Robbie comes home to celebrate his Give It Sum decade15th November 2010
Stoke-on-Trent’s favourite son Robbie Williams returned home today to meet some old friends as he celebrated the tenth anniversary of his Give It Sum fund.
The charitable foundation, which is managed on Robbie’s behalf by Comic Relief, has awarded £5 million in grants to over 300 projects in North Staffordshire over the past decade and the singer, accompanied by his new wife Ayda, visited three of the organisations which have benefited.
His first stop was at Unity, a young people’s project based in Burslem, which offers a chance for them to hone their creative skills.
Robbie met a group of youngsters and was blown away with their level of skill. “I’m trying to get to grips with a graphics program at home at the moment and getting nowhere, so to come here and see these guys knocking out the quality of work they are is brilliant.
“There was some serious talent on show and the truth is that without places like Unity, kids like these could well fall through the net. “I was one of those kids who found school hard and if there had been a place like this in my day I’d have absolutely loved it. I got very, very lucky and auditioned for a boy band, but now thanks to places like Unity you don’t have to rely on luck, you get a second chance.”
One of the youngsters whose work Robbie saw, 18-year-old Saul Mountford said: “It’s inspiring to have someone from Stoke who has done so well come here. “He seemed to have a real interest in design and what we were doing and to be able to show him my work was cool.”
Old Blurton Community Association was the next stop, a place Robbie’s Give It Sum fund has been supporting since 2002.
It was the first time Robbie had seen the new centre that his fund had helped to build and he was very impressed.
“As we pulled into what used to be derelict ground I saw what they had achieved for the first time – from nothing they have given Old Blurton a heart.
“Dancing in one room, craft work in another, it’s a buzzing place which is helping to bring people together – it’s hard to overstate the vital role it is playing and spending even just an hour or two there you can see the amazing effect it’s having. “
Robbie was greeted at Old Blurton Community Association by committee member and co-founder Nina Hulse who was delighted to see him and soon had the kettle on.
Nina Hulse, “It’s lovely to see Robbie again; he has played such a big part in helping us get to where we are here. The first thing he’s after when he gets here is a nice brew so we made sure he had a mug in his hand.
"This area was in a bad way ten years ago and after a long hard slog it’s turning the corner. It might not get back to the kind of place it was when I grew up here, but if we stick together and keep doing what we are doing it will turn itself into something new.”
The final stop of the day was at the Donna Louise Children’s Hospice, where Robbie is a Patron and Give it Sum has funded salaries for specialist nurses at the hospice since 2002.
After meeting some of the 170 families who are being supported by the hospice Robbie remembered the first time he visited the site.
“When I first came to Donna Louise back in 2002 it was a building site – in fact the first person I bumped into was an old school friend of mine who was working as a chippie on it.
“Now it’s a place that’s full of joy and you can see straight away what it means to the parents to have a place like this when they are going through such a tough time.
“I’ve made some good and bad decisions in my life, but without doubt starting Give it Sum and being given the opportunity to lend a helping hand to people in my home town is one of the things I am genuinely proud of. “