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Bugzy Malone is recovering in hospital after being “seriously injured” in a road accident on Wednesday night in Bury.

The rapper’s management confirmed he was involved in the crash in a post on its Instagram story.

Greater Manchester Police told Radio 1 Newsbeat they were called to a collision involving a 29-year-old man.

Bugzy is in a “stable condition” after being taken to hospital with injuries thought not to be life-threatening.

Image copyright Instagram / Bugzy Malone
Image caption This statement was posted on the B.Malone Instagram account

Photos from the crash showed a damaged car and a quad bike, with debris scattered across the road.

A widely-shared video appears to show the artist, real name Aaron Davis, on the floor after the collision.

Another video appears to show him driving the quad bike before the collision.

Image copyright Ashley Stocks Photography
Image caption Debris from the crash in which Bugzy Malone was injured

Witnesses have spoken to local newspapers, saying they “thought he was dead” after the incident.

Chip was one of many artists who have wished the rapper well on social media.

In a statement, Greater Manchester Police said: “Shortly before 9.20pm last night (Wednesday 25 March 2020), police were called to Rochdale Road, Bury to reports of a collision involving an Audi car and a quad bike.

“Emergency services attended and the driver of the quad bike – a 29-year-old man – was seriously injured and taken to hospital for treatment.

“His injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

“No arrests have been made and enquiries are ongoing.”

Image copyright Ashley Stocks Photography
Image caption The badly damaged vehicles were removed from the road

Anyone with information should contact 101, quoting incident number 2677 of 25/03/20. Reports can also be made anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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This summer’s GCSE and A-Level oral and practical exams have been cancelled by Northern Ireland’s exams body.

The announcement by CCEA affects students taking subjects like languages, music and drama.

The decision had previously been made to cancel written exams due to take place in May and June as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some schools had, however, considered holding orals and practical assessments remotely if possible.

Education Minister Peter Weir has said that existing data will be used to award pupils GCSE and A-Level results this summer.

He said that pupils would be awarded grades based on: “A combination of prior achievements, internal assessments, predicted grades, analysis and modelling of existing data trends to provide the necessary assurance about the robustness, accuracy and fairness of the grades awarded.”

Almost all pupils in Northern Ireland take their GCSEs through CCEA, with only a small number sitting subjects set by English exam boards.

About 85% of A-Levels in Northern Ireland are also taken through CCEA, with the rest taken through English boards.

Image copyright Getty Images

In a letter to schools on Friday, CCEA said that oral and practical exams could not take place.

For instance, pupils taking GCSE French would normally take an oral test involving conversation and role-play with a teacher that would be used to assess their speaking ability in the language.

It would have made up 25% of their total GCSE mark.

CCEA, however, has asked schools to retain all coursework as it will be part of the data used to give pupils a grade.

In their letter they also said pupils should continue with their GCSE and A-Level courses.

BBC News NI understands that is because there may be an option for pupils to sit GCSE and A-Level exams, if they are not happy with their grade, when schools open again.

Image copyright Getty Images

Pupils due to sit exams in England and through English boards have already been told by the education secretary in England, Gavin Williamson, that they will have that option.

In a written statement to Parliament this week, Mr Williamson said: “If they do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance, they will have the opportunity to sit an exam at the earliest reasonable opportunity once schools are open again.

“Students will also have the option to sit their exams in summer 2021.”

But Northern Ireland Education Minister Peter Weir said exams were a devolved matter.

“Mr Williamson’s statement refers to arrangements for English exam boards,” he said.

“A small number of students in Northern Ireland take exams set by these boards and the arrangements outlined by Mr Williamson will apply to those students.

“The vast majority of students in Northern Irelands sit CCEA exams.

“Before taking decisions on the date for issuing results in Northern Ireland, and any processes that may be available for candidates who are unhappy with the calculated grade awarded through an alternative process, I want to be assured that the complex issues involved have been thoroughly considered and the processes we put in place are robust and have realistic timescales.”

The minister said that more detail on how results would be decided in Northern Ireland and when they would be given to pupils would be made available as soon as possible.

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Furniture and fashion chain Laura Ashley has collapsed into administration as the coronavirus outbreak continues to put pressure on retailers.

The firm is to close almost half of its 147 UK stores, putting as many as 721 jobs at risk.

But 77 shops will remain open as the business tries to find a buyer.

Last week, Laura Ashley warned it would be forced to call in the administrators as it struggled to borrow more money.

The firm said the coronavirus outbreak “had an immediate and significant impact on trading”.

Laura Ashley has been struggling for years and had been trying to put together a rescue package before the coronavirus outbreak. It was hoping to secure £15m before the end of this month to keep it going.

