Shopping With The Stars 2009


Dress Circle, 16 May 2009


review/account by Emma Shane

© May 2009


Last year’s shopping with the stars event had been such tremendously good fun, I did wonder if today’s event could possibly live up to that. I very much doubted if it could.


Although Dress Circle’s website, informing us the event would start at half past ten (though the shop would be open from ten o clock), had urged us not to be late, I as it happened arrived at half past ten. When I got there a number of Theatrical Guild staff were already there, and Chairwoman Liz Robertson had just arrived. Roy Tan the event’s official photographer was already there, as were Ian Brown and others from, who were acting as press agents for the event, with their video camera. This time Chris has Jessica his regular Saturday Girl helping him (so fortunately he wouldn’t be needing any assistance help or hindrance from the stars). At around twenty to eleven one of the Guild’s people informed Liz that Tony Sheldon was already downstairs, so she headed downstairs to find him.  Liz did not spend long downstairs, and by eleven o’clock she was back up in the shop, posing for a photograph with a young school-girl customer.

A little later, Liz was standing by the counter, somehow the conversation had come round to her having to go later, because of being in Hairspray. She mentions, to whoever brought that up that she’s playing Velma Von Tussle. another customer said “Yes you’re playing quite a nasty character aren’t you.“Yes, and I’m loving it” replied Liz, who explains she likes playing villains.

At quarter past eleven Liz popped out, telling Dress Circle’s Michael that she’ll “be right back”. While she is gone, at around twenty-five to twelve, Dave Willets turn up. and takes up a position behind the counter, the position so many stars had occupied last year, but only for a short while, as by quarter to twelve Philip Quast had arrived and taken the counter position. Alexander Evans (from Sunset Boulevard) was also around mingling in a friendly manner with the customers.  This year The Guild has a quantity of yellow plastic collecting tins, and each Star coming in is given one of these to carry, and rattle. This is a very good idea and a big improvement on last year, because it means that all the ‘Stars’ are readily identifiable as ‘Stars’ (even if one doesn’t always know exactly who they are), and also they all have something specific to do. There are some stars (such as Philip Quast, and, Louise Gold, who would make themselves useful at an event like this, no matter what, but there are others, such as Ian Talbot who really benefit from being given something specific to do such as this). In fact DC’s Michael was actually heard to comment on how helpful Philip Quast was at last year’s event, he is so right. And it’s very good to have Philip back.

At about a quarter to twelve Liz Robertson returns, along with a guest, with whom she promptly poses for photographs, Roy Tan is of course on duty with his camera to fulfil this job. By now quite a few other stars have turned up, including Paula Wilcox and Ian Talbot. Paula, it has to be said falls into the swing of her role as a star very easily and quickly. She is very pleasant and friendly chatting to the customers, but also firm; explaining to them that if any customer wants to take a photograph or, or an autograph from a particular star, then they must put money in the collecting tin carried by that star, and it doesn’t count if they put money in a collecting tin carried by another star. That may sound harsh, but in fact it does not in the least, because she comes across as such a nice person, and is so polite and nice in her explanation. Just before noon Ian Talbot is interviewed by the TotallyTheatre press, who are evidently keen to conduct as many appropriate interviews as they can. Ian is asked what he is doing, and promptly replies he is looking for recordings of 1940s musicals. He goes on to explain that when he was running Regents Park Open Air Theatre, he always liked putting on musicals of that era.  By now Sam Kelly has also arrived. Liz asks Sam if he will explain about the silent auction. Meanwhile, Philip Quast is still in position behind the counter, but there aren’t very many of his fans around. Although, I find that Angela Pollard (Angie) is there with her camera, taking photographs for Philip’s Official site ‘Philip Quast Continuum’. A short while later, Philip for once left his post, to get into a huddle of a conversation along with Liz Robertson, Ian Talbot, and, Paula Wilcox in front of the New and Best Seller CDs.

