Maggie’s at the Arena and a Question of Sport

What a week it’s been. It started with an awesome show for Maggie’s at the Swansea Arena last Sunday.

I have been to the Swansea Arena a number of times over the past few years. In fact back in March 2022 I hosted an event to celebrate the Arena opening its doors.

At the time I was asked by Dean Thomas from ITV Wales News would I love to perform there one day.  It is quite an overwhelming experience to stand on the stage at the Swansea Arena and look out at all of those plush red seats.  It’s a big venue but also strangely the audience feel very close, and with a seated capacity of over 2000 it is still surprisingly intimate.

At the time I was just coming to the end of a tour that had been planned before Covid.  A tour that had been cancelled, rescheduled and cancelled once again before finally limping to a conclusion that summer.  I told Dean that I wasn’t sure if I had sold out the lovely Gwyn Hall so maybe it would take some time to perform at a sold out Swansea Arena, but a boy can dream.  Last Sunday that dream came true.

I’d love to take the credit for all of the tickets sold but with such an amazing line up of home grown, world class talent it was always going to be hot ticket in the region.

I arrived at around 2pm for an early soundcheck.  I was greeted by show director Ian Parsons, Krista and the team, and then shown to my very plush dressing room.  In the past at various theatres I have had a printed A4 sheet blue tacked to my dressing room door. In the Arena I had my own small LED screen with a personal welcome.

On stage the first thing I noticed was the massive LED screen. These days when you make a record you also have to make a video.  This was quite a godsend for my performance. 

One of my songs was a record we released last Christmas for the ‘Everyone Deserves a Christmas’ Hamper charity.  The song featured a duet with Bronwen Lewis.  Unfortunately Bronwen wasn’t available as it was her Grandmother’s birthday celebration weekend, but I checked with Bronwen, the Valley Rock Voices Choir and Fiddlesticks String Orchestra if they would mind if I used the video, and all were more than happy to support Maggies.

I also had a duet lined up to perform with another of the Concert’s Steve Balsamo.  The video we filmed 2 years ago featured a cast of thousands including the Salvation Army Band and a kids choir which we assembled at the Murton Farm Shop. On the day of filming Steve had a high temperature and Covid symptoms. What to do?  In the end Steve filmed himself singing against a blank wall in his house and I managed to superimpose his performance onto the final video.

My final song was the new ‘Everyone Deserves a Christmas’ song.  I managed to teach the whole audience the very simple chorus and get them swaying before we played the video and I left the stage.

Although Maggies is a cancer Charity and has a very serious role to play in our city there were plenty of smiles and laughter on the night.  Kev Johns hosted as only Kev can with the added poignancy of himself being a cancer survivor.   We had West End magic from Steve Balsamo and Ria Jones, the wonderful operatic voice of Ros Evans, Christmas magic from actor Adrian Metcalfe, virtuoso piano from Rob Marshall and choral excellence from Dunvant Male Voice Choir and Cor Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr.

The night ended with the whole company coming together to sing ‘White Christmas’.  As I had my phone with me I thought it might be good to film it all starring the cast and audience.  As I watch it back it does remind me of what a special night we had…. oh, and did I mention we raised some money. Well quite a lot of money actually £41,000!!!

I will be back at the Arena for the climax of my Golden Jubilee year on 3rd October with my band the Jacks and some very special guests and although it’s a long way away I really can’t wait.

Tuesday was another very special day.  ‘Together at Christmas’ is an amazing event which has been running for a number of years at The Brangwyn Hall.  JR Events who run the Hall together with Swansea Council open the Brangwyn doors to everyone who might be homeless, isolated or in need. 

As well as getting a free 2 course slap up Christmas dinner there were lots of different services represented who might be able to offer help or advice.  There were racks of free winter clothing, care packages of toiletries and goodies and also a team from the NHS who were giving Covid and Flu vaccine injections. 

I’d been asked to pop in and do a few Christmas Carols and songs and as I really had sung for my supper I didn’t feel bad about tucking into my first plate of turkey and stuffing.

Wednesday evening meant a trip to the Swansea dot Com stadium for the annual Swansea City  ‘Question of Sport’.  The teams were captained by Swansea legends Lee Trundle and Leon Britton.  Joining them were current team members Ben Cabango, Harry Darling, Jamie Paterson and Liam Walsh.  Making up the teams were old boys Vic Gomersall and David Giles.

Now as I kept saying to both teams…it’s only a game.  I suppose I just underestimated the competitive spirit of professional athletes.  I won’t say there was any cheating but there was plenty of gamesmanship…and boy that Lee Trundle is quick. 

One of the rounds involved me describing a sporting personality. Answer from the first clue 3 points, the second 2 points etc.  Each team had to press the buzzer before they could answer.

Having read out the rules I announced the round, ‘Who Am I?’.  Quick as a flash Lee Trundle shouted out ‘Mal Pope’.  Confident of 3 points Lee smiled at me.  It was only when I reminded him that he should have pressed his buzzer and that sadly I wasn’t able to accept his answer. I then offered the question to Leon Britton’s team…Lee wasn’t happy!!! Although he left the stadium smiling as he won the overall competition by about 6 points.

Guesting with Mike Ruddock and Take This!!!

Last night ended with a guest appearance at a gig in Mumbles raising money for the RNLI.   It feels like a lifetime ago that Mike Ruddock joined me for a night of song at the House of Commons (It was actually only week last Monday!) Mike and his band ‘Take This’ certainly rocked.  Once again this town raised a whole lot of money for another good cause and my ears are still ringing.

Later today I’ll be singing a few songs from 11 am at Verdi’s.  Once again we’ll be shaking the buckets for ‘Everyone Deserves a Christmas’ and then later this evening its back to the Stadium for Ospreys v Benetton. 

If I’m lucky I might meet myself coming back sometime on Sunday!!!

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