Hello again, hope you’re all keeping safe and well. We’ve now had nearly 3 months of lockdown, and this ‘new normal’ still feels surreal. It certainly puts everything in perspective, that a microscopic virus can temporarily shut down the entire planet in a matter of weeks. It’s a stark reminder of how powerful nature can be.
Everyone’s perception of time is rather weird at the moment too, with the weeks seeming to fly by, but that can be explained by science at least. Although, of course, it will be dragging much more slowly for those going through a particularly rough time at the moment, and you have my sympathies if that applies to you.
As I see it, the current small changes to our lockdown, as part of the government’s long term recovery plan, are basically urging people to use their common sense, as the virus is still circulating. We must continue to stay at home and work from home if at all possible, and obey the other safety rules. But provided we do so, we have a little bit more freedom now. So I hope people will continue to be careful and sensible, as we’re nowhere near out of the woods yet, but we’re getting there slowly. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And obviously for disabled people things are more complicated, as Lucy Edwards has discussed with a couple of her fellow blind activists in a recent video.
As for me though, I’m still doing fine. I’ve been staying indoors to keep my elderly mother safe, but recently I went out for the first time in over 5 weeks, as a couple of essential items were missing from our online shopping delivery. So I was very pleased to find that there were hardly any people and very few cars about, and that I was able to use the priority hour for disabled people at the supermarket, which was fully stocked and had social distancing measures very well enforced. So my risk of exposure was hopefully minimal.
But otherwise I’m still staying at home, and I’ve continued to keep myself entertained in various ways. So here’s my latest recap of what I’ve been enjoying and discovering recently, along with videos summarising week 5, week 6, week 7 & week 8. As usual nothing is sponsored or gifted, and all opinions are my own. So I hope you enjoy!
- Scam Warnings
- Special Events
While the overwhelming majority of people are very generous, caring and kind, there are still some unscrupulous scammers out there who are also trying to make the most of the situation. So I wanted to pass on this message that that was sent to all the staff where I work, as the information is important for everyone to know:
There are a number of scams going round at the moment and you are reminded to be vigilant with your email, text messages and phone calls. Some of these scams are utilising the current coronavirus pandemic and claiming to be official messages from the Government or other agencies. Others are more general where the sender uses a general name which could be someone you know i.e. Emma, and claiming to be in a situation which they require your help with such as money / phone vouchers.
The purpose of these scams are to extort money or get hold of your personal details which can then be sold on. They can come to your personal phones, you work mobiles and via email.
What to look out for:
- Messages out of the blue advising you are entitled to a payment which require you to apply via a link
- Messages advising that you have been fined for something you have done i.e. left your home.
- Calls claiming to be from Ofcom advising that your broadband needs to be slowed down / switched off
- Messages claiming to be from someone you know asking for help – i.e. money / vouchers
What to do:
If you receive a call, text, email or anything else you believe may be a scam hang up or delete the message. You can report it to Action Fraud, including the number / email address that was used to contact you.
You should also forward any scam emails you receive to firstname.lastname@example.org, where it will be analysed by the National Cyber Security Centre (part of GCHQ), so they can take the appropriate action.
You can find out more about coronavirus scams and how to spot them at these links:
- Action Fraud – COVID-19 Related Scams – News & Resources
- Citizens Advice – Check if something might be a scam
So I hope that’s useful. Don’t forget to check out my Covid Resources page as well, which has become more and more extensive in recent weeks. There are lots of information and support links in there, as well as many ways to stay connected, occupied and entertained.
- Blog Posts – I’ve contributed to a post by Companion Stairlifts, where they’ve featured comments from myself and others in their tips for staying in touch with relatives. So go and check that out, as there’s some useful advice there. And thank you to Emma at Rock For Disability for kindly mentioning my Audio Description Awareness Day post in her April 2020 Summary.
- Planes, Trains & Canes – Recently my friend Claire recommended this channel, where you’ll find a series of videos by a lady called Mona Minkara, documenting her visits to various cities. So I’ve been watching a few of her videos, as I wanted to see her experience of London in particular. Part 1 of her London vlog focuses on her arrival at the city and using public transport to get to the hotel, during which there’s a fascinating exchange with a member of staff, when she’s initially denied the choice to travel independently on the Tube without using the assistance that’s available. Part 2 then focuses on her explorations of the city and the many delights it offers, so it was great to hear her having a good time, and the interview with a man from RNIB Connect Radio was interesting as well. It’s also great that the videos feature brief audio descriptive notes throughout, which is very useful.
- The Staying Inn – If you want to get together with others online for quizzes, crafts, a good chat and more, Dr Amy Kavanagh’s Staying Inn has gone from strength to strength over the last few weeks and now has its own website, so you can sign up for their newsletter to be made aware of their upcoming events. I’m reliably informed their get-togethers on Zoom are very sociable and accessible. I’ve been too distracted by other things, so I haven’t given it a go myself yet, but I might poke my head in at some point.
