Sometimes work isn’t about earning money. Sometimes you go above and beyond because you believe in the project and the people. Sometimes the hours you put into it just fly by because you want to do everything to help and while they don’t know it, they’re helping me too.
I first met Rich Tomkinson in 2015 when we were both involved with our local community radio station Stafford FM. I ended up not only producing news, sport and other shows, I also produced his show ‘Tonka Talks’. Rich is a genuine, infectious and lovable dude. He’s one of the good ones, that would do anything to help others. You can’t help but reciprocate. Whenever he called I knew he needed something and I was the man to do it for him and I know he’s appreciated every effort I’ve given.
During our days on ‘Tonka Talks’ he always used to tell me he wanted to put on a show, for charity, and most of the time he used the two words ‘full’ and ‘monty’. I said from day one: “Mate, I’ll do almost anything for you but DON’T EVER ask me to do that!”
Around July 2018 I listened into Rich’s show one night. He was interviewing a guy called Gregg Boughey. Gregg’s story is so powerful. He’s lost his Mum, Dad and sister to cancer. His sister, Nicola Murrells, gained publicity for her fight, championing immunotherapy treatments which extended her life long after the diagnosis. She started the charity Kiss My Ass Cancer (KMAC) raising money and awareness for the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. She raised over £1,000,000 in a single night with the KMAC Ball which featured John Bishop, Olly Murs and Diversity. They planned a second KMAC Ball a year later. Sadly, Nicola lost her battle just two days before that Ball but she insisted Gregg and Nicola’s husband, Steve, to continue and host it. Again they raised over £1,000,000 with the stars of Strictly and Little Mix performing. Gregg took on the role of Head of KMAC and has continued to raise funds and awareness through gruelling marathons, football matches and other projects.
This story was all Rich needed to trigger his idea. Based on the ITV celebrity show of March 2018 that raised awareness of detecting cancer, he wanted to put on a show ‘THE REAL FULL MONTY’. I knew there was a call coming!
A day later….
Rich: “Alright Dude”
Me: “I’M NOT DOING IT!”
He knew that of course, but he asked me if I could film it. That wasn’t a problem. I could do that. It’ll be fun. One night in the future I’ll set up some static cameras, roam around with another and film the event. A doddle right? However, this has become much MUCH bigger.
Quickly, Rich had round up a group of volunteers, all willing to perform the Full Monty in aid of KMAC. He managed to get our local theatre, The Gatehouse in Stafford, to put on the night for free and asked if I could maybe just film ‘a couple of rehearsals’ that I could edit into clips that we could show on the night.
It soon became clear that wouldn’t be enough. The personal stories I learned from the group of nine women and nine men were so powerful that it needed to be a bigger production. Sarah has had a double mastectomy, Suzi, 64 years young, has also had a breast removed and is 13 years on from surviving. Ivan had a brain tumour and lost an eye, Emma had cervical cancer at 19. EVERYONE had a personal reason for doing this. There’s also the body confidence issue. These people are not performers, not dancers, some have never set foot on a stage before. Yet here they are, totally out of their comfort zone. I suggested to Rich this would make a great documentary. Let’s get intimate with these people, get them to tell their story.
It got even more personal for Rich when his Dad was diagnosed with cancer in October and died on Christmas Day. It’s broken him but made him more determined to pull this event off. They’re all being brave telling me their stories, but interviewing Rich (at his insistence) about his Dad when it’s so raw has been harrowing at times. As an interviewer/documentary maker I have to let the silences linger, as a friend I just wanted to press stop on the camera and give him a hug.
I started gathering footage in September 2018. I’ve followed the group around whenever I had spare time. Costume fittings, rehearsals, interviews, not to mention being the fly on the wall when any drama occurs. At this point I have over 200 hours of footage and there’s still 4 weeks to go!
It’s become so popular that a second night was added. There will now be two performances on March 25th and 27th and it’s not just two five minute dances with the finale of people getting their kit off but a full night of music, comedy and more importantly awareness of cancer and immunotherapy treatments.
The project has professionally taken me to a new level. With the video I’ve produced promos, and shorts for social media, I also volunteered my graphic design skills for posters, banners and social media (I even designed the logo!) and recently the souvenir programme. It’s not been an easy task, but hopefully the finished product will be amazing!
It’s made me step out of my own personal comfort zone. Over the last 10 years or so anxiety has made me not want to step out of my front door, there’s till times when I feel like that now. But this has made me do it. Having to deal closely with these amazing people, who have all become friends, has really helped me. The praise I get from the group for my work is humbling, I still can’t deal with it, but is certainly make me feel better about myself. They may be helping themselves with their own issues, they may be raising funds and awareness for charity, but they’ll never realise how much they’ve all helped me too.
So Rich, dude, you know what you’ve done to help me. Alan, who has helped me by filming when I couldn't be there while also taken on promotion and marketing tasks and Sam, who has given up her time to photograph the story have also made my life easier.
And to Anthony, James, Ivan, Melvyn, Dave, Macauley, Tim, Sean, Sarah, Vicki, Libby, Evie, Kerry, Emma, Suzi, Claire, Maria, Lucie, thank you. Thank you for letting me in. Thank you for helping me professionally and (more importantly) personally.
People have asked me how much this would have cost if I was charging for my services. I couldn’t begin to think, I probably wouldn’t need to work again all year. But you know what? I don’t care. I’m proud to support these brave people, not only for what they’ve been through or for what they're doing, but because they have supported me!
You can see videos I’ve produced on my website www.ibmediauk.com and the Facebook page (search KMAC The Real Full Monty).
Better still, buy a ticket! www.staffordgatehousetheatre.co.uk