My Life As A Take That Fan

If you've read some of my previous posts you probably know that for many years I've had a very special place in my heart for a certain boy/man-band. (I wrote about the time they visited my school, aka, When It All Began, here). So it might not surprise you to know that when I was (much) younger, there was a period of time where I was known not as Lisa, but simply as one of 'The Take That Fans'.


Now this was early in the days of TT. Like, 'Do What U Like' and 'Promises' early. We were a rare breed at that time, but our numbers were growing every day. Once 'It Only Takes A Minute' was released and went top ten, it went from me, my friend Sharon and a couple of other die-hards, to dozens - and then hundreds -  of fans turning up at appearances.


Being a TTF was a BIG responsibility. Bearing in mind we didn't have t'internet then, we relied on a complex network of like-minded girls who we were put in contact with via the pen-pal section in Take That's own fanclub newsletter to know where the boys were at any given time. Any info we had would be shared via letter or, if it was urgent, via the telephone in my mam's hallway. I think at one point I had around 30 pen-pals all around the country, some of whom lived in the Manchester area and therefore spent the majority of their time sitting outside Mark's mam's house hoping to get a glimpse of him, or anyone else he may have any loose connection to, for that matter.


I can still remember how, every night when I got in from school, I'd eagerly check the hall table to see if any of my pen-pals had written to me. Often the letters would contain copies of photos that particular pen-pal had taken at meet and greets, and I would return the favour by sending them pics I'd snapped. Since I wasn't great with a camera (again, see this post if you haven't already) mine were usually of the back of Jason's head/Gary's arm/Robbie's shoe. Still, it was THEM.


Often we'd arrange to meet up, my pen-pals and me, when Take That were due to appear at record signings at Our Price on Newcastle's Northumberland Street, for radio interviews at Metro FM in Swalwell, or for a TV appearance on Gimme 5 at ITV studios on the Quayside. I remember meeting one girl, from Middlesbrough, who proudly showed me the home-made 'I HEART HOWIE 4EVA' tattoo on her forearm. 'It won't come off', I remember her saying, 'I did it with a compass and permanent marker'.


There was a definite sense of camaraderie amongst the TTFs as we whiled away long hours outside tv studios, hotels and record shops. Of course, that was forgotten once Take That actually appeared and it was every girl (or boy, as there were a few) for her/himself as we elbowed and squeezed our way to the front of the crowd. I can remember one PA at the MetroCentre. "Take That will be appearing at Town Square One" announced the tinny voice on the tannoy. Obviously, I'd been there since the centre opened, so was right at the front. Close enough to get showered in sweat when Mark started doing back flips on the stage right next to me. I remember being mildly disgusted at first, then quickly adjusting my opinion when girls next to me started squealing "MARK'S SWEAT JUST LANDED ON YOU!!!!". " I KNOW!!" I cried back, proudly.


As time went on and Take That got bigger, their local appearances became less frequent and gradually the pen pals drifted off - either I stopped writing or they did (I was spending my entire pocket money on stamps, so I was kind of relieved). Local radio appearances and record signings turned into concerts at Newcastle City Hall or Whitley Bay Ice Rink, and the band became less and less accessible to us original TTFs. Eventually, they were so big that ever getting anywhere close was impossible.


Over the last 25 years (excuse me while I lie down) the TT flame has continued to flicker, even in the sad and empty period between the original split in 1996 and the reunion 10 years later. At that first reunion show almost ten years ago, it felt like nothing had changed. The only difference was that I went into work with no voice the next day, instead of school, and after a day or so life went back to normal. Until the next tour, of course.


The most recent Take That Live 2015 tour revived all the old TTF excitement again. It was by far the best show I've seen, and the atmosphere was, as always, like no other. That feeling of camaraderie appears again, a real sense of 'WE'VE BEEN HERE SINCE THE BEGINNING!' and it's awesome. I often wonder if my old pen-pals and I have unknowingly crossed paths at one of the recent shows, and whether the girl with the home-made tattoo is still proudly showing it off at events. I'd like to think so.

I have somehow managed to erase Gary's face on this photo. My photography skills  (or lack of) strike again. 
Sadly I'm not going to the show tonight. I WISH I WAS. But I'll be enjoying a Prosecco and a bit of 'Pray' at home instead. Once a TTF, always a TTF.

xx


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