But the business effectively ran out of time and options.

The coronavirus outbreak had had a significant impact on trading at its 147 stores and put paid to any final chance of deal.

“Like many other retailers Laura Ashley has been hit hard by market headwinds and weaker consumer spending,” said Zelf Hussain, one of the PwC partners handling the administration.

“For a retail sector already under severe pressure, the current environment driven by Covid-19 is unprecedented.”

He said Laura Ashley’s remaining 77 outlets would remain open, although he noted that could change as the coronavirus pandemic continues to force shops to shut.

The crisis has led Debenhams to temporarily close all of its UK stores over concerns about the safety of its customers and staff. Meanwhile, rival department store John Lewis has also said it will close its doors for the first time in its 155-year history.

Other store closures include:

  • HMV: The British music retailer will close stores temporarily from Sunday
  • Arcadia Group: The group, which includes Topshop and Miss Selfridge, closed all of its stores on Friday until further notice
  • New Look: The clothing store shut its 500 UK stores on Saturday
  • Kurt Geiger: Its 55 shoe shops across the UK and Ireland stopped trading on Saturday
  • River Island: All of its clothing stores across the UK and Ireland are closed until further notice

But electronics retailer Dixons Carphone has lobbied the government to be considered an “essential retailer”, which means it would not be forced to shut its stores if other shops are forced to close.

Halfords has also tried to convince the government that it should be allowed to stay open, according to Sky News, while the Guardian has reported that WH Smith has made similar appeals.

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Image copyright HG Walter’s
Image caption People stuck at home have a great appetite for home deliveries from their favourite high street shops

Food wholesalers are making online home deliveries in response to Covid-19 measures.

As bars, restaurants and hotels shut due to government restrictions, the wholesalers that usually provide them with food and drink, have seen a huge drop in business.

But with stock to shift, they are determined to find new customers.

Members of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors have seen a 70% decline in trade over the past two weeks,

“Food distributors have seen their market disappear overnight,” says chief executive James Bielby. “Companies have bought in stock, and the vast majority of it is going to waste as they can’t sell it, and in a lot of cases they haven’t been paid.

“The government doesn’t recognise that this part of the supply chain has effectively shut down – wholesalers need access to support or they’re going to go bust.”

But many businesses have already taken matters into their own hands, by offering online home deliveries for individual consumers.

London-based butcher HG Walter’s usual clients include Michelin-starred restaurants, retailers like Harrods and hoteliers such as the Savoy and the Dorchester – but they’ve lost hundreds of regular orders in the past two weeks.

“Business just dropped overnight,” director Adam Heanen, explains. “At the moment, it’s not about making money, it’s about the company staying alive and keeping our staff.”

The butcher has launched an online home delivery service of ‘survival packs’ including fruit, vegetables, vacuum-packed meat and even a make-your-own Patty & Bun burger kit – it’s had thousands of orders over the past few days.

Image copyright HG Walter’s
Image caption The butcher shop had the idea of burger kits – and has had thousands of orders

“We are used to doing 350 deliveries a day, but it’s just on a much smaller scale now,” added Mr Heanen. “We were able to adapt our website and use our existing drivers and vans.”

Mauro Capellazzi, 71-year-old owner of Cafe Deli Wholesale, might be self-isolating, but he’s modernised his company and launched a website overnight.

“Online orders are a completely new thing for us but so many people need food now and we need to keep our business,” he says. “It’s our responsibility to do what we can to help people, especially those who can’t leave their homes.”

Image caption Cafe Deli has transformed its business overnight, with bulk orders for a range of goods, including salad cream

“If you’re running a food distribution business you have invested in stock, so you have to find somewhere for it to go,” Peter Backman, a food service consultant says. “Home deliveries represent a large market opportunity, but the orders are small-scale for wholesalers used to delivering 40-tonne loads.

“It works in unprecedented times like these, but won’t be sustainable in the long term for many businesses, unless they undergo large restructuring.”

Fresh Pastures usually supplies milk to local authorities, schools and businesses across the north of England. In the past 48 hours it has refocused the business, and is now serving dairy produce and bread from its website.

Image copyright Fresh Pastures
Image caption Fresh Pastures delivered to schools and businesses, and is now a community resource

“As schools have closed temporarily, so has 97% of our business,” Dawn Carney, managing director, explains. “But we recognise that we have an opportunity to redistribute our services to offer a vital resource for our communities.”

Image copyright Foodchain
Image caption Food delivery apps aimed at chefs are now giving consumers access to their services

Food delivery apps are enjoying a spike due to Covid-19 social distancing, offering groceries as well as takeaways.

