WE’VE all been a celebrity fan at some point in our lives, but very few of us would consider spending thousands of pounds on memorabilia and getting tattoos dedicated to our idols – except for superfans.
Four women reveal what it takes to be a superfan and what their families have to say about it all.
‘Being a Take That fan has cost me £10k’
Teresa Bayford, 38, is a maternity support worker and lives in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, with boyfriend Jonathan, 43, a wood machinist, and children Alyssa, 16, and Jared, 11 weeks.
When I listen to Take That’s A Million Love Songs it takes me back to being 11 and dreaming of what it would actually be like to meet Mark Owen. Twenty-seven years later, and nothing has changed. As kids, me and my sister Sam, now 34, loved the band so much we bought every album and single, and covered the walls of our bedroom with posters and stickers. Whenever we could, we’d see them in concert, from the Extravaganza tour at Wembley Arena in 1993 to the Nobody Else tour at Earl’s Court in 1995.
I was 16 when the band announced they were splitting up and I was utterly inconsolable. I even rang the special counselling helpline for Take That fans and took a week off school with Sam. I remember swapping grief-stricken letters with the pen pals I’d made around the world through the Take That fan club – it felt like the boys had died.
As life went on, I continued to listen to their music. It helped me get through hard times, such as when I split from my fiancé of seven years at 25 and became a single parent to my daughter, Alyssa, then three. By that time, I’d carefully packed away all my posters, T-shirts and records, but I couldn’t bear to throw them out.
When Take That announced their reunion in 2005, I screamed with excitement. I booked tickets to a concerts at Norwich City football ground as soon as I could. I remember bubbling with excitement as I walked through the turnstiles with Sam and our mum Sue, 59. I cheered and screamed as loud as my lungs would let me, and for two hours I felt like a teenager again. I’ve since watched them more times than I did as a teen. I’ve been to at least 10 gigs, including seeing the Progress Live tour twice in 2011.
Being a fan isn’t cheap, though. I’ve spent £10,000 on gig tickets, travelling to see them and memorabilia, including dolls, T-shirts and a tattoo on my ankle of the Take That symbol. Ironically, my most treasured item cost me just £12.99, and is an Action In Your Pocket film cassette I bought years ago. While I display some of it in the house, a lot is kept in my loft and at my mum’s house.
My boyfriend Jonathan jokes that I’m a hoarder, and can’t believe how dedicated I am to the band. But I’ll never stop loving them. If I ever met the boys – especially Mark – I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from crying. Having been a fan for over two decades, it really would be the icing on the cake.
‘Dressing up as Daenerys gives me a confidence I’ve never had’
Sophie Bunyan, 23, is a stay-at-home mum and lives in Dover, Kent, with fiancé David, 47, a mobility shop owner, and their daughter Rose, two.
Whenever I pull on my platinum-blonde wig, I can’t help but smile. I look nothing like my everyday self, and I love it. I was bullied at school and it really knocked my confidence. But in 2011, when I was 16, I was introduced to cosplay – where you dress and act like a specific character – after reading about a local event on the MCM Comic Facebook page, and it changed my life.
I loved comics and decided to go with a friend. I discovered I could be whoever I wanted, whether it was Catwoman or Cinderella, and no one made fun of me. I was hooked. I’d never really been into Game Of Thrones until I met David at a local sci-fi cosplay event in June 2015. He was a massive fan of the fantasy series, and the more time we spent together, the more obsessed I became.
My favourite character is Queen Daenerys because she’s so fierce and regal, so when I heard that the first dedicated Game Of Thrones festival was being held in Kent last summer, I snapped up a ticket straight away. I wanted to look just like my heroine, so I paid £1,000 to have a one-off Daenerys costume and wig made by a specialist who uses the same fabrics as they do in the show.
It was expensive, but the moment I walked into Thronefest at Quex Park in Birchington and saw everyone’s stunned expressions, I knew it was worth every penny. Now, I wear the costume to most of my cosplay events, which I go to a couple times a year across the UK. Even my daughter Rose, who was born in November 2016, has a little dragon costume.
Recently, David had an iron throne made for us – just like the one in the show – which set us back £1,400. It’s too big for our house, so we keep it in storage and only get it out for special occasions. Over the last four years, we’ve slowly filled every room with collectibles, from mugs to Monopoly, as well as a hand-crafted set of customised dragon eggs.
