I had been looking forward to this for a long time, a posh awards ceremony hosted by Stephen Fry at the British Film Institute on Southbank, don’t mind if I do !!
Suitably attired in the old faithful £29 Asda suit (fast becoming legendary) I got to the venue in good time to see a red carpet surrounded by paperazzi snapping people going in, I made my way in and felt a bit weird, I couldn’t help but think back to the very beginning of this blog and where I was back then, I had to take a few deep breaths that’s for sure.
The place was packed, women in their best dresses, blokes in suits, waiters milling around with trays full of big glasses of wine and bottled beer, obviously I had to get a beer, well I mean it would be rude not to accept the hospitality right ?. I soon bumped into some friendly faces from Time To Change and felt really comfortable at that point, in fact I was like a bloody meerkat, my head was turning left, right, left, as famous faces were everywhere it was so surreal. I was introduced to Derek Martin who played Charlie Slater in Eastenders, he was keen to talk about my experience with helping out on the Ian Beale breakdown story, Derek has been a long time supporter of MIND as his son has problems with mental health issues and he is really keen on educating people about the illness. While I was talking to him Gok Wan walks past, followed by Frankie from “The Saturdays” and Denise Welch then Bill Oddie, Amanda Lamb and loads of other people I recognised. A couple of beers later and it was time to take our seats in the auditorium for the ceremony, I had a great seat, a few rows back from the stage, right in the middle and was sat right next to Sue Baker who is the Director of Time to Change !
Stephen Fry appeared on stage to a massive round of applause and the awards ceremony started, so many stories of courage and brilliance from people who had been through so much and the TV and radio programmes in which their stories were told, it was quite emotional at times yet so inspiring. Then it came to the Soaps category in which the Eastenders story was up against the Zak Dingle story from Emmerdale and a welsh soap called Pobol y Cwm. The chap that helped out with the Emmerdale story was Lol Butterfield, I had met him a few times at various Time to Change events and we had become good mates, always sharing a beer and a laugh as we shared our experiences. Emmerdale was announced the winner and I was genuinely delighted for Lol as he made his way onto the stage with the Actors that play Zak Dingle, Marlon Dingle and Megan Macey, I always thought that Emmerdale would win as it was a brilliant story and had been a much longer portrayal as “Zak, never left the soap and viewers saw him go right through his illness. Like I said I was absolutely thrilled for Lol and we shared a good few beers after the ceremony to celebrate.
As the ceremony wound down, Paul Farmer MIND’s Chief Executive made a closing speech and I was chuffed that he mentioned myself and Lol by name and publicly praised the work we had done, that was really nice and appreciated. That was the ceremony over and everyone filed out of the theatre and into the reception lounge where more beers and a superb selection of canapes were served, it was at this point that as I was walking towards the bar I got a tap on the shoulder and turned round to see Adam Woodyatt standing there !. He had been looking for me. He thanked me and after a warm handshake we had a good chat about the story, and had a good laugh as we asked each other questions about it, next thing we know we are getting swept away to have photo’s done ..
With Sue Baker (director of Time to Change.
Have to say that Adam was really nice, he was genuinely interested in my story and was so down to earth. He attended with his wife Beverley who is equally nice and really beautiful. A while later he left and told me that he wanted to keep in touch, we swapped email addresses and twitter names and I was thrilled to find out he had mentioned me on his twitter feed and is following me as well … I have to use that word again “surreal” ..
I had a fantastic night, the lovely Jenni from Time to Change is so lovely, she has looked after me since my first contact with the charity and we have built a great rapport and a friendship which is great, she never stopped all night, rushing here,there and everywhere but still had time for everyone and when the evening was winding down we had a chance for a quick hug and a chat (Jenni hugs are the greatest lol)
I had a good chat with Mark Charnock who plays Marlon Dingle in Emmerdale, started about mental health but soon went on to football and other things, again really down to earth and a really nice bloke. A load of my mates reckon I look like Paddy and even Mark said he thought I did …sighhhhh, that will explain the fact that we were both laughing when we got a photo taken.
All too soon it was time to leave and make my way home, I had the best time ever and couldn’t stop smiling all the way back to Colchester. I am so lucky that I have had the opportunity to help raise awareness and challenge the stigma surrounding mental health issues and I will always be passionate about the cause and hope to be involved going forward.
So many people to thank for a brilliant experience but I know if I start naming names I will miss someone out so I will just say a massive THANK YOU to everyone who has played a part in making the whole experience so incredible and unforgettable.