A POPULAR band who were handpicked to perform for legendary boxer Mike Tyson will be playing at a charity ball organised to raise funds for children with a rare, life-limiting condition.
Universal Exports will join X-Factor star Pierre Herelle, a former member of the world famous soul group The Drifters, on the bill at the seventh annual A-T Spring Ball at Chester Racecourse in Saturday, April 28.
The black-tie event is organised by Wrexham businessman Vaughn Rawson, managing director of Rawson Digital, and his wife Joanne to help families living with the rare genetic condition known as Ataxia-Telangiectasia (A-T).
Universal Exports, whose members comprise Ian Richardson, Alistair Thomas, Gareth Bagshaw and Matthew Morgan, have played a number of major gigs including performing at Hotel Football, which is owned by ‘Class of ‘92’ stars Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary and Phil Neville, and Nicky Butt.
But their most high-profile show was in Wrexham when the band took to the stage for the former undisputed world heavyweight champion.
Lead guitarist Ian Richardson, who lives in Rhos, recalls: “Mike Tyson did an event at Wrexham Football Club back in 2010. He was doing a meet and signing session in the Centenary Club and we were picked as the band to play during the signing.
“It was weird how it all come about. We were playing a pub in Chirk and got chatting to this fella at the bar afterwards.
“He said he was a UK representative of Mike Tyson, lived in Oswestry, and wanted us to play at this event he was bringing him over to the UK for.
“We didn’t believe him at first. We thought it was a wind up but it came off and it was an experience.
“We were just desperate to meet him and get a picture! He didn’t say a lot to be honest. He was mean that’s for sure, but he was OK. I’ll always be able to say I met Mike Tyson!”
Universal Exports have performed at the annual A-T Spring Ball for the past few years and it’s a cause that they have taken to their hearts.
The children of Vaughn’s close friends have the disease and Vaughn and his wife have been on a mission to raise funds towards medical research to speed up the process of identifying a cure or developing treatments which can delay or prevent A-T.
To date, Vaughn and Joanne have raised a staggering £200,000 for the cause.
The condition, which affects around 200 children in the UK, is a genetic disease which affects multiple systems of the human body.
Ian, 35, said: “Vaughn has always been really good to us and it’s great to help him support the charity which I know is really important to him.
“We even did the zip wire attraction in Snowdonia to raise funds. We’ve always been keen to support it.”
The band, which caters for all types of events from weddings and birthdays to awards ceremonies and pub gigs, cover a broad spectrum of music genres to suit all tastes.
Ian, who works at the Airbus factory in Broughton, Flintshire, said: “We do 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and modern. We’ll fit any genre, we’ll do a bit of everything.
“I was born into rock so I like Slash, Guns N’ Roses, Alter Bridge, that kind of thing.
“We are all very different because we’re not all into the same things. Alistair is more into indie, while Gaz and Matt will listen to anything.
“We’re very versatile which is our biggest strength. We can play what you like, what your partner likes and what your parents like in the same set.
“From Backstreet Boys and Bon Jovi to Elvis and Foo Fighters, someone will always be able to find something they like.”
He added: “We’ve all known each other for a long time. We’ve been playing since we were teenagers.
“The band has had different names and different members over the years, but the current line-up has always had a connection.
“What we realised is that we would have all played together at a jam night we all used to attend in Flint during our late teens and early 20s.
“We wouldn’t have known each other at the time but we would have definitely played together, and now here we are all these years later.”
Last year, Universal Exports performed in front of hundreds of people at the football-themed hotel owned by Ryan Giggs and some of his former Manchester United teammates.
Former Ysgol Bryan Alyn pupil Ian said: “We’ve played Hotel Football next to Old Trafford a few times for Manchester United fans after the games.
“That has been a really good gig for us because there is a great atmosphere in there.
“You get about 700 people in there so it’s always much bigger than our normal gigs and we went down really well so it’s been a good experience for us.
“We’ve also played at a function room at the Reebok Stadium for a corporate event for AXA UK.
“These gigs have always come through word of mouth. People have obviously seen or heard us and we’ve been recommended.
“For me performing with the band is my hobby. It acts as an escape for me.”
Vaughn Rawson, whose fast-growth 50 company supplies and maintains photocopiers and printers to firms across North Wales and the North West, saw last year’s event raise a whopping £40,000.
That amount was partly donated to Action for A-T, a Surrey-based charity set up in 2011 by the parents of a child with the condition, which seeks to increase investment in A-T research and raise awareness of it.
The other half of the money raised went into a trust fund which has been set up to help Vaughn’s close friends and their family.
Vaughn, from Gresford, said: “The atmosphere is always great and I’m delighted that Universal Exports will be performing at the ball again. They are always one of my highlights of the night and I’m sure everyone in attendance will enjoy seeing their set.
“Not only is it a terrific night but all our loyal supporters help us raise a terrific amount of money for families who are dealing with the most difficult of situations.
Vaughn added: “The event takes a lot to put on every year and we simply couldn’t do it without the support from our main sponsors who have supported us year after year to ensure the event is a real success.”
One of the main sponsors for the event are Mercer & Associates Wealth Management based in Chester.
Darren Mercer, Managing Director for Mercer & Associates, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to once again be sponsoring such a wonderful event and playing our part in helping a very deserving cause.
“I would urge people and businesses to come and support the ball because it is always a fabulous night with a brilliant atmosphere which is why we never hesitate to get involved each year.”
Also supporting the event are Chester-based Jolliffe & Co Solicitors.
Simon Williams, Jolliffe & Co Managing Partner, said: “Jolliffe & Co are delighted to be sponsoring the A-T Spring Ball again this year. The work that Vaughn and Joanne have done in organising this fantastic event over a number of years is simply incredible. A-T is a devastating disease and the annual Spring Ball is so important for raising the profile of the fight against it, and of course much needed funds for continued research.
“This really is the highlight of the firm’s social calendar. Our clients absolutely love the event and this year’s looks like being the best yet. Vaughn and Joanne have got a brilliant lineup of entertainment together, and the auction promises to be as fun as ever.”
Most children with A-T appear healthy during the first years of their life before developing problems with poor balance and reduced motor coordination which is when families often realise something is wrong.
As the child gets older, cells start to die which control fine motor coordination. Their health deteriorates and most children are confined to a wheelchair by the age of 10. They are also at an increased risk of developing cancer and their immune system is weakened.
A-T does not affect the mind and there are no learning or social difficulties linked to having the disease.