In total, we’ve spent a few thousand pounds on the smaller pieces. It might sound like a lot, but we consider Game Of Thrones a hobby in the same way others would save for gigs – what’s wrong with that?
‘I know I’m the butt of people’s jokes’
Alison Sharpe, 45, is a student midwife and lives in Lowestoft, Suffolk, with partner Shaun, 42, a sports coach, and her sons Daniel, 25, Curtis, 23, Morgan, 18, and Jacob, seven.
I was 14 when I fell in love with Matt and Luke Goss. I saved every penny I could from doing a paper round and working at a cafe and spent it on going to gigs. I saw Bros six times in the space of a couple of years. I’ll never forget scaling a fence before the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party in 1989 at London Docklands Arena to get a photo with their car when I was 15.
Although Craig left the band in 1989, my love for the twins didn’t waver and I was gutted when Bros split in 1992 when I was 19. I still followed the boys’ every move, though, such as watching the films Luke starred in as he broke into Hollywood or Matt’s solo music career in 1995.
My friend Karen, 39, is also a massive fan, so we will sometimes go to a hotel where we know one of the boys are staying so we can see them in the flesh. I’ve met the twins a few times now and even have a tattoo of Matt’s signature on my wrist after he autographed it at a gig in December 2017 at Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
I also had a special chat with him at a meet-and-greet at the London Palladium last August. I’d just lost my dad to cancer and wanted some words of advice as his mum had died in 2014. I needed reassurance that it was OK to feel as if I wasn’t coping. He said: ‘People always say it’s going to get better, but I am going to be honest with you, it doesn’t.’ Just hearing that helped me so much.
I know that still being a Brosette at 45 can make me the butt of people’s jokes. The brothers even said in their recent documentary When The Screaming Stops that they felt sorry for fans as we get a raw deal at times.
I’m so pleased that they’ve reunited again – I’ve already bought my tickets for their new show at Brixton Academy later this year.
Thankfully, my partner Shaun is very supportive. Admittedly, my older sons think it’s all a bit sad, but my youngest, Jacob, loves that I’m so into them. Looking back, I’ve spent thousands being a Brosette. But if anyone says it’s a waste of money, I tell them that they’ve never had a Gossy hug so they simply wouldn’t understand.
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‘I buy memorabilia every week’
Catherine Hamilton-Edwards, 30, is an administrator and lives in Bramley, Leeds, with husband Jason, 32, a security site supervisor, and nine-year-old son Archie.
“If I’ve had a bad day at work, I know what will cheer me up: walking through my front door into the hallway lit up with a magical, twinkling ceiling and a stairwell covered in Harry-Potter-inspired wizard memorabilia. It feels like a warm and fuzzy spell has been cast on me.
Turning my hallway walls into Diagon Alley over the last year might sound extreme, but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
It took me several hours to hand-paint the ceiling into a glittery moving sky, just like the Great Hall in the film, and two weeks to make sure all the details – including a Nimbus 2000 Quidditch broomstick hanging over the stairs, Hagrid’s lantern and Scabbers the rat poking out of a corner – are the perfect tribute to the films and books. Although a lot of the items have been birthday and Christmas presents, the whole thing has still set me back nearly £1,500.
I’ve loved Disney ever since I was a little girl, so I naturally became hooked on Potter as soon as the first book was published way back in 1997 when I was 11, because Harry was also from a magical world.
My son Archie has also grown into a huge fan and we try to watch a movie every evening.
I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen each one, but I know most of the scripts off by heart. We’ve done the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour in Hertfordshire a few times since it opened in 2012, so it’s become a really lovely thing for us to share as he grows up. I buy stuff every week – even if it’s just a new pair of pyjamas or a mug.
When the merchandise became available in Primark in August 2017, it meant I could get my HP fix without breaking the bank. I must admit that my obsession has also spilled into other rooms in the house. I have some Prisoner Of Azkaban ‘Wanted’ scatter cushions in the living room, Ministry of Magic stickers in the bathroom and a Chamber Of Secrets entry sign hand-painted on the mirror.
But the one room I don’t touch is the cupboard under the stairs. That belongs to my husband Jason, who isn’t such a big fan. We agreed it could be his Potter-free zone, where he can play computer games in peace. It’s ironic really, given it’s the same place Harry used to sleep before he went to Hogwarts!