Foodchain is an app developed for chefs and suppliers, catering for around 500 restaurants with produce. Recently, the platform has been adapted to give consumers access to get food boxes delivered to their homes.

“When my friend was self-isolating, I realised he couldn’t get a food delivery for weeks, so I thought we could fill that gap,” Amelia Christie-Miller, of Foodchain, says.

In the past two weeks, they’ve had 2,500 new sign-ups, almost entirely home users.

“It’s been a challenge adapting to card payments and convincing our suppliers to sell smaller amounts, but it has been really popular,” she adds.

Bringing the pub

It’s not just food that is adapting to online demand. Many pubs and breweries are offering home deliveries, including pre-mixed cocktails.

London brewer, Signature Brew, has launched a ‘Pub in a Box’, delivered to your door by recently unemployed musicians.

The bulk of its business comes from wholesaling to pubs, bars and music venues, as well as summer festivals, which have been cancelled. The box includes beer, glasses, a Spotify playlist and a music pub quiz.

Musician Josh from band The Skints, has become a delivery driver for Signature brew, after having his US tour and Glastonbury slot cancelled.

“I found myself falling on hard times, so we are just trying to keep things cracking in a place of adversity,” he says. “If Covid-19 has you locked indoors, we bring the pub to you.”

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Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Tashaun Aird was stabbed nine times in the chest and back

Three teenagers who stabbed a 15-year-old boy to death with a samurai sword and a zombie knife in an east London park have been jailed.

Tashaun Aird was knifed nine times in the chest and back during a planned attack in Hackney on 1 May.

A 16-year-old boy who was found guilty of murder has been jailed for life and ordered to serve a minimum of 17 years.

At the Old Bailey, two other teenagers were also jailed for 12 years having been convicted of manslaughter.

The jury had heard Tashaun was set upon in Somerford Gardens after earlier telling 18-year-old Romaine Williams-Reid he was not part of the Hackney gang, Red Pitch.

The two other defendants attacked the aspiring musician and his friends later as they tried to flee from the park. Another 16-year-old boy was stabbed but made a full recovery.

‘Terrible waste’

Judge Angela Rafferty QC said the victim was part of “a group of unarmed young people posing no threat whatsoever” and had nothing to do with the targeted gang.

She said Tashaun’s music may “somehow” have been connected, “but it is unlikely we will ever truly know”, adding that the murder was “a terrible waste of a young life”.

The 16-year-old who was found guilty of murder was also sentenced to four years in prison for wounding, to be served concurrently.

A 16-year-old who was found guilty of manslaughter was also sentenced to four years in prison for wounding with intent, also to be served concurrently.

Williams-Reid, of Romford, was given another two-and-a-half year jail sentence, again to be served concurrently, having been found guilty of wounding.

A fourth murder suspect, Caden Stewart, 16, died in custody on 27 June after becoming unwell.

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Image copyright Tim Burgess
Image caption Tim Burgess: Solo star, Charlatan and your listening party host for the evening

Roosters are crowing and horses are clip-clopping within earshot of Tim Burgess’ Norfolk isolation bunker.

The quiet rural home, which he shares with his young son, is a world away from the rock ‘n’ roll carnage of his Los Angeles days. It’s from precisely here though that the 52-year-old has been leading the resistance against the lockdown blues with his popular online album love-ins.

Or as Tim puts it, rather more succinctly, “We listen to albums together, apart”.

“The idea is so simple, but it works on so many levels,” he says.

The opening two weeks of Tim’s Twitter Listening Party – celebrating classic albums and future favourites – appears to have struck a chord with many people left stranded on social media, thanks to insights from many of the star’s musical friends, including The Chemical Brothers.

And for the second Saturday indoors in a row, the twice nightly virtual shindig topped the trending charts, as he invited his followers to join him and former Oasis guitarist Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs, for a socially distanced deep dive into the band’s best-selling 1995 LP, What’s the Story (Morning Glory?).

“I wanted to do something that I thought would be helpful, or make me feel a bit helpful,” explains Tim, who sadly recently lost his father.

“I knew it would connect with people, as I’ve done it with Charlatans events.

“But I just thought if I include some people that I know who would be into it – like Bonehead, or Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand, or Ride, or Dave Rowntree from Blur, then that’s the first week sorted!”

“I thought it might be big,” he adds.

Now, with the party schedule growing quicker than the queue outside an inner-city supermarket, we asked its host about the importance of people interacting through music during these troubled times, and the release of his fifth solo album, I Like the New Sky.

How’s isolation going so far, Tim?

I’m pretty okay with it. Or maybe even used to it. But there is something about being close to people that I do miss.

I’m a writer who writes at home, but I’m also a frontman in a band and I like to connect with people.

