With a new month now underway, many of us are reflecting back on what felt like one of the longest and dreariest Januarys on record.
Ongoing restrictions, school closures, and non-essential retail and hospitality shut-downs have meant that England’s third national lockdown amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hasn’t exactly given us much to cheer about.
But all of the doom and gloom of the past year is what prompted one mother-daughter duo to take their love for all things Christmas and “have a bit of fun while things are crazy”.
Charlotte Barker, 25, and her mum Sharon, 50, – both from Manchester, and both nurses at Manchester Royal Infirmary – are clinging onto the festive season and combatting the new year blues with a project that will see them keep their beloved Christmas tree up all year round, but with a twist.
Instead of the traditional decorations you’d expect to see at Christmas, their tree will take on a new, seasonal theme each month.
The two “tree fairies” have even started an Instagram account – @notjustforchristmas_ – to lift spirits by documenting the beautifully-decorated trees each month, and it’s already picking up new fans from throughout the local community and across the country each day.
While Charlotte and Sharon have plans to continue decorating their tree right through to December of this year, the pair actually got a head-start in 2020 by kicking things off at Halloween.
“We love doing our Christmas tree,” Charlotte told us.
“[We usually] start planning our colours for them six months before Christmas, and we made a Halloween tree for the first time [last year], which we loved”.
But their inspiration actually started a lot sooner than that.
“Since last summer, we were planning a Christmas grotto for my nieces and nephew,” Charlotte continued.
“It was so much fun.
“I played Santa, and my mum and auntie were the elves, [and] that’s what give us the idea to start the Christmas tree themes each month.”
She continued: “It’s just something fun that we love our doing,
“[And] our tree is a running joke in the family of what we have planned next.”
February’s themed tree has, of course, taken inspiration from the celebration of love itself, Valentine’s Day – with the tree covered head to toe in love hearts, tinsel, and plenty of other themed pink and red decorations – but with another 10 months of the year left to go, what else do they have in store?
“So we have a few ideas lined up,” Charlotte admitted.
“Such as St Patrick’s Day [for March], Easter [for April], and a summer holiday theme [too, but we are] still planning other themes.
“We want to try and do a nurse themed one for National Nurses Day in May too”.
While the pair seem to have plenty of ideas in the pipeline to give their increasing fanbase something to look forward to, they’re always on the look-out for inspiration, with Charlotte adding: “If anyone has ideas for themes, please let us know”.
To take a look at all of the trees so far, show your support, and follow along with Charlotte and Sharon’s journey, head on over to their Instagram here.
And don’t forget to suggest some future themes for them too.
Eurovision 2023 grand final to be screened live in cinemas across the UK
The grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest is to be screened live in cinemas across the UK for the first time ever.
With fans from across the globe set to descend on Liverpool in a couple of months time as the UK hosts the 2023 edition of the world’s biggest song competition on behalf of last year’s winners Ukraine, those who weren’t lucky enough to secure tickets will instead by able to head to their nearest cinema to experience the action on the big screen.
Distributor CinemaLive has announced it will be broadcasting the Eurovision grand final show live in cinemas nationwide for the first time ever.
It means that Eurovision fans up and down the country who missed out on grabbing tickets to the final – which sold out in under 40 minutes after going on sale earlier this month – will be able to come together to celebrate what is set to be the “biggest, brightest, boldest music party of the year”.
500 cinemas across the UK, including several here in Greater Manchester, will be screening the grand final on Saturday 13 May.
Vue, Odeon, Cineworld, and Everyman are just some of the cinema chains taking part.
Vue Manchester Printworks, Odeon Great Northern, and Everyman Manchester are the Manchester city centre venues lined-up to screen the event – with cinemas in the The Lowry Outlet Mall, Trafford Centre, Didsbury, Heaton Moor, Ashton-under-Lyne, Bolton, and more also set to welcome Eurovision fans through their doors.
Event organisers say the screenings will encourage singalongs and fancy dress.
“We’re delighted to be working with the BBC to bring Eurovision’s grand final live into cinemas across the UK for the first time ever,” said John Travers from CinemaLive.
“We want audiences to enjoy themselves, so get your fancy dress on, and come together to enjoy this historic occasion on the big screen.”
With an illustrious entertainment career spanning over four decades, O’Grady may have been most well-known and loved by British audiences as a comedian, presenter, broadcaster, actor, writer, and the former drag queen Lily Savage – but he was also one of the nation’s most-famous dog lovers and animal rights advocates.
O’Grady was a longtime supporter and Ambassador of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, and helped raise the profile of the shelter to millions around the world through the hugely-popular ITV series Paul O’Grady: For The Love of Dogs.
Battersea says there’s “no doubting” that O’Grady’s influence has helped thousands of rescue animals find new homes over the years.
Over several series of the show, O’Grady would make an effort to spend quality time with these animals and show-off all of their quirks and loveable qualities, which went a long way to proving that rescue animals “really are the best pets”.
Paying an emotional tribute to O’Grady following his passing today, Peter Laurie – Chief Executive of Battersea – said: “To many, Paul O’Grady was the immensely popular TV and radio presenter and comedian who lit up their screens with his razor-sharp humour and perpetual generosity and warmth [but] Battersea will forever remember Paul as a devoted animal lover with the biggest heart, who fell head over heels in love with every dog he met at our centres.
“Paul will always be associated with Battersea and we are truly saddened to have lost such a true friend and huge part of our charity.
“Paul had an extremely hands on approach as a Battersea Ambassador and has been fundamental in helping our charity to communicate important campaign messages.
“He was a champion for the underdog and would do anything to ensure all animals live a healthy and happy life.
“He will be dearly missed.”
Since the news of O’Grady’s passing was announced, touching tributes have been pouring in in their hundreds from right across the world of entertainment and on social media.
Countless famous names have shared supportive messages and memories.
Emotional tributes to O’Grady have been flooding in all morning, both from those who knew and had worked with him in the past, and from those who admired his work and all that he achieved and had stood for throughout his respected career.