In the eye of the storm

In the eye of the storm

Nathan Jones is back in the Luton Town managerial hot seat after a whirlwind year that tested his resilience, abilities and desire to succeed. He talks to Stuart Weir about a challenging period that helped him discover a lot about himself and the God he trusts.

There are just under 15 minutes to go in Luton Town’s home Carabao Cup Round Three tie with Manchester United. The visitors lead 1-0 from a first half penalty but the game is evenly poised. Luton manager, Nathan Jones, is about to introduce his first subs, Elliott Lee and Harry Cornick, to try to force an equaliser. Out of the corner of his eye he notices that Man U are also about to introduce substitutes: Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford are waiting to come on. ‘£200million worth of talent’ as Jones puts it. Predictably Rashford and Greenwood score late goals.

Nathan Jones was born in Wales and first played for Merthyr Tydfil in the Conference. As well as two seasons in the Spanish Second Division, he played over 450 games in the English Football League for Southend United, Scarborough, Brighton and Hove Albion and Yeovil Town, in a professional career lasting 23 years. His five seasons at Brighton (2000-05) were eventful as the club started in League Two, were promoted twice to reach the Championship, relegated and then promoted again. He played in play-off finals at Wembley and Cardiff’s Millennium stadium.

Even as a player, he was thinking ahead: ‘I knew I would become a coach. I knew I wanted to stay in football, so I was preparing for my first job after playing. I always enjoyed working with players and I was always interested in the tactical side of the game. So, I knew, I wanted to go into coaching, but I didn’t know at what level it would happen. While I wanted to play for as long as I could, I was also preparing for another career.’

While playing for his last club, Yeovil Town, he coached the Ladies team and later became player-assistant manager of the men’s team. After serving as Under-21s coach at Charlton Athletic and assistant head coach back at Brighton, he was appointed as manager of Luton Town in 2015, then in League Two. He got them promoted to League One in 2018 and assembled the team which was to be promoted to the Championship the following season. However, Jones had left in January 2019 to become manager of Stoke City. His time at Stoke was not a success and he was fired after ten months, returning to Luton Town in 2020.

In his book Living on the Volcano, Michael Calvin describes how in one year there were 63 managerial changes in the 92 clubs in the four divisions of English football. Why would anyone want a job with no job security? Jones told me that he loved being a footballer and never thought he would find anything to beat playing, but he has: ‘I get more of a buzz as a manager than I did as a player. I enjoy my responsibilities and all I do.’ That said, he recognizes the demands: ‘It consumes your life and it consumes every part of your day. It helps when you win. I had four days off at the last international break and was able to switch off completely and be with my family. But it helped that we had started the season well and had won the last game before the break.’

He works long days: ‘I’m usually up about six and I start by praying and reading the Bible – I do that every day. Then I take some kind of exercise – running or on a bike. I get in to work just after eight and I am there until 6.30 or 7.00pm so it’s a long day. First thing we’ll have a staff meeting to discuss the day and prepare training. Then we all get on with our jobs. The players come in about 10 and train 10.30 to 12.30. After that, for me, it’s a day in the office, watching games, evaluating our last game, evaluating training, preparing for our next game, possibly player recruitment. It’s full on. I would normally have an evening at home with my family but I’m currently living away from my family because they are still up north.’

I asked him what he enjoyed about the job. ‘Winning!’ was his quick answer. He elaborated more thoughtfully: ‘To be honest, I enjoy all of it. I loved playing beyond anything, and I never thought there could be anything as good but honestly, Luton is a fantastic club. Nothing beats preparing your team for a game and seeing your plan come together, and when you win a game or you get promoted. I enjoy developing players and seeing them get better. Luton is a very hands-on development club.’

The challenges of the job include: ‘the highs and lows and the pressure. You try not to get too high and you try not to get too low but it’s very difficult. You work all week and a defeat or a bad performance tends to sour how you feel and what you do. Picking yourself up from a defeat is probably the biggest challenge. Particularly as you, as the manager, have to be a positive influence for everyone else. Even though you are hurting, you can’t let that show because everyone else is hurting and you are the leader. And you have to lift others. There’s never a time you can relax even if you have won. I find it hard to sleep after a game – good or bad result – because you are thinking about it. So, I tend to watch games in the middle of the night. Then you’re looking ahead to the next game. The more successful you want to be, the harder and the smarter you have to work.’

Growing up in a Christian family, faith was always part of his life. ‘My parents are Christians and from a young age they taught me the gospel. When I got to about 16, I had a choice. I could remain in the faith or I could leave it. But I knew that I wanted to continue trusting in God. It’s the only way to live. I had a lot of choices to make and after 16 a lot of my football was on Sunday. I remember praying: “God, I want to be a Christian. I want to remain in the Christian faith, I want it to be at the forefront of my Christian life. But I also want to be a footballer, show me the way.” I made the choice and I played on Sundays. I was playing for Cardiff City youth team and a lot of our games were on Sunday, so I had to play on Sundays if I wanted to progress. It’s been a constant fight for me, keeping the Sabbath, but now it’s something that I am reasonably at ease with.’ 

He continues: ‘I think God is interested in every part of your life – whether you’re a footballer, bricklayer or nurse or a politician, God cares for you. God’s love is for everyone. I do believe that God cares about everyone and that everything is God’s will. I also believe that if you’re a public figure, there is an opportunity to do God’s work on a global scale.  I have been very privileged in the lifestyle that I’ve had. I’ve been blessed to do what I absolutely love. And I think it’s only fair that I give something back to God. I couldn’t do the job without my faith and there have been moments when I have categorically known that God was with me. So, I do think he cares about football because he cares about everything.’

Being a Christian in a macho world like football is not always easy. ‘There are a lot of temptations in football, temptations to stray from the gospel, to stray from the straight and narrow path. I was never ridiculed but there is friendly banter. People used to call me “God squad” or “Bible basher” or ask “What is God telling you today?” There are difficulties but I think now, if you’re a Christian, there is every opportunity for you to be open about your faith.’

He believes that it is just as important to live as a Christian in the football club as it is at church on Sunday: ‘I try to be honest and to be upright. I am honest with people. I don’t tell people things they want to hear just because it’s easier to do that. I try to have integrity in my decisions and to show compassion in what I do. Those are Christian characteristics but it’s also what I’ve been brought up in. I forgive easily. I don’t forget, but I forgive. These are human traits that I have learned through a great Christian upbringing. That has made me the manager I am – whether that’s a good manager or bad manager. That is definitely the type of manager that I am. I’m very passionate about my job. I can be angry and vociferous. I like the human side of the job. I like to get to know my players and for them to know that they can trust me. They may not like me, but they can respect me. So, honesty, integrity and the human side of me stem from my Christianity.’