At about ten past twelve Philip Quast does a press interview, in which he carefully takes time to explain about the event, and also about the work of The Theatrical Guild. I don’t know how many of the Stars taking part actually bothered to explain that sort of thing during their interviews, but Philip is thoughtful and conscientious like that. A really useful person to have helping at an event like this. Meanwhile, one of the Theatrical Guild staff, possibly Karen Nichols, asks Sam Kelly to try and get the auction going.  Clive Carter turns up. Liz introduces him to DC’s Michael, and also to Philip Quast. Meanwhile it is Sam Kelly’s turn to do a press interview, and he explains to the press all about the Silent Auction.

Clive Carter is busy chatting to his various fans. He’s a talented actor, who has been around a long time, and worked his way up through the business. He is currently in Pricilla Queen of The Desert. He is asked some question about his role, to which he said “Unfortunately not. But I do get the kangaroo at the end, so can’t complain.”  The two fans he was talking to (actually they may have been from the TotallyTheatre entourage- if not they were very longstanding loyal supporters of the event) want his autograph, he tells them they will have to put £2 in his collecting tin. However, Philip Quast (knowing these two to be among the day’s very loyal supporters) tells him that the two people in question “have already put a lot in”, and therefore they don’t have to this once. Philip is very useful like that, seeing what needs to be done or said and getting on with the job. Some stars taking part in this event are just ‘stars’ out to promote themselves, but Philip isn’t like that, he knows how to make himself useful to the event as a whole.

More stars are turning up now. Michael Elwyn and Alison Steadman arrive together, with Michael Elwyn basically explaining that he’s only there because Alison Steadman is. He’s actually a reasonably known actor in his own right, as far as this event goes. Then at half past twelve it is Alison Steadman and Clive Carter’s turns to do the press interview. Alison is very well prepared for rattling her collecting tin, she has a little stock of post-card sized photographs of herself in hand, and will happily give them to anyone who makes a donation in her tin, and she’s happy to sign them. Lynda Bellingham is here too, and like Alison was similarly well organised with pictures of herself, although I didn’t recognise who she was. Sian Phillips is also around, though she doesn’t really seem to quite find her niche. Perhaps she could have contributed some post-card photographs too. I’m told another Dc regular spotted Brigid Forsyth here too.

At twenty-five to one Jodie Prenger, one of today’s really big stars turns up. Liz immediately grabs her, before she can be mobbed, and takes her straight towards the back of the shop to do a press interview, but just at that moment, Sam and The Guild staff decide to start the auction. So Liz (whose can produce some volume when she has to) has to help getting all the crowd to be quiet, so that Sam can make a speech about the auction. And after he’s done it Jodie can so her press interview.

Then at about twenty to one, a surprise guest puts in an appearance. A mega soap turned pop star from the late 1980s. When this gentleman was at the height of his fame in the 1980s it was a huge scoop when he was on the cover of The Radio Times because he was starring in the Children’s Royal Variety), yet now he is much less of a big name. But he is still a star, Jason Donovan. He proves to fit in to the event surprisingly well, cheerfully rattling a collecting tin and chatting to various fans. He’s quite a draw, to say the least.

Things are becoming quite crowded, so much so that Roy Tan climbs onto a stall behind the shop counter, so that he can get a better shot with his camera. At least until Chris returns to post and asks him to move. However it is becoming increasingly difficult to move anywhere in the shop.

Shortly after quarter to one, Alison Steadman leaves. Meanwhile Clive Carter, who is busy rattling his collecting tin, spots a couple of fans who had been waiting for him at the stage door the night before. He exclaims to them “You crafty wotsits!”. He evidently feels, that perhaps they should have told him they would be coming today, and got their autographs from him today (donating money to the Theatrical Guild) and not at the stage door the night before. However he is very good humoured about them, and you know he will forgive them, but perhaps he does have a point.

