February 2014 marks pop superstar Robbie Williams’ 40th birthday – something which hasn’t escaped the notice of his fans who are coming from near and far to celebrate in the singer’s hometown of Burslem at RWFanFest - which also aims to raise money for The Donna Louise Children’s Hospice. Staffordshire Life Feature’s Writer KAREN COX discovers what the celebrations will entail.
Born and raised in Burslem, Stoke on Trent, pop superstar Robbie Williams has sold more than 70 million records worldwide after first finding fame when he joined boy band Take That at the tender age of 16.
Robbie left the band five years later to forge an amazing solo career which has meant he has rarely been out of the spotlight, but not before he had notched up six number one singles and three number one albums with Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, Jason Orange and Howard Donald.
After leaving Take That Robbie signed a deal with Chrysalis/EMI and in 1997 he released the album Life Thru a Lens as a solo artist, which went double platinum and featured hit single Angels, which sold more than 800,000 copies and spent three months in the top ten.
Since then he has released a number of albums including I've Been Expecting You (1998), Sing When You're Winning (2000), Swing When You're Winning (2001), Escapology (2002), Intensive Care (2005), Rudebox (2006), Reality Killed the Video Star (2009) and Take the Crown (2012).
In 2010 Robbie reunited with the rest of Take That and they released Progress – much to fans’ delight, although the reunion was shortlived.
At the end of 2013 he released Swing Both Ways, which earned the title of the UK’s 1,000 ever number one album and features classic covers as well as new material. Robbie also sings duets with the likes of Lily Allen and Michael Buble, Kelly Clarkson, Olly Murs and Rufus Wainright on the album.
Now our own ‘Okey Dokey Stokey Blokey, as Robbie has referred to himself, is turning 40 on February 13 and his legion of fans from around the world – including those as far afield as Italy and South Africa - are coming together to celebrate his birthday in style by descending on his home town for a variety of events.
A must for true Robbie fans, The RWFanFest weekend is to be held on February 7 - 9 in conjunction with Robbie Williams Fansites United and will raise money for The Donna Louise Children's Hospice, which has had Robbie as their patron for more than a decade.
The main event is the Big Birthday Bash which will take place in the Executive Suite at Robbie’s beloved Port Vale Football Club based in Burslem, Stoke on Trent, on Saturday, February 8. The event will feature the UK’s number one Robbie tribute, Mike Andrew, followed by a disco by 6Towns Radio
The evening will begin at 8pm and Mike will be donating his time and talent to the event so as much money as possible can be donated to the children’s hospice. As well as being able to dance the night away to their favourite Robbie song; those attending the event will also have the chance to get their hands on some amazing signed memorabilia of the star including signed items, and two tickets to Robbie Williams Swings Both ways tour live in Manchester in June. Tickets are priced at £15 per person.
At the Port Vale v Swindon match on Saturday, February 8 there will be a half time pitch performance from Mike Andrew and dancers from The Wilkes Academy of Performing Arts. A bucket collection will be held to raise money for the Donna Louise Children’s Hospice.
From Monday, February 3 to Friday, February 28 The Burslem School of Art will be hosting the unique exhibition entitled I’ve Been Expecting You – A Fan’s Tribute to Robbie Williams. The month long event will feature 70 original paintings by artist Gabriella Guardamagna, which were originally shown in Milan when Take the Crown tour was in town.
Then from Friday, February 8 to Tuesday, April 4 at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Hanely has an exhibition entitled Portrait of a Potteries Pop Star, which charts Robbie’s rise from his early days to pop stardom. The exhibition will also include some exclusive memorabilia from his Dad’s private collection.
The Venue, Burselm, will also have an exhibition from Friday, February 7 to Sunday, February 9, entitled Robbie Thru a Lens, with a unique gallery of photographs by award-winning photographer Martin Elliott and students from Staffordshire University, interweaving iconic images of Robbie’s concerts with those of local people offering their memories of Robbie growing up in Stoke.
Although the exhibitions have free entry, donations for the Donna Louise Children’s Hospice will be welcome on the door – so visitors are encouraged to please give generously!
A spokesman for Stoke on Trent City Council said: “Robbie is a global superstar and we are all very proud of what he has achieved.
“Throughout his successful music career, he has really helped to put Stoke-on-Trent on the map and continues to do so to this day. We’re expecting people from all over the world to descend on the city for the RWFanFest to celebrate his 40th birthday and a host of events are being organised to celebrate this special milestone in his life.”
Organised by 6Towns Radio, a guided bus tour around the places Robbie grew up in Burslem and Tunstall, will be held on Sunday, February 9, visiting the places which have played an important part in his life, including his schools and the Red Lion Pub. Departing from The Red Lion Pub, the tour will be held from 11am until 2pm.
On Saturday February 8 from 10am - 4pm there will be an artisan market and street party in Queen Street, Burslem, which will feature a children's art and baking competition, craft stalls, raffle and performances by local musicians and schools.
On Friday, February 7 The Red Lion Pub in Burslem will be holding Robbieoke and an 80s/90s disco, hosted by 6Towns Radio and DJ Phat Boy Tim from 8pm.
The same night The Roebuck Pub in Burslem will have Robbie tribute act Chris Campbell for entertainment.
The Leopard Hotel in Burslem will be paying tribute to the popstar with a special evening dedicated to Robbie over the FanFest weekend.
Manager of the Leopard Hotel, Sharon Crisp explains: “We will have a themed disco all themed around Take That and Robbie.
“Pete, Robbie’s dad, drinks in here often and I have met Robbie and Ayda, they came to a séance in the cellar at the Leopard few years ago as it’s supposed to be haunted and Robbie is really into the paranormal side of things. He really enjoyed it!
“Robbie means a lot to the local town and Stoke on Trent itself and he does a lot for charity, particularly raising money for the Donna Louise Children’s Hospice. We get people coming to visit where Robbie grew up from all over the world – Hong Kong, America and Australia- so local business’ really benefit from a connection with him too. He’s still seen very much as a local lad.”
For more information and tickets contact the fundraising team at Donna Louise Children’s Hospice on 01782-654444 or visit their website.
If you would like to send a birthday message to Robbie please click here.
Between now and the end of February, every birthday message left for Robbie on this page with a donation will be moved into the RWFanFest Birthday Book, and the completed book will then be given to Robbie as a memento of his special day.
February's issue of Staffordshire Life, which includes this feature, as well as an interview with Robbie's dad Pete Conway, Port Vale Football Club, Robbie Tribute act Mike Andrew and a Robbie superfan, will be available to buy from January 24.