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Saturday 30 August 2014

Robbie honoured by freedom of Stoke

Published 01/07/2014 | 17:57

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Robbie Williams, with Lord Mayor Majid Khan, receives the Freedom of the City of his native Stoke-on-Trent (Murray Chalmers PR)

Robbie Williams has been given one of his greatest honours, after years of amassing awards - receiving the Freedom of the City of his native Stoke-on-Trent.

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The singer - who has never lost touch with his roots, making regular visits - took his pregnant wife Ayda and 22-month-old baby Teddy to the ceremony attended by civic dignitaries.

And Robbie delighted his parents, Jan and Peter, by keeping the event a surprise until they arrived at the Town Hall.

The star - currently touring his Swings Both Ways album - said: "I am delighted to have received the great honour of the Freedom of the City of Stoke-on-Trent.

"It's been a special day for Ayda and I and I am very grateful to those involved, especially to The Lord Mayor, for this honour."

Robbie requested Staffordshire oatcakes - topped with Staffordshire cheese and bacon - from a local bakery were laid on to celebrate the occasion.

He was presented with an honorary scroll by the Lord Mayor Majid Khan, while council's chief executive John van de Laarschot also attended, and then signed the roll of honorary freemen - which includes one of his footballing heroes, Sir Stanley Matthews.

Robbie, who was clearly touched by the accolade, said: "There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. This particular village moulded me into the man I am today. I wear where I am from as a badge of honour. So to have that honour returned to me is very special.

"I'm proud of our six towns. I'm proud to come from Stoke-on-Trent. I'm extremely honoured and grateful that you think it's fitting to give me this recognition. God bless you all."

He also took his wife and daughter to see the blue heritage plaque which was put up in Victoria Park during a series of celebrations to mark his 40th birthday in February.

The family watched a short film at today's ceremony including highlights of the event, which had been organised by Stoke local paper, The Sentinel, and included performances, street parties and a bus tour.

Robbie said afterwards: "It meant so much to me that I was able to visit Stoke privately today with my family - it's the first time Teddy has been and we got to visit the Town Hall and to see the plaque in Victoria Park."

Williams - the 67th recipient of the Freedom of The City and the only rock star - admitted he had got his wife addicted to oatcakes, which he has brought over to his Los Angeles home.

"Ayda loves oatcakes. My mum brings them over to LA every times she comes so we usually have a stock in the freezer. You can't beat them. Teddy loves them too."

The Potteries-raised singer, who was given Emma Bridgewater mugs for the whole family during his ceremony, said: "I am a little boy from the fields. I learnt how to show off and I went and showed off to the world and people liked it. I have been lucky enough for them to keep liking me showing off.

"I'm lucky to be here with my wife, my little Teddy and my unborn child. Every day I feel like a free man of my own home and now I'm a freeman of the place where I was born."

His father Pete, who attended with his wife Mel, said: "This is an incredible moment. Rob has won so many awards but there's been nothing like this. He's from a family born and bred in Stoke-on-Trent and this is a huge day for us. It's very poignant, very moving."

And Robbie's mum Jan, said: "I'm so proud of my son. I always knew he was very special. It sounds strange to be saying this but I always felt he was going to make something of himself and he really has. He's a wonderful man and this is a very special day for him."

Robbie said he was saddened that his grandmother Betty was not there to see it.

"This would have been something for her," he said. "She was so proud of her city. I really thought a lot about her today.

"I didn't actually know what to expect. I actually get very anxious about public ceremonies but the room was filled with such warmth and pride, it was very unshowbiz and I felt incredibly relaxed.

"It's very surreal to feel I've got this huge honour and I haven't totally taken it in. But it's so poignant for me to have my little girl with me and my wife and my unborn baby.

"This is Teddy's first visit to Stoke, I grew up here - her life is so different to mine. At her age Stoke-on-Trent was my whole world and I dreamed of getting into another world. All my dreams came true but as they come true you realise how much you miss the freedom you had as a kid and the safety and security you feel in your own little world.

"Stoke-on-Trent made me. My humour, my 'cheeky chappie' bit, that's all from here. Cut me and it's through me like stick of rock."

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