At about five to twelve Patricia Hodge turns up. Jason Donovan leaves at this point, then suddenly a portion of the crowd inside the shop decide to head outside and gather in the street, fortunately it is not raining. Michael Ball has just arrived. Mindful of the crowd, especially when one of these most popular of musical theatre stars is there, Liz swings quickly into action, cutting through the crowd and practically dragging Michael Ball through the side entrance. Gradually the crowd drift back into the shop and assemble themselves in an orderly line snaking around, to queue up for their moment with Michael Ball. Quite a number of the customers have brought in a variety of programmes from various shows, which they happen to want to get signed. Like Paula Wilcox, Michael Ball is very strict (in a friendly way) about making sure people put £1 into his collecting tin per item they want him to sign. When a customer asked him to sign two programmes, he immediately made sure they put £2 in his tin before he would agree to do so. He was very nice, but firm about it. In the middle of all this chaos, at One o’clock sharp, Louise Gold turns up! Liz by now is back out the front, and quickly gets a hug from Louise. Louise is dressed very summery and casual. She is wearing a dark purple short sleeved t-shirt, plus a dark purple cardigan, grey three quarter length slacks, and black flip flops, with a black rucksack slung on her broad shoulders. Her lovely red hair is cut relatively short, but is nevertheless quite bushy and tousled, though not as long and wild as it can be, still fairly distinctive, and with enough of her fringe for her to have to keep pushing it out of her eyes. Louise had a lot of attention from two or three other fans. There was a Muppet fan gentleman who had missed her last year (so it’s good he should get some time with her), and there was puppeteer James Arnott, who said he had recently bought a copy of the book Of Muppets And Men on Ebay, which he wanted to get signed by one of that programme’s star puppeteers! Well it’s a perfect opportunity. The Muppeteer was very gracious and friendly to them, I’m sure he put some money in her collecting tin, like all the stars, Louise has a yellow collecting tin slung over an arm. On her right wrist she is wearing a really smart looking Jim Henson Company watch, with Kermit The Frog on the face. At the time I thought nothing of it, but later (on reading that today it the nineteenth anniversary of Jim Henson’s death) I couldn’t help thinking that rather appropriate, on today of all days. Louise spends the time chatting with three or four customers mainly about the three legendary television programmes she has puppeteered on (The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, and, Spitting Image). Just before quarter past one, Louise (after all is also a West End actress) declared “I have to go and do my matinee”, returned her tin to the counter, and exited the shop, although she remained outside talking to Liz for a couple of minutes before actually leaving. Around this time Michael Ball had to leave too, Jodie Prenger seems to have already left.  At twenty past one Liz had to head off as well (she’s in Hairspray). Liz seemed a bit distracted taking her leave and thanking everyone, including the customers. I’m not so sure one or two rather puzzled customers didn’t get patted on the back by mistake from Liz.

At twenty five past one, Elaine C Smith a jolly middle-aged Scottish actress turns up. She is quite friendly, and it helps to keep the atmosphere going, for the short while she is there But by now, with everyone heading off to matinees things are dying down. I noticed that although Philip Quast has been gone a while, some of his fans (in particular Kat) are still around. meanwhile ther stars who had been around, but who I didn’t actually spot included: Emma Stephens, Ray Quinn, Nigel Planer, Leanne Jones, Charlotte Wakefield, Peter Benson, John McFadden, and, Kelly Price.

By ten to two we are getting into dead time. There are no stars, just the Theatre Guild staff, the press reporters from TotallyTheatre, the official photographer Roy Tan, plus quite a few customers. So it’s not as dead as this time last year, there is still quite a good atmosphere. However the yellow collecting tins (which the Theatre Guild staff have emptied) stand on the counter awaiting more stars. DC’s Melanie departs, and many of the Guild staff depart for a break. The shop is still attracting a fair few customers, some of whom are a little puzzled by the unusual atmosphere. Is it an after the ball is over atmosphere, or one of waiting for something to happen?