Going back to the game against Manchester United, he told me, Luton Town always take pride in taking on teams from higher divisions and want to test themselves. ‘We had a game plan for Man U and we wanted to be positive against them. And to be fair, for 88 minutes we really tested them. We were 0-1 down from a penalty and had a glorious chance to equalize but it was kicked off the line. But for 88 minutes we took one of the best clubs in the world to the wire. They brought some big hitters off the bench, but we had gone in with a really positive mindset of trying to upset them and trying to win the game. We could have seen that game out and lost 1-0 and lost admirably but that’s not the mentality here. We really wanted to try to take it to penalties, to take a scalp against a very, very good side. We were very proud of the team on the night and the score flattered Manchester United somewhat.’

At the time of writing Luton Town are well placed in the Championship but that is not the height of Nathan Jones’ ambitions for the club: ‘We have to establish ourselves in the Championship first. But in the medium term, we will be looking for promotion to the Premier League. When we get our new stadium in two years, we should have the finances to punch a bit harder. And then we’ll be able to be more competitive in cup competitions and also trying to get into the top six of the Championship to have a chance of getting into the Premier League.’ Whether they make it, time alone will tell but you can be sure that the manager will give it his best shot – and he will do it with Christian integrity.

Labour of love

Labour of love

From Deputy Leader of the Labour Party to Sunday Times bestselling author, Tom Watson talks exclusively to Sorted about life after Westminster and his eight stone weight loss (despite buying cheese by the truckle…)

A lot of us have been eating and drinking more in lockdown. Have you been able to maintain your healthy lifestyle?

Lockdown was disruptive, but I’d also just left Westminster, given up a team that provided me with a support network, and moved back to the Midlands, with only a month to set up a home office and start trying to live a commercial life, writing books and doing new things. So lockdown was up and down for me. The first month, I was doing Joe Wicks PE, but by the middle of lockdown, I’d gone into a slump. My routines were undermined and I developed a big cheese-eating habit! For my new podcast series, I’d interviewed Ned Palmer, the author of A Cheesemonger’s History of the British Isles. His enthusiasm for cheese was infectious and I was soon buying Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese by the truckle!

My home office is 15 feet from the fridge, and I didn’t realise how much I was eating, so for the first time in three years, I put on weight. The gyms were closed, so I couldn’t compensate, and I got really worried. Now I’m through my cheese-eating phase, and I’m getting back on track. It shows that if your routines are disrupted, it’s easy to slip back, if you don’t address it.

In Downsizing you wrote that the lifestyle changes you made brought you closer to your Christian faith. What did you mean by that?

At the heart of it, it was the ability for reflection. I spent more time on my own, reflecting on my life and values. I was brought up Christian, and confirmed Christian, and went to a C of E school, and it put me back in touch with my faith in a way I wasn’t expecting. That came from the headspace to reflect more, at a deep level.

You’ve referred to your mum as having ‘that strand of Christian Socialism in her,’ and said, ‘that was a powerful force in my upbringing, though I didn’t know it at the time.’ When did you become aware of that and in what way did it influence you?

When I was born, the local vicar was a Marxist theologian. As a child, I didn’t realise it was unusual that your local vicar would’ve stood for the Communist party – but he did. He did a lot for the community and my mum thought he was wonderful. That twin track of Christianity and politics was all around me in my formative years, without me knowing the significance. It was only in adulthood, probably as I approached middle age, that I could work it all through more deeply.

What do you think of the way the Covid crisis has been handled? Is there anything you would have done differently?

I’ve never been more relieved that I left political life when I did! It’s virtually impossible for a public policy maker to make the right calls on a fast moving situation like the spread of a global pandemic. They’re making huge calls that impact on millions of people’s lives and cost the taxpayer billions, with only partial information.

It’s difficult, so I don’t want to apportion blame, but I would have locked down a week, maybe 10 days before we had the first proper lockdown. Having been on the cabinet sub-committee that dealt with avian flu, and having been the minister that had oversight of civil contingencies, I realise how making those early decisions can have a dramatic impact on the number of cases that develop.

Not having a track and trace system in place earlier has slowed up our ability to be resilient, and I’d have probably involved public health bodies and local authorities more in the development of it.

In May, the law on organ donation changed to the opt-out system. You proposed this in 2002:  how did you feel when you heard the news?

I was delighted. It’s called ‘Organ donation presumed consent.’ I wasn’t the first to do it: Tam Dalyell had proposed presumed consent in the 1970s, so the notion had been around for decades. People are losing their lives, even now, because they’re on a waiting list for organs and they don’t get them in time. I’ve lost friends like that, and I’ve got a loved one who would have lost his life had he not had a transplant, so I was moved when it went through.

Given the change in leadership of the Labour party, would you ever return to politics?

No, not to frontline politics. There’s nothing more ex than an ex-MP. I’ve given 30 years to the Labour party and public life – you’ve got to know when to go. I’d seen a lot of MPs, particularly if they’d been ministers, and then they’re in opposition, leaving it too long to go, so I think I was right to leave when I did. I’d run out of road. I’d done my best to hold the Labour party together, I’d lost the row on our positioning on the EU, and I thought it was right for the next generation to take over. I’ve been pleasantly surprised, and proud of Keir for the leadership he’s shown already and for reuniting the Labour party so quickly. He’s got tough decisions ahead, and he’s under pressure, but so far so good.

Your 2012 book Dial M for Murdoch shone a light on the power of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. What do you think is the extent of Murdoch’s power now?

When I talk about Dial M for Murdoch it feels like I’m looking back on a different life. It was such an emotionally, spiritually, physically traumatic episode, living in fear a lot of the time.

I think we’ve made great progress. I don’t think tabloid journalists would routinely break the law now, like they were a decade ago. Rupert Murdoch is in his latter years as a media mogul, and his legacy will be mixed. He could have been the great media entrepreneur and innovator of the 20th century, but he will forever carry the phone-hacking scandal around with him, as part of his reputation. Politicians will be more wary when they deal with him and his people. However, he is still probably the most powerful media mogul on the planet, and he carries great weight with politicians. You can see his influence in the editorials of his newspapers, so in that sense, he survived. Remember at the time, David Cameron promised a police enquiry into historical relationships between police and journalists – which Theresa May shelved, when they shelved the Leveson 2 enquiry. Rupert Murdoch took a glancing blow from the industrial criminality that took place on his newspapers many years ago, but he survived it.

