Hello again! As always, I hope you’re staying safe and well, and are getting any support that you need right now. Remember to check out my Lockdown Resources for lots of information and ways to stay occupied, which I’m constantly updating. And huge thanks as always to all the NHS staff and other key workers who continue to go above and beyond to keep us healthy and the country functioning.
I don’t know about you, but to me it feels like time is moving more quickly again, after the month of March felt like a year. Maybe it’s because I was already used to homeworking and spending a lot of time at home, and because I’m finding plenty of ways to stay busy and entertained. But in any case, here’s my latest post and video update on the things that have caught my attention in the last 7 days. None of this is sponsored or gifted, and all opinions are my own. So I hope you enjoy!
Audio Description Awareness Day
This week I published a blog post and video about the newly established Audio Description Awareness Day, which was set up by Juan Alcazar and others. In my video I shared some previously unseen interview footage that I recorded as part of my consultation with the producers of the short film How To Be Human, when they were developing the audio described version.
So do go and check all of that out, and get involved with the audio description challenge that Juan outlines in the video linked above, where you can show an audio described film or TV show to someone who isn’t familiar with it.
And another great post I’ve seen on the topic this week is 8 Myths About Audio Description by Veronica With Four Eyes, so do go and give that a read as well.
The big new TV show this week was a 3-part drama on ITV called Quiz, adapted from the stage play of the same name, about the infamous episode of Who Wants To A Millionaire?, where Charles Ingram cheated his way to the jackpot (something he’s always always denied). And it was brilliant, so I can recommend watching it on catch-up.
Michael Sheen‘s portrayal of Chris Tarrant was uncanny in every respect, and while Matthew Macfadyen doesn’t look a lot like Charles Ingram, he still had his mannerisms down to a T. I also particularly enjoyed Aisling Bea‘s performance as one of the TV executives. But everyone was brilliant, and it was really engaging. ITV and Celador were good sports for letting themselves be sent up in this too, as they could easily have asked for certain lines to be removed to save face.
Some names and aspects of the story were altered for dramatic effect, but a lot of it was true, and it was fascinating. Even though I had already seen the Tonight documentary about it many years ago (and again last week), there was still much I hadn’t known.
For example, I never knew the story of The Syndicate (called The Consortium in real life), a group of fans who perhaps didn’t cheat as such, but effectively played the show at its own game, working together to study the quiz and the application process in fine detail, in order to maximise their chances of getting in the hot seat and winning a decent amount of money. It’s estimated they won about 10% of all the prize money awarded by the show, amounting to about £5 million between them. The Consortium didn’t help the Ingrams, but there were connections to them as explained in the drama, so it was still relevant.
It was also enjoyable to see the fallout from the infamous episode among the production team, and very intriguing to witness the court hearing. The defence lawyer was so good that there was a very real chance the Ingrams could have been found innocent. But of course, they were found guilty, and personally I still firmly believe that they are. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the show put doubt in some people’s minds, and I know the Ingrams are still trying to appeal the decision.
To find out more about the drama and Millionaire itself, check out the Final Answer podcast, where you’ll find 3 special episodes that were released to coincide with the drama last week. I’ve listened to all of them, and they’re full of interesting and surprising information. You can also have a scroll through James Graham’s Twitter feed, where he confirms some of the amazing facts that were included in the drama. And Chris Tarrant has also been interviewed about the programme on Good Morning Britain and Radio X, and it’s interesting to hear his reaction to it.
If you want to make up your own mind about the whole affair, the real footage from the original recording has now been published on the official Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Youtube channel. The relevant coughs that formed a large part of the prosecution have been enhanced for clarity, but even if you didn’t have that, there is much to be considered about the way that Charles analysed and answered each question, and the reactions of his wife Diana in the audience.
There are also on-screen notes that appear throughout the video to point out important details, which aren’t spoken unfortunately. So if you can’t see, that’s what’s happening when all you can hear is the music bed, or when they rewind the tape to repeat a key moment. But even if you can’t see the text, you can still hear everything very clearly. So see what you think – and if you reckon you’re brainy, see if you can answer the questions yourself too!
Also, as a quick final aside, well done to my nystagmus peer Richard Osman, who won £32,000 for charity on last week’s Easter special!
Nystagmus Network Quiz
Talking of quizzes, I also had a go at one run by the Nystagmus Network, which they do every Saturday at 7pm on Virtual Quiz Events. It’s an automated game where you answer multiple-choice questions across 6 rounds (3 rounds on general knowledge, plus a round on sport, another on film & TV, and one on music). You get 20 seconds to answer each question, and the quicker you answer the better, because if scores are tied at the end then your overall time will determine your position. And it was fun. Mum and I played together, and I knew more answers than I expected to, so we were very pleased to end up in 4th place.