At around five past two something does happen. Another star enters. It’s Gay Soper, who apparently should have been here earlier, but got delayed by a long telephone call. In a flash Roy Tan has grabbed his camera and drags Gay over to a convenient corner to pose for a photograph. DC’s Chris and Michael, the TotallyTheatre press, and Roy Tan, explain to Gay that things have gone quiet because of everyone being at matinees. They need someone to liven the atmosphere up. Gay understands “so you have to make do with me” she says. Some of the TotallyTheatre guys suggest she could sing for them, and a customer sugguests“Or do a flump”. Gay seemed mildly amused, though she did neither. instead she asks after Issy Van Randwyck. The shop’s staff informed Gay that the Baroness had not been in today (well they didn’t actually give Issy her title). Gay takes her turn with a collecting tin.

At about twenty past two some of The Guild’s staff, such as Karen return. And at around half past two Rex Bunnet wanders in. At around twenty past two, I notice Gay was pondering the silent auction, there weren’t many customers around and one could tell the atmosphere was slipping. With so few customers around DC’s Chris pops outside for a smoke, and then has to hastily put his cigarette down to come in and attend to a solitary customer, before returning outside to resume his fag.

At about ten to three Gay takes her leave, but promised to try and return later if she can manage it. Just then some more of the Guild’s Staff return, and Chris busies himself putting more stock out. At three o’clock Roy Tan returns with his lunch (a Chinese takeaway), which he thoughtfully takes down to the staff area in the basement to eat (where it won’t get in anyone’s way). The DC staff helpfully tell Roy that no stars have been in since Gay arrived.

Things are pretty quiet. It’s still evident something had taken place today, but would things pick up? around five to four, Michael Dartum wandering in by chance, is surprised to stumble upon the Theatrical Guild, which he wasn’t aware of before. Chris does the initially explanations, and mentions that Ray Quinn was in earlier.  Michael Dartum soon proves to be very interested in supporting The Theatrical Guild. Then just as he was leaving, the most exciting event of the past hour,  he got hit by an empty cardboard box (that had once held Dress Circle’s plastic shopping bags), how on earth did that end up in the street outside the shop door?)..

The next hour passes very slowly. It’s gone so quiet now even the atmosphere has gone. Is it going to be worth staying? Chris takes another fag break, leaving Jessica by the counter. There are few customers. Sian Phillips, drops in looking for her scarf, but does not appear to have left it here  At about ten past five Patricia Hodge pops back in. But things are so quiet, with too few customers, that lacking the power or inclination to raise the atmosphere she departs within ten minutes. Is it even worth staying to the bitter end? It is said that the darkest hour is just before dawn. And that proved to be the case today. Just before five thirty we got the first rays of the day’s Grand finale, as Julius D’Silva dropped in to deliver a message, to The Guild’s Staff, the message being that Louise Gold would be coming back later. He just delivered his message and promptly left. A few minutes later as at just after five thirty Louise Gold herself turned up, wandering straight into the shop while in the middle of eating a chow main takeaway! Of all the daft things to wander into a shop doing. Only Louise would do that! She is just such a muppet. It is potentially messy, and even if it wasn’t, it did rather reek the place out with the smell of it. The Dress Circle staff (Chris and Michael) hastily sent her outside, along with DC’s Michael to keep her company. However within ten minutes Louise had finished her meal, and coming back inside took up a position behind the counter, the position that at last year’s event had always been occupied by a Star. Louise is dressed as before, though minus her cardigan.  Louise has seen enough of the atmosphere in the shop to know exactly what is needed. And gets straight into action, putting her powerful pipes to splendid use. Urging people to buy things “This IS a shop” she barks. She especially promotes the Oliver! CD. Julian Bleach pokes his head round the door, “Here’s Julian Bleach, one of the Stars of Oliver!” yells Louise trying to introduce her own co-star in the show and on the album, she attempts to drag him in be join her behind out the counter. But instead he runs straight off. “I think I frightened him away” says a crestfallen Louise. Perhaps he just doesn’t really understand Louise as yet, despite having played opposite her for nearly half a year. Though after such a time he really should understand her by now.