Do you think Labour’s poor showing in the election last December was a result of people not wanting Corbyn as Prime Minister?

I don’t think you can ever blame an election loss on one issue. The market research is clear, and most Labour candidates heard it on the doorstep: a large number of what I would describe as traditional Labour supporters had lost confidence in Jeremy as a leader and, perhaps more importantly, the manifesto he stood for. So that’s part of it, but there are other issues too. We didn’t have a clear position on Brexit, and I don’t think people wanted a Christmas election – I was against it myself – and I think people went for what they thought was the least worst option. So they didn’t make a positive choice, they just stuck with the status quo.

You’ve been described as an anti-gambling crusader, so there was something of uproar when you took on a role as an advisor with gambling firm Flutter. Did you anticipate that?

Within some political factions of Westminster, anything I do creates a stir! I’ve never actually been anti-gambling – I’ve had the odd bet since my early working life. I’m not good at betting – I don’t win very often – but I don’t put much money on.

The Chief Executive of Flutter has said he wants a race to the top on responsible gambling, and I’m trying to find the best mechanisms to reassure the public that the harm caused by gambling to a small section of society are dealt with. It’s early days but I’m pleased they’re determined to get these arrangements right.

Offering you a job might almost be viewed as a PR stunt – did you believe they really wanted to do better?

Yeah, I’m definitely not a spokesman for the company, and I understood there was a degree of risk on my side – but there’s also a degree of risk on their side. You have to be convinced of their intention, and I was. A lot of the gambling reformers I’ve worked with have got in touch and said, ‘We hope you can do some good from the inside at Flutter.’ They’re one of the biggest companies in the UK and hopefully they can take their competitors with them in the reforms they make. I hope I’ll play a positive role there.

After indulging over Christmas, what are your tips for losing weight in the New Year?

Tiny changes over time have a powerful cumulative impact, but even tiny changes seem huge at the start. I decided to cut out as much sugar as possible, and that meant changing what I drank. I used to love Guinness and beer – now I drink wine and spirits. It means I drink less and I don’t feel as impacted by alcohol. When I drank beer, I got momentous hangovers – now I realise that’s probably sugar spikes. So if you’re starting in January, think about it beforehand. Don’t panic over Christmas – let yourself go with your loved ones, but get a plan in place. It could be as simple as cutting out sugar and giving yourself a steps target for the month. It doesn’t have to be dramatic to start the journey.

Cutting out sugar can seem like a big step. What’s a good starting point?

There’s low-hanging fruit, if I can use that metaphor! I used to eat KitKats and Mars Bars every time I went into the Members’ canteen in the House of Commons, and whenever I went into a coffee shop, I’d buy sugary pastries. I eliminated them and I replaced them – if I replaced them with anything – with nuts, but not peanuts! If you want to go further, I then moved from processed food to real food. As an MP, I’d get lots of takeaways, burgers on the go, and microwave meals. I moved to what you’d classically call meat and two veg, although these days I’d call it meat and five veg, because I eat lots of vegetables! That’s harder, because you have to find time to shop for the right food, prepare it, and in my case, remember the recipes. But the rewards are great.

It wasn’t just losing weight – you found you had greater clarity of mind and more energy, didn’t you?

I used to have broken sleep and go to the bathroom once or twice in the night. In the morning I’d wake up thinking, ‘What part of me aches the most?’ But when I cut out sugar and started mild exercise, my sleep improved. Sleep is medicine, so it had a great impact. I slept deeper and better – and in the morning, my brain was alert. It was like a lifting of brain fog. It felt like my IQ had gone up. I could remember facts and figures better and quicker, and I could think through complex ideas more deeply. Even now, if I eat processed food or carbs, I’ll feel mild brain fog, because there’s a relationship between food and cognitive health. I’m more focused and disciplined now. It’s the cognitive gains that I value the most and I never want to lose them.


By Samantha Rea

Keys to success

Keys to success

The award-winning singer-songwriter Josh Groban talks exclusively to Sorted about his breakthrough duet with Celine Dion, a $50,000 surprise, and why he wants to replace Noel Fielding on Great British Bake Off


How did you choose the songs you covered on your new album?


Part of the early process was getting a piano and singing through songs I’ve wanted to sing for a long time, songs people shared with me that they thought might be right or that they just love, and songs I haven’t listened to in a long time, but which have new meaning with what you’re going through in your life. Also songs where fans have said over and over, ‘Please sing this song!’

One of the good things on social media is talking about music, and fans telling you songs they love hearing you sing. You start to realise what feels good in your voice, and feels good in your soul.

It’s daunting picking classic songs that people know. In some ways it’s scarier than writing your own, because these songs have meant so much to people – they’re soundtracks to people’s lives.


I was surprised that you covered Robbie Williams’ song Angels alongside more established classics. How did that come about?


I love Robbie Williams, and America loves Robbie Williams! I grew up listening to those songs – they were part of my high school and college life. He has so many eras of amazing music, and that song has a message I love right now.

The song will always be Robbie’s – but like any great song, it can be done a number of ways. When you try to tackle a song that’s so beloved, by an artist who’s so beloved, you want to honour it, but you also want to try your own style on it, so I had fun singing it. When we finally get touring again, I’m going to have so much fun singing it live. Maybe I’ll get to sing it with Robbie!


You’ve done duets with the most amazing people including Barbara Streisand, Johnny Mathis, and Placido Domingo. Who’s been your favourite person to duet with?


The most life-changing duet for me was with Celine Dion when I was 16, and I was asked to sing The Prayer – that was the moment that started the trajectory of having a career in this business.

It made my life to sing Bridge Over Troubled Water with Paul Simon in New York, and I’ll never forget singing with the great Aretha Franklin at Radio City Music Hall for Nelson Mandela – but my favourite duet ever was with my dad.

I’d recorded Old Devil Moon with the great trumpet player Chris Botti, but Chris was touring and wasn’t able to do our LA concert. My dad had played trumpet all through college, then put it away for 30 years. I said to my dad: ‘You’ve got three months. Dust off the old trumpet, learn this song, then I want you to come up on stage!’ The song’s from Finian’s Rainbow, which is the first musical I had a lead role in, so doing that and being able to call out my Dad on stage – it meant a lot to us.


What inspired the two original tracks on the album?


