It’s been quite a week for Kirklees Council’s library development manager Andy Wright.
Last Saturday he was invited to Westminster Abbey for the King’s Coronation, had his photo taken with Ant and Dec, Lionel Richie and Kelly Jones from the Stereophonics and sat four seats away from Katy Perry.
And on Sunday (May 14) he’s running The Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon to raise money for the Leeds Hospitals Charity to help build the Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease.
Andy has revealed how he met the superstars and got selfies with them at the abbey.
After the coronation finished he spotted Lionel Richie queueing up with the other abbey guests to pick up his coat so Andy went over, asked if it was OK to have a photo and wished him all the best for his starring role at the Coronation Concert the following day.
Andy, 56, of Mirfield, said: “I realised it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I would regret it if I hadn’t asked.”
Ant and Dec were milling around and so Andy asked them if they’d have a photo too and watched in amazement as stars and celebrities were all around him including Sebastian Coe, Emma Thompson, Dame Maggie Smith, Tony Blair and John Major.
“Everywhere I looked there was someone famous,” said Andy. “It was like I was in a dream with all these famous people just wandering around.”
The day started really early. Andy left his hotel in Watford at 4.30am and was in the queue outside the abbey at 6.45am, standing not far from Stephen Fry who was also waiting to go in.
Andy was given a yellow ticket which meant he could sit in the knave … anywhere in the knave.
“It was a free-for-all,” said Andy. “The earlier you were, the better seat you had and I was just four rows back.”
He had a great view of the procession both into and out of the abbey and there were TV screens all around so he could see the coronation which was in another part of the abbey out of sight.
But why was he invited?
Andy received the BEM for services to public libraries in the New Year’s Honours in January 2022 after working in the sector for more than 30 years.
He’s now based at Huddersfield Library but had previously worked at Wakefield libraries in a wide variety of roles, eventually becoming acting head of service, before moving to Kirklees Libraries in July 2019.
He said: “King Charles wanted people at the coronation to represent just normal people as opposed to MPs, lords and peers and so I think they had invited people who had recently been awarded honours such as the BEM.
“I’m only guessing but I wonder if Queen Camilla’s love of literacy had something to do with it as there were a few librarians there.
“I received an email about three months ago from the Cabinet Office to say King Charles wanted me to attend the coronation and, at first, I thought it was a hoax but then checked it out and realised it was for real.”
Andy had travelled to London with wife Lisa but the abbey invite was only for one so Lisa stood on Whitehall opposite Horse Guards Parade and made lots of new friends during the momentous day.
Lisa has worked at The Kirkwood hospice in Huddersfield for 15 years as an oncology physiotherapist providing palliative care.
She cared for a Huddersfield man called Jody De Vos for a couple of years after he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. He had been living in Australia but after he was given the devastating diagnosis he returned home to be cared for by his mum, Jude.
Jody died in 2019 aged just 38 and Andy said: “Despite being dealt such a cruel hand of fate, Jody fought MND with immense dignity. His philosophy was to live life now which he did to the very end.
“MND robbed our friend, Jude, of her only son. It robbed her of hundreds of future memories, thousands of phone calls and messages never to be shared and so many smiles never to be seen. This vile disease shatters lives and causes unimaginable heartache.”
Andy is running the first ever Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon this Sunday in Jody’s memory alongside more than 10,000 other runners.
Rob is the former Leeds Rhinos rugby league star who was diagnosed with MND and he and his family have worked tirelessly ever since to raise awareness and funds to support other families living with MND with the ultimate goal of building a specialist MND centre in Leeds.
Many runners will be supporting the Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Appeal as well as the MND Association, although they can run for other charities close to their hearts.
You can sponsor Andy and his friend Wasim Hussain, who used to work at The Kirkwood, HERE.
Andy has done running before to raise a phenomenal amount for charity. Between 2015 and 2020 he ran 5,000 miles at the rate of 20 miles a week to raise more than £11,000 for The Kirkwood.
Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.