It was Autumn 1991. A couple of hundred hyperactive secondary school kids had been herded into the sports hall, chattering excitedly with anticipation. We were about to have some very special visitors.
Rewind to a few weeks earlier, and my friend Sharon and I were lounging about in my bedroom after school, reading Smash Hits and listening to ‘Hits Not Homework’ on Metro Radio. As Cece Peniston’s ‘Finally’ faded into silence, the DJ came on announcing a very special competition. The competition was for schools in the North East to vote for their ‘Teacher of the Year’. We giggled between ourselves. Why would we want to do that? I went back to reading Betty Boo’s style tips. The DJ carried on talking about the competition: it would involve voting for a teacher who would ultimately win some sort of awesome prize, like a cruise. Oh, and during the competition, the three schools with the highest number of votes for their teacher would win a visit from Take That.
Our heads jerked up from our magazines. Take That? The new boyband we’d become obsessed with over the last few months? The ones we had plastered all over our bedroom walls and school books? All of a sudden we were listening.
We chose a teacher: my form tutor, Mr Dunthorne (in hindsight, we should really have chosen someone with a much shorter name) and set about voting. The rules were that the votes needed to be handwritten, on individual bits of paper. Today, I can see so many holes in this it’s unreal. At the time though, printing votes wasn’t an option – killing trees and perpetual hand cramps were the only way. Votes had to be physically dropped off at a local Woolworths so Sharon and I gathered up all of our scraps of paper, bundled them into our trendy tartan backpacks and heaved them onto the bus to the Metrocentre. In that first vote count, the two of us had completed 2000 votes ourselves which was way more than any of the other schools had. A visit from Take That was within our clammy grasp.
Over the following days and weeks dozens of kids got involved in writing out votes. At one point we had a production line of writers, cutters and counters working away during breaks and lunches in the science lab. The theme music for the competition (an old-school tune called Rofo's Theme) was permanently playing throughout. Then one night, ears glued to Hits Not Homework, we heard the news we’d been waiting for – Mr D had enough votes to place us at the top of the current leaderboard (although the overall competition would continue to run for a couple of weeks after this) and Take That would indeed be coming to our school. OUR SCHOOL! We were literally hysterical.
So, there we were, in the sports hall that day, eagerly awaiting the arrival of a boyband who were, at the time, relatively unknown. A few lucky souls (myself included) were allowed to stand awkwardly at the front of the hall, due to our voting efforts in the competition, while our classmates sat in rows on the dusty floor. Someone brought in a ghetto-blaster and the tinny sound of the opening bars of ‘Once You’ve Tasted Love’ filled the hall. As we watched, five lads in hoodies and jeans strode in, waving at everyone. It took me a few seconds to realise that these were the same five lads that were in the poster I had blu-tacked to my bedroom wall, wearing black leather jackets and studded codpieces . At the time, I didn’t consider how completely inappropriate it would have been for them to arrive at a school wearing studded codpieces, I just thought they were having a casual day, like we did at the end of each term. Anyway, at that point, Sharon and I grabbed each others’ hands and did this sort of excitable jumping-up-and-down-thing. There was a lot of screaming; from us, pretty much every girl in the hall and probably a few boys, too.
My photography skills weren't the best
Take That started to mime along to the song whilst doing their dance routine. Howard and Jason did a couple of back flips. I was frantically trying to take photos with my disposable Kodak camera, clicking and winding as fast as my little fingers would allow. No time to press and wait for the flash, I’m afraid. Robbie saw me snapping and came closer. Despite my hysteria I managed to focus enough to notice that he had a tartan cap with 'Pervert' written across it, and I made a mental note to buy myself an identical one as soon as I possibly could.
I promise you this is actually Robbie. I didn't have time to wait for the flash.
‘Promises’ was played next and I firmly resisted the urge to break out into the full-on dance routine, which Sharon and I had perfected over many weeks previously. Instead, I allowed myself a small finger wagging motion during the chorus, just to demonstrate that I knew it, and was therefore a REAL fan. Uh huh.
A couple of kids were chosen to perform some dance moves with the lads. This basically involved Mark doing 'the worm' across the floor while a year nine boy shuffled awkwardly alongside him.
Mark doing the Worm
Then, amid screams, cheers and a sea of grey polyester sleeved arms, Take That were gone. Although some of us made a dash for the fire exit to try and grab an autograph before they left, we were held back by a wall of stern looking teachers. I managed to get a quick photo of Gary before the lads sped away in their silver people carrier.
When we were let out of the sports hall, we all just stood about, feeling a bit despondant. 'What now?' someone asked. 'Double Science', said someone else. It was over.
The whole 'Teacher of the Year' thing died a sudden death after that. We were all totally up for Take That coming to school, but sadly, we weren't so keen on Mr Dunthorne winning a trip-of-a-lifetime cruise. Nobody bothered to continue voting and I think our school ended up in about third or fourth place. I also have a slight confession to make here - I told my mam that I was late home from school that day as I'd been kept back in detention (she should have know that wasn't true - I don't think I ever had detention) when in actual fact, as soon as the last bell went, Sharon and I legged it along the road to Metro FM's studios where we did actually meet Take That properly and get autographs. But that's a story for another time!
*Note! Bearing in mind this was - ahem - over twenty years ago, I did struggle to remember specific details. Thanks to my multi-coloured Trespass coat wearing friend (you know who you are!) who helped me in recalling some of the info in this post!*