I write my best songs on an airplane, or on a walk, just putting it into my phone, but whenever I unexpectedly have an idea, it’s always in a place that’s not convenient to write a song! I’ll have to wake myself up out of bed, or towel off and put my clothes on.

This album was going to be all covers. I thought, ‘The album after this, I’ll start refilling the tank to write again.’ But the world changed, and all I had was time by myself, and a piano. I listened to music to feel better, and get inspired, and I played the piano to express myself.

Writing these songs was therapeutic for me and I recorded them in my bedroom. They felt right for me, right now, because they express the hope, the gratitude and the idea that we have to take stock of the simple things in our lives that give us the most joy.


You’ve performed at the Vatican, the Emmy Awards and Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration – to name a few! Is there one performance that stands out to you?


I’ve been lucky to perform on so many wonderful stages. One of the most special was making my Broadway debut with my family flown in from LA, because that was my first dream, from that dorm room bed, when I wondered if I should sign the record deal. I knew I was giving up an amazing musical theatre education to take this risk, so all those years later, to step out on a Broadway stage for the first time in a lead role, with my parents in the audience, was very special. Particularly after all the countless theatre productions I did at school, and making costumes in my bedroom, and the flood of memories of what this meant to me growing up. It’s amazing when you can see things through the lens of your family, so whenever they’ve been in the audience, it’s meant a lot to me.


I read that you were raised in a Christian household. In what way has that shaped you?


I was raised in an interesting household, religiously. My father’s side of the family is Jewish, and my mom’s side were raised Episcopalian. Growing up, we had Christmases, but the idea of faith was more open-ended. My brother and I were raised on humanism and love, and the idea that we could find, in our own ways and our own time, a personal connection to spirituality. We didn’t have Bible study, we were just taught the tenets of trying to be a good person, and loving somebody as you’d want to be loved. I felt lucky that I was raised with that kind of love and understanding.

I wouldn’t say I fall into one religion, necessarily – especially now. Having a tightly controlled life, and wanting to know all the answers can lead to cynicism when it comes to faith, but I’ve felt more comfortable, especially in the last four years, being OK with a wider notion of faith in terms of just putting my hands up and letting go, and being at peace with what’s unknown.

If I were to go back to school, I’d love to study all religions. I have wonderful conversations about art, religion and politics, and how it’s all intertwined. I’m still on that journey, I’m still trying to define it, but also I feel a deep sense of peace in the not so defined.


What are the highs and lows of fame?


It’s a privilege to have a voice and a platform, where you can express yourself and people want to hear your expression. It’s incredible travelling around the world and seeing it through the lens of music – you realise we all have so much in common.

Travel is sometimes a pitfall too – you have to leave your friends and loved ones behind. It’s lonely, especially as a solo singer. You’re constantly in a recording studio, or a tour bus, or a hotel room, so you’re experiencing a lot, but often in an isolated way.

You get a lot of praise and criticism. There’s so much noise, and sometimes it’s hard to listen to your truest inner voice. You have to learn to trust your instincts. I try to amplify those instincts and that voice, to remember the nucleus to who you are, why you’re here, why you love to do this, and what makes you you. When there’s a hype around you, that can be hard to go back to.


You’ve popped up on some brilliant TV shows like Glee, Ally McBeal and The Muppets. Are there any TV shows you haven’t been in yet that you’d still like to be in?


I’ve been in so many shows I’ve loved, like The Office and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I’d love to have been in Breaking Bad playing a real bad guy, and if I could bring back Peewee’s Playhouse I’d want to be in that. It was my Saturday morning show and the most amazing actors made cameos in insane outfits.

I’m starting to get into cooking and I’d love to take a lesson on one of the cooking shows. If Noel wants a break from Great British Bake Off I’d volunteer. I’d be a terrible judge, but it would be incredible – my whole face would be covered in frosting!


You’ve performed at a lot of charity events and you have your own charitable foundation. Why is it important to you to give back?


I love giving back to lots of charities, but the arts are something I have personal experience with. Growing up, I was lucky to have a family environment that nurtured the arts and arts education. My dad had played trumpet, and my mom was an arts teacher before my brother and I were born, so they understood the value of the arts, and I got to go to arts camp, and take lessons, and see concerts at the Hollywood Bowl.

My fan base is so philanthropic, they surprised me with a $50,000 cheque at a concert. They stopped the show and said, ‘We’ve sold all our autographs and we’re giving this money back to you – we want you to start a foundation.’ So I created the Find Your Light Foundation which gives kids the experiences I was lucky enough to have growing up.

There are so many kids trying to cope with their neighbourhood, their family life, their school life. If we find real talent, that’s a bonus, but the main purpose is to give kids a purpose, because it’s proven that when the arts are incorporated into the curriculum, your whole life changes. Parents come to their school productions and they have something to talk about. Kids that had behavioural problems, or who felt shy and trapped inside themselves, suddenly, with a drum or a monologue or a dance, get to know their own thoughts and emotions for the first time, and the kid who was sitting in the back row starts sitting at the front. 

The best way I can give back is to make sure as many youngsters as possible get to have that chance to express themselves through the arts.


What are your hopes for 2021?


We’re in a unique position now, in that many of our hopes are the same. Prior to this year, we all had our own treadmills we were running on, and our own thoughts about what we wanted to accomplish, what diet we want to try, all the stuff we wanted. I think this New Year’s Eve will be sobering for a lot of people, including myself.

In my country, we’re so divided. Between the election and the pandemic, we’re all exhausted, isolated and afraid, so my hope for ’21 is that we find vaccines, and get over this pandemic and connect safely with each other again, which is something we all crave. I hope we all come back to what makes us who we are. Music will play a big part of that for me. I’d love to travel and sing in front of an audience again – but my main hope for ’21 is that we start bridging the divide we have right now.

Good Will hunting

Good Will hunting

Archaeologist Will Bedford spends most of his working day trying to make sense out of mysteries that have been buried for hundreds of years. He talks to Tony Yorke about some of his own ‘Indiana Jones moments’, and an adventure spanning more than two millennia that has led to a major transformation in his own life.


It’s not every day a platoon of heavily armed soldiers point their machine guns at you and threaten to rearrange your features unless you provide satisfactory answers to their questions. For archeologist, Will Bedford, that was exactly the scenario that presented itself when he was working in South America, attempting to locate and record the lost villages, towns and cities of the once mighty Mayan civilisation.

Will was in the thick of a Mexican forest, preparing to feel the exhilaration only felt by those who have unearthed a long-lost treasure. Little did he realise his unbridled joy would abruptly be turned to fear.