Love Never Dies
Did you know that The Phantom Of The Opera had a sequel? I didn’t, and neither did many others judging by the comments for the latest production posted on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s channel The Shows Must Go On. Last week I really enjoyed seeing Phantom for the first time ever (very late to the party I know!), so I was keen to see the follow-up Love Never Dies when it was posted on the channel for 48 hours.
I’m not going to give away any spoilers, suffice to say that it’s set 10 years after the original story, and sees the Phantom luring in Christine for a second time, in the desperate hope he can win her round and get her to perform for him again. But there are one or two big revelations along the way, for the Phantom as well as others.
And I enjoyed it. It’s not quite as incredible as the original musical, as if anything could be, but it’s still wonderfully staged and absolutely worth a go if you’re a Phantom fan. This was the Melbourne production, which I understand was a successful reworking of the slightly less well received London version, and stars Ben Lewis as The Phantom with Anna O’Byrne as Christine, who are both excellent.
Visually the whole production looks stunning, and the music is as powerful as you’d hope, including many references back to the original show. My favourite song is The Beauty Underneath, with its great lyrics and guitar riffs, which doesn’t just draw us into the Phantom’s dark world, but is also a huge moment for Gustave, and the young boy who plays him (Jack Lyall) is superb throughout the show. Other highlights include Beneath A Moonless Sky, marking the dramatic moment where the Phantom and Christine are reunited, and the title song performed by Christine towards the end.
So if you enjoyed the original Phantom Of The Opera musical, don’t be afraid to give this a go. Although it’s no longer available for free, you can pay to view it on Youtube or Amazon instead.
Cats was another recent release on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s channel The Shows Must Go On. Having never seen the show or the recent movie, I wasn’t sure what to expect, so it did seem quite strange at first. But the lovely songs, impressive choreography and elaborate costumes make it worth sticking with, it’s an incredible spectacle. Elaine Paige of course gives a wonderful performance of Memory, which is the only song I’d heard before. I wouldn’t put Cats at the top of my list of favourite musicals like some people do, but it was still fun, and I’m glad I finally saw it. Now I understand better what it’s about, I think it’s the sort of show that might grow on me further if I watch it again in the future.
This is the first of 2 productions I’ve watched from the National Theatre At Home series, which they’re generously posting for free on Youtube.
Frankenstein is directed by Danny Boyle, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller. Interestingly, they posted 2 versions – one with Benedict as the creature, and the other with Jonny as the creature – and in each case, the other actor plays Frankenstein. So it’s a very interesting way of alternating the performances.
I saw the former, with Benedict as the creature, but have also looked at key scenes from the other version involving those actors. And in each case, they’re both magnificent in their respective roles, so it’s hard to say if either is best. It’s such an intense and atmospheric production, with some humour sprinkled throughout too, and it kept me hooked all the way through. Highlights for me include the lengthy opening scene where the creature emerges, his later meeting with a blind man, and the pivotal moment where Frankenstein first confronts his creation.
My one gripe is the lack of audio description (which they did include with Twelfth Night recently), because it means blind people will be completely lost for much of it. The creature’s birth scene at the start, which is a fantastic solo performance, lasts for about 15 minutes with no dialogue whatsoever, and there are other similarly silent moments during the first half before the creature learns to speak, along with other key visual moments during the whole show. So you’re missing out on a lot if you can’t see what’s going on, which is a pity.
The other play I saw from the National Theatre At Home series was Treasure Island. And it was great fun, with Jim Hawkins (played wonderfully by Patsy Ferran) narrating the story as she takes us with her on the journey. There’s plenty of action and intrigue, and again there’s some humour too. The costumes and sets are very well put together as well, and the impressive stage of the theatre is used to full effect. The central revolve is used regularly, and there’s a spectacular moment when the ship is revealed, reminding you just how deep the space below the stage must be! So it’s a real visual treat as well as an entertaining one.
I was also surprised but delighted to discover that Long John Silver is played by Arthur Darvill, who played Amy’s partner Rory in Doctor Who. I wouldn’t have recognised him if I hadn’t been told he was in the cast! Again there’s no audio description for this either, sadly, but you might just be able to follow the story reasonably well thanks to Jim’s narration. It’s just a shame you’ll miss out on the beautiful visuals if you can’t see it.
This musical isn’t a recent upload, it’s actually a few years old. But I thought I’d check out Avenue Q when I discovered it was online. It’s rather like an 18-rated edition of Sesame Street or The Muppets, with a lot of adult humour, so it’s not for everyone. But I liked it, I thought it was very amusing, and the songs were very catchy.
