Stage set for Stewart and his guests

Caroline Culot Raising money for charity is pretty tough in the current economic climate. So BBC’s Look East presenter Stewart White and a team of locally-based celebrities are gearing up for a special gala evening in Norwich on October 25 to really give something back to the people who donate for the Children in Need Appeal.

Caroline Culot

For the last 25 years, BBC Look East presenter Stewart White has taken part in televised events for Children In Need but this year will be only the second in which he feels he is actively helping to raise the money himself.

That is because, following the success of last year's gala event held at the Regent Theatre in Ipswich, he has agreed again to step into the Parkinson role as a chat show host for An Evening with Stewart White, being staged live at the Norwich Theatre Royal on Saturday October 25.

The evening, lasting around two and a half hours, will involve the presenter interviewing guests, who all live in the region, introducing their performances and even doing a little turn himself. Apparently his contribution involves a piece of set being made by the team's “resident carpenter” but Mr White played it down and said he wanted to keep it all a secret until the big night. But can he top last year's performance when he sang Tambourine Man? We'll have to wait until next week but one thing he has confirmed is - that he will not be singing again!

He said: “I am hoping the good people of Norfolk will turn up in their even larger numbers than last year. I have been doing Children In Need for the last 25 years and I think I've only missed one and I've usually relied on people bringing their money and us saying thank you very much.

“With this event, we are raising money for Children In Need ourselves and putting money into the kitty, no one gets paid anything; these people can earn a lot but they give up their time for nothing. That is important for us as an organisation, I feel.”

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Last year's event included author Louis de Bernieres and musician Steve Harley and this year the show boasts an even bigger line-up. The BBC is currently waiting to hear whether Twiggy and model Lily Cole can attend and did approach Stephen Fry and Delia Smith, who were both unable to take part. However, the evening will include a chat and performance by the razor-tongued comedy duo the Nimmo Twins, another duo in the form of the Operababes, veteran musician Rick Wakeman, guitarist Oli Brown and virtuoso percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie.

Shaun Peel, BBC producer, in charge of the Children In Need coverage, said if anything worried him slightly, it would be the content of the Nimmo Twins' routine and their interview with Stewart White, when he is going to ask Karl (Karl Minns, half of the Nimmo Twins duo) about being beaten up. Last December the performer was attacked walking home from the Norwich Playhouse, putting him in hospital with a broken arm and fractured skull, meaning the Nimmo Twins had to cancel the rest of their run.

Mr Peel said: “Karl will be interviewed about being beaten up and they will be doing a Mastermind sketch. Trouble was, I had to give guidance on how rude they could be, had to say 'think of it as going out live before the 9pm watershed'. We are recording it, but will not be stopping and starting as it is a show for the paying audience, so what you get, you get.

“Stephen Fry promised me faithfully he would like to help but is out of the country and Delia - it is on a match day and doesn't finish until 5pm so she is entertaining.”

Also performing on the night will be Rick Wakeman, who will be playing all sorts of things on the piano and improvising his Grumpy Old Picture Show routine, and Look East's very own weather girl Julie Reinger, who will be performing a song, although the title is being kept a secret.

Mr Peel said: “We also have a pianist who can play anything; people can ask, say, for Wonderwall by Oasis done in Spaghetti Western style. So it is an old- fashioned variety show with interviews and we will have the interviews on a big screen so people can see.”

Presenter Mr White said he was nervous about the event - but not with working with the Nimmo Twins. “I have appeared with the Nimmo Twins, when they did a show at the Playhouse. And when you think I go out in front of half a million every night but that moment when you walk out in front of a live crowd is a little more frightening. I was very nervous last year but once you start and you realise people are on your side, then it is great, when it goes ok there's no better feeling.

“There are no questions designed to trip people up, it's not that type of show. Last year when I interviewed the performer Ruthie Henshall, I wasn't going to bring up her family tragedy (her sister Noel died of a painkiller overdose) but she started talking about it herself.

“What I am looking forward to this year are the Operababes, who are fantastic, and Rick Wakeman because although he is famous, there are a lot of things he has done on the piano on records that people don't know about, and also the interview with Dame Evelyn Glennie, who is completely deaf. She lip-reads, and if you pronounce her name incorrectly she can tell. She feels notes, and apparently you can feel a note a lot longer than you can hear it.”

Rebecca Knights, one of the Operababes, who lives with her tour manager Noel Vine just outside Beccles, said she was looking forward to taking part in the event, as they did last year. “We haven't decided yet what we are going to perform, we will do three or four items, perhaps something from Carmen.

“It is hard when there is a credit crunch, people haven't the money in their pockets to dig deep for charity so we want to encourage people to come along to a really good fun and varied evening.”

However, both the Operababes are a little preoccupied at the moment - on their own little babes; Karen has got a six-month-old and Rebecca is six and a half months pregnant. “Karen has found it very difficult juggling, and I am six and a half months pregnant. We didn't plan it to happen so close together but it is a really nice surprise. We have blocked out some time for a few months when I can have the baby, due in January, and we will be back on tour next April and perhaps we may even do an album on nursery rhymes!”

The evening will be recorded, with some footage included in the Monday Look East bulletin on October 27, as well as some items used for radio and to go on the BBC local website. And if there are some “special moments” as Mr Peel calls them, clips may be used for the national Children in Need TV programme which goes out on November 14. The local coverage will be televised from an ice rink in Cambridge.

An Evening with Stewart White is at the Theatre Royal, Norwich on Saturday October 25 at 7.30pm. For tickets ring the box office on 01603 630000 or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

SOME OF THE ACTS

t The Nimmo Twins: Owen Evans and Karl Minns - well known to Norfolk audiences for their sharp wit and slightly naughty routines. The pair first came to national attention after their show Posh Spice Nude was a sell-out success at the 1997 Edinburgh Festival. Appearances on BBC One's Stand Up Show followed and they became regulars on Radio 4's Loose Ends programme with Ned Sherrin.

t Operababes: This classical duo Rebecca Knight and Karen England were spotted busking in Convent Garden to pay for singing lessons by a talent scout who invited them to perform at the FA Cup Final which was televised to 500 million people. A record deal followed and they released their debut album, Beyond the Imagination, which went to number one in the UK classical charts and stayed there for 11 weeks. They have just released a second album, Renaissance.

t Rick Wakeman: An English keyboard player best known as the keyboardist for progressive rock group Yes. Originally a classically-trained pianist, he was a pioneer in the use of electronic keyboards and purchased his first electronic keyboard, a Minimoog, from the actor Jack Wild. Wakeman was able to buy it for half the regular selling price because Wild thought it did not work as it only played one note at a time. Last October Rick commenced a new tour, 'Rick Wakeman's Grumpy Old Picture Show', where Rick accompanies video performers such as the English Rock Ensemble.

t Oli Brown: He has played the guitar since the age of 12. His first main influence in guitar work was Jimi Hendrix. Blues initially was a genre of music for him to solo over. In 2005, when invited to the States to guest with American Blues band Blinddog Smokin', he learned about stage performance, soloing and some of the history and meaning of the Blues, which has all helped develop Oli's writing, singing and playing to produce a consummate performer.

t Dame Evelyn Glennie: The first full-time solo professional percussionist in 20th century western society. She was brought up on a farm in Aberdeenshire near where she was born. Her father was Herbert Arthur Glennie, an accordionist in a Scottish country dance band, and the strong, indigenous musical traditions of north-east Scotland were important in the development of the young musician, whose first instruments were the mouth organ and the clarinet. She has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12. This does not inhibit her ability to perform at the international level. She regularly plays barefoot for both live performances and studio recordings, to better “feel” the music.