This week in our series of articles about the winners of The Visitor Sunshine Awards 2017 -which recognise local heroes in our community - we talk to singer Stuart Michaels, winner of our Entertainment Award. MICHELLE BLADE reports.
For Stuart Michaels, winning a Sunshine Award is the icing on the cake after years of hard work in the industry.
His triumph came in a busy year for the 35-year-old entertainer who also organised Morecambe’s first music festival – an incredible event for the town.
Stuart said: “I was gobsmacked at being nominated. I didn’t think I would win because I was nominated with a dance school.
“I just enjoy the night and if I win, I win. The winner had the record amount of nominations so I thought ‘it’s definitely not me’ and then I won!”
Stuart, whose real surname is Thwaite, has entertainment in his blood.
His mother Denise and stepfather played in a duo called Innovation around the district.
He said he had “the best apprenticeship he could hope for” whilst working as a holiday rep for First Choice holiday company.
He said: “I couldn’t find anything I liked doing as a job and after I got sacked from my fifth job I thought ‘this is a nightmare’.
“I then got a job as a rep working for First Choice, discovered the entertainment team and joined them.
“I got to entertainments manager and it got to the point where my singing was going really well.
“I worked in Egypt, Cyprus, Turkey, Costa del Sol, Majorca and Tenerife.
“I moved around from season to season. It was the best apprenticeship I could have ever had for where I am now. It was a really big learning curve working six nights a week to get experience.
“I took a step back and thought ‘I could make a living from singing.’
“At the age of 28, I came back to Morecambe. i drove round various places asking for gigs.
“The more gigs I got the more work I got. It’s a good thing, you get out what you put in. You can’t blame anyone, it is down to you.
“Sometimes it can be a frustrating job, gigs can get cancelled then you start panicking about money.
“My first gig was in the Rose Tavern in Lancaster, opposite the Freeholders Arms.
“I also did gigs at the William Mitchell. This would be around 2009.
“I’ve never really suffered from nerves, I’m just worried about things going well. I have to do a good job because it’s important to get booked back to do another job.”
The Morecambe Music Festival, organised by Stuart and a committee of pub landlords and other local people, took place in the town in July and was a phenomenal success.
The event attracted 10,000 people and filled the coffers of local businesses and pubs.
Stuart said: “It was very satisfying despite being five months in the planning.
“I knew it wouldn’t flop but I didn’t think it would be that good!
“On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there are five different venues in Morecambe you can go and watch live music.
“Lancaster has spent that many years entertaining the students. It’s very difficult for the students, who have to repay loans, so instead of going out they stay on campus.
“Liquid, Toast and Revolution have all shut down. There is no reason why Lancaster couldn’t be the same as Morecambe if they retarget their audience.
“All these bars could put live music on.”
Stuart entertains at weddings, funerals and even baby showers, as well as pubs in the local area.
He said: “I’ve done gigs in small stadiums in Turkey in front of 3000 people.
“The funerals are bit weird, as I’ve been known to be loud and boisterous which isn’t normal at a funeral.
“One of the weird gigs was when I was singing at a baby shower and everyone was dancing.
“I like singing ‘Bed of Roses’ by Bon Jovi and also ‘Come Undone’ by Robbie Williams. I saw him in Knebworth in 2003 and it made me want to do his songs.
“One of the biggest problems now is everything has moved to laptops or ipods and one of the most frustrating things is the new people who come along and undercut you.
“It’s your personality and stage presence that is important.”
Looking towards the future, Stuart is looking to build up an entertainment promotion company over the next few years alongside the music festival.
He said: “I very, very rarely work for an agent, 90% of my work is off my own back.
“I don’t want to be 55 or 60 and hobbling onto the stage being a shadow of what I once was.
“I want to walk away from the business at a respectable age. I want to put on events and festivals.
“I’d like to get myself to the place where I can do midweek work round the country.
“I’d just like to say thank you to the people that have supported me and shared Facebook posts and came to the nights I put on.
“The satisfaction I get from seeing people come and enjoy themselves makes me want to raise the bar and make it bigger and better.”