It’s also unusual in that the puppeteers are as much a part of the show as the puppets themselves, being fully in view throughout, and they’re very good, as were the human characters. So it’s silly but fun, basically, and it does contain a few important messages about life throughout the show too, about how to treat and respect others.
The cast have also performed a special lockdown edition of the song For Now from the show. Which again contains a little adult humour, but it’s still a good song and very appropriate for the world we’re currently living in.
Many online shows, including those I’ve mentioned above, aren’t fully accessible for people with disabilities, and it can be hard to find shows that are best suited for specific needs. But now and again there are accessible productions available. The National Theatre recently published Twelfth Night with audio description on their channel for example, which is fantastic.
So here’s a quick list of links that you might find useful, which are also on my Covid Resources page:
- Official London Theatre – Access – Lists of accessible performances, including those that have audio description, captioning & BSL.
- VocalEyes – Newsletters – Regular lists of audio described performances and other items of interest.
- Deafinitely Theatre – Performances in BSL with captions.
- Graeae – Crips Without Constraints – Weekly monologues by deaf and disabled performers, with captions and audio description.
Also, as a general note, if there are any theatres, museums, comedians, musicians or any other form of free entertainment and culture you’re enjoying to get you through this crisis, please give a bit back to show your appreciation, if you’re able to afford it. Their businesses and livelihoods have taken a massive hit, with venues shutting down in the ultimate sacrifice to keep people safe. So if you want to enjoy them again in person when lockdown is lifted, we need to work together right now to ensure their survival.
Captain Tom’s 100th Birthday
Having mentioned him in my previous post, it’s only right to wish Captain Tom Moore a very happy 100th birthday! The donation page for his charity walk has now closed, with a huge total of £32,796,350! So when you add on Gift Aid from the government of £6,173,649.56 and sales of his charity single, it’s safe to say he’s hit the £40 million mark. That’s an incredible achievement for one man, so it’s no wonder the nation pulled out all the stops to mark his special day.
As well as earning 2 Guinness World Records for his fundraising and chart success, and being made an honorary Colonel, he’s also had an amazing RAF flypast by a Spitfire and a Hurricane, had a big 3 layer birthday cake with a Spitfire on top, been made an honorary member of the England cricket team, received a Pride of Britain award, had trains named after him and a message from Great Western Railway, had a special blue postbox unveiled in his honour, been awarded the Freedom of the City of London, had a photo mosaic made by the BBC of people saluting him, received messages from the Prime Minister and health staff and key workers and Formula 1 stars and celebrities, been serenaded by Michael Ball, and has received over 150,000 birthday cards from the public which have filled a large school hall! Have a scroll through the BBC’s News Stories to find out more about these and the many other tributes that have been paid to him.
Talking of war heroes, the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day was of course a high point recently, paying tribute and much gratitude to all those who fought for us, kept the country running and sacrificed their lives, to ensure we retained the freedoms we still enjoy today. Even in lockdown and with the many tragedies resulting from the current situation, things would still be an awful lot worse if we’d lost the war all those years ago.
I marked the occasion by posting extracts from my grandad’s documents from when he was working in Field Hygiene during the conflict. Behind-the-scenes personnel of that nature are often overlooked when the predominant images we see are of front-line soldiers and pilots, and yet every single person played a critical role, whatever duties they had. So I’m very proud that a member of my family was amongst the many who worked in such tough conditions on our country’s behalf.
Although many of the planned events couldn’t take place, there were still various celebrations to enjoy, many involving music. All day, for example, you could listen to hits from the period on Absolute Radio 40s, a 24-hour pop-up addition to their collection of stations. I dipped in and out of that a few times during the day, they had some nice tunes on there.
And there was a special programme on BBC1 – VE Day 75: The People’s Celebration – which featured Puttin’ On The Ritz, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, At Last and, following the Queen’s Speech, a special performance of We’ll Meet Again featuring Katherine Jenkins duetting with old footage of Dame Vera Lynn, accompanied by clips from people singing along all over the country. It was a wonderful way to bring the nation together, especially as the song is once again so relevant.
But the highlight of the evening for my mother and I was the live performance by Katherine Jenkins from the Royal Albert Hall. Performing in the empty auditorium, with a safe distance between her, the pianist, and a few other instrumentalists who joined in here and there, Katherine sang a lovely selection from the period over the course of half an hour, including Somewhere Over The Rainbow, The White Cliffs Of Dover, A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square, another duet of We’ll Meet Again with old footage of Dame Vera Lynn, and concluding with Jerusalem backed by the Hall’s magnificent organ. It was very strange not having an audience to applaud her, but it was a beautiful concert, perfect for the occasion.