Chris decides to step out, possibly for another fag-break. And here’s a surprising bit. He asks Louise to mind the till! “But I don’t know what I’m doing” says Louise, recovering her good humour, and adding “I can sing songs from Oliver, but I don’t know how to work the till”. So Chris then gets DC’s Jessica to stand close to Louise, to keep an eye on her, just to make sure she doesn’t do anything too crazy, while he’s away. In fact Louise simply entertains all the potential customers with a loud joking tirade, about how if they want to buy something now’s a good chance, especially as she hasn’t got a clue what she’s doing, and is therefore easy to fool. Of course all the customers are actually much to entranced by her commentary to actually buy anything. I’m sure Chris knew that when he let Louise mind the till. But even so, it says something for the level of trust Chris and Michael have in Louise, she’s the only star they did that with. At this stage Roy Tan was still around documenting the event officially, and he took some pictures. Louise didn’t seem to realise he was there officially, and asked him if he’d paid (i.e. put money in the collecting tins). But as soon as he explained he was the event’s official photographer she relaxed and was perfectly friendly, of course. Louise (like a few other stars such as Paula Wilcox and Michael Ball) was just being professional in making sure photographs were taken in accordance with the events of the day. Chris soon returned, and the jovial Louise yelled at the customers “Well you’ve missed your chance to get ripped off, now the professionals are back, they can rip you off.” Louise is delightfully funny, and really the life and soul of the party. The only thing is this last hour was so jam packed, I am pretty sure that an amount of what I am about to write is not necessarily in the order in which it actually occurred.

Louise Gold gets plenty of attention. She might not be a big star (in the way that Michael Ball or Jodie Prenger are), But she has a good handful of fans around The Muppet fan who had missed her last year, but seen her earlier today is back, and so are two or three others. The former asks Louise “What did you like best about working on The Muppet Show”. Louise deals with him very gently, though also firm, and yet honest all at once. She thinks for a little while, and then goes into a speech about how wonderful it was to work with Jim Henson. It could almost be a cliché, I’ve definitely read or heard (on TV) of other Muppeteers using almost the exact same words. Saying what joy and integrity Jim put into his work, how he encouraged them all to work hard, but in the end worked himself hardest of all. And how as Muppeteers none of them could complain if they were tired, because Jim tired himself out the most. It didn’t sound clichéd, because it was actually genuine and touching. Did today’s date have something to do with it?

A customer actually comes to the counter to buy something. Prompting Louise to exclaim, loudly. that this is an amazing occurrence “Someone is ACTUALLY buying something.” Well she’s got a point there hasn’t been much buying activity lately.

At just gone ten to six, Alexander Hanson, drops in, along with Hannah Waddingham, Kaisa Hammarlund, and Jessie Buckley. Louise greets them all loudly “Here are four stars from A Little Night Music”. Then suddenly, as if brought down to earth, recollecting the earlier incident with her Oliver! co-star. She asks them gently “Do you mind if I shout? You won’t run away if I do?” Hannah and the others looked a little bemused. Louise hastily explained that she shouted at Julian Bleach, and he ran off. Fortunately the A Little Night Music crowd are nothing like that. Louise, Hannah and Alex are soon in a jolly little cluster around the end of the counter, with Louise recounting that when she arrived a short while earlier she had walked into the shop eating her takeaway. It’s so good see Louise laughing at her own slightly inappropriate behaviour. That’s one of the great things about Louise, she can laugh at herself. Meanwhile Kaisa mingles easily with the customers, chatting happily. She’s a jolly actress, who tells everyone how much she enjoys her role of Petra in A Little Night Music “A flirtatious minx”, she calls the character.

At another point Chris hands Louise some scissors, I’m not quite sure what this was all about, other than it resulting in Louise exclaiming loudly, “This is very strange, I’ve just been asked to murder someone....” The laughter that erupts from this, including comments about “Publicity” and Chicago results in Louise singing a quick little burst of Kander and Ebb’s The Cell Block Tango, while fiddling with the scissors.

