VIDEO: Big Gig welcome and royal visit for Invictus Trials heroes in Sheffield
THEY are the bravest of the brave - hundreds of wounded soldiers and veterans competing in the Invictus Trials in Sheffield who got a star-studded Big Gig welcome ahead of Prince Harry’s visit.
The Duke of Sussex, who founded the Invictus Games, will head to the English Institute of Sport to see the action as the city plays host to the first-ever Invictus UK Trials.
Wounded and injured ex-servicemen and women are competing for the right to represent the UK at The Invictus Games in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2020.
During his visit on Thursday Prince Harry will also visit Sheffield Hallam University where virtual reality is being used to make it easier for amputees to train themselves to use prosthetic limbs. He will also open the new £40 million wing at Sheffield Children's Hospital.
But first it was the turn of music royalty to entertain most of the almost 500 Trials competitors, family, friends and public with a Big Gig opening ceremony at Sheffield FlyDSA Arena.
Singing sensations Alfie Boe, Heather Small, Suggs from Madness, chart star JP Cooper and classical singer Laura Wright performed with the Tri Services Orchestra, Invictus Games Choir and Derbyshire based children’s choir, Pitch Perfect, plus young Sheffield poet winner Molly Meleady-Hanley, 16.
The city’s Grammy award-winning songwriter and producer Eliot Kennedy and fashion designer Emma Willis, founder of the charity Style for Soldiers, teamed up to organise the evening full of stirring, patriotic show stoppers and spoken word.
With proceeds donated to Invictus UK and Style for Soldiers, The Big Gig finale was a choral performance of Sing, the chart-topping song produced by Eliot and his best pal Gary Barlow for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace.
Prince Harry, who played tambourine on the recording, launched the first Invictus Games two years later in 2014 and remains patron of its foundation.
Eliot, who has supported military charities since 2013 after travelling to Camp Bastion with Barlow for an ITV documentary, said of The Big Gig: “It was epic - I was so proud.
"The wounded, injured or sick service personnel and veterans inspire us all with their spirit and strength.”
Concert co-promoter Emma added: “It’s been a show-stopping line-up of people who all powerfully evoke the emotions Invictus represents and the courage, ability and passion of our servicemen and women. The Big Gig was worthy of these incredible men and women and their families.”
Madness lead singer Suggs said: “We have a busy tour schedule but for these incredible athletes and their families it was an easy decision to be here.”Heather Small, the voice of M People, said: "These games are amazing. From the very inception I wanted to be part of it. The bravery, the camaraderie. I’ve met some of the athletes today and it’s just a wonderful, wonderful thing to be a part of.” JP Cooper, whose song Sing It With Me, featuring Astrid, is dominating the airwaves, said: "I’m incredibly grateful to have been asked to perform for some real heroes who have made a huge difference for our country.”Laura Wright, who performed for the Queen’s 90th birthday, said: " It’s incredibly important for me to be here. I’e been involved with the Invictus Games and he Foundation since it began back in 2014. I’ve had the pleasure of writing lots of music for the Games and the competitors and their families to enjoy. Tonight I performed one of my own pieces, Invincible. I can’t help but get emotional when I perform it.”
Rear Admiral Jim Macleod, Head of Invictus UK, said: “We were delighted that Eliot offered his much-admired expertise with Emma to kick off what is set to be an incredible week of events in Sheffield.”
Game of Thrones actor and Style For Soldiers ambassador Charles Dance, unable to attend after a bereavement, in a statement said: "The Big Gig is a wonderful way to thank Sheffield for hosting the Trials and give a resounding welcome to the inspirational athletes and their families.”
The Trials, delivered by Help for Heroes, the Ministry of Defence and the Royal British Legion, are taking place at the EIS Sheffield and Ponds Forge. Tickets are limited see flydsaarena.co.uk.
Running alongside the Trials in Sheffield are a series of live performance and arts events.
Art In The Aftermath, also presented by Style for Soldiers, is a free entry exhibition of paintings, poetry, sculptures, photography and film, by recently injured service personnel, recovering through the creative process. It is being held at 15 Barkers Pool, opposite the City Hall, July 22 to 26, 10am to 6pm.
Soldier On, a heart-warming play about a group of ex-soldiers who become a company of actors, dealing with traumatic experiences, and what happens when you leave the military family, is to be performed at Sheffield City Hall tonight, tomorrow and Thursday, July 23, 24 and 25, at 7.30pm.
A Soldier On cast and members theatre workshop will be held on Wednesday, July 24, 10am.
An Audience with Sir Michael Morpurgo, with the War Horse author chatting to paralympian Ade Adepitan, is at the City Hall Wednesday, July 24, 4pm.
Tickets are available at the venue in person, visit www.sheffieldcityhall.co.uk or call 0114 2789 789