From showbiz to Sheffield Council – the politician who works with celebrities
There’s a thin line between showbiz and politics and Sheffield councillor Paul Wood is treading it.
“I do have an ego,” he bellows with laughter. “You always get some politicians who are failed performers and who missed their time on the stage. I like being in the limelight.”
Paul is about to step onto the political stage as the new cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety but a lifetime in showbusiness means he’s well prepared.
He works with the renowned Peller Agency and has spent 30 years on the cabaret club circuit, managing household names and touring with pop stars.
You get the impression he won’t be fazed by the council chamber when he’s worked with celebrities including Bob Monkhouse, Bradley Walsh, Cannon and Ball, Bernie Clifton, Marti Caine and Bobby Knutt.
He counts Rotherham actor Dean Andrews as one of his closest friends. “Me and Dean have a lot of history. We have been friends from our early days in cabaret and we are still big mates.”
Paul, aged 62, started playing the piano when he was five. He quit the sixth form after just one day to play with a band in the evenings and got a job in a music shop demonstrating keyboards.
Within six years he was sales director and had opened five stores with a turnover of over £2 million a year – quite a sum in 1983.
He developed more of an interest in managing artists and moved from his home in Burton upon Trent to work with top agent Johnnie Peller, who managed Sheffield comedienne Marti Caine.
“I used to go to some of the gigs with Marti, she was wonderful with a beautiful personality,” he smiles.
“One of the great regrets I have is that we can’t put a star on the Walk of Fame outside the Town Hall for her because the rules say the person has to still be alive.
“We used to do an Evening with Marti Caine around the country and I went with her to all of them. It was through her that I met Nina Myscow and did a series of shows with her in clubs.
“That was when there were still big cabaret clubs, now we do more tribute bands. We represent one of the biggest Madness tributes, Badness, and the biggest Bee Gees tribute Staying Alive.
“We do all their bookings and engagements and they’re so popular they play four or five nights a week.”
Paul has a mild Midlands twang and laughs out loud as he remembers struggling with Bobby Knutt’s accent.
“We used to manage Bobby and he had a very broad accent so I couldn’t understand him if he spoke too fast. I did get better the longer I was in Sheffield but when he said ‘skoyle’ it took me ages to work out he meant school. It was the same with ‘coyle’ and coal, it baffled me.”
Paul went on tour with Mizz magazine and his acts performed alongside N-Sync, Justin Timberlake, Craig David and Atomic Kitten. He spent time as band director at the Aquarius club in Chesterfield and when the club closed, Paul retired from performing apart from the occasional organ concert.
Anyone who has attended full council will know it’s sometimes like a political circus ring, particularly after the then Lord Mayor Magid Magid introduced magicians, musicians and entertainers to the meeting.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Paul did a quick turn. He winks: “I’ve still got one or two keyboards at home and I’ve played at a couple of Lord Mayor’s do’s in the past.”
Cooking up a storm
Paul took on a starring role himself when he won an episode of Come Dine With Me.
He cheekily pulls the leg of his fellow Labour councillors as he recalls: “Neale Gibson came last and Chris Rosling-Josephs went on a different cookery show and didn’t win. They were bragging to me about being on TV so I went on Come Dine With Me.
“I didn’t keep the winnings, I took the other contestants to Soyo for the night and gave the rest to a young lad at work who was getting married.
“I’m a self-taught chef. We used to own banqueting suites and venues so you can often find me in the kitchen doing the cooking to help out.
“My signature dishes are a mega seafood starter, venison en croute and strawberry baked alaska.”
Showbiz in Sheffield’s suburbs
One of the UK’s top showbiz agencies is a small family-run company hidden away in a quiet corner of leafy suburban Beighton.
Coun Wood runs the Sheffield office of Peller Agency with colleague Paul Beardow.
Paul Beardow, who has been with Peller since 1997, manages the agency on a day-to-day basis. He looks after the roster of tribute and cabaret artistes and is the person who provides a 24/7 mobile out-of-hours cover for acts and clients.
He said: “We’re one of the UK’s leading entertainment providers and yet few of the locals are even aware that we’re here.
“We all work under the watchful eye of genius industry mogul Barry Peller, the managing director and son of the late great Johnnie Peller. Johnnie is widely credited as being the first agent in the UK to promote the tribute band phenomenon.
“We’ve won numerous awards over the years, including various small business awards and the prestigious Agency of the Year award in 2017, voted for by the Agents Association of Great Britain.”