While all this is going on Louise Gold does her utmost to keep the atmosphere going, maintaining the high energy level, and trying to persuade the customers, to continuing buying, she periodically shouts out “Keep buying. It is a shop”. Given that this late in the day people are beginning to flag, she’s is performing a really useful job, and hopefully bringing a bit more money in for the Theatrical Guild. She is also heavily plugging the new CD of Oliver!  Is she over plugging it, after all with Jodie Prenger and Rowan Atkinson starring on it it should be selling pretty well. However, since the songwriter’s Shvoger’s Plemenitza allegedly described this album as “The Best recording of Lionel Bart’s greatest musical”, perhaps it deserves the plug.

.Another of the customers turns up with the programme from Assassins, which he wants Louise to sign. What a lot of trips down memory lane she’s getting. One of the customers (possibly the one with the Assassins programme), approaches her, on the subject of Oliver! jokingly says to Louise that he thinks she should’ve gone for Nancy (never mind her age), he says that Oom Pah Pah would suit her so well. On hearing this, another fan points out that Louise is actually in the ensemble during that number. Louise picks up on this and admits to trying  to upstage Nancy in that number.

In between all these conversations Louise (is having with her fans) she is still busily exhorting people to buy things, and particularly plugging the Oliver! CD, She also gives the show quite a plug, saying how wonderful it is, and how they must go and see it “But it’s sold out, so you can’t” she adds coyly. At another moment, while plugging the CD, she takes the sleeve notes out of one and says “Oh yes, Oliver! now who’s on it.” and then in mock surprise Louise exclaims “I am”. 

Perhaps partly as a result of some of Louise’s antics, or perhaps not. Some customers do buy the CD of Oliver!. Louise says to Chris “Will you ask them if they want me to sign it. Because I’m too shy to ask.” This is kind of funny, because this vivacious meshugge actress is clearly nothing of the sort. Louise, in mock-drama-queen mode adds that she’ll be offended or upset if they don’t want her to sign. Louise shouts out this last bit. The customers are clearly a bit puzzled by her, they just can’t make head or tale of her. There is something in Louise’s madcap behaviour that is akin to The Muppets on The Muppet Show. She’s very gentle, friendly, and, loveable, even if she can across as a rather weird madcap.

At about ten past six, Chris had a Jersey boys CD playing, Louise’s artistic nature seemed inspired, for she started moving very rhythmically to the music, came out from behind the counter, and wandered over to the DVD racks, improvising a little dance routine, mostly with her upper body. She is after all an Arts Ed trained dancer, and it’s lovely to watch the way she moves so gracefully really connecting with the music, she is such a genuinely artistic person, in various ways.

The A Little Night Music crowd have to go, they’ve got to get down to the Embankment to do their evening show. Things could have got dull with the departure of the A Little Night Music quartet. However, with Louise Gold still around, no fear of that happening. I can see now why all those years ago when he wrote the book Of Muppets And Men Christopher Finch described Louise as “A volatile redhead with the off-stage manner of a latter-day Tallulah Bankhead, only somewhat less restrained”. – It’s still a very accurate description.  Louise is still very much the life and soul of the place, exhorting the customers to buy “It is a shop”, and of course plugging the Oliver! CD. At one point a customer made some enquiry which Chris answered, and then said, with joking sarcasm “Louise will give you the quiet version”. This is actually funny when referring to a performer who is anything but quiet. At another point Chris was showing her some album costing £20.99. Louise almost faltered for a moment, “Twenty ninety-nine” she said in a surprised tone, as if to suggest she thought it a bit expensive. And then remembering her role at today’s event, a complete turn around, exclaimed loudly “Only twenty ninety nine”. One of the customers, someone who perhaps had not been in the shop for long, but who nevertheless probably did recognise Louise (from some of her many stage appearances) asks her “And what are you in?”  To which she exclaims “I’m in Oliver! did I not shout it out?” I couldn’t help laughing. After all Louise had just spent the best part of the last three quarters of an hour literally shouting it out.

Somewhere in the course of the conversation, Louise remarked, to DC’s Chris and Michael, that she supposed they did have some of her other recordings besides Oliver!. So between them (Chris, Michael, and Louise, along with and anyone else who happened to be able to follow this discussion) try to list them: Nunsense, Anything Goes, Merrily We Roll Along. and “Muppet Christmas Carol DVD, does that count?”

