Some years ago the musician and choirmaster Bob Howes started a songwriting competition for the BBC. A young lad from a North Western town entered. His name was Tim Firth and he became a friend of Bob’s, so much so that he ended up a judge on the same competition when, five or so years later, another young lad from the North West entered. Gary Barlow and Tim found they came from the same town. They said they’d keep in touch and maybe try a little collaboration one day.
In the meantime Tim went on to read English at Cambridge and become a playwright and composer . His most recent work for theatre was the musical This Is My Family at Sheffield Cruciblewhich won the UK Theatre Award for Best Musical. His other musicals include Our House (Olivier Award Best Musical) and the Flint Street Nativity. His plays include Neville’s Island, The Safari Party, and Sign of the Times. His play Calendar Girls (Whatsonstage Best Comedy) became the most performed amateur play in history and has funded research projects into blood cancers. Tim’s films include Blackball, The Wedding Video, Calendar Girls (British Comedy Award) and Kinky Boots. For television he wrote Timeless, Money For Nothing (Writer's Guild Award); The Rottentrolls (BAFTA Award); Cruise of the Gods; The Flint Street Nativity and Preston Front (Writer's Guild award; British Comedy Award, RTS Award)
One of the first things Tim did after leaving university was go to see Gary performing at Manchester Apollo. This is because in the meantime Gary had formed a band called Take That together with Mark Owen, Howard Donald, Jason Orange and Robbie Williams. They went on to become one of the biggest British bands of all time. Now, after 25 years in the business, with over 52 million records sold including nine UK No.1 albums, fifteen UK No.1 singles, seven million concert tickets – and as well as being the proud recipient of six Ivor Novello Awards - Gary Barlow is regarded as one of Britain’s most successful singer songwriters.
In 2016 Gary and Tim performed a song from their first collaboration The Girls on the Royal Variety Show backed by a massed choir whose choirmaster was Bob Howes.