In April 2018 music legend George Michael was honoured with a Blue Plaque at his former school, Bushey Meads High School, Hertfordshire. The Heritage Foundation and school honoured the pop legend with the Blue Plaque for services to music and philanthropy on Sunday 15th April 2018.
In an unveiling ceremony attended by over 150 fans and current pupils the plaque was revealed by the school’s Executive Principal, Mr Jeremy Turner and Deputy Mayor and Conservative Councillor of Hertforshire, now Mayor Councillor, Brenda Batten, following her election to the position on 24th May 2018. They both delivered wonderfully personal speeches. Mr Turner informed gathers that “the motto of the school is ‘To Aspire to Achieve’ and that pupils should have a Mind to be Kind. I think George Michael embraced and exemplified both of those principles in his life.” He revealed that Shirley, of Pepsi and Shirley fame, also was a student at the school at the same time as George and his WHAM! bandmate Andrew Ridgley.
The day also saw the opening of the extension of the school’s music building, which was now double its former size. Guests were permitted to have a look around.
In a memorable, revealing speech Brenda Batten recalled fond memories of the teenage Andrew Ridgley being her paperboy and the impact that had on her impressionable, love struck young daughters! She reminisced that they used to play piano quite badly but one day she was struck by how much they seemed to have immeasurably improved as if by magic overnight. She excitedly went into the living room to congratulate them, only to find out to her great surprise that it was none other than Andrew Ridgley playing on her piano!
She also mentioned that when Andrew came round to collect his annual newspaper delivery bonus one Christmas he brought along a friend, a certain George Michael . You could say it was a case of ‘Last Tipsmas’!
Following the ceremony a number of fans enjoyed a 3 course lunch at the local Three Crowns pub, where George and Andrew used to drink, rehearse and formed their first band, ‘The Executives.’ Landlord Michael helpfully and jovially added to the atmosphere of the occasion by playing a George Michael playlist throughout the afternoon. This informal lunch was hastily organised by Tracy Wills, founder of the George Michael Appreciation Society of Bushey and for some fans, it helped make up in a small way for the late cancellation of a Hilton Hotel fundraiser. More on that scandal later.
In the evening many fans returned to Bushey Meads High school for a tribute show to George Michael hosted which was performed by current pupils as well as one former pupil. This was superbly organised by the school and its pupils. It was supported and promoted by “superfan” Terry Daniels and The George Michael Appreciation Society of Bushey.
The show comprised solo, duo and ensemble performances from pupils aged from 11-18 years old that spanned a mix of songs by George Michael, WHAM! and many other well known artistes. There was a wide range of talent on stage, some of whom were quite superb, such as Bo Kabucho, 12, who stole the first half of the show with his super rendition of ‘Faith’. He had the confident, precocious air of a young Michael Jackson about him and could well go far. There were further fine vocal and guitar performances from older pupils, Adam Dalby and Aaron Robinson, who superbly and with great passion covered the Elton John and George Michael song, ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me’ and Eric Clapton’s ‘I Shot The Sheriff.’ That really lifted the night to another level.
Some songs and performances were spoilt though as a result of either extreme nerves and/or singing songs that plainly weren’t right for the singer’s vocal range. However these pupils shouldn’t be disheartened though as their former star pupil George was quite a shy performer himself of course, even during his superstardom, so I suspect as a youngster he may well have been every bit as shy and nervous as some of those taking to the stage. It can’t have been easy trying to cover one of their former alma maters, who just happened to become one of the world’s great singing talents, but they gave it their all and overall it was a lovely tribute to George Michael. I’m sure he would have been immensely proud.
The evening closed with an uplifting cover of WHAM!’s ‘Wake ME Up Before You Go Go.’
On a sadder much more serious note, the build up to the event was marred by a scandal over a Hilton Hotel Fundraising Luncheon planned in George Michael’s honour. The Hilton Hotel Watford were set to host the £90 a head fundraising luncheon organised by The Heritage Foundation and Terry Daniels. Inexplicably just two weeks before the big day, the Heritage Foundation cancelled the lunch and refused to refund fans for their £90 tickets. When contacted Terry Daniels was unable to talk to Tiemo Talk of the Town citing that the matter was subject to a police investigation. The Charity Commission have stated, “We are aware of serious concerns regarding the Heritage Foundation, which is run by the Arts and Entertainment Charitable Trust.”
When contacted by Tiemo Talk of the Town, Heritage Foundation Chairman David Graham was also fairly tight lipped, but by way of explanation said that, “sponsors had let him down who were helping to fund the event. They kept delaying and delaying. I’ve got nothing to hide. It will take place on a new date and all who’ve bought tickets will get free entry.”
Judging by many fans comments and anger over this scandal, I doubt that very much and only time will tell if that comes to pass. Whilst many ticket holders have now received refunds from their banks, two months on, many more still await refunds from the Heritage Foundation.
© Tiemo Talk of the Town
- Tribute poem read at Bushey Meads High School plaque unveiling – Steve Stunt – 15th April 2018
- Faith: The George Michael Legacy Lives on by Wayne Dilks – 19th October 2017
- Fans Flock to George Michael Memorial Service – Tiemo Talk of the Town – 1st May 2017
- Symphonica concert review – Tiemo Talk of the Town – 19th October 2012