There are videos of other special performances on The Royal Albert Hall’s channel as well, and you can see a list of upcoming performances on the Royal Albert Home page. So do check that out to see if anything grabs your interest. And We’ll Meet again has also been released as a charity single, again featuring Dame Vera Lynn and Katherine Jenkins, to raise money for NHS Charities Together.
The Big Night In
The other major TV event in recent weeks was the Big Night In telethon on BBC1, bringing together Comic Relief and Children In Need for the first time. The presenters were in a studio together, all standing at least 2 metres apart and with a skeleton crew helping them out. while all the performances came from the homes of celebrities and members of the public. It was strange to see a telethon being broadcast in such a minimal fashion without a fancy set or a big studio audience, but it worked well, and there was plenty of entertainment amongst the serious and important messages.
They rightly acknowledged that people were already donating to many other charitable causes, and that we all had enough troubles of our own right now, but they encouraged people to donate whatever they felt able to, if anything. And although the total wasn’t as big as it has been for their telethons in the past, it was still an extremely impressive £27,398,675 (which the government have already agreed to double).
Among all the entertainment that was offered on The Big Night In, I particularly enjoyed:
- Mr Logan & Lauren Cooper (David Tennant & Catherine Tate – The duo made an enjoyable follow-up to their original classroom sketch from 2007. This time it was based around Lauren’s obsession with TikTok. They’ve always been great together, which is why Donna was such a good companion to his Doctor on Doctor Who, and this was very funny.
- Doctor Who Tribute To The Real Doctors – A lovely clip where 10 of the Doctors (including the surprise Doctor from the most recent series) came together to thank our health and care workers. It was very well edited together. The one notable omission was Christopher Eccleston, but he has his own opinions on charity, and instead elected to read a beautiful poem in tribute to the NHS instead, written by a man called Matt Kelly whose partner is a district nurse. So Chris still played his part in showing his support.
- The Vicar Of Dibley – Dawn French returned as Geraldine Granger to give us a nice update from the parish. With 4 members of the main cast of the sitcom sadly no longer with us, a reunion with more than just the vicar would probably have felt a bit strange, so it made sense to feature Geraldine on her own. And it was good to see her back, I enjoyed her monologue.
- Lord Melchett (Stephen Fry) & Prince William – With nice nods to Blackadder (who sadly didn’t appear), this was a humorous little conversation that led us into this week’s Clap For Carers.
- Stand Ups Staying In – Here we got to hear thoughts on life in lockdown by comedians including Jason Manford, Rosie Jones, Ellie Taylor, Tim Vine, Tom Allen, Lost Voice Guy, Nish Kumar, and various others.
- Little Britain – It was good to see the cast back together for this special new collection of sketches, reviving all their best-loved characters.
- Matt Lucas & BBC Concert Orchestra: Thank You Baked Potato – There have been many interpretations of Matt’s catchy charity song, including some entertaining duets. But I think this is the best version yet, given the beautiful orchestral accompaniment. And the song is a great way of summarising some of the important messages for children about what they should be doing at the moment.
- Peter Kay & Tony Christie: Is This The Way To Amarillo? – 15 years on from the first time, this was a very enjoyable new version of the music video, featuring many key workers and other members of the public singing and dancing along. Some clips from the original video were kept in too, including Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor, and the hilarious moment where comedian Ronnie Corbett took a tumble. Obviously one original participant had to be cut out (as UK viewers will be well aware), hence the awkward jump in the music part way through. And there’s also some speculation around Peter’s health, given how he looked in his intro and the fact that they only used old footage of him dancing, so I hope he’s ok. But it was great to see Tony Christie getting involved from his home, as it’s his song after all.
- Other performers on the night included Miranda Hart, stars from Strictly Come Dancing performing with the public, the cast of Eastenders doing a virtual quiz, Romesh Ranganathan’s isolation diary, Jack Whitehall resurrecting his character from Bad Education, a conversation between Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, a performance of Sing by Gary Barlow and various other artists, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment from Sting telling people “Don’t stand so close to each other”, and more.
So there was a good variety of entertainment for everyone to enjoy, and I’m delighted they were able to raise so much money (well over £50 million when you include Gift Aid and the government’s promise to double the total).
After Life: Series 2
This Ricky Gervais comedy-drama has just returned to Netflix for a second series, and I binge-watched all 6 episodes in one night as they’re only half an hour each. It continues the story of Tony, a man who is struggling to cope with the death of his wife. In the first series, which I saw earlier in the year, he dealt with it by being rude to everyone, as if he had nothing to lose b doing so, which didn’t help matters. So this time he’s making more of an effort to be kind, though it still doesn’t always pay off, and there are still things that frustrate him.