‘I was at university in 2002,’ he recalls. ‘I was 23 years old and I was full of myself. I had gone to Belize and Mexico with my professor and a group of students, and we were going all over the place trying to find evidence of the existence of a major settlement. After a few weeks of getting nowhere, we suddenly found the spot – and we knew we had struck archeological gold. In the undergrowth we could see the raised platforms of so many big buildings. It was amazing. But it was getting late, and so we had to come back the following day.

‘When we gathered in the morning, we were in high spirits and not really taking anything in, other than our need to find this long-lost city. After a while, I remember turning around and seeing a Mexican soldier standing behind me. He was just watching and pointing his machine gun directly at me. As I looked up, I saw a line of guys in uniforms. They were the rest of his squad. They had surrounded us while we were surveying the site, and at least two of them were also pointing guns directly at us. I froze on the spot.’

The soldiers, regulars in the Mexican army, were on the lookout for the gangs that regularly plunder archeological sites before academics like Will have a chance to record and recover priceless artifacts.

‘Thankfully, I could speak Spanish, so I quickly explained we had a permit, and everything was legal. The soldier still seemed unsure, and he continued to eye me suspiciously. I was getting nervous, so I opened a packet of cigarettes and started to have a smoke. The guy who was pointing his gun at me suddenly asked if he could have one. When I said he could, it was the signal for all his mates to come down and join in. At that point, we realised they no longer thought we were smugglers. All these years later, I still look back on this moment. It really opened my eyes, as it’s the only time I have ever had a loaded gun pointed at me. Then, I wasn’t afraid. Now I am in my forties, I sometimes wonder how I would now react if it were to ever happen again?’

The incident, and another about being pursued by ‘killer bees that chase you for at least three miles’, are just a couple of the many stories Will tells, from a fascinating career that is now entering its third decade.

‘I am based in the UK, and these days a lot of my work is used to support, or challenge, planning applications,’ he says. ‘That probably doesn’t sound very exciting. But it is. You’d be amazed at just how much archeology exists when you scratch underneath the surface. It’s the job of people like me to help a wide range of organisations understand the consequences of doing certain things.’

The controversial multi-billion pound HS2 rail project is just one example of a major construction job that is literally digging up the past on a daily basis, unearthing ancient graveyards and architecture as it seeks to connect the north of England with London via a near 150-mile stretch of high-speed railway lines. Will is not directly involved in this particular project, but it’s the sort of job that he and his colleagues are regularly called in to support.

‘I am used as an expert witness in legal proceedings and, away from a courthouse, I will often be asked to conduct an investigation into the consequences of doing something from an archeological perspective, and then compile a report into my findings. I never tell my clients what to do. All I explain to them are the ramifications of certain courses of action. It’s up to them to decide whether my recommendations make the financial and legal considerations worthwhile.’


Question the evidence


Will’s work has helped him to develop his views on a number of things – including the importance of being what he calls a ‘free thinker’. He is keen to encourage all of us to take a good look at ourselves. He believes that only by assessing how we behave, and what we know and comprehend about our own lives and the world we live in, will we be become happier and more fulfilled.

He says: ‘The first question we should ask ourselves, when someone says there is no evidence for something, is “How hard have you looked?” If you haven’t tested something, you can’t say it is untrue. Yet I find many scientists make inaccurate and misleading statements when, quite frankly, they ought to know better. And I must confess, this is where I was when I started out.

‘Archeology is a team sport. You have movies like Indiana Jones, which I love, that present this great man and explorer as someone who can discern everything.  In my experience, this a myth. It’s not true. The discipline of archeology is like volleyball, not golf! If I have a bit of pottery, I can easily tell you it is quite old. I may even be able to identify it as possibly Roman or from the Iron Age. That’s as good as it will get. While interesting on one level, this information is utterly useless if you need to develop a greater understanding of the artifact and the period it is from.

‘Take the same ceramic to a pottery specialist and you will get a very different story. They will be able to tell you it is second century Roman, or from Gaul. They will tell you how it was made, what materials were used, who used it, and where in the world it may have been exported to. On top of this, there will be a whole load of other stuff that most people won’t be able to understand. But the right person will.

‘My point is everyone contributes. No one individual can give you the whole story. But a team can, particularly when you remain open-minded. And when that happens, the value to you, and potentially many others, is priceless.’


Yearning for more


Will’s loving parents were missionaries. His mother is Argentinean; his father was born in the United States. Together, they took the teachings of the Bible to places like Brazil, where Will spent his formative years growing up.

‘I had a very unorthodox childhood,’ he says fondly. ‘The freedom I enjoyed was incredible. I saw and experienced so much. It made a real impression on me.’

One thing Will learned from an early age was to ask questions.

‘If I didn’t understand something, my parents encouraged me to speak up and find out about things. And I did… Aged 10, I was a Christian all the way. It was in my DNA. I believed things quite naturally. Things like God and creation were subjects I didn’t really dispute. My parents believed these things, and that was good enough for me. But when I came back from Brazil, I started to feel differently about things, I began to realise I didn’t see Christianity as something that was giving me any practical wisdom.

‘I continued going to church. But I could see it wasn’t influencing my life, and it certainly wasn’t embedded in my character. I remember thinking Christianity was just another one of those cultural phenomena that people had come to believe for reasons of their own. Many countries have these religions and they all have similar characteristics. But they didn’t seem to tell me about life, other than people yearn for more.’

When he went to university, the cord that was bonding Will to his faith roots snapped, and for the next 14 years he would drift between agnosticism and atheism.

‘I didn’t behave like an atheist campaigner, or anything like that,’ he says. ‘I just went off and did my own kind of thing. I would think about the suffering and cruelty of the world and I would also focus on the ineptitude of a lot of Christian leaders. This made me think we don’t live in a universe that’s ruled by a benevolent deity.’

Will’s probing mind continued to prod and poke him, posing questions he was unable to answer. After a while of living in what he calls his ‘wilderness’, and encouraged by his wife, Ellie, and a friend who was to become a Church of England vicar, he was prompted to start thinking about some of life’s big questions once again – and how faith might help him find some of the answers.

‘I didn’t deliberately set out to re-examine Christianity. It just occurred, and a combination of factors made it happen without me being in control. I am a big reader of books, I just can’t put them down when I get interested in a subject. And there was one book that just rocked me back on my heels from the moment I picked it up.’

Will is referring to The kingdom of infinite space: a portrait of your head, by author Raymond Tallis.

