Preston’s ‘Greatest Showman’ dies after a singing career raising £750k for charity

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A much-loved Preston entertainer, who raised more than £750,000 for charity, has died at the age of 86.

Celebrated singer Tony Slater, who friends called the city's "Greatest Showman," had been battling cancer for some time.

Tony began entertaining audiences as a schoolboy and never lost his passion for performing, both on the UK clubland scene and in nightspots in Europe and North Africa. He opened two restaurants in the Preston area and also spent a number of years running a Blackpool rock shop in Calpe, Spain.

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At the height of his singing career he turned down a chance to tour with the great Shirley Bassey, choosing to stay at home with his young family. He was also due to meet movie star Brigette Bardot in Paris, but missed out because her plane was delayed. His daughter-in-law Sharron Mulvaney said he often joked that she had slipped through his net and "who knows what could have been?"

Tony Slater was an entertainer for more than seven decades.Tony Slater was an entertainer for more than seven decades.
Tony Slater was an entertainer for more than seven decades.
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Born in Preston in May 1936, Tony developed a love for entertaining while at school and would visit local nursing homes to sing to residents. During two years of National Service he was posted to both Cyprus and Libya and took to singing in nightclubs in Tripoli in his spare time. Back on Civvy Street he became a salesman for various companies, but always longed to be a full-time entertainer.

During the day he became sales manager at Thwaites Brewery, a job his family said he truly loved. He opened two restaurants - Champagne & Chips in Hutton and Slater’s Honky-Tonk in Preston. But then, in the mid-eighties he and wife Joyce decided to move out to Spain where they opened a rock store, importing products from the rock factories of Blackpool.

In a family statement, Sharron said: "Tony became driven to raising money for many different causes and he organised charity events as well as selling music featuring himself and other singers. Over the years he has helped so many different causes and raised in excess of three quarters of a million pounds.

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Tony with his good friend Sir Tom FinneyTony with his good friend Sir Tom Finney
Tony with his good friend Sir Tom Finney

"Throughout his life, Tony has been a devoted fan of Preston North End, watching them play at Deepdale for over 70 years. His hero was Tom Finney who he did a lot of charity work with, and in doing so he became a personal friend. He recorded a charity CD with the Preston team and other singers in 2000.”

Only days before his death Tony spoke to the Lancashire Post about his long-standing campaign to get public access to the war memorial in front of the former Harris Orphanage in Fulwood. He also campaigned to get a statue for Richard Arkwright.

His family have launched a Just Giving page to raise cash for the Rosemere Cancer Foundation in Preston. To donate please go to:

"Sadly we have lost our Greatest Showman and as a family we are devastated," added Sharron. “Tony was a prolific fundraiser and he worked tirelessly raising funds for and awareness of local and national charities. He received support from Rosemere during his fight against cancer and we know that he would want us to continue to fundraise in his name."

A celebration of Tony’s life will be held at Preston crematorium on Thursday (1pm) followed by St Gregory’s club on Blackpool Road.