From Hairspray to Child's Play

~ Shine Magazine Winter Edition 2009 / 2010 ~

He has sold millions of records worldwiode, enjoyed numerous sell-out tours, presented TV and radio programmes, starred in numerous West End and Broadway musicals and recently won the prestigious Olivier award for "Best Actor in a Musical" for his portrayal of Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. Now, Michael Ball has pledged his support to The Shooting Star Children's Hospice. On a recent visit to Shooting Star House, Shine sat down with Michael to find out why.

Shine: You've just finished a long and successful run in Hairspray and you're in the middle of a UK tour. It's been a busy year.

MB: it has been an incredible year! What has been really lovely for me is, having done Hairspray, I've been in one place for a long period of time. I haven't been travelling around the country so I've been able to spend so much time with my family and you realise how lucky you are. You get a feeling of how blessed you are which is why it just seemed to be an appropriate time for us to get involved with a children's charity. We're careful what we involve ourselves with, it has to be something we feel personally motivated by something where we see a difference happening. When we were introduced to Shooting Star and saw the work you do we simply had to get involved. This place is absolutely incredible and I couldn't be more happy to be involved.

Shine: You mentioned the impact seeing our work had on you. this is the second time you've visited, tell us a little bit about the atmosphere here.

MB: The first time I came here I was very nervous, because I did not know what to expect. I knew that, sadly one child had passed away and the atmosphere that day was appropriately calm. Coming back today there's a lot of activity going on. I've been in the Sensory Room up to my neck in the ball pool. it does not feel like a sad place, a place of sickness. It feels like a place of life, a place of positivity. there are a lot of care professionals around, people who know what their job is and focus on putting the kids first. I'm in awe of the people who are working here because it's a terribly difficult balancing act that has to be kept going and it is remarkable how you've done that, the balance has been struck absolutely right. It has been put together so brilliantly architecturally, but the core of it has got to be the staff. That atmosphere permeates throughout, you just need to talk to the parents, talk to the kids, play with the kids and you know that it's working.

Shine: And you spent a lot of time in the Music Therapy room today.

MB: Everybody needs music therapy. I utterly support it. I don't care if you're a one-day-old baby or a hundred-year-old great grandparent, we all respond to music, it is within us all. To sit down with the kids, you know that whatever problems they're facing the sounds are getting through and it has such a positive benefit. It's a way of bringing people together, it's a way of lifting spirits, it's a way of keeping the mind involved and interested. I think it is fantastic. Who can't like hitting a drum? I know I do.

Shine: You announced your support for Shooting Star, and there's something special coming up in December, isn't there?

MB: This goes back to us being with our family. We know a lovely school called Feltonfleet in Surrey and I went down to the school and talked to the Headmaster and persuaded him - I didn't give him much choice! - to let us hold a concert in the grounds in aid of Shooting Star. Now it would have been much easier to go to a West End theatre or one of the concert halls, but I really wanted to make this different, to make it personal so we're going to give a big "Michael Ball concert" with all the musicians, choirs and who knows what else for an intimate number, about 650 people. It's going to be at Christmas time on the 12th December and I think it will be great fun.

Shine: You've been an entertainer for 20 years, performed all across the world in front of royalty. Does a performance like this feel different?

MB: I'll be more nervous for this than any of the shows I'm doing, because it means an awful lot. It's always these kinds of shows that mean the most, because it's not about us, it's not about the self glorification or the ego that goes along with most of the work we do. It's about something else that is far more important and you want to get it right. I can guarantee that we'll be working so hard for this. Also I'm going to get such a bash round the ear from "her indoors" if I get it wrong.

Shine: So what would you say to encourage people to come along?

MB: I think it will be really special evening. And most importantly it will be helping maintain this place which is so important to the local community. So people should just buy a ticket, come along and be prepared to sing, because I'm going to make everybody do a bit! what else is there to do on the 12th December? You can always tape X-Factor.

Michael Ball - A Christmas Concert takes place on Saturday 12 December. For more information please call 02084818185

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