it would be easy for seemingly run of the mill charity events to pale
into insignificance in comparison with Bob Geldof’s efforts on that hazy
July afternoon in 1985. But anyone who knows Steve Wraith will know that
he put as much time and effort into this event and making it a success
as the straggly haired Irishman did, even without the swearing and table
punching! To Steve Wraith, this was his Live Aid.
When you care about your chosen charity as much as Steve does, it is difficult
to get the blend of such an event right. The purpose of the night is to
raise money, and that is the sole reason behind the event, but it has
to be remembered that people are paying for their tickets and coming to
see a good night’s entertainment. They are happy to contribute to the
charity naturally, but not everyone wants to have a collection bucket
dunked into their soup every five minutes. Steve’s guest list read like
a dream. Something for the sport lovers, something for the music lovers,
something for the men, and someone for the ladies! With the Bubble Appeal’s
message never far from the surface.
The disappointment of Ricky Hatton being unable to attend was evident
in Steve’s voice when he rang to break the news a few days before the
event. But that disappointment soon turned to sheer determination to make
an even bigger effort to pack the venue and give everyone a night to remember.
The turn out was an achievement in itself. People had travelled from as
far and wide as Glasgow, Wolverhampton, Cheshire and Milton Keynes to
support Steve and the Bubble Appeal. The early arrivals were entertained
by the inimitable Paul Lytton and his never-ending array of magic. Ties
were removed, watches disappeared and playing cards were stuck to the
ceiling as table after table were left open mouthed and goggle eyed by
the finest young magician in the country.
As the guests entered the main room, they were greeted by the sound of
Carma, Newcastle’s newest and most promising musical hope for quite some
time. A great mix of their own offerings, coupled with some fantastic
cover versions set the tone for an unforgettable evening.
The host then took to the stage and welcomed his guests and introduced
to the crowd the VIP list that read like a Who’s Who of North East sporting
legends. Newcastle and Chelsea hero Joe Allon, former Newcastle and current
Sunderland favourite Steve Caldwell, the legend that is Frank Mcavennie,
and the North East’s own “Mohammed Ali” Billy Hardy.
But without doubt the biggest welcome of all, was reserved for the original
Fun Loving Criminal! The Bard Of Bermondsey, The Prince Of Plumstead,
The Duke Of Deptford, the unofficial Lord Mayor Of London, Mr Dave Courtney
Looking resplendent in one of his many splendid suits and trademark Gucci
shoes, the head was freshly shaved, the cigar was huge, and the eyes twinkled
and sparkled with mischief and merriment as the World’s first 24 Hour
Party Person took his roadshow to his public in the North East.
You could spot in an instant those in the crowd who had read the books
and seen the TV programmes, but were looking at the man himself for the
first time. Jaws dropped and the ladies cooed as the headlining act took
a bow, and this was before he’d even started! Yes, the night was going
to be an unrivalled success, Mr Courtney would not have it any other way!
But before the man himself took to the stage, the appetite was whetted
with his latest creation. Hell To Pay. A gangster film, but a gangster
film with a difference. The events depicted in it are not the flight of
a filmmaker’s fantasy, but are real stories, acted out by the real stars!
As Dave himself says, the doormen are doormen, the naughty boys are naughty
boys, the fighters are fighters, and the stories are frighteningly real!
As the meals were served and enjoyed by the appreciative Gateshead crowd,
all eyes were on the screen as the cream of the underworld were beaten,
shot and stabbed before them. Never before has the line “I’m just cutting
the grass!” been delivered with such meaning, and the audience loved it.
If Mr Courtney had been in any doubt as to how his film would be received
by the public, the reaction in Gateshead as the credits rolled must have
had him smiling that unmistakable smile!
The serious business of raising large amounts of the crowd’s hard earned
cash then got underway, but not before a sobering reminder of why we were
all there as the Bubble Appeal video was played. You could hear the wallets
opening and the cheques being signed as the heart wrenching story of the
babies who’s lives we were helping to save was told.
The raffle, conducted by Geordie legend Joe Allon, was a great success.
Prizes ranging from a signed Ricky Hatton glove, to a CD player were snapped
up, and the money started to roll in! Next came the auction, and the list
of items on offer called for firm auctioneers who could control a crowd
and rack up the dosh. Could it be anyone else????
Mr Courtney took to the stage, ably assisted by Mr Wraith, to auction
off items that would have packed Sotheby’s to the rafters! There were
2 tickets to Ricky Hatton’s next fight, a VIP day in Manchester at Ricky’s
gym, an item of Dave Courtney’s “hand jewellery,” rare Ronnie Biggs records,
signed Ricky Hatton posters, a signed Sunderland shirt, a signed Scotland
shirt, and a weekend in London as a guest of Dave Courtney.
The last item resulted in a “bidding war,” which was finally settled when
the 2 bidding parties agreed to pay £1000 each and each won “A Weekend
At Dave’s!” A fantastic gesture by the 2 groups concerned, which went
down a storm with the crowd.
As the furore of the auction subsided, glasses were filled and tables
were cleared in time for the pinnacle of the evening’s entertainment.
Dave Courtney took to the stage and in his own unique style, held court
on a variety of subjects which included the joys of police surveillance,
and his weapon of choice and the best way to use it. Dave served it up,
and the audience lapped it up.
Again, it was easy to spot the people in the crowd that were seeing Dave
in full flow for the first time, as the open mouthed astonishment gave
way to roars of laughter. Stories that many in the audience had read about
were told in even greater detail as only Dave can tell them. Interspersed
with some jokes that would make a professional stand up comic howl with
laughter, and prompted when needed by the front row when he flew from
subject to subject, he had the whole crowd hanging on his every word.
Even Frank Mcavennie, who’s tales would make Hugh Hefner’s hair curl,
roared with laughter as Dave’s everyday adventures were played out to
the packed house. Dave was the undisputed star of the show, and his newly
formed Geordie fan club let him know in no uncertain terms how much they
As Dave’s Audience With session ended, and the queue for an autograph
and a photo with Dave formed, and snaked it’s way around the room, Steve
Wraith took to the stage again to say his thank you’s and was greeted
with a huge ovation. The formal proceedings ended with a musical double
bill, as Arron Davison, son of top boxer John Davison performed a couple
of songs together with a fantastic dance routine, and Carma closed the
night’s entertainment with another brilliant set. Their first number one
is not far away based on their performance here.
All that was left, was for Steve Wraith to hand over the cash collected
on the night which totalled £1000. The final total raised for the
Bubble Appeal when all auction items have been paid for is hoped to be
in excess of £3000. A phenomenal effort by all concerned, which
was gratefully received by representatives of the Bubble Appeal who were
there in person to collect the money.
The evening ended with a relaxed drink for the celebrities and guests
as the host Steve Wraith worked his away amongst the gathering to say
his own personal thanks to those who had helped make this evening one
of the most successful charity events that Tyneside has ever seen.
Mr Wraith has demonstrated yet again, that no one puts on a show quite
like he does!