Neil Baldwin’s life story is the sort of tale that, had it been fiction, we’d have deemed it far-fetched. He’s been a circus clown, Stoke City Football Club’s kit man, an honorary graduate of Keele University and founder of the Neil Baldwin Football Club (which counts Kevin Keegan as its president). Among his acquaintances are Gary Lineker, Gordon Banks, Graham Taylor, Tony Benn, even Prince Edward – and he exchanges Christmas cards with the Queen and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
It’s a life story so good, BBC2 made it into Marvellous, a 90-minute biographical film which aired earlier this year starring Toby Jones (and will be shown again on Christmas Day at 11pm). “It’s the best thing ever on BBC1 or BBC2,” Neil tells RadioTimes.com.
He’s been a busy man since Marvellous was first broadcast in September, rubbing shoulders with celebrities and attending various events. Here Neil – and his close friend Victor Trigg (played by Fresh Meat’s Greg McHale in the film) – give us the lowdown on his busy social diary over the last few months…
1. Sports Personality of the Year
BBC1’s glittering celebration of sport was held in Glasgow earlier this month and guess who was in the audience? Nello, of course. Named Neil Baldwin Football Club’s Player of the Year every season since its inception, Neil told us he was hoping to catch up with Gary Lineker and Kevin Keegan at the event – and it turns out he exchanged some words with Robbie Savage too:
2. He’s behind you!
One of the cleverest twists to Marvellous was the decision to add Neil into various scenes with Toby Jones – and it turns out his acting skills left quite the impression. “I’m in a pantomime this year in Stoke-on-Trent,” he tells us. Dick Whittington stars Jonathan Wilkes and will see Neil “kicking him out of Stoke football ground because he’s a Port Vale fan.”
3. Taking on Parliament
And, speaking of football, NBFC has an exciting match lined up against the House of Commons team after Neil bumped into one of the players at the Sports Journalism Awards. “He said we’ve got an MPs team so this morning I looked on my telephone and a lady from the FA has rung me. I know Ed Balls plays so I’m very pleased.”
4. Nello the Clown is set to return
“I am coming back to the circus in March for a week in Stoke-on-Trent,” says Neil. He doesn’t know what his act will involve just yet, but keep your eyes peeled for tickets.
5. A meal with the clergy
Earlier this year the Keele Association dinner counted former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on its guest list. Mr Baldwin was sat on his table and, according Victor, “Neil-ed Rowan into giving him his address at Cambridge.”
6. A star is born
When it was first screened, Marvellous trended on social media and spawned a smattering of news articles on Neil. Needless to say, he’s enjoying his new-found celebrity status. “Every time I go out now, people are recognising me. I’ve never had that before.” What do they say? “‘You’re a TV personality, aren’t you now?’ So I say, ‘Yes, I am’.”
7. Time for some telly
When he’s not travelling up and down the country, or corresponding with his numerous acquaintances, Neil has managed to find time to re-watch Marvellous not once, not twice, but EIGHTEEN times. “It’s the best film I’ve seen for a bit and I’m very pleased that BBC have done it. I never expected a film about me.”
8. Yet more famous friends
Neil can now add Sir Michael Parkinson and Jim Rosenthal to his collection. “I was in London for the Sports Journalism Awards and Sir Michael Parkinson said, ‘I’m your best fan,’ so that’s nice.”
9. Changing Rooms
According to Victor, who helps organise Neil’s finances and busy diary, his acting fee was used to give his flat a revamp for the increased number of visitors seeking him out. And he still finds time for his increasing flock of pet birds. “His aviary capacity has had to be increased to accommodate the birds used in Marvellous and then given to Neil,” he explains.
10. Neil Baldwin MBE…?
Earlier this year, Marvellous director Julian Farino told us Neil wanted to make sure the Queen saw his film in the hope of bagging a place on the New Year Honours List. And as we near 2015, he’s patiently awaiting a nod from Buckingham Palace. “I hope it’s good luck because I’m still after an MBE or OBE. I’m just waiting to see if the Queen’s sent me a letter yet.”
Marvellous airs on Christmas Day at 11:00pm on BBC2