The subject matter may not sound appropriate for comedy, and it’s a tricky balance to get right, but Ricky makes it work very effectively, because it feels so real. There are lots of funny moments, one particular highlight being the surprise cameo by Annette Crosbie, best known as Margaret from One Foot In The Grave, who was hilarious. But there are many sad moments too, with the last 2 episodes of this series being particularly moving, and it gets especially tense at the very end. You really do get invested in the fate of the characters, especially Tony, and it really does tug at all your emotions, good and bad. So as much as it will make you laugh, and while there is some hope and happiness within, don’t expect to leave with a smile on your face. It’s a whole mixture of things, just like life. We can all closely relate to aspects of it, and we can all learn from it.
The series does contain very strong language, as well as references to death and suicide, so the series won’t be to everyone’s taste. But if they’re not going to be big issues for you, then I can very much recommend it. It’s become hugely popular, and is widely considered to be Ricky’s finest work, Just be sure to start from series 1 if you haven’t seen that already. Audio description is available as well.
Ricky has also posted a compilation of outtakes from the second series, which is easily one of the funniest gag reels I’ve ever watched. If don’t mind very strong language and adult humour, then it’s worth a look even if you haven’t seen the series. It’s Ricky’s laugh that gets me every time, it’s so catching. There are also a few outtakes from series 1 available as well, but the selection from series 2 is much longer and funnier.
Outlander: Season 5
The fifth season of Outlander finished on Amazon this week, but I haven’t got into this season quite as much. It still looks stunning, the music’s beautiful and the acting’s good, but the story just hasn’t grabbed me very much. It feels like there hasn’t been so much action, and the time travel aspect amounted to nothing of major consequence in the end.
The final episode was also particularly extreme, yet also felt repetitive, in that Claire suffered a very similar fate to that of Jamie and Bree and others in previous seasons, only to a worse degree because they had to try and make it feel a bit different. So although it was still shocking to an extent, I couldn’t help feeling that the show was being unnecessarily violent for the sake of it, as if the writers are ticking off a list of characters that haven’t yet been assaulted in that manner, and it was finally Claire’s turn. I don’t expect her to have it easy all the time, sure, and Caitriona Balfe gave a great performance, but something more original would have been preferable.
Maybe that’s just me though. The early episodes of the season coincided with the panic buying and other issues leading up to lockdown, meaning my mind was never fully on it at the start. which might have impacted my judgement a bit. That said, however, it didn’t pick up even when I was able to focus on it more closely, and it just hasn’t been as memorable or exciting for me this time around. There is going to be a sixth season eventually, which the writers have said they are currently working on even if it can’t be filmed for a while, but I’m not going to bother with it. It’s been an interesting series, but this is the right time to step away from it.
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker
I recently saw the new Blu-ray of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker, which I didn’t get around to seeing in the cinema when it first came out.
And I enjoyed it. Sure, none of the prequels or sequels have been better than the original trilogy, and there was nothing overly exceptional about this final instalment either, nor had I expected there to be. But it’s still good fun, with great action sequences and special effects, nice thoughtful moments and good humour, and it finished off the saga nicely. The way they integrated previously recorded but unseen footage of Princess Leia, to get around the fact that Carrie Fisher had sadly died before filming began, was also effective and respectfully done. And it was good to see Luke Skywalker and Han Solo again of course.
I also turned on the audio description, as the film has dark and fast-paced sequences from the start, and it was extremely helpful. It filled in a lot of important details that I would otherwise have missed, and the tone of Martin Billany’s narration was very much in keeping with the style of the film, injecting urgency and tension when appropriate for example.
As for extras, there’s a fantastic 2 hour documentary that goes into great detail about the making of the movie, with lots of behind the scenes footage and interviews, and clips from the making of the original trilogy too. On top of that, you also get another 40 minutes of additional featurettes focusing on the aliens and creatures, the D-O droid, the speeder chase, and Warwick Davis with his son. So it’s a great set of bonus material.
Now that I’ve got all 9 films in the main Skywalker Saga, I will have to watch them through again at some point to revisit the story in its entirety, plus I haven’t seen the spin-offs like Rogue One and Solo. I’ll get around to all of that eventually I expect.
Doctor Who: Series 12
The other Blu-ray I received recently was the steelbook edition of Doctor Who: Series 12. It includes the Resolution New Year special from 2019 – which I knew it would, as their complete series box sets nearly always include the most recent Christmas or New Year specials – along with 3 audio commentaries, short behind the scenes featurettes, and a few character photo cards. And the artwork on the cover looks great as always, that’s why I like getting these steelbooks.
I’ll watch the set at a later date, as I don’t feel I need to watch it immediately given that it’s just been on the TV. Plus there’s the fact that series 13 is obviously going to be delayed now, so I want to hold it back a bit to fill the gap. We are going to get the Christmas special this year thankfully, as that’s already been filmed, but when we’ll get the full series after that isn’t yet clear.
