Published: 05/11/2009 00:00 - Updated: 10/11/2009 11:22

East 17 star Tony Mortimer is Stansted family man

Written byInterview By Sinead Holland

POP star Tony Mortimer may now be more CM24 than E17, but the Stansted-based singer is ready to step back into the spotlight to perform for a cause close to his heart.

While he has turned his back on showbiz in recent years, following his phenomenal success with the boy band which took its name from Walthamstow's postcode, the 38-year-old chart-topper will join dozens of other international celebrities for a concert to celebrate the Born Free Foundation's 25th anniversary on Saturday November 14.

Stepney-born Tony, who settled in the Uttlesford village with partner Tracey after a spell in Chingford and now sends his daughters Atlanta, 16, and 14-year-old Ocean to the Herts and Essex High School, first became involved with Born Free a decade ago.

At the height of his fame, he was inspired by a Blue Peter programme highlighting the plight of Kenyan elephants, who were being killed by villagers desperate to protect their crops. A truck was required to remove the giant beasts to a safe haven and Tony picked up the £30,000 tab for the vehicle.

He said: "Using the dodo as an example, we do not want to have to show our kids pictures of elephants because there are none left alive."

At the Royal Albert Hall gig, he will be joined by other pop and rock stars like Bryan Adams, Gabriella Cilmi, Beverley Craven, Rolf Harris and Kiki Dee as well as actors Joanna Lumley, John Altman and Martin Clunes and personalities such as model Rachel Hunter, comedian Graham Norton and presenter Nick Knowles.

He will put aside the nerves which accompany every live gig and perform East 17's hit Deep as well as Stay Another Day, which was Christmas number one in 1994 and has become an annual festive favourite.

The poignant lyrics - inspired by the suicide of his brother - won Tony a prestigious Ivor Novello award. While the song was born of deep personal tragedy, Tony said it was nevertheless a fitting festive track: "It's a sad song about missing people and Christmas is about being with the ones you love."

He still remembers clearly the thrill of hitting the top spot: "I was really blasé about it beforehand - everyone said we were going to be number one, but when I actually heard it on the countdown, I was really emotional.

"It's nice for other writers to say I'm good, I've got the Novello on my mantelpiece, but having a number one is the public saying it - and that's who I do it for."

He admitted that he still gets a thrill if he walks into a shop in Bishop's Stortford in the run-up to Christmas and hears his song - although he joked that he rarely gets recognised as most remember him as a lanky breakdancer in his mid-90s heyday and the good life in Stansted means he has since put on a few pounds!

The audience at the anniversary show could be in for a rare East 17 reunion. Tony has invited former bandmates Brian Harvey, John Hendy and Terry Coldwell to join him.

East 17 formed in 1992 and racked up 18 top 20 singles and four top 10 albums before splitting in 1997, following Brain Harvey's infamous remarks about taking ecstasy pills.

The boys got back together briefly, but now Tony is concentrating on his solo career, with a new album expected next year.

Despite the controversial break-up, Tony said he was still friends with all his former bandmates and had spoken to Brian in the last two months.

He and Tracey, who have been together for 21 years, are also still firm friends with Harvey's former girlfriend, the EastEnders actress Daniella Westbrook, who also lives locally with her family.

  • Funds raised from the 25th Anniversary of the Born Free Foundation concert will help save the lives of over 25,000 animals in the wild and alleviate the suffering of those in captivity.

    Call the ticket hotline today on 0207 589 8212 or visit www.royalalberthall.com. Tickets start from £45.
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