Gary Lovini has been travelling the world as a showman violinist for 30 years, and now he’s sharing the experience with his children.
But tonight he’s back in his adopted home St Annes for a special concert at Lowther Pavilion, teaming up with local singers Kelsey Beth Crossley, the former Emmerdale actress seen on The Voice earlier this year, and Tracy Jordan.
It’s a rare treat for the internationally-renowned musician, who hails from the Midlands, but made St Annes his home 10 years ago - his first local performance didn’t come until Lytham Proms weekend last summer.
After winning an English Tourism Board contest as a teenager, he became the celebrated Cunard cruise line’s youngest ever entertainer at the age of just 16 - an accolade he holds to this day
“I never get fed up of it after 30 years of working on cruises,” said Gary.
“It was amazing at 16 years old to be on the QE2, the second largest ship on the planet.
“When I first went on, I was that nervous I didn’t even venture out of the cabin.
“When I’d just turned 17, I flew on Concorde to Rio De Janiero, and it landed for the first time ever in Trinidad and Tobago, and the pilot did a fly over the island to show off. The whole island had turned out to see it and we were like movie stars. It was unbelievable.”
Gary won New Faces in 1986, which gave him additional exposure and granted him summer seasons around the country, several of which took place in Blackpool, alongside resort favourites such as Russ Abbot and Joe Longthorne.
Now the cruising experience is so every day to Gary that he often doesn’t even know his destination when he boards the ship for the latest booking.
“Sometimes you get on board and don’t know where you’re going,” he said.
“The last cruise, Emma and the children dropped me off at Southampton and I asked where I was going as I checked in. It turned out I was off to Norway.”
Now with wife and manager Emma, and children Louis, nine, and Ellie, seven, back home in the Fylde, the trips, although frequent, are much shorter - ‘seven to 10 days max’ - than the four-month marathons Gary once enjoyed. But they regularly share in the experiences. One recent trip saw them enjoy a city break in Istanbul, before setting sail to Portugal, enjoying a week in the sun then flying to Rome for another week at sea.
From there, Gary flew to the Carribean and his family returned to Birmingham, meeting Gary again in Southend for visits around the South East before dropping him at Southampton for another booking.
“My kids are seasoned cruisers. They know about the children’s clubs, where the restaurants are and are old enough to go and help themselves to the buffets with smoked salmon and Dover sole!” he laughed. “It’s wonderful and they take it in their stride. They spent three months in the Carribean with me and Emma, before they even went to school, from January to mid-April for two years running - with holidays to Orlando and Disney in the middle of it.
“That life is like winning the lottery, and a fantastic adventure.”
With such a jet-set lifestyle, Gary is still looking forward to a show on his doorstop at Lowther Pavilion tonight - even though he won’t be around for long.
“I’ll be home on Sunday, have the concert on Thursday and will be flying straight to another cruise the next day.’’