‘I had been seeking some answers to these questions that wouldn’t go away, and I had been seeking some answers to these questions that wouldn’t go away, and I had read A Short History Of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, that is brilliant, and another by Iain McGilchrist, which was really dense, spanned hundreds of pages, printed in a small font, and was incredible.

‘Then I turned to this book that was written by Raymond Tallis, in which he starts talking about why he thinks there isn’t a soul, or anything like that. On every page he makes his case, in support of his central argument. And the more I got into the book, I realised he wasn’t succeeding, and he wasn’t convincing me. At this time, I was on his side. I wanted to be convinced. Yet he couldn’t do so, and it really bugged me.’

In his mid-thirties, Will’s wife, who he says is ‘blessed with a lot more wisdom’ than he is, started examining her own beliefs.

‘Ellie started taking our children to church, and everything started to mushroom from there,’ he recalls. ‘My friend, who went on to become a minister, would then start poking me, which would lead to some fascinating conversations and arguments. Gradually, I came to realise the evidence about God’s existence had been staring me in the face all my life. I just hadn’t recognised it for what it was.’


Science and faith can mix


Will has been an active churchgoer for the last 10 years, and he believes he and Ellie made the right decision in committing their lives to the faith they now believe in. But surely the decision couldn’t have been easy – particularly for two scientists who put the ‘emotional stuff’ to one side and deal purely in facts?

‘In the end, it was a lot easier than I believed it ever would be. When you believe in God, you see things differently. There is a clarity you don’t get when both of your feet are firmly camped in the secular world. For me, it was always about the evidence. And once I had started to look into things in a meaningful way, which I didn’t do properly until my mid-thirties, then there was only going to be one outcome.’

Candid Curly

Candid Curly

Alcohol, drug and substance abuse are on the rise in the UK, with many Britons locked into taking a vicious cocktail of drink and drugs just in order to get through the day. According to the government’s latest statistics, 268,251 adults – and more than 15,000 teenagers – now require help from specialist NHS drug and alcohol rehabilitation services. Yet with a success rate of less than 20% in helping patients deal long-term with their addictions, the country’s mainstream services are failing to tackle the problem.

There is hope, however, and a number of Christian-based organisations are now rising to the growing challenge and having a significant impact. Tony Yorke speaks to one in particular that uses its celebrity status to help people in need.


Going down…


The cobbles were cold and unforgiving. Saliva and blood mingled with the grit and tar of the hard, northern pavement – and Kevin Kennedy’s crumpled body lay deathly still.

Kevin was one of the biggest stars of Coronation Street, Britain’s most popular television soap opera, and he had just collapsed outside his local pub. He was out cold. His body, ravaged by booze, had spectacularly decided to call time on years of revelry.

Yet things were to get worse before they started to get better.

Capturing everything that unfolded on that fateful day in 1996 was a national newspaper photographer who recorded the full, unedited story of the popular actor’s plight.

There is an old saying that the camera never lies. And this day, the lens absorbed everything as Kevin lay unconscious on the roadside just a few feet away. Within hours, the dramatic pictures would reveal the secret to the world: Kevin was an alcoholic, his problem was out of control and his body could take no more.

The revelation also meant he could no longer hide. The protective cocoon that had shielded Kevin and his wife, Clare, for so long had disintegrated, leaving the couple to deal with everything that was to follow.

‘It was one of the most shameful moment of my life,’ recalls the star, whose Norman ‘Curly’ Watts character graced the small screen for 20 years. ‘My secret was out of the bag. The world knew what I had been doing to myself. I couldn’t pretend or hide it any more. Yet the truth is, I hadn’t been driven to drink by the pressure of show business and living my life in a goldfish bowl; far from it. I liked drinking and having a good time. My big mistake was to do it to excess and get attached to addiction, so it took over my life.”


Fresh in the memory


Kevin has been sober for the last 22 years, during which time he and Clare have seen their marriage go from strength to strength, albeit there has been at least one major ‘bump’. Yet for Clare, the memory of finding Kevin on the kerb, after he had experienced what is called an alcoholic seizure, is still extremely raw.

‘We were going home and Kevin announced he was desperate for the loo. He couldn’t wait,’ she remembers. ‘We were close to the local pub we knew well. So I pulled the car over and let him out. I started to get worried when he didn’t return after about 15 minutes, but I certainly didn’t expect to find him in the condition he was in. But reaching this low didn’t stop us drinking.

‘I wasn’t stupid. I knew Kevin liked a drink and a good time, but I really didn’t want to believe he was an alcoholic. Because if I admitted he was an alcoholic, then I would have to admit the same for myself. We were both living the high life but we were both also in denial. As a result, we hit the crash barriers in a major way.’

The next few years passed by at whirlwind speed until the couple hit 1998, a year that saw their relationship and drinking hit rock bottom. It was then Clare decided she could no longer watch Kevin slowly kill himself. So she left him, and it was this time apart that would see Kevin’s world fall apart, leaving him with a stark choice: ask for help or die.

At this point, Kevin was a household name and one of the main characters on the Street. Thankfully, Granada TV recognised he was in trouble and stepped in, helping the actor get access to real help and support.

The decision saved Kevin’s life. Granada’s cash paid for vital treatment, and it was during his time at the renowned Priory clinic that Kevin was able to begin a new, sober chapter in his life.

The time apart also forced Clare to confront her own inner demons. ‘I was a binge drinker, and due to the added pressures, drama and general chaos, these binges became more frequent. I believed the drinking was helping me to cope with the crazy life we were leading. But my own denial was a problem and was clouding my thinking. I could only really see Kevin’s problem as being the big issue, yet I was also a chronic alcoholic, whose life was rapidly spiralling out of control.’

Recognising they both had a serious problem took time to accept and resolve, and there were many tears along the way. And Clare also threatened the small matter of divorce!

‘It wasn’t a normal response to hearing your husband may die if he’s around alcohol. I still loved him dearly, but his addiction meant our lives had to change, and I wasn’t happy about that.’

But the couple were gradually able to confront things together.

On leaving the Priory, Kevin’s career went from strength to strength. He returned to the Street, and the door opened for him to launch a musical career, which would lead to a Gold album and rave reviews on some of London’s biggest West End stages.

It was the decision to take leading parts in musicals that directly led Kevin and Clare to a new faith life, and a worthy home for their passions and energies.