Describe your typical listening party set-up for us. Is there food? Booze? What about dancing?

There was dancing to [Chemical Brothers’ debut] Exit Planet Dust. I’d be a fool not to!

I haven’t got time to eat or drink. I get quite nervous before it starts. All I’ve got to do is press the button and write a few tweets but it’s the responsibility.

I always have some prepared things to say, because I always want to answer as many people back as possible.

So, you know, it’s becoming my full-time job!

It’s really taken off. What’s been the main thing to take away from it, up until now?

People are saying that they haven’t listened to an album for ages, in its entirety, and I think that it’s an amazing thing that we’ve got time now to do that.

Even though you can’t see them – unless your family are doing it – you can feel that people are there because you can see them writing stuff.

Everyone has had something amazing to say and it’s so good that there’s great new bands [The Orielles, Fontaines D.C, Pip Blom] coming and getting involved.

The Morning Glory listening party threw up memories of you guys supporting Oasis at Knebworth in 1996. That period was obviously clouded by the death of [late Charlatans keyboard player] Rob Collins. What do you remember about the gig?

I don’t really remember very much to be honest. I just knew that we might not play again.

Rob was our number one musician in the band, and probably the best singer. I always had to look at him to be able to know that I was singing in tune, and he wasn’t there so it was really difficult.

His replacement that day, Martin Duffy [of Primal Scream], is a maestro.

We came off the stage and, and me and [guitarist] Mark Collins both thought we might not do it again.

But time goes by and you just have to dig deep and feel the friends around you and move into a new realm really.

Do you feel like now is a time for everyone to re-evaluate what’s actually important?

Without a doubt. People are obviously learning that they’ve been taking a few things for granted. And realised that people are really important.

I love being out here in the quiet, but I also love going to the city. I get the electricity from other people, and I think we’ve missed that.

I’ve got a six-year-old as well that I’m with now 24 hours a day and he wants my attention all the time. You start to realise how important school is.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption (L-R) Mark Collins, Tim Burgess, Rob Collins, Jon Brookes and Martin Blunt of The Charlatans at Reading Festival in 1992

How are you finding home schooling?

I’m not trying to drill science and maths into him but I’m talking to him about volcanoes and coronavirus and the environment. But trying to get him to do a bit of spelling and reading is really difficult!

I think everyone takes that kind of thing for granted, you know, shove them off to school…

Once the lockdown restrictions are hopefully lifted, can you see the listening parties continuing?

I can see them going on beyond lockdown. I just see them getting bigger and bigger.

The Cult want to do one now and The Flaming Lips is happening.

It’s kind of just become its own thing now. I think people are copying them… I’ve also had people offering advice on how I should film them, or make them more effective. But you know what? I just say, ‘I like them the way they are’.

Next month you’ll be able to host one for your new solo album. How was it writing solely on your own for the first time?

I do write alone a lot, but this is the first record that I’ve ever thought, ‘Right, it’s going to be a Tim Burgess album, I’m going to write it myself and I’m going to spend some time where I don’t do anything else apart from write this album.’

A lot of the time I’ll be like, ‘I’ve got a couple of songs, I think some sound quite Charlatans, some maybe not.’ Or I’ll be writing a book or doing some gigs or something.

Everything just gets fragmented.

This was something that I thought if I spent some time just on all the songs that will be for this album, then it’ll be a very focused thing.

It’s been described as a record about love, anger and loss

It’s all those things really. Remember, it was my main focus for a year, and a lot happens in 10 minutes for me!

Everything’s in there, from finding some new friends that I’ve shared lots of experiences with already. To falling out with people who I wouldn’t want to ever see again.

And that’s life.

What’s it like sonically-speaking?

I wanted it to sound as natural as possible and for the melodies and the lyrics to kind of direct where the chord sequences are going.

I wrote everything on an acoustic guitar, but wanted everything in the recording to be vocals and piano. Not ballads, you know, driving piano. The drums are really crazy, kind of Ringo crazy.

At Rockfield Studios [near Monmouth, Wales] there’s a sound, for the vocals especially, that I really wanted for this record. So I went there for the first time in 25 years. I invited Mark Collins over and he played and slept in the same room as he did 25 years ago!

There’s lots of reasons why we didn’t go to Rockfield [for so long] but the main one is that Rob Collins died in a car crash at the bottom of the drive.

But then, you know, life goes on and me and Mark both talked about it while we were recording and it was a beautiful thing.

Image copyright Cat Stevens
Image caption I Love the New Sky is the singer’s fifth solo album

You’ve had to reschedule your UK tour for October. Did you consider putting the album release back, as some artists have done?

No. I mean, I understand why obviously.

