Neil Baldwin (Keele University)

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Neil Baldwin

Born (1946-03-15) 15 March 1946 (age 76)
Other namesNello
Alma materHonorary graduate of Keele University
TelevisionBBC biographical film Marvellous (2014)
Parent(s)Harry and Mary Baldwin

Neil "Nello" Baldwin BEM (born 15 March 1946)[1][2] is an honorary graduate of Keele University[3][4] from Westlands in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, England.[3] He is a registered clown[4] and also worked for Stoke City Football Club, for whom he once played briefly in a friendly match. He is the subject of an award-winning BBC television drama, Marvellous, which was broadcast in 2014.

Personal life[edit]

Born to Harry and Mary Baldwin[5] on 15 March 1946,[1] he was diagnosed with a learning disability as a child and required speech therapy. Baldwin left school at age 16 to join Sir Robert Fossett's Circus, the oldest circus in England, for whom he performed as Nello the Clown for three seasons.[6] He lived with his mother until a few years before she died in 2003.[6] He is known to be acquainted with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the footballer Gary Lineker, magician’s assistant Debbie McGee and Prince Edward.[7][8]

Keele University[edit]

Since 1960, unasked and unpaid, Baldwin has visited Keele University, where his mother worked as a cleaner, to greet new students.[2] A testimonial football match, on 12 March 2000, featured his own team of Keele University students (the Neil Baldwin Football Club, formed in 1967,[9] whose president was Gary Lineker) against an all-star side of former Football League players including Lou Macari, Asa Hartford and Gordon Cowans.[10]

He was granted honorary life membership of Keele University Students' Union in 1968.[4] The proposal received unanimous support.[4] His fiftieth year there was marked with a two-day celebration, including a service of thanksgiving presided over by the Bishop of Lichfield, Keele alumnus Jonathan Gledhill, and a further testimonial match.[4] He was also awarded honorary alumni-hood.[11]

In 2013 Baldwin received the honorary degree of Master of the University from Keele University, which said that he

has been adopted by the student body over the last 50 years as something of a mascot for Keele... He has watched, supported and kept in touch with successive cohorts of Keele students building an impressive network of alumni contacts both national and internationally. He serves the students offering advice and support to students, remaining steadfastly proud and loyal to Keele. In doing so, he has openly defended Keele and voiced his concerns about any issue that has or would affect Keele to his numerous contacts within parliament, the various leaders of Christian denomination churches, volunteer organisations and business leaders across the country, of whom he regularly visits.[12]

In 2016, Stoke City FC and Keele University combined to celebrate Neil Baldwin's 70th birthday at Keele Hall. Guests included friends and family, professional footballers and football administrators, members of the clergy, professional actors and screenwriters, impresarios of the circus, Keele University professors, students and graduates, local dignitaries, singers from the Neil Baldwin Choir, three Cambridge University Boat Club rowers, and members of the Neil Baldwin Football Club. The highlight was a birthday greeting by video-link from Sir Alex Ferguson. Vice-Chancellor Professor Trevor McMillan remarked that "Only Neil could bring together people from such diverse walks of life to celebrate his birthday".

Stoke City FC[edit]

In the 1990s Baldwin was appointed as Stoke City Football Club kit-man by then manager Lou Macari[3][4][13][14] who has described him as "the best signing I ever made", as his humour was so good for team morale.[6] In 1993, Macari played him as a substitute for Stoke City, against Aston Villa, in the final five minutes of a testimonial match for Gordon Cowans.[15][16] Macari later wrote seven pages about Baldwin in his 2009 autobiography, Football, My Life,[4] and said that he is a "man without an angle and there aren't many of them in football".[17] In May 2015 Baldwin was awarded "Supporter of the year" by Stoke City FC.

Marvellous TV film[edit]

Baldwin is the subject of and also appeared as himself in Marvellous, an acclaimed 2014 biographical film in which he is played by Toby Jones, whom The Guardian praised for his "lovely, very human, performance".[18] It was first broadcast on BBC Two and BBC Two HD on 25 September 2014.[19] Reviewing it for the Stoke Sentinel, John Woodhouse said:[20]

It says everything for Neil that Marvellous was ever made. For in times when TV is seduced by vacuity and celebrity, it doesn't sound that promising a pitch. A drama, set in Newcastle [under-Lyme], about a man saddled with the tag of "learning difficulties" who reveals himself to be so much more? Good luck with that one. And yet here it is – primetime BBC2.

The film received the 2015 BAFTA for "best single drama", and Gemma Jones received the British Academy Television Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Baldwin's mother.[21] Toby Jones was nominated for the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor for his performance.[22] Baldwin collected the drama award during the ceremony at the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane, and made an acceptance speech.