‘I was brought up as a Catholic,’ explains Kevin. ‘Religion had always been a part of my family life. But it wasn’t really relevant. And because of this, I no longer went to church or spent much time thinking about God, even though I did always believe. But when I had been sober for seven months, I had a eureka moment, suddenly realising my recovery was only made possible by a force much bigger than me. I couldn’t have done it on my own. I just didn’t have the willpower. Something far more powerful than me had been guarding me, keeping me on the straight and narrow. It’s hard to explain, but it was a hugely significant and personal moment that was to change my life.’


People with real needs


His return to health had a profound effect on Kevin. ‘We had left Manchester and moved down to Brighton, and we had really settled into the community. The place had a good feel and we were keen to make a fresh start. But we were taken aback by the amount of addiction we saw on the streets. It was in Brighton. It was everywhere we went. Before my problems really surfaced, I saw people having a good time and didn’t really think anything more about it. Now, after purging beer from my life, I saw things very differently, and everywhere I looked, I could see people with real needs.

‘A lot of celebrities and high functioning addicts got in touch with me, and Clare and I were able to help them. These were people who had a lot to lose if their addiction became known publicly. I had experienced it myself, and I wouldn’t wish that kind of exposure on anyone. You have to be strong, and have great family support to get through it, and not everyone is as lucky as me.’

Kevin continued to remain sober and rebuild his acting career, working extensively in London and in theatres throughout Britain. Meanwhile, Clare trained as an addiction counsellor and, when she had completed the formalities, opened her own not for profit organization on the south coast, dedicated to supporting the many people who have seen addiction devastate their lives.

‘Kevin has been a real brick these past years,’ she says. ‘A lot of the money he has earned has been used to fund my work with addicts. We haven’t been relying on grants, or big corporate sponsors. For two decades, we have put our money where our mouths are. And, by doing so, we have been able to help an awful lot of people.’

Covid-19 has undoubtedly had a negative impact on many aspects of UK life. But for the Kennedys it has helped them turn their charitable ambitions into reality.

‘As soon as the pandemic hit the country, the services and support structures that normally helped people in need all closed down,’ states Clare. ‘All of a sudden, I started to receive hundreds of phone calls. We were inundated.’

So the Kennedys decided to get involved.

‘It became apparent we had to find a way of helping people from the local area and all over the world, not just the UK,’ continues Kevin. ‘So many people were getting in touch and telling us they had nowhere to turn. They needed immediate support so they could start to tackle their addiction. They were desperate. Clare and I talked about things, and we agreed the best way forward was to establish our own charity so we could offer virtual recovery connections. So, earlier of this year, that’s exactly what we did, and it builds on the wonderful recovery coaching work Clare has been doing.’

Kennedy St Foundation, also known as Kennedy St CiO, was formally registered with the Charities Commission on 29 April. Kevin is its Patron, while Clare is CEO. A further 15 volunteers are based at the couple’s home, where they ‘do whatever is necessary to make a difference’.


Actively seeking opportunities


With Kevin’s help, the charity has embarked on a major recovery awareness campaign. Its launch has featured in the national press and on national TV. Several well-known friends, including Coronation Street’s Denise Welch, X-Factor winner Sam Bailey, and Darren Day, the singing sensation and theatre performer, are among the foundation’s enthusiastic supporters.

‘I am heavily involved, but I can’t get too close,’ adds 59-year-old Kevin. ‘The nitty-gritty of the charity is where Clare is meant to be; but it’s not for me. My job is to promote what we are all about and raise our profile. It is wonderful to get such high-profile backing. The stars who are helping us are shining a spotlight on the work we do and the challenges the people we support face on a daily basis. But once the publicity machine has ground to a halt, there is still an awful lot of work to be done, and that’s where Clare comes into her own.’

Among the outcomes Kevin and Clare are seeking for the people they support is a renewed sense of purpose on the work front. To this aim, they are actively seeking opportunities for former addicts to partner with experienced business professionals, so a range of diverse business ideas and opportunities have a chance of bearing fruit.

‘Addicts are incredibly creative people,’ confesses Kevin. ‘We have to be to get our daily fix of alcohol.

I remember going into an off-licence outside of their normal opening hours, picking up a birthday card and pleading with the store staff to let me have a bottle of vodka because I needed to give someone a present to celebrate their big day. And I did these sort of things all the time, in order to get my way. Other addicts are equally creative. But we are trying to get them to turn their energies to thinking about their futures once they are in recovery. Many of them have got some wonderful ideas, but they lack know-how and the experience that will help them bring their thoughts to life. That’s where teaming up with an experienced third-party could really help. So if there is anyone out there…?’


To speak directly to the Kennedy St Foundation, please call the organisation’s recovery helpline on 01273 758561 or visit its website:

Remembering Bobby Ball

Remembering Bobby Ball

I’ll never forget standing next to Bobby Ball, in just our underwear, looking at a crowd assembled for our show. We thought no one could see us. It turned out they most definitely could, and a new double act was almost formed, ‘The Spy-Fronts’. More of that later.

Bobby was one half of comedy duo Cannon and Ball. Together with his friend and colleague, Tommy Cannon, they started their career in clubland, before becoming mainstays of TV in the early 1980s with their own top-rated show. In 1982, they even made a feature film: The Boys in Blue.

In later years, Bobby starred in sitcoms such as Last of the Summer Wine, Mount Pleasant, Benidorm and most recently, Not Going Out, where he played Lee Mack’s unreliable dad, Frank.

Cannon and Ball both took part in I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here in 2005, with Bobby making it to the last five. So it looks like he wanted to stay more than the title suggested.

Their story began when the ex-welders, who clearly sparked off each other, made their first TV appearance in 1968 on Hughie Green’s popular talent show, Opportunity Knocks. They came last, but some years later, against the odds, LWT supremo Michael Grade saw their act and insisted they were given their own series.

They hadn’t made the grade, but Grade made them. The rest, as they say, is history.

Cannon and Ball were my childhood heroes. As a kid, Saturday evenings saw me sitting in front of the TV to watch Bobby winding Tommy up. Their daft sketches, great guests and musical numbers saw the show fast become ITV’s most successful series in the 1980s – pulling in a staggering 20 million viewers at its peak.

Apart from the regular Saturday night shows, there were Christmas and Easter specials, musical albums, pantomimes and, in 1985, their summer season theatre performances out-sold Bruce Springsteen’s British tour. While ‘The Boss’ made records, Tommy and Bobby broke them everywhere they went. That year, it turns out, it was the boys who were on fire.

At the height of their fame, they bought identical gold Rolls-Royces, beachfront homes in the Canary Islands, and even boats. When Bobby invested in a nightclub in Rochdale and called it Braces, Tommy – not to be outdone – bought his local football team, Rochdale FC.