The live situation has nothing to do with us when it comes to making decisions.

The mad thing is we managed to do four shows in New York – we were supposed to be doing South by Southwest but that got cancelled – then fly home the day after because it was the last flight back home.

So it was pretty crazy. It seems like that must have been years ago, in a utopian past.

But as far as the album coming out, I’ve already talked about it to everybody all over the world and said that it’s coming out in May. So it just seems daft to change it now.

And also it will give people something to look forward to and we can do a listening party around it.

How are your fellow musicians feeling about things generally at the moment and what would they like to see?

I’m not feeling creative at all at the moment and most of the people that I’ve spoken to are not either. Everyone is kind of like, ‘Yeah, I wrote a song called Wash Your Hands… and that’s kind of as far as it went!’

You can’t really dictate when you write. Any creative person will tell you that you can’t just go, ‘Right, OK, I’m going to be creative today’.

It just comes when it comes and I think with all the changes, everyone has to just look after their kids or watch the news.

Some of my friends are going down rabbit holes. Some people are losing it a little bit and some people are drinking too much. I’m a bit worried for people’s mental health really.

Well, you are certainly doing your bit to help. Before we let you get back to nature, when all of this is finally over if you could see one of the albums from the listening parties performed live which would it be?

[After much deliberation] OK, final answer; Exit Planet Dust by The Chemicals, because I can be involved – I can sing on one track. And I’d get to see Beth [Orton] again, and Tom and Ed – I love them to bits.

The other one would be Prefab Sprout, Steve McQueen, because it was so emotional.

And that’s not to say they are any better than any of the others either.

I’ll be an eternal fan now of everybody who’s been involved with doing it.

I Love the New Sky is out on 22 May, and Tim’s Twitter Listening Party takes place twice every night, at 9pm and 10pm.

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Image copyright Getty Images

Honor Blackman, the British actress who played Pussy Galore in the James Bond film Goldfinger, has died at the age of 94.

In a statement, her family said she died peacefully of natural causes at home in Lewes, East Sussex.

Blackman was also known for playing Cathy Gale in the 1960s TV series The Avengers opposite Patrick Macnee.

The pair had a novelty hit with 1964’s Kinky Boots, which reached the Top 10 in 1990.

Her other roles included Hera in Jason and the Argonauts and Laura West in 1990s TV series The Upper Hand.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Blackman played Pussy Galore opposite Sean Connery’s James Bond in 1964’s Goldfinger

The statement issued by Blackman’s family said: “As well as being a much adored mother and grandmother, Honor was an actor of hugely prolific creative talent.

“With an extraordinary combination of beauty, brains and physical prowess, along with her unique voice and a dedicated work ethic, she achieved an unparalleled iconic status in the world of film and entertainment.

“With absolute commitment to her craft and total professionalism in all her endeavours she contributed to some of the great films and theatre productions of our times.

“We ask you to respect the privacy of our family at this difficult time.”

Comedian and Bond fan David Walliams said Blackman would “live forever” as Pussy Galore.

Director Edgar Wright, meanwhile, remembered her as the “ultimate Bond girl and original Avenger”.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Blackman was pictured with Paul O’Grady in 2011 at the 50th anniversary celebration of The Avengers

Born in Plaistow in East London in 1925, Blackman trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Blackman’s martial arts training helped her win the role of Pussy Galore, an associate of criminal mastermind Auric Goldfinger in the third James Bond film.

Her pilot character – who was openly lesbian in Ian Fleming’s original novel – becomes Bond’s ally after a literal roll in the hay.

“I was already a James Bond fan but I asked to read Goldfinger before taking the part,” she once revealed.

“By the time I had read it, I was convinced it was absolutely me.”

Yet the role was not a particularly glamorous one for the actress.

“Everyone thinks I went to exotic locations on Goldfinger,” she recalled at a celebration event at Pinewood Studios in 2008.

“But the furthest I got was RAF Northolt, just up the road.”

In recent years, Blackman toured the UK with her show Honor Blackman As Herself, which saw her reflect on her long career.

‘Never a bimbo’

Image caption She served as a dispatch rider during World War Two

Honor Blackman was the original feisty, black-clad female agent in The Avengers.

It made her a role model for an emerging generation of women and an object of desire for their men.

Her characters were both sexy and intelligent and more than a match for their male co-stars.

Her first acting job was as an understudy in a West End play called The Guinea Pig, and, when the lead actress became ill, she was asked to step in.

Aged 39 when Goldfinger was filmed, Blackman was actually five years older than Sean Connery and, at the time, the oldest actress ever to play a Bond girl.

“Most of the Bond girls have been bimbos,” she once said. “I have never been a bimbo.”

