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If you would like to watch something that will inspire you and warm your heart, then take a look at the BAFTA-award winning Marvellous on BBC2 on Wednesday 1 July. I featured Neil’s story in the original Holy Habits book (Malcolm Down, 2016). Neil was delighted by this and has become my new best friend, phoning me up with his budgies merrily chirping away in the background.

The programme tells the story of Neil Baldwin, who has always had a great appetite for life. He struggled at school with various learning difficulties but has achieved a great deal. He worked in a butchers for many years before joining a circus to play the part of ‘Nello the Clown’. When the circus moved on without him, he went to Keele University, where his mother had a cleaning job. He appointed himself to the role of (unofficial) greeter to new students – a role that was so appreciated, it was rewarded by an honorary degree. He also got to manage the university’s unofficial football team, which is named after him. His career reached its zenith when he talked his way into becoming the kit man and mascot of his beloved football team Stoke City. This man of humble origins became a holy presence in the very earthy world of the football changing room.

And it was that down-to-earth holiness that inspired the film-makers to produce Marvellous.


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