BBC Christmas special celebrates Blackburn’s community spirit

Published Friday 17 December 2021 at 10:14

Blackburn’s resilience and community spirit will be celebrated next week in a festive BBC2 special on Thursday 23 December with celebrity choirmaster Gareth Malone.

Blackburn Sings Christmas with Gareth Malone will see the choirmaster head to Blackburn to celebrate the remarkable efforts of NHS staff and highlight how people in the town pulled together after experiencing the highest number of cumulative Covid-19 cases in England.

Familiar local faces, moving tributes and heartfelt musical performances will reflect on what has been a very challenging time for Blackburn with Darwen, culminating in an emotional and uplifting musical Christmas concert staged in Blackburn Market.

The Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen, Councillor Derek Hardman, said:

We are very proud that Gareth and the BBC have chosen to recognise the exceptional strength and solidarity of people across Blackburn with Darwen on a national stage and just before what will be an emotional festive period for many.

Blackburn with Darwen has faced many challenges during the Coronavirus pandemic and we hope that local families will enjoy watching the programme and join us in thanking our remarkable NHS teams who continue to support our community and battle this challenging virus.

Gareth visited Royal Blackburn Hospital to speak with staff at the East Lancashire Hospitals Trust and hear moving stories from patients who had received care during the pandemic.

Tanviha almost died after contracting Covid-19 whilst she was eight months pregnant, undergoing an emergency caesarean before being placed into an induced coma. Now fully recovered, Tanviha’s moving story is featured on the programme alongside a heart-warming musical performance with her family.

The show also features Stephen, a former singer who started working as a hospital porter during the pandemic, singing to patients and staff to lift their spirits. Stephen said:

At first I just sang to myself but I quickly realized that this was having a positive effect on people who otherwise would only exchange pleasantries with NHS staff.

I was then asked if I would go and sing to people who were having a particularly bad time or weren’t settling too well within the hospital environment.

Local pub landlady Carole and paramedic Justin also share their stories alongside two Blackburn Youth Zone members, Ray (13) and Maddison (16), who have composed an original song with Gareth Malone.

Maddison’s mother, Karen, said:

Covid-19 really knocked the girls’ confidence and this experience helped them to find their voices again.

Both girls love performing arts so composing their own original song with Gareth has been a fantastic experience. We are so proud of what they have achieved and really excited to watch the programme.

Gareth Malone, who spent around six weeks in Blackburn making the Christmas special, said:

I was delighted by the warmth of the people of Blackburn. It’s been a difficult couple of years and it was inspiring to see how the town has pulled together. The Christmas concert is an uplifting tribute to the spirit of Blackburn’s people.

Watch Blackburn Sings Christmas with Gareth Malone on BBC2 on Thursday December 23 at 8pm.

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