They’ll join other music stars to interview those helping ‘Make a Difference’

It was revealed today that Greater Manchester will remain in Tier 3 until the next government review on 30th December, dashing the hopes of both hospitality and entertainment venues that were planning to open pre-Christmas. As for the latter, while a majority have decided to play it safe with virtual events over the festive period, others such as The Lowry risked selling tickets to physical shows in the hope of a Tier 2 announcement - understandable considering GM cases have fallen rapidly and are now ‘significantly below’ the national average. The decision has been met with angry resignation from local leaders and means regional festivities (at least in-person ones) will be few and far between.

Needless to say, many of us aren’t feeling especially ‘merry’ this Christmas…all the more reason for a little feel-good entertainment that celebrates some of the things that did go right in 2020, thanks to enterprising local residents. 

That’s the premise of a special BBC radio series that will see ‘drumming weatherman’ Owain Wyn Evans introduce music icons including Sir Cliff Richard, Dolly Parton, Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue and Gary Barlow to some of England’s lockdown heroes. It’s part of a nationwide project, launched in March, highlighting those helping to ‘Make a Difference’ in their communities.

2020 12 17 Kylie No Credit
Kylie Minogue speaks to Manchester’s Lauren Barclay, who runs a youth mental health organisation

Amongst these are several North West residents; including Lauren Barclay from Manchester, who speaks to Kylie Minogue for the show. Barclay, just 21, runs a charity that supports young people with wellbeing and tells the singer how her team have particularly helped with loneliness during the pandemic. 

Kylie calls her efforts ‘amazing,’ adding some of her own mental health advice for good measure: "Listen to people you love and respect - don’t listen to all the noise on social media which can be a double-edged sword and cannot do you any favours mentally." 

2020 12 17 Gary Barlow Credit Ali Tant
Gary Barlow speaks to fan Vicky Murphy from Glossop, whose scheme sees nursery children write letters for elderly people in social isolation Ali Tant

Gary Barlow is equally admiring of his interviewee, Vicky Murphy from Glossop, who set up a scheme for nursery children to write letters for elderly people in social isolation.

Barlow says: “It’s a great time for us to all see our worth. The great thing about this time is that people are clever and people will get us out of this. What a brill idea, when you came on I thought this personality is going to lead to something great.”

2020 12 17 Cliff Richard No Credit
Sir Cliff Richard: “The more people we can get to help others the better”

Each of the show's four programmes will be packed with Christmas spirit and music from each of the musicians involved.

Sir Cliff Richard tells Wyn Evans: “It’s nice to be played on the radio. I’ve always complained that you need to be under 35 to get played on the radio but in the last few years all of you have been very kind to me.” 

Talking about his own charity work he says: “I always find it so comforting to know that I could do something. When you think of any individual - you, me anybody - what we do is so finite and tiny, but the bucket will only get full after all those tiny drops that we are fill it. The more people we can get to help others the better.”

He adds: “I will keep bringing the music, you keep making a difference.”

2020 12 17 Dolly Parton No Credit
Dolly Parton is amongst the musicians taking part

Chris Burns, head of BBC audio and digital said: “This Christmas BBC local radio stations will be there for their listeners like never before. It will be unlike any Christmas we’ve experienced. Through our Make A Difference programming and lots of surprises we will bring everyone together and play our part in lifting the mood across every corner of England.” 

Other BBC radio happenings include ‘England Sings,’ a Christmas Eve concert at 9pm that brings together the classics for an uplifting listen for all the family, and a ‘virtual hug’ scheme.

The four hour-long ‘Make a Difference’ specials will be broadcast daily over ‘Betwixtmas’ week from Monday 28th December to Thursday 31st at 9am, then on New Year’s Day at 6pm. Find out more about the project here or nominate someone for Manchester's Make a Difference awards here

And for a little more festive's not too late to check out the Confidentials advent calendar, featuring a new prize to be won each day