Each quiz costs just £3 to enter. The Nystagmus Network quite rightly get the biggest share of the funds (£19.80 on this occasion), while some money is set aside for the top 3 contestants (the winner this time got £3.30). So it’s not a high stakes game, there’s no serious pressure involved. It’s just a fun way to raise a bit of money for a very worthwhile charity, and every little bit soon adds up. So I encourage you to give it a go!
The next game I’ve been playing on Apple Arcade is Tangle Tower, which is a point-and-click murder mystery game, and by definition it therefore requires a reasonable degree of sight to navigate. And I’ve enjoyed it. It has a very colourful and artistic style to the visuals, there’s a lot to uncover (because you have to explore everything and talk to everyone), the puzzles are good at making you think, and there’s good humour between the 2 detectives that you accompany through the game. I like the fact that all the spoken words come up as easy to read text as well. So that’s a nice way to pass the time.
The Phantom Of The Opera
On Friday night, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s channel The Shows Must Go On posted the 25th anniversary Cameron Mackintosh adaptation of The Phantom Of The Opera, starring Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess and Hadley Fraser, which was performed at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011. It was only made available for 24 hours in the UK due to rights issues, and 48 hours elsewhere (but you can also rent or buy it online, or get it on DVD & Blu-ray). In return for posting the show free of charge, viewers were encouraged to donate to the NHS Charities COVID19 Appeal, and arts causes in the UK, USA and Australia.
I had originally booked to see Phantom in person next month, but with that plan now out of the window, this was my perfect opportunity to see it for the first time. And it was incredible, I’m so glad I finally got to see it. Now I know what all the hype is about, and it’s absolutely justified. Everything about it just amazing. Ramin and Sierra give outstanding performances as the Phantom and Christine respectively, as they both have amazing voices as they sing those wonderful songs, backed by the joyous sound of a full orchestra. And the show is visually stunning as well, with beautiful costumes and sets, and excellent choreography. It’s just pure delight for the eyes and ears, and gets very emotional in certain moments too.
Then at the end there was the added bonus of Sarah Brightman and four previous Phantoms giving a fabulous encore performance, along with an appearance from Michael Crawford, who many regard as the best Phantom. Michael sadly didn’t perform on this occasion, but still clearly loved being part of such a special occasion, just as much as the crowd adored him with their rapturous reception.
So I’m delighted I finally got to experience Phantom, even if it’s not in the way I expected for my first time. It just makes me want to see it in the theatre all the more, so that’s yet another thing to look forward to once life returns to normal.
And if you want to see another musical produced by Cameron Mackintosh, the staged concert of Les Miserables is now available to download, to raise money for actors, musicians and the NHS. So having never seen Les Mis before either, it looks like that could also be a good way of introducing myself to it!
Here are a few more online treats that you might want to check out.
Last week I mentioned that Tim Vine was posting short comedy clips on his Youtube channel. But now he’s released a feature length horror comedy film called Fearmoth that he made a few years ago. It’s a funny, daft, small-budget production, about a man with a fear of the dark who runs a lightbulb shop in a small town, and gets the blame when a giant moth attacks the residents. It’s not at all scary, it’s just delightfully silly with good humour, and it’s very generous of him to publish it for free. Some people are now hoping that he’ll also post his other film, Library Altitude Zero, which I’ve never seen before either.
A new channel called Emergency Broadcast Comedy has started a new panel show called Who Said That?, hosted by Mark Olver. The first episode featured Mark Watson, Angela Barnes .Nathan Caton and Eleri Morgan and was pretty good. In each round, one comedian gets to pose a question, and the others all have to answer. The goal is then for the questioner to match the answers with the person who gave them. A simple premise and it works nicely.
Comedian Dave Gorman has also launched a new Youtube channel, where he’s currently posting clips and full episodes from Modern Life Is Goodish, and he hopes to upload some new material in the future too. So do go and check out Gormhub, which is a great channel name! He also has an older channel as well, with clips that are well worth a look.
There’s also a fun new video from the cast of the Only Fools And Horses musical, which I really enjoyed last year. Paul Whitehouse and friends have recorded their version of the theme tune from their homes, in tribute to the NHS heroes and other key workers, in a clip called Only Fools in Lockdown.
And thank you to my friend Claire for recommending the channel Planes, Trains & Canes, featuring a series of videos by a blind traveller visiting 5 different cities by public transport, including London. It’s worth a look if you want to see some different places and learn how a blind person gets out and about.
