GARETH Gates has come a long way since he was a Bradford Cathedral choirboy. After shooting to fame, aged 17, on TV’s Pop Idol two decades ago, he went on to tour the country, both as a solo performer and in musical theatre.

Now Gareth’s bringing his 20-year experience of live events back to the city, staging a series of pop festivals at Odsal stadium.

Acts including Martin Kemp, Peter Andre and Sister Sledge will be hitting the stage, and he wants the shows to be something the whole family can enjoy.

It all kicks off in June with an 80s Festival, which Gareth says is an event for all ages, with food stalls, fairground rides - and the chance to win free family passes.

Says Gareth: “To mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, I’m giving away 100 family passes to my Big 80s Jubilee Party at Odsal Stadium on Friday, June 4. The first 100 families to email - stating the number of people in their family - will win tickets for this not-to-be-missed party.

“We’ve opened the event up to all ages as we want to bring the city together to celebrate such a momentous occasion.

“As well as music from Sister Sledge, Boney M, Katrina and the Waves, The Fizz, Martin Kemp and Sonia, we’ve packed the day out with lots of family activities too, such as fairground rides, food stalls and face paints.

“I’ll be there hosting the entire event and have decided to warm up the crowd with my own 80s set! For me, it’s about giving back to the city, which is why I’ve decided to give away these family passes to the people of Bradford. I can’t wait to see everyone there and celebrate together.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Sister Sledge are on the line-up. Pic: Events People Sister Sledge are on the line-up. Pic: Events People

Gareth has joined Events People, the company behind Bradford Dance Festival, held at Odsal last year, to organise three events :

* The Big 80s Festival on June 3, with Sister Sledge, Boney M, Katrina (and the Waves), Martin Kemp, The Fizz, Sonia, Pat Sharp

and local Band Sawdust. Gareth will host the event and sing an 80s set with his band.

* Bradford Dance Festival on Saturday June 4 with Tom Zanetti, Silky, Majestic, Jamie Duggan, Alex Mills, Tee Dee, Danny Tee, Danny Bond, Dale Castell and Alex Simmons.

* The Big Pop Festival on Saturday, September 3 with Peter Andre, Five , Gareth Gates, A1, S Club, Liberty X, Blazin’ Squad, Big Brovaz and Booty Luv.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Eighties icons The Fizz are heading for Odsal. Pic: Events People Eighties icons The Fizz are heading for Odsal. Pic: Events People

Gareth has wanted to bring live music to Bradford for some time now. He says: “We’ve got a great venue here at Odsal, it’s perfect for music. I’ve always wondered we haven’t got our own events here in Bradford. Why do we have to go to Leeds or Manchester?

“I’ve spent nearly 20 years on the circuit, I understand what it takes to put these types of shows on. We want this to be a big city experience.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Pat Sharp will be on stage. Pic: Events People Pat Sharp will be on stage. Pic: Events People

It was early in 2002 that the shy lad from East Bowling captured the nation’s hearts with his Pop Idol audition. Gareth came runner-up to Will Young, but was catapulted to pop stardom. His first single, Unchained Melody, went straight to No.1. Other hits followed, and debut album What My Heart Wants to Say went double platinum.

Gareth remained loyal to Bradford; taking time out of a packed post-Pop Idol schedule to back the city’s European Capital of Culture bid, and bring his family to a civic reception in his honour at City Hall. “Bradford is a great city - it made me who I am, from singing in Bradford Cathedral when I was head choirboy,” smiles Gareth. “That taught me how to sing and work in a team.

“Now it’s 20 years since Pop Idol. It made me who I am now; I’m very thankful for Pop Idol. I think I would’ve found it hard making it in this industry if I hadn’t had something like that. I always thought pop stars were people who can entertain on stage, not only sing, but chat with the crowd and be the ‘showman’. I was a shy boy with a stammer so Pop Idol was the perfect platform for me; it allowed me to show my story and personality. I don’t think people would’ve got it as much if I’d tried to make it any other way.”

Alongside his music career, Gareth has starred in several musicals over the years, including Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, in which he took over the lead role from Lee Mead in London’s West End; Les Miserables, playing Marius; Legally Blonde; Boogie Nights and Footloose.

His greatest achievement, he says, has been raising awareness of stammering. Gareth qualified as a speech coach and instructor with the McGuire Programme, helping people with stammers. He has lobbied MPs in Westminster on issues surrounding speech and language difficulties and in a powerful TV documentary he worked with young people who, like him, had stammered since childhood. “When I was a kid I didn’t know anyone else who had a stammer. I couldn’t relate to anybody,” says Gareth. “What I did for stammerers, they could then go ‘Well I’m like him’.”

* The Big 80s Festival is on Friday, June 3. Visit

Bradford Dance Festival is on Saturday, June 4. Visit

The Big Pop Festival is on Saturday, September 3. Visit