Diana Pilkington on how she ended up on stage with Take That
As I gazed out at the sea of faces, my heart pounded with a mixture of excitement, disbelief and mild terror. In front of me were 30,000 people – the biggest audience I’d ever seen, let alone performed for.
If that wasn’t overwhelming enough, my schoolgirl crush Mark Owen was within touching distance, gliding up and down a travelator. But I couldn’t get distracted. I was singing and dancing with Take That on their UK tour, and I had to get it right.
This ‘bucket list’ moment came about thanks to Natural Voices, the friendly community choir I sing with in Walthamstow. They’d teamed up with the London International Gospel Choir to form the backing chorus for the boyband at the O2 Arena in London and Stadium MK in Milton Keynes, where I joined the line-up for one night.
Amazing as the opportunity was, I was a ball of nerves in the lead-up. We were doing two tracks, Never Forget and Relight My Fire, and the choreography was the most challenging part. If I mistimed a click of the fingers or walked the wrong way it could be immortalised on thousands of camera phones.
“Whatever happens, don’t let mistakes show on your face – keep smiling,” my choir leader Lizzy Renihan advised.
It turns out it’s hard not to smile deliriously when you’re sharing a stage with your teenage idols, and the day of the concert was one ‘pinch me’ moment after another. The first came when the tour’s special guest, Lulu, arrived to warm up with us backstage. We provided the backing vocals of Relight My Fire as she belted out her solo, before we were whisked off to the stage to await our cue.
As the opening notes of Never Forget rang out across the stadium, we filed out and the crowd roared in recognition. For a few seconds it felt as if the roars were just for us. Then Take That re-emerged from a costume change, the noise intensified and Mark gave us a huge grin. When the anthemic chorus kicked in, I flung my arms in the air, and every audience member seemed to follow suit. It was an incredible feeling.
But our nine minutes on stage passed in a flash. It was only on the coach home that exhilaration really took hold: I’d just performed with Take That! And I wanted to do it all over again.