A stage version of the film was produced in March 2022 in the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme.[23][24]

Marvellous book[edit]

Baldwin's autobiography, Marvellous: Neil Baldwin – My Story, written with the help of Keele University alumni Malcolm Clarke and Francis Beckett, was published in hardback by John Blake in August 2015.[1]

Other honours[edit]

On 21 May 2015 Baldwin was presented with the Freedom of Stoke-on-Trent[25] and on 26 November 2015 was awarded the freedom of Newcastle-under-Lyme.[26] In October 2015, he featured in an episode of the BBC television programme Songs of Praise.[27]

Baldwin was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the 2019 New Year Honours "for services to the community in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Staffordshire".[28]


  1. ^ a b c Baldwin, Neil (2015). Clarke, Malcolm (ed.). Marvellous. John Blake Publishing. p. 1. ISBN 978-1784186432.
  2. ^ a b Dickson, E Jane (25 September 2014). "Marvellous: Toby Jones plays Neil Baldwin in extraordinary real-life drama on BBC2". Radio Times. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  3. ^ a b c "Stoke City: Former kit man Neil Baldwin receives honorary degree at Keele University". Stoke Sentinel. 16 July 2013. Archived from the original on 28 September 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Beckett, Francis (9 March 2010). "How Neil Baldwin became Keele University's mascot". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  5. ^ McCann, Jamie (16 August 2015). "Modest 'Mr Marvellous' Stoke City kit man unmoved by brush with fame". Sunday Express. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Palmer, Alun (26 September 2014). "The Marvellous life of Neil Baldwin – an incredible man who inspired a BBC movie". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  7. ^ "Clown and kit man: BBC film captures Neil 'Nello' Baldwin". BBC News. 30 May 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  8. ^ Jones, Toby (10 May 2015). "When I played Neil Baldwin it changed my idea of what 'learning disability' means". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
  9. ^ Simpson, Matt (30 September 2014). "Record numbers of Keele University students sign up for Neil Baldwin's Football Club after watching BBC's Marvellous". The Sentinel. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  10. ^ Match programme
  11. ^ "Nello celebrates fifty years at Keele" (PDF). Forever: Keele (5): 10. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 October 2014.
  12. ^ "Keele Honorary Degrees Summer 2013" (Press release). Keele University. 24 May 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
  13. ^ Simon, Jane (25 September 2014). "Marvellous – Toby Jones is outstanding portraying extraordinary life of Stoke City kit man Neil Baldwin". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  14. ^ Spinks, Martin (11 September 2014). "Stoke City: Lou Macari leads plaudits for Neil Baldwin film". Stoke Sentinel. Archived from the original on 26 September 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  15. ^ "Clown and kit man: BBC film captures Neil 'Nello' Baldwin". BBC News. 30 May 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  16. ^ Smith, Pete (26 September 2014). "Marvellous: Stoke City kit man Neil Baldwin really did dress up as a chicken". Stoke Sentinel. Archived from the original on 29 September 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  17. ^ Jones, Laura (25 September 2014). "Marvellous: How Neil Baldwin became football's friend". The Offside Rule. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  18. ^ Wollaston, Sam (26 September 2014). "Marvellous; Your Home in their Hands review – two Neil Baldwins meet real Lou Macari and real Gary Lineker". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  19. ^ Dickson, E Jane (25 September 2014). "Neil Baldwin: "Prince Edward is the best royal I've met – I just knocked on his door"". Radio Times. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  20. ^ Woodhouse, John (25 September 2014). "Marvellous: Stoke City kit man Neil Baldwin's biopic". Stoke Sentinel. Archived from the original on 25 September 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  21. ^ "Ant and Dec repeat Bafta success". BBC News. 10 May 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  22. ^ "Full list: BAFTA television award nominations announced". ITV News. 8 April 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  23. ^ Beckett, Francis (12 March 2022). "'I like all of it': Neil Baldwin, Staffordshire local hero, on a new play about his remarkable life". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 August 2022.
  24. ^ Fisher, Mark (16 March 2022). "Marvellous review – Neil Baldwin's life story gets more amazing". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 August 2022.
  25. ^ "Neil Baldwin and Gordon Banks win Stoke-on-Trent freedom". BBC News. 22 May 2015. Retrieved 6 August 2022.
  26. ^ "BBC Local Live: Stoke & Staffordshire on Thursday 26 November 2015". BBC Online. 26 November 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2015.
  27. ^ "25/10/2015". Songs of Praise. 25 October 2015. BBC. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  28. ^ "No. 62507". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 29 December 2018. p. N26.

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