- The Last Leg – I’m delighted that this has returned with a special Locked Down Under series. Doing a live show on different sides of the world is no mean feat I’m sure, with Adam Hills in Melbourne while Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker are at their homes in England, but it worked pretty well. The guests they had in the first episode were good fun, with Rob Beckett, Miriam Margolyes, and Alex Horne with The Horne Section. Obviously it will be much better when the show is back with an audience in the future, but for the time being this will help us get through a few weeks of the lockdown. There will only be 4 episodes lasting an hour each to begin with, but hopefully if this format proves successful they’ll return for more shows whilst restrictions remain in place, unless they can find some way of getting back to the studio in the coming months.
- Russell Howard’s Home Time – This has now completed its 9-episode run. Not all of the guests have interested me, particularly the musical ones, so I’ve skipped through big chunks of most episodes. But I’ve enjoyed Russell’s chats with fellow comedians, as well as his general reactions to the various updates in the news and the funny videos he’s discovered online.
- Charlie Brooker’s Antiviral Wipe – This is the first Wipe show produced by Charlie Brooker since 2016, and it was great to see it back. In these shows he looks back at recent events with great observational humour and turns of phrase, and has spoof correspondents like Philomena Cunk commenting on them as well. And this edition was on top form, it was very funny. The tragic side of the situation was rightly acknowledged, but the show was all about finding the humour and the ridiculousness of events, and it worked very well. It would be great if he did another edition later in the year, when there’s bound to be even more to talk about.
- Audible: Locked Together – This is a free series of podcasts, where comedians get together to chat about how lockdown is going, and they were great to have on while I was working. Out of all 8 episodes, my 4 favourites were the conversations between Jason Manford & Sarah Millican, Dawn French & Jennifer Saunders, Jimmy Carr & Katherine Ryan, and Harry Enfield & Paul Whitehouse. The others were ok (Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Tez Ilyas and Sindhu Vee, and The Kurupt FM gang) but I didn’t find them quite as entertaining. So there’s something for everybody there.
- Julie Nolke – The Youtube algorithm does throw up some gems in its recommendations sometimes, and Julie’s one of them. She’s been writing, acting and posting her comedy sketches for years, but has suddenly come to the attention of myself and thousands of others through her sketch where she explains the pandemic to her past self. It’s then proven to be very easy to get sucked in to her other clips from there. You can tell she’s a professional actress, as she often plays multiple parts in the same sketch to great effect, with each character being very distinctive, while sometimes other people are involved too. And there’s often a real sense of understatement or awkwardness to the sketches that makes the humour work so well. So it’s well worth checking her out.
- Jay Foreman: Unfinished London – Jay has recently published a new clip in this occasional series asking the question What’s wrong with London’s boroughs? His videos are always delightfully silly yet wonderfully educational, so this is both funny and interesting.
- Jason Manford – This is a new channel set up by comedian Jason Manford, where he’s doing live quizzes and posting other random things (and he does have an old channel too). He already posts regularly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where there’s a lot of great content already, including comedy and general chat, and he’ll announce his live quiz streams on those platforms too. Plus he has a website too of course. Facebook is also where he encourages his followers to become “Charity Ninjas”, to give specially selected fundraisers a stealthy boost to their donations, without the fundraisers knowing that Jason’s behind it. So he gives up a huge amount of time to keep people entertained and supported, which is great.
- Mark Watson: Watsonathon – I’ve only seen bits of this, as I’m not interested in sitting through it all, but comedian Mark Watson did this 24-hour charity show on Twitch, which went down extremely well judging by the feedback I’ve seen on Twitter. A special edition of Who Said That? from the day has been posted on Youtube as well. Mark raised a very impressive £39,000 by doing this, which is being shared between a few very worthy causes as detailed on his fundraising page.
- Good Omens: Lockdown – Michael Sheen and David Tennant have reprised their roles from the series Good Omens, in this amusing video to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original book.
- Nick Heath: Life Commentaries – Rugby commentator Nick Heath has started commentating on other people’s lives while out and about, as well as posting some online Pub Quizzes.
- Olive & Mabel: Walk Of Shame & Company Meeting – These are another couple of brilliant videos from sports commentator Andrew Cotter and his adorable dogs.
There’s plenty of new Queen content to enjoy at the moment – which is just as well seeing as Brian May is currently unable to do his micro concertos after injuring his bum in the garden!
