By Barrie White, News Correspondent.
A host of TV and sport stars were out in force on Saturday night to raise funds for The Christie hospital as the Hilton Manchester Deansgate staged its fifth annual Star Ball.
Coronation Street stars Michelle Keegan, Michelle Collins and Chris Gascoyne were joined by actors from rival soap Emmerdale as well as current Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley, former United and England captain Bryan Robson and Manchester City legend Dennis Tueart.
Sally Lindsay – who played Rovers Return barmaid Shelley Unwin for five years and is currently starring in Sky One’s ‘Mount Pleasant’ – was also there alongside Phoenix Nights actors Neil Fitzmaurice and Ted Robbins, who compered the night’s entertainment.
Keegan, who plays Tine McIntyre in the soap, says The Christie is a hospital close to her heart and she always wants to help raise funds.
“This cause is very special to my family because my Grandma died of cancer last year and she was at The Christie,” said Keegan.
“I try and do as much charity work as I can for the hospital because it’s very important to me. The night went really well and the food was gorgeous and it was a really good atmosphere tonight.”
Helena Broude, patron to The Christie, sparked a standing ovation when she spoke of the work the Young Oncology Unit at the hospital did with her son Robert, who died of cancer aged 19.
Bernadette Gilligan, general manager of the Hilton Manchester Deansgate, revealed that the Star Ball has raised over £140,000 over the last five years and believed that this year’s event was a resounding success.
She said: “The hotel celebrated its fifth birthday this week and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate this milestone than raising funds to help support disadvantaged young people.
“I’d like to personally thank all of our supporters who helped make the event so enjoyable - from the celebrities who attended, to local businesses and organisations which donated such wonderful auction prizes.”
Caroline Shaw, chief executive of The Christie, added her thanks to the people who attended and was delighted with the turnout for an event to raise much needed funds.
“The Christie is the best cancer hospital in Europe – for service, education and research,” said Caroline.
“We can only do it with a lot of support from people around the UK and people in Manchester. Without you, we wouldn’t be the best in Europe.”
With over 400 people in attendance, the atmosphere in the room was generous as guests – who had paid up to £800 per table – paid around £20,000 for a number of excellent prizes on offer at auction, including one table who paid £2, 700 for a trip for two to watch the 2012 Milan Grand Prix.
However, with many prizes on offer in a silent auction, the end total for the night was closer to a magnificent £50,000. Guests at the event were entertained by former New Order guitarist Peter Hook, swing singer Alexander Stewart and the Manchester Show Choir, as well as Catherine Tyldesley – who plays Eva Price in Coronation Street – who showed off her impressive vocal talents.
But one of the stars of the night was Natasha Mason-McCarthy, from Bowden, who successfully bid £4,000 to have a walk-on part in ‘Mount Pleasant’, written by Manchester-based writer Sarah Hooper, who has also written for ‘Shameless’ and is an old family friend of Natasha’s.
However, Natasha explained why she upped the final amount to £5,000 after speaking to Lindsay, the show’s star. “My husband Billy had a poor prognosis with stage four bowel cancer that spread to his liver,” said Natasha.
“Having just been given the all clear, we felt a debt to The Christie – with the added pleasure of being old family friends with the show’s writer Sarah Hooper and we wanted to show or support with a very generous auction bid.”
Other prizes on offer at the auction were a combined package to watch Manchester United and tickets to the hotel’s prestigious New Year’s Eve ball which was snapped up for £800.
Bryan Robson – who has recently recovered from throat cancer – said he was delighted to support a great cause and that cancer is a disease that’s affects everybody.
“As soon as people mention cancer, everybody’s hair stands on end because they know how serious it is,” said the former England captain.
“All these causes are great to support and that’s why I’m here and not just because of my own personal thing. I’ve always supported cancer charities.”
Dennis Tueart has long been a supporter of The Christie and is donating all the proceeds of his autobiography, titled ‘My Football Journey’ and is out in November, to the Young Oncology Unit.
Tueart said: “I’ve been a patron since I retired in 1984 when I ran the Bolton marathon and raised money for what was the Children’s Cancer Trust.
“We need to be able to create awareness for any problems affecting this age group and identify it early and get the diagnosis which helps the survival success rate.”