Yet behind the scenes, not everything was so rosy. The real irony was that while the duo had achieved the success they worked so hard for, their own relationship had fallen apart. For a couple of years in the mid-80s they didn’t speak a word to each other, except on stage.

In 1985, I heard that Bobby had become a Christian. He’d been known for his wild, unpredictable character and his drinking, fighting and womanising. Then he met theatre chaplain, Rev Max Wigley, for a chat about Christianity. Despite the fame and fortune his career had given him, Bobby realised something was missing from his life, and he asked God to take over. He was never the same again.

As a young Christian myself, I was really encouraged by this and started praying regularly for Tommy. Amazingly, six years later ‘Rock on Tommy’ became Tommy on The Rock as he became a Christian (I don’t want to take all the credit on that one, but I’ll take a little) and the two decided to use their talents to share their faith.

At that point, I’d been travelling all over the UK and Europe for seven years, using a daft mix of comedy and escapology, and you can imagine how I felt to be invited to be part of Cannon and Ball’s Gospel Tour in theatres and arenas all around the country.

Christianity had had such an impact on Bob, he would readily share his faith in every way he could, and his amazing gift for weaving comedy and faith into his routines meant that he was listened to by audiences everywhere he went. He wanted to share the reality of the Christian message and the change it had made in his life. It was impossible for him to keep his faith quiet.

In our 1995 touring show, we performed to more than fifty thousand people over 48 nights. It was the stuff of my dreams – performing with my favourite comedians, becoming pals and sharing Jesus with people as we travelled the length and breadth of the country. It was a wonderful experience. Bob and Tom were the stars of the show, but the cast also featured the solo singer, Danny Owen, the duo Perfect Match and yours truly – as in me, not a badly named tribute band.

Each night, I’d open the second half, appearing out of an empty box, only to be manacled into a regulation straitjacket from which I attempted to extricate myself faster than Houdini, with a daring difference: I escaped upside-down whilst dangling from the top of the theatre. It was a busy and exciting time, and it had more than the intended laughs.

It was all going well until we arrived at Edinburgh’s magnificent King’s Theatre. f

h The organisers had taken us out for a slap-up pre-show, all-inclusive, eat-as-much-as-you-possibly-can Chinese buffet. Never one to let the side down, I dutifully ate as much as I could. Two hours later, Tom and Bob waited in the wings armed with buckets: I was turning various shades of green as I hung upside down, trying to get out of the straitjacket not just faster than Houdini, but before I was violently sick all over the stage. Forget escapology – keeping my dinner down was the most impressive thing I did all day.

When the shows ended, I have fond memories of sitting in the hotel bar each night laughing and joking over a few pints, egg mayonnaise sandwiches and an occasional Bacardi and Coke. We would all go to bed in the early hours exhausted, worn out by all the laughter.

A couple of years later, we were back together again for a big outdoor event in Sefton Park, Liverpool. It was the scene of a deeply unfortunate incident with a one-way mirror – you know, like the ones they have in police stations where you can see out, but no one can see in. It was also one of the most embarrassing moments of my life – and as you can probably imagine, there’s been some competition.

The show itself was a huge affair organised by local churches and we had an awesome stage vehicle for the day – a bit like those used for the Radio One Roadshow –and I felt like a proper star.

Hanging out backstage drinking tea (still as rock and roll as ever), Bobby and I realised we were soon on and needed to get changed. ‘These mirrors are amazing, aren’t they?’ I said to Bobby, as we started getting undressed. He agreed and we both stopped for a moment to stare at the crowd, hands on our hips, wondering just how many people were out there.

I’m not entirely sure how long that moment was as we stood there in our underpants, but it was brought to an abrupt halt as we spotted some women giggling and pointing in our direction. In case we had any illusions left that we were stood behind a mirror, they mouthed ‘Look, it’s Bobby Ball.’ They probably didn’t mouth it; they probably said it loudly, we just couldn’t hear them through the soundproof, if not one-way, glass.

It was crystal clear that the very normal glass was all that stood between our pants and the vast crowd who had come to hear us tell them about Jesus. It was not the show people were expecting us to give.

Frozen to the spot, we realised we had been entertaining the crowds in a quite unplanned and most unexpected way. I belatedly caught sight of the curtains at the side of the window and swiftly pulled them. We had been caught very much with our pants, fortunately, up.

Bobby was one of the funniest and kindest people I’ve ever met. He had genuinely funny bones. He was a joker through and through and loved winding me up.

Another time we gigged together in Harrogate for a church guest meeting at a swanky hotel. Bob got there before me. Six hours later, I arrived at the venue to be turned away by an over-officious woman on the door because I didn’t have a ticket, even though my face was on the poster. I phoned Bobby to come and rescue me, but he came to the door and, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, said ‘Sorry cocker, I’ve never seen you in all my life.’

He was a joker, but he had a heart of gold (as well as previously owning a Rolls Royce of the same colour) and cared very much about everyone he met, and he’d help me out with anything. He and Tom appeared as quails on my kids’ Christmas cartoon, It’s a Boy. It came out in 2005 as the pair were Down Under, starring in I’m a Celebrity, causing a new generation of young people to fall in love with the pair.

Nothing was too much trouble for Bob – he had a truly generous spirit. In fact, we’d been texting each other about appearing on my podcast just a week before he died.

Meeting one of my childhood comedy heroes was one thing, getting to work with Bobby was another, but calling him a friend was the honour of a lifetime.


Steve Legg has been a professional entertainer since 1988. He is also the founding editor of Sorted magazine and a long-time friend of Bobby Ball

Counting his blessings

Counting his blessings

Aled Jones tells Tony Yorke why his latest album, book and tour are amongst his most important works.
Just like mince pies and Santa Claus, Aled Jones is the young Welsh chorister whose angelic voice will forever be synonymous with Christmas. Yet the boy from Bangor has come a long way since those halcyon days, when his hit single Walking in the Air reached number five in the charts. It is hard to believe, but that was some 35 years ago.

Since then, Jones’s career has gone from strength to strength. He has become a successful singer, even though his voice broke when he was 16. And when he is not touring and making records, the 49-year-old can be found gracing the nation’s TV screens, or hosting two popular radio shows.

Right now, he is busy promoting his fortieth album, entitled Blessings, which he hopes listeners will realise is all about ‘faith, and the difference Jesus Christ can make in our lives.’

The album, and a book called Everyday Blessings, are two more brave steps ...

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