My love affair with Take That began in the late nineties, a few years after they split. When I was around six years old, I remember starting to take an interest in music, and watching videos on the music channels. I would dance along to Backstreet Boys’ ‘Everybody’ and the Spice Girls’ ‘Spice Up Your Life’, which is when I also came across Take That. Despite having split, their videos remained prominent on the music channels. I fell in love with the band’s catchy songs, music videos and the fact that each member seemed to have great personality.
When you love a band, there’s always one member which captures your heart a little more than the rest. For me, it was Gary Barlow. By the time I had discovered the band, he had also launched his solo career. I remember hearing ‘Love Won’t Wait’ and falling in love with the song completely. However, as time went on, his career dwindled, new bands came along and I moved on.
In 2006, Take That reformed musically after their documentary aired at the end of the previous year. I fell in love all over again and the rest is pretty much history.
It was around that time that my love for Gary reignited too. He released an autobiography entitled ‘My Take’, and I was bowled over by the eye-opening read. He came across as an extremely down-to-earth and genuine person. One of my favourite stories from the book is when he accidentally ate Clive Davis’ bagel and eggs whilst waiting for their meeting. You have to read the passage to appreciate the hilarity of it all, but as silly as it is, it’s a part of the book that I always remember. This is purely because it showed how normal Gary was, despite being a big star.
He also opened up about a number of personal difficulties that he experienced following the band’s split. It was hard not to admire his honesty and how he recognised his faults. Reading about his flaws made him human, not just a celebrity that was fawned over by thousands of people. Additionally, he spoke about his humble beginnings and how he grafted from a young age to achieve his dreams – it was inspiring, and a reminder to always work hard and follow your dream. He also wrote about his family life – from his wife and kids, to his parents. It reminded you that at the core of it all, he’s just a normal, loving man who happens to have an exceptional talent.
After reading the book and learning more about his story, it’s safe to say that Gary Barlow became a real favourite of mine. As Take That’s comeback went from strength to strength, my love for and loyalty to Gary and the band as a whole grew too.
In November 2007, I got to see Take That live for the first time in Birmingham. I remember travelling from Wales on a coach trip, and having to go to school the next day exhausted but it was so worth it. Not only did their music sound even more incredible live, but they put on a phenomenal show, unlike anything I’d ever seen. Since then, I’ve made sure to go to every tour at least once. Each tour has been more indescribable than the last – it’s hard to put into words the show stopping efforts the band make time and time again.
2013 saw Gary embark on his first solo tour in over 13 years. I was lucky enough to have fourth row tickets for his Cardiff show, the closest I’d ever been to him at that point in time. I fought back tears for the entire first half as I couldn’t believe that I was so close to my idol! At the end of the year, he released a solo album called Since I Saw You Last, and held signings. I was desperate to go to the London one, but I was at a gig in Liverpool the day before and didn’t think I’d get to London early enough to claim a wristband. Today, I wouldn’t even flinch at trying but at the time I didn’t take a risk. I really should have, but after angry tears I admitted defeat – my time was yet to come. Funnily enough, a few days later I had my first tweet from him, which said “nothins imposs”, something I always remind myself of when I feel like something won’t ever happen.
Just over a year later, on December 1 2014, the impossible became possible when I met my idol for the first time. Better still, I got to meet him twice in one day. It was one of the most surreal days of my life, but oddly it made a part of me feel complete. My first meeting with Gary was outside Radio 2, where the band were being interviewed. He was the only member I managed to meet and I was fortunate enough to grab a selfie with him. I was in complete awe and I couldn’t get a single word out. In fact, my mum did all the talking on my behalf. I had the cheesiest grin plastered on my face and I managed to keep composed until he moved on to the next fan. As soon as it started to sink in, I bawled ugly tears of joy. I’d waited so long for that opportunity, and whilst I was dumbstruck, it was such an important moment in my life.
Later that day, I got to go to Take That’s album signing in HMV. That was an experience I will never forget for as long as I live. Previous signings I’d attended had been rather rushed, and having met my idol earlier in the day, I was already content so I had no expectations. However, it turned out to be the most relaxed signing ever. I met Mark and Howard first, who were both absolute sweethearts. They took the time to chat and were even more striking in real life! Then it was time to meet Gary again. Just…wow. I actually managed a little conversation with him this time (no tears), and better still, I had a Barlow hug. (They’re like bear hugs but a million times better).
They tell you never to meet your idols, in case they disappoint you, but mine truly surpassed my expectations. Gary has the kindest heart, and is so loving to all his fans. It’s no wonder the lengths that people will go to support him, as he is a superstar, both in terms of his off-the-scale talent and as a genuinely nice person.
He’s not perfect by any means, but who is? He’s made mistakes in his time but he’s always strived to make up for any wrong-doings. Some people choose to remember the negatives from his life, but Gary should be commended for all the good he’s done to change the lives of people across the globe.
Not only has he blessed the world with incredible music, he has been committed to charity work for years. In 2012, he was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his services to music and charity. Over the years, he has raised awareness and millions of pounds for various charities. From climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief, to organising charity concerts, Gary has dedicated so much time to supporting good causes.
In 2012, he announced that he and his wife Dawn’s fourth child Poppy had been delivered stillborn. He showed a great deal of strength, bravery and determination so soon after his tragedy by performing with Take That at the London 2012 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony a week later. He has since raised awareness and money for Child Bereavement UK and is a patron of the charity.
I truly love Take That as a whole, but it’s no secret that Gary Barlow in particular will always hold a special place in my heart. His passion, determination and talent is second to none, but he’s not let fame go to his head either. His kindness knows no bounds – whether it’s charity work or surprising fans at their weddings and birthdays. Gary has remained a humble family man, with a genuine love and appreciation for his fans. He’s never taken their support for granted, and is always so thankful.
I’m proud to call myself a Thatter, and a member of the GB Army. Thank you Gary Barlow for being such an inspiration to me. I couldn’t ask for a better idol.