That gloriously wonderful last hour was so jam packed, it went really quickly, and it’s impossible to be sure of the order in which many things were said or happened, and yet so much was said, so many laughs, and hopefully much money, was raised. It was just the high spot of the day (well in my humble opinion). Louise Gold really knows how to create an atmosphere, and she did it brilliantly. All too soon the six thirty, closing time came round. Chris was keen to pack up. “I’m going to have to throw you all out” he said, “I’m going to see a film.”. Chris shut the gates to stop any new customers coming in.  Most of the customers, made to leave. Chris started cashing up. Just then, as the Guild’s Staff were starting to pack up, a customer, (one of Louise’s fans) suddenly decides that they have to buy a poster frame.   Chris was a little bit annoyed, at having to deal with a cash transaction right when he was trying to cash up. Trying to hurry everyone Chris said “ I’ve got to get to see my film.”  Quick witted Louise, retorted to him sweetly (and cuttingly – in a manner that seemed to suggest superiority) “Well I’ve got a show to do” .. Chris finally succeeded in throwing the last of the Stars, Louise, and the last of the customers (one of that star’s fans) out of his shop, while The Guild’s staff finished packing their things up. By now it was actually 6:34. What an amazing day!


Overall there was one big improvement on last year, namely the business of giving each of the stars a yellow collecting tin to rattle. For stars such as Ian Talbot among others, it meant they had something definable that they were actually supposed to be doing. It also made it easier to know identify the stars were, even if one didn’t always know exactly who some of them were. Some of the Stars, such Alison Steadman and Lynda Bellingham, were very thoughtful and well organised in contributing a bunch of signed post-card sized photographs of themselves, which they would happily give to the customers in  exchange for donations in their collecting tins, they would personalise the pictures too if the customers wanted. For some stars this was the most useful and appropriate thing they could contribute to the event. It would not necessarily have been right for all of them, every star who took part has their own thing they are best suited to doing to help the event, and for some of them that was a good and worthwhile way of contributing. Other stars contributed in other ways. Sam Kelly was excellent for helping to explain stuff to the press, while Philip Quast made himself tremendously useful whether giving press interviews, keeping the other stars up to speed on the event and generally being helpful to one and all. Liz Robertson of course is a good organiser and always seemed to know when to dive in and grab a star before they could get too mobbed, and place them in a sensible place. While Louise Gold gave a lot of energy and vivacity which was surely very encouraging to all concerned, even if she did get thrown out of the shop, twice!  Having TotallyTheatre and Roy Tan there for a lot longer, helped to keep the atmosphere going for quite some time, after the majority of stars had departed for their matinees. Whereas last year the atmosphere had tended to go down immediately any particularly charismatic star departed. That said, this year there was far less happening once the stars had departed for the matinee, As apart from Gay Soper (and she couldn’t stay very long) there weren’t any stars available to cover the matinee time. Last year, Avenue Q (whose matinee didn’t start till later) had filled in, and we had also had several stars who weren’t at that time in anything (namely Liz Robertson, Louise Gold, and Robert Meadmore). This year that wasn’t possible, with Liz and Louise both employed this afternoon. Thank goodness Louise managed to drop in for the last hour.

Talk about saving the best till last. Well OK having Jodie Prenger, Michael Ball, and, Jason Donovan had all been pretty impressive. But when it comes to really making things go with a swing, being the life and soul of the day, Louise Gold in the last hour had been amazing, raising everyone’s flagging spirits. Three stars really stood out as going beyond and above the call of duty, seeing what needed to be done at the event, and getting on and doing it, regardless of whether anyone asked them to do so. Of those three, one of them is Liz Robertson (who being The Guild’s chairwoman) one might expect it from. The other two have no reason other than their own sense of what is needed, they are Philip Quast, and, Louise Gold. All three are real assets to this event. These three are also part of the small group who did it in both last year and this year, and on both occasions all three proved to be absolutely invaluable. They did sterling work, towards making the day a real success.



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