- Rock The World – I recently watched this BBC Four documentary, which was originally broadcast in 2017 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their News Of The World album. A slightly different edit called The American Dream was included in the 40th anniversary box set for the album that year. And it’s a fantastic behind the scenes insight into the development of the album and their American tour. You get to see them working in the studio on We Are The Champions, My Melancholy Blues, Get Down Make Love and It’s Late, as well as rehearsal, soundcheck and backstage footage from the American tour, clips from their concert at The Summit in Houston, interviews with the band members, and more. You can tell they’re really enjoying the experience, which comes across to the audience when they perform. And it’s all topped and tailed by more recent footage of Brian and Roger performing with Adam Lamber in America 40 years later. So it’s a really enjoyable and interesting documentary, highly recommended if you’re a Queen fan!
- You Are The Champions – Brian May, Roger Taylor and Adam Lambert have released this charity single to raise money for the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Brian and Roger had originally posted a video of themselves jamming to the song together from their homes, then Adam added his vocals, and they decided to properly mix it and release it. You can find out more in their interviews for BBC Breakfast and BBC Radio 2, and it’s interesting to learn that Roger Taylor’s daughter Rory is one of the NHS workers who appears in the video.
- Finding Freddie – This video podcast series has been very interesting, and has sadly just finished after 10 episodes, so I highly recommend that too. I hope they do another series of those in the future. And on Youtube there’s also a fun quarantine cover version of
- Cityrocks Hungary: The Show Must Go On – This is a fun cover versions recorded during quarantine.
There’s also been a lot of new activity from singer Kerry Ellis, who has worked with Brian May on several occasions.
- Album Reviews – Over the bank holiday weekend I published a bumper post reviewing all of Kerry’s albums that have been released to date, including Anthems, the Candlelight Concerts, Kerry Ellis, Golden Days and her brand new solo album Feels like home (only available as limited edition signed copies via her website). So I hope you enjoy looking through those.
- Keep Calm And Kerry On – Kerry has also launched this new podcast, where she talks to fellow singers, dancers, actors, etc, and it’s really good. She’s a very engaging presenter, and her guests are very chatty and open, going into detail about their careers, the struggles they’ve faced and their experiences of lockdown. You don’t have to be into musical theatre to enjoy and understand it either, it’s very accessible and gives a fascinating insight into their lives and work.
- Social Media – Kerry has been promoting her album and podcast through live broadcasts on her Instagram and in guest appearances on Facebook streams. Archive copies of those streams are available on Youtube, and since I finished reviewing the albums I’ve been catching up with those. They’re really good too, with Kerry performing a variety of songs – not just from her new album but across her repertoire – and chatting to fans and fellow celebrities. Some lucky fans have even got to be on camera with her to ask a question, and there’s a really interesting hour long interview with fellow music star Joe McElderry.
- Kerry Ellis Fan Club – This has also recently been launched, and by joining for free you can be kept updated on her latest activities.
- The Choir Project MCR: Fix You – Kerry Ellis and poet Tony Walsh joined The Choir Project MCR for this nice cover of Coldplay’s hit song, as a tribute to healthcare workers.
- Wicked Stars: For Good – Kerry has also joined 22 other West End actresses who have played Elphaba or Glinda in Wicked to record a beautiful and special performance of For Good, in support of the Make A Difference Trust’s COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund. They would be very glad for any donations to help their important work.
There are lots of parodies and original comedy songs being posted at the moment. Here’s a list of some of my recent favourites. For each of the channels linked to below, I’ve only posted a few videos as examples, so go and check them out for many others. And don’t forget to look through my lockdown music playlist for many more songs as well.
- Shirley Șerban:
- Don’t Stand So Close To Me – The Police parody.
- Lockdown – Petula Clark parody.
- Quarantine Is Almost Over – Michael Jackson parody.
- The Holderness Family:
- Holding Out For A Haircut – Bonnie Tyler parody.
- Quarantine (Is Not Quite Over) – Michael Jackson parody.
- If Broadway Songs, Disney Songs & Christmas Songs were about quarantine.
- The Kiffness:
- Do You Believe In Life After Lockdown? – Cher parody.
- Sweet Transvestite by PC Tim Jones – This policeman took a bit of time in his break to perform this Rocky Horror cover. And fair play to him I say, it’s great that emergency workers like him can spend a moment having a bit of light relief in their downtime, given all the exceptional work they’re doing. There’s an even a BBC News article about the video, because he went viral.
- Gelsey Laurie – This channel has brilliant recreations of film songs in quarantine, performed by a father and his daughter, including The Time Warp, Cabin Fever, Day-O, and Spoonful Of Sugar. They even put the original film footage in the corner so you can see how accurate their versions are. It must take a lot of time and effort to plan and film those, but they’re worth it!
- Kiss From A Rose by Seals – This is a silly but clever parody of the song by Seal using footage of actual seals!