There is, quite rightly, a lot of fundraising going on at the moment for charities and good causes (including those I’ve already mentioned above, and the RNIB’s urgent appeal I highlighted in my previous post). It would obviously be impossible to mention every single one that’s out there, but here are some that have come to my attention this week. If you’re able to donate to any of them, they would hugely appreciate it. There are some cool musical treats amongst them too.
The Big Cheer Up by the charity Amaze Sussex is encouraging people to share jokes and funny videos, using the hashtag #BigCheerUp, to help lift people’s spirits while raising funds for disabled children and their families.
The 2.6 Challenge is filling the gap left by the absence of the London Marathon, which last year raised over £66 million for thousands of charities, many of whom are now struggling. So on the 26th April this year – when the marathon would have taken place – they’re asking people to take on a fundraising challenge relating to the number 26 or 2.6. It could be running 2.6 miles, doing 26 repetitions of a particular form of exercise, doing an online workout with 26 friends, or any other creative idea you might have.
Also in a numerical vein, there’s The Revitalise5 Challenge, which is fundraising to keep disabled people safe at their Sandpipers centre in Southport, as well helping the NHS. And they’re asking people to do a challenge relating to the number 5 – which could be 5 shoulder presses, 5 minutes of skipping or dancing, painting 5 pictures, flipping 5 pancakes, etc. It doesn’t need to be sports related, it can be anything, and there are lots of ideas on their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages.
Once you’ve decided what your challenge will be, you need to post photos or a video of ourself doing it using the hashtag #Revita5, then donate £5 (or whatever you can) on the Revitalise website or Virgin Money Giving Page, and finally nominate 5 family and friends on your social media to do the challenge as well. So have fun with it!
On a musical note, Queen guitarist Brian May has teamed up with a group called Kings Daughters to produce a very catchy and cheerful song called Get Up. It features many people who have recorded themselves doing the dance moves, giving it a lovely feeling of togetherness. There’s also a lyric video if you want to sing along with it.
10% of each purchase is being donated to mental health charity Mind, whose support is more critical than ever for many people at this difficult time. The song is available on Amazon Music, Amazon Downloads, iTunes, Spotify and other outlets. See the Queen Online article, along with interviews on the Youtube channels for Kings Daughters and Brian May, to find out more.
Also, the newly formed Stay At Home Choir have recorded a powerful rendition of Vivaldi Gloria, complete with a BSL interpreter, on their Youtube channel. The group is run by just 2 people, and they have various projects they’re working on to bring the musical community together. So they would appreciate any donations to support their work.
But of course, I can’t talk about the past 7 days without mentioning the biggest star of the week, indeed of the year! Everyone is now surely aware of Captain Tom Moore’s sponsored walk, an endeavour that has made international headlines and caught the hearts of millions. In advance of his 100th birthday at the end of the month, Captain Tom has walked 100 laps of his garden, and is still going while the money keeps pouring in.
Mind you, I say ‘pouring in’… it would be more accurate to say there’s been a tidal wave of donations recently! As soon as he appeared on the news, the total skyrocketed at such a fast pace that it was nigh on impossible to keep up with it. As such, it will probably inaccurate by the time you read this, but at the time of writing he’s raised over £28 million (plus at least £5 million in Gift Aid)! That’s already £1 million more than when I filmed the video for this post just 2 days ago, although it was rising much faster than that during its peak period last week. It’s absolutely astonishing, but also very well-deserved. And who knows where it will end!
On top of that he’s received tens of thousands of birthday cards, had the honour of opening the new Nightingale Hospital in Harrogate, inspired people from 6 years old to 90 years old to do their own fundraising challenges, and topped the charts with a beautiful rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone, which he recorded with Michael Ball & the NHS Voices of Care Choir, all singing from their homes.
So thank you Captain Tom and Happy 100th Birthday for later this month! 🙂 We salute you (and Margaret and Hector, and all other fundraisers and volunteers), just as we do the hard-working NHS that you’re supporting so valiantly!
Be sure to follow Tom for the latest updates on Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and TikTok, and also keep up with the latest news stories about him too.
And on that cheerful note, I’ll leave it there for another week. I hope you’ve found plenty to keep yourselves occupied as well, and that you enjoy the rest of this week ahead.
Until next time, stay safe, and I’ll let BBC weather forecaster Owain Wyn Evans sign us out, with the help of fellow BBC presenter Joy Dunlop and Youtuber Michael Nagasaka, just in case you missed this other viral hit of the week.