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Image caption Afsar surrounded by her family on a recent outing

It will be a Mother’s Day like no other on Sunday, as scores of people self-isolate and are forced to rethink plans with loved ones. With the usual lunches and afternoon teas cancelled, what can people do instead to celebrate?

Affi Parvizi-Wayne lives just three doors down from her 74-year-old mother, Afsar, in north London. Like millions of others, they won’t be able to have the family lunch they planned for this weekend.

For them, Mother’s Day is usually a triple celebration because it coincides with Afsar’s birthday and Persian New Year.

“To suddenly be told the only interaction is through the window is tough for my mum,” says Affi, a social entrepreneur with two children.

Instead, she says her family plan to congregate on the pavement outside Afsar’s house and sing happy birthday. “My nieces are going to release some balloons”.

Doorstep drop-off

Afsar has four children and six grandchildren, and is usually the person who brings everyone together.

This year, she is going to cook the family a traditional Persian dish of green herby rice and fish, and leave it on her doorstep to be collected. The two households will set up screens by their dining tables and have a virtual meal together.

An added bonus is it also means family members in Iran can be present too. “This Sunday will be about keeping the spirits up,” Affi says.

Elsewhere in London, it will be chicken legs from the freezer for Ros Ball and her family, who are self-isolating after one of them showed coronavirus symptoms. Ros’s mum Penny, 73, is also staying indoors in Bedfordshire.

But they plan to sit down to eat together over FaceTime. Ros’s children aged, 9 and 12, will then play some online games and quizzes with their granny.

Banana muffins

Others are still planning to share a meal in a more conventional way.

Becky Greenwell and her sister have moved back in with their parents, in Woking, to be with them during the coronavirus outbreak. They’ve had to cancel plans to celebrate Mother’s Day with a Sunday roast in a pub.

But it means they’ll be able to sit round the dinner table together.

“We are planning on cooking my mum a three-course meal based on her favourite foods and printing out a special menu, like we used to when we were kids,” she says.

Image caption Becky, together with her sister Amanda and mother, Catherine, in Sri Lanka on Mother’s Day last year

Meanwhile, Savannah Dawsey-Hewitt, from Harpenden, in Hertfordshire, says she has baked her mum some ginger, turmeric and banana muffins, topped with brazil nuts.

All the ingredients were chosen for their immune-boosting properties.

According to current guidelines there is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 is passed through packages or food, if cooking is what you plan to do.

But the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends following good hygiene practices when handling and preparing food, such as washing hands, cooking meat thoroughly and avoiding potential cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked foods.

For other it will be about dealing with self-isolation.

Rob Bacon’s mum Vicky, 75, will receive a bumper pack of her favourite magazines, sweet treats and crucially wine, for Mother’s Day this year, to help see her through.

Members of the newly-established family Whatsapp group – called The Bacons – also plan to set-up chairs a safe distance from Vicky and her husband Roy’s front door, bringing their own food and drink.

“We will all wrap up warm and talk,” says Rob, who works in public health for local government.

Seeds in the post

Marie Phillips’ mum, Janet, is a nurse. They can’t be together either on Mother’s Day so she has posted her a grow your own vegetable kit to her keen gardener mother.

“We’ve all got to find distractions and try to put our energy into something positive,” says Marie.

Planting seeds and waiting for vegetables to grow or flowers to bloom can be a hopeful reminder of better seasons to come.

For some people, even delivering a card or present won’t be an option.

Consuelo Martin, in Birmingham, is in self-isolation and plans to send her mum a virtual card, together with a subscription to an online streaming service and Spotify.

“My mum is on her own and I’m worried she is going to get bored in self-isolation. I wanted to make sure she has music and films and television at her fingertips.”

Think creatively

For others technology could be the solution.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 this week, Dr Sarah Jarvis said cancelling celebratory lunches and big gatherings would be the most loving and responsible thing for people with elderly mothers to do.

Instead, she suggests investing in a mobile phone or tablet and setting up so elderly relatives with Skype or FaceTime.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK agrees. “We need to think creatively about how to stay in contact with older friends and relatives to keep morale up.”

She suggests considering using video technology that is integrated on smartphones, tablets and laptops.

She says those are often be the most straightforward and easy to use, and to remember that older people may also prefer to use equipment like a mouse rather than a touch screen.

“It might turn out that some of these options remain a good way to maintain regular contact and nip loneliness in the bud in the long-term.”

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Image copyright Lambert Jackson
Image caption Marisha Wallace, whose stage work includes Dreamgirls, Aladdin and Waitress, is among the singers for Leave a Light On

Since Covid-19 closed auditoriums worldwide, theatres have been picking tapes of shows from the library shelf to stream online for those feeling play-starved.