- 30 Day Song Challenge – This is a full list of my responses to the challenge set on Victa’s list of ideas for spending time at home. I could quite easily have focused only on Queen songs I’m sure, but I wanted to maintain a variety. So have a look through it and see what you like, and have a go at the challenge yourself too if you like!
- The Rolling Stones: Living In A Ghost Town – The legendary band were working on this track last year in London and Los Angeles, as part of work on their next album. But now they’re in lockdown, they decided to finish it off and release it, given that it’s very appropriate at the moment. And it’s a great track, they haven’t lost their style or energy. The video is also very cool, including many fascinating shots of empty streets and underground trains in London, just to show how eerie the world is right now. I also recommend subscribing to their Youtube channel, as they’re streaming the bonus features from 6 of their concert films under the title Extra Licks. I’ve already got their concert films on DVD and Blu-ray, so none of it will be new to me, but they’re still enjoyable.
- UB40 featuring Ali Campbell & Astro: Lean On Me – This charity single for NHS Charities Together came out some weeks ago, but I’ve only just discovered it. Not only is it raising money for a very important cause, but it’s also a great tribute to Bill Withers, writer and performer of the original version, who sadly passed away at the end of March. There’s also been a nice cover by the Manchester Contemporary Youth Choir posted online by The Choir Project MCR as well. And talking of music legends that we’ve lost, tributes have also been paid to rock ‘n’ roll legend Little Richard, who has died aged 87.
- OK Go: All Together Now – This is a new song by OK Go to help raise money for Partners in Health, as explained in Damien’s letter about the song.
- Official London Theatre: In Performance – It’s worth noting that Official London Theatre are posting a lot of music videos featuring West End stars from their own homes, including When I Grow Up from Matilda, Dynamite from The Comedy About A Bank Robbery, Ex-Wives from Six, The Power Of Love from Back To The Future, 12 Days Of Lockdown performed by pantomime stars, Sunny Afternoon with Sir Ray Davies from The Kinks, and We’ll Meet Again with Dame Vera Lynn. So their channel is well worth subscribing to.
- What’s On Stage: Lockdown Performances – Similar to Official London Theatre (and sometimes sharing the same videos), What’s On Stage are also posting some songs performed by West End Stars, including You’re Not Alone by Scott Alan to support mental health awareness, and From Now On from the Greatest Showman.
- Key Workers – There are lovely performances of Bridge Over Troubled Water (sung in Welsh and English by NHS workers in honour of Llandudno’s newly-named Rainbow Hospital), and Strange Old World (sung by frontline workers with West End stars Karl Queensborough & Paul Wilkins).
- Ukulele Orchestra: Lockdown Performances – A bit random, I know, but The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain are posting cover versions of various songs on their channel, including Thank You For The Music, Crazy, Higher And Higher and The Model. They’re very good.
- Camden Voices – This choir have posted a lovely covers of George Harrison’s timeless song Here Comes The Sun and Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors to cheer people up.
- Matt Lucas: Thank You Baked Potato – There have continued be a variety of fun duets with Matt Lucas on his charity song including Jason Manford, Tom Seals, Gary Barlow and BBC weather presenter Owain Wyn Evans, plus an instrumental version by Bowjangles. And if you still don’t know where the song originated, check out Matt’s original performance from Shooting Stars.
More and more well-known artists are recording brilliant lockdown renditions of their hits, or even releasing new songs, with the most recent highlights for me being:
- The Barenaked Ladies with a solo performance of The Big Bang Theory for Live Med Aid, plus a selection of Selfie Cam Jams. The Big Bang Theory is the only song I know them for, as a big fan of the sitcom, so it’s interesting to hear some of their other songs in this way.
- Crowded House performing Don’t Dream It’s Over & Something So Strong.
- The Doobie Brothers performing Black Water in aid of Feeding America.
- Sheryl Crow performing All I Wanna Do, There Goes The Neighborhood & Out Of Our Heads.
And finally, here’s another unusual take on the BBC News theme, that’s gone viral after it was posted by Ben Howell, who has remixed it with a Dua Lipa track (much to her delight). Anything to make the news sound more interesting and fun at the moment can only be a good thing, and the BBC agree, as they were happy to interview Ben and play it on air!
And that’s it for another bumper roundup, I hope you enjoyed it and found something of interest. Don’t forget to check out my Covid Resources page, which has lots of information and entertainment links, as well my regularly updated playlists of lockdown videos to see what you might enjoy.
So until next time, stay home and stay alert, and I hope you stay safe and well!
2 thoughts on “Lockdown Favourites – Weeks 5-8”
The video with the toy labs make me laugh. Thanks for sharing this great post. Stay safe.
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Hehe, yes, I’m glad he keeps making those clips of his dogs, they are funny! Thanks Amanda, you stay safe too! 🙂