CIRCUS clown, fixture at Keele University for half a century,
the Stoke City manager Lou Macari's "best-ever signing" - Neil
Baldwin has an identity that is nothing if not multi-faceted. But
asked about the focus of the documentary on his life, he was clear:
"My friends who came along to the première said 'You've put God in
it first' - and that's it how should be."
The film, Marvellous, was scheduled to be shown
yesterday on BBC2. It will tell the story of Mr Baldwin, a man with
learning difficulties who has lived an extraordinary life, owing to
his boundless capacity to make friends. Besides becoming kit man at
his beloved Stoke City, he secured an honorary degree from Keele
University, an institution that he simply walked into in 1960. "I
liked the campus and the chapel and the people," he told The
Guardian in 2010, in an article that inspired the writer of
Marvellous, Peter Bowker.
"I have long been interested in how we use labels to limit the
people we are describing - and even, at worse, to dehumanise them,"
Mr Bowker told the Radio Times. "But Neil - despite being
labelled and to some extent written off as a young man - struck me
as a man who defied those who wished to define him."
Mr Baldwin counts many bishops in the Church of England among
his friends. In an interview with Neill Harvey-Smith for the
diocese of Lichfield, published this month, he described his
experience of becoming a Christian through a Church Army mission in
Chesterton in 1957: "I thought 'I'll give my life to the Lord', and
that's what I did. I've been at Keele since 1960."
His mother, with whom he lived until she died a few years ago,
was a Christadelphian.
"She was remarkably progressive and proud, and there was no
question about yielding to public perception of any kind of
learning difficulty," the actor Toby Jones, who plays Mr Baldwin in
the film, told Radio 4's Front Row this week.
"You would say he [Mr Baldwin] is an optimist but no matter how
hard one pushes him on anything bad, the effect of his experience
of life has proved to him that things generally turn out for the