But a few performers are attempting something more radical – regularly live streaming performances from home. There’s an audience – but it’s not easy to make the technology work.

Brian Lonsdale has made a living from acting for 17 years. He’s based in Newcastle, where there’s a family to feed and, these days, to home school.

“When coronavirus started to kick in I was having a Twitter chat with a couple of actor mates discussing what the next few months would bring,” he says.

Image copyright CTC
Image caption Brian Lonsdale: “Acting isn’t exactly a secure profession…”

“Acting isn’t exactly a secure profession and everything was just collapsing. So we invented the Coronavirus Theatre Club (CTC) and it took off.”

CTC is an online platform for writers, directors and actors, he explains.

“They submit work to us. They rehearse digitally and then each Sunday at 7pm we stream five live monologues back to back.

“I’m pretty much working at it every hour of the day; hundreds and hundreds of theatre people just want to work.

“I look at the scripts submitted and then pair actors with directors and see who wants to do what. I’ve been learning so much.

“Each day I’ll realise there’s something I can’t do or something I should be doing. My life as an actor has been to learn lines, say them on stage and then it’s off to the pub.

“Now I’m splitting the work with my colleagues Sam Neale and Michael Blair and the response has been fantastic. We had 1,000 followers within two hours.”

CTC streams the monologues on Twitter, he explains.

“Each actor is at home in front of their phone which they prop up or maybe have on a tripod. I give them an exact start time and that should be all they have to worry about; they know to begin at 7.13pm or whatever.

“They’re live on their Twitter account and I stream them to the Coronavirus Theatre Club account. It’s my job to try to make it seamless.”

Already they’re contemplating extending beyond mere monologue, says Lonsdale.

“Lots of performers will be self-isolating with other actors so we could for instance do two performers together – or even have a scene split between different parts of the country.”

Image copyright National eTheatr
Image caption James Farley stars in Captain Corelli by Barry McStay for National eTheatr

The CTC hasn’t so far ventured into musical performance. But that’s the focus of Leave a Light On, run by production company Lambert Jackson, which mainly presents concert performances of musicals.

There’s a charge for the shows, using the Theatre Cafe website as a portal.

Currently there’s an ambitious schedule of three 45-minute gigs daily at 14:30, 16:30 and 18:30 BST.

They’re solo performances from kitchens or living rooms – a real test of performers’ vocal skills (and taste in home decor).

Image copyright Lambert Jackson
Image caption Jordan Luke Gage is also performing from home for Leave a Light On

Until now they’ve been live but they’re about to move to a recorded format. Eliza Lambert says the problem has been the connection at performers’ homes.

“Shows will still be ‘as live’, which audiences love. But there’s no point lining up great performers if the technology isn’t reliable, and of course broadband is under pressure now.”

Lambert says the concerts are helping the relatively new company tick over financially.

Little Mix or Frank Sinatra

“But we also knew so many friends who are performers who were desperate to keep working. So we devised our series with West End performers – some have a fan base and some are just starting out.

“They sing some of their favourite songs – sometimes what they’ve been singing on stage or sometimes it’s Little Mix or Frank Sinatra.

“We have a tech team which contacts them and talks through where to place the phone and they do a sound check. Usually there’s eight or nine songs.”

For some shows there have been more than 1,000 people watching live (there’s no archive as yet). Everyone wants a high level of production so the obvious problem was providing music to sing to.

Technical challenges

“Some performers accompany themselves on piano or guitar or even a ukulele,” says Lambert.

“Otherwise our music director Josh Winston goes through the set list and we supply a piano track for use on the day. It’s amazing how quickly we devised a method for all this when we had to.”

Lambert Jackson has constructed an impressive operation on the back of an existing company.

However, Barry McStay, an Irish actor based in London, set up National eTheatr from scratch.

It started as a live operation but he concluded that going live provides too many technical challenges for a small operation.

He’s decided to proceed with new but recorded material. His chosen platform is YouTube, he explains.

Live text chat

“We do 7.30pm four evenings a week – 7.30pm just feels the right time for theatre.

“My initial idea was also to provide a four-way video interview with me, the writer, the director and the performer so we’d have a discussion around the monologue and not just the piece itself.

“But I soon realised all the streaming services are under pressure because so many people are online each evening in lockdown. It just wasn’t stable enough.

“Also it seemed I’d started a major new admin job while locked away in my flat – that wasn’t the plan at all so I needed to simplify.

“So now it’s recorded which is more reliable but there’s still a live text chat so people can give their opinions. And the pieces are all there for people to enjoy afterwards.”

