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On the 31st January 2012 our very own multi-talented secretary Tori Tompkins hosted and performed at MJL’s first ever fundraising event: an open mic night held at The Vine pub in Maidenhead, Berkshire.
The unforgettable evening featured performances from a multitude of incredibly gifted local musicians whose talents were successfully coupled with the thrill of live racing.
The array of musicians present sung and played their hearts out in Michael’s memory, in the knowledge that all proceeds from the evening would be going towards building Everland – a much needed children’s home in the slums of Monrovia, Liberia.
Tori opened the night by thanking those present, reminding people what it was all about and how monies raised would positively and undoubtedly impact on the lives of children who are at risk of abuse, rape, poverty and neglect. Posters and leaflets on the walls and placed on each table gave a snapshot of Michael’s humanitarian legacy so that visitors who were not aware of this part of the superstar’s life would have no doubt as to the motivation and inspiration behind the event.
The evening began with some live racing to get people in the mood for giving. This was compered by Matt Bond, who did an excellent job in reminding people what they were giving towards. Uncannily, the first three horses to win were all number 7. Hmmm. Halfway through the evening, Tori pointed to a van pulled up outside the pub’s front window which was entirely unrelated to the event but was nonetheless adorned with sunflowers. Also, Dee, our founder, had warned Tori that she has been seeing ‘MJ’ in car registration plates on just about every journey since starting this initiative, and in their 15 minute walk to the pub and the 15 minute walk home, sure enough, this held to be true. Just a few of the little happenings which made us feel that Michael’s presence was with us throughout the night.
Tori started the night off with some beautifully sung renditions including ‘Smile’, ‘I’ll Be There’, ‘You Are Not Alone’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’. Indeed, those present could already feel the love and there were more than a few teary eyes in the ever increasing crowd after what was an incredibly heartbreaking, emotional set.
Other brilliant performers taking to the stage included ‘Brian’, Mark Crofts, Anthony Bennett, Mark ‘Tyler’ Stroud, Matt Bond, Ian Gudgeon, Johnny Seaman, Kat Stewart and Nigel Blackman, all who gave of their time and talents so freely and with such dedication and commitment. Along with talented lead guitarist Ian Gudgeon, Mark Crofts got everyone in a party mood with an excellent rendition of Robbie Williams’ ‘Let Me Entertain You’ before getting everyone on their feet by launching into ‘Billie Jean’ and dedicating it to Tori and her unwavering commitment in putting on this event.
Such musicians electrified the evening and ensured that nobody went away without having an incredibly good night. From the Doobie Brothers, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Dusty Springfield, to Dido, Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, Soft Cell and Danny Wilson, all musical tastes were catered for. And the money for the orphanage kept coming in through donations, purchases and a good cut authorised and given by the landlord Danny, on each race.
Aside from the entertainment, we also sold a multitude of craft items on the night, all diligently hand-made by our child support co-ordinator, Sheila Harris. From earrings, necklaces, eco bags and hair bands to African Masai beaded keyrings and belts, Sheila’s items ensured that nobody went away without having had a chance to give to the cause whilst getting something to take away in return. And if attendees wanted to take away a little entertainment from the evening too, then CDs of some classics by Tori were available in return for donations, all 40 of which were snapped up by generous givers by the end of the evening.
It was wonderful to see and meet Rebecca from the Michael Jackson Children’s Hospital initiative, and to meet two supporters from Wales – Lisa and Lisa – who had a fantastic time and said it was worth the journey and local hotel accommodation they had booked in order to attend the fundraiser.
Tori says: "The evening was permeated with the same magic and wonder of which Michael constantly spoke, the magic he used to infuse the lives of severely ill children with hope, joy and happiness, the magic so many dedicated followers and fans keep sprinkled, safe and secure, in the deepest recesses of their hearts."
The event raised a staggering £508.75 for Everland which will go such a long way in helping the children of Liberia for years to come. Aside from thanking our inspiration, Michael Jackson, who was a gift to our generation that just keeps on giving through those who heard his cry for a better world, we would like to thank all the musicians mentioned above, who gave of their time and talents to make this night a huge success.
We would also like to thank Danny, The Vine’s landlord, for allowing us to use his beautiful venue for a beautiful cause, Sheila for making and donating such a vast range of craft items, Rockc Jewellers in Leicester for donating almost 100 boxes for the earrings, the entire Tompkins family for such enthusiasm, generosity and dedication in bringing this event to fruition and giving so much on the night itself, and last but certainly not least, the wonderful Damian Delahunty who not only graciously offered to amplify the evening, (with roadie help from Amy Cross and Stuart Moir) but also gave the entire £150 he won on the evening to the cause. Now that’s what you call a night that’s all for L.O.V.E!