Hello! What's Lionel Richie doing in this Merseyside street?

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Life may have got a little dull in Victoria Road, Formby, Merseyside, when its most famous residents, Wayne Rooney and Coleen McLoughlin, left two years ago for Manchester but events on Sunday more than compensated for their absence.

It all started when the Sugababes rolled up in the afternoon to perform at a Christmas party that local millionaire property developer Ray Smith was throwing in his garden.

No great surprise perhaps in such an affluent area, although the locals have more of a taste for the Liverpudlian act Atomic Kitten. But the arrival of Westlife in a grey limousine offered a hint that this was no ordinary social event - and then the glitterrati began flowing thick and fast along the tree-lined street.

Will Young turned up, before Charlotte Church, Ricky Tomlinson - who is understood to have compered the event in his trademark Royle Family white vest - and, fresh from the outback, I'm a Celebrity contestant Jason Donovan. There was also the X-Factor singer, Chico, and finally the guest who had residents twitching their net curtains in disbelief: Lionel Richie.

The Smiths have been unwilling to disclose their total outlay for the event but since it is clear that the celebrities were there to perform, the bill stands at around £1.5m. If they had that kind of money to play with - and property prices in nearby Liverpool have been buoyant since the city was named European Capital of Culture - then the sky was always the limit. Elton John's current asking price is a reported £60,000 while Robbie Williams is reportedly less than £20,000.

Of course, the Smiths also had the fixtures and fittings for the event accounted for. Female stilt walkers and genuine reindeer were both spotted in a road better known for red squirrels which reside at the nearby National Trust reserve. Proceedings began at 2pm with a children's party which ran until 7pm, followed by an adult's event for a total of 100 guests, which concluded at 3.30am.

Other details remain unclear but if last year's (modest) £500,000 event, featuring former S Club 7 singer Rachel Stevens and the 1980s band Go West, was anything to go by, then the children were not short of entertainment. Then they were transported to the entrance by a train, where they were greeted by a reindeer, Noddy and a chocolate fountain. The Smiths' garden was converted into a winter wonderland with snow, ice sculptures and an ice-skating rink while the Liverpool Cathedral Choir sang carols. The Smiths also have an indoor pool, with a mosaic featuring the faces of their children.

Mr Smith's wife, Lisa, was particularly enamoured by Chico last year. "He was the big attraction for all the ladies, while for the dads there was Rachel Stevens," she said. However, she has been unwilling to discuss this year's Christmas party.

Rooney's successor as resident celebrity in Victoria Road, the England and Liverpool footballer Steven Gerrard, was not spotted on Sunday and neither was the snooker star and BBC commentator John Parrott, who also lives there. It is also safe to assume the former Everton striker Duncan Ferguson was not invited. His attempts to make £2m from luxury flats on the site of a mansion he demolished has gone down like a lead balloon.