Shared experience

Some eTheatr monologues relate to Covid-19 but not all. One recent piece was The Cloak of Invisibility, about a middle-class London mum who loses her job.

“What matters really is the quality of the writing and the performance,” says McStay. “I didn’t want everything to be coronavirus.”

Marianka Swain is the journalist who runs the UK side of the American theatre website Broadway World.

“We’ve had a lot of success in the shutdown with our Living Room Concerts series with performers from musicals like Lauren Drew and Christina Bennington,” she says.

“So far we’re not going down the live route but it’s something the site has done and I can see the argument for it.

“It would be great to reproduce the shared experience which is one of the strengths of being in a theatre.

Swain says there is no reason why the new breed of streamed drama shouldn’t continue alongside offerings from major venues like the National Theatre.

“When the National streamed One Man, Two Guvnors recently (the hit 2011 comedy with James Corden) it got a really big audience,” she says.

“But what was obvious was the amount of chatter about the whole experience on social media: I’m sure it drew in people who would never have gone to see it in the Lyttelton theatre.

“So coronavirus is making us explore new ways of doing drama. But of course performers and audiences will be so happy when we all get back into a theatre again.”

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Image caption Clockwise from top left: Chris Martin of Coldplay, Craig David, Toploader, A1

See if you can answer the following multiple-choice question: Who had a hit UK album with Born To Do It, released in 2000?

  • A) Coldplay
  • B) Toploader
  • C) A1
  • D) Craig David

Most pop music fans would be able to identify the correct answer (D) fairly easily. Born To Do It was a huge album which spawned several hit singles.

But former British Army major Charles Ingram had no idea who Craig David was when he was asked this as a contestant on ITV gameshow Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? in 2001.

He admitted as much as he mulled over the possible answers to the £32,000 question.

“I think it’s A1,” he told host Chris Tarrant. “I’ve never heard of Craig David, to be honest. Coldplay I’ve never heard of. I think I’ll go for A1.”

So it was a surprise to everyone when he suddenly changed his mind and opted for Craig David as his final answer, seemingly for no logical reason.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Diana and Charles Ingram pictured outside Southwark Crown Court in 2003

It was an even bigger surprise when he got all his subsequent answers correct as well, ultimately winning the show’s £1m jackpot.

But Ingram never received the prize money.

The episode had barely finished recording when producers worked out he had an accomplice among the waiting contestants, who had been coughing every time Ingram read a correct answer aloud.

If the accomplice, Tecwen Whittock, didn’t know an answer, Ingram’s wife Diana would cough the correct answer from her place in the audience.

All three were later found guilty of deception after a lengthy trial at Southwark Crown Court in 2003.

“It was this incredibly audacious heist,” says writer James Graham, who has adapted the coughing scandal into the three-part ITV drama Quiz.

“I thought of it like Ocean’s Eleven or Mission: Impossible, but with very middle-class people in Wiltshire.

“And instead of abseiling down skyscrapers they had encyclopedias and it was about questions and answers. But essentially it’s still about the robbery of a million pounds.”

Image copyright ITV
Image caption Sian Clifford and Matthew Macfadyen play Diana and Charles Ingram

The ITV drama is directed by Stephen Frears and stars Matthew Macfadyen as Major Ingram and Fleabag star Sian Clifford as his wife Diana Ingram.

Graham first told the story of the coughing scandal in his stage version of Quiz, which played in Chichester before a successful West End transfer in 2018.

He tells the story the same way on TV as he did in the theatre: twice.

The first half of the stage show (and the first two episodes of the drama series) basically assume Ingram was guilty – which indeed was the finding of the courts.

But the second half explores the possibility that he might have been innocent, and there is some evidence to support that theory.

“He was painted in the press as an idiot, someone who couldn’t have possibly known the answers to those questions,” recalls Graham.

“But you forget that he has a degree in engineering, and he applied to be accepted into Mensa and succeeded, thereby putting him in the top 2% of IQs in the country.”

Image copyright Johann Persson
Image caption Quiz started life as a stage play, which transferred to the West End in 2018

Added to that, the coughs heard during the correct answers weren’t the only coughs heard during the recording. There were plenty of coughs from audience members when incorrect answers were read out.

Helen McCrory, who also features in the ITV drama, points out: “Chris Tarrant didn’t hear the cough, people either side didn’t hear the cough, yet for some reason [Major Ingram] heard the cough, I mean, really? Now maybe he did, maybe it was a complete set up. But maybe he didn’t.”

Graham and the production team were in touch with the Ingrams while the drama was being filmed, and the couple visited the set and met Clifford and Macfadyen, the actors who would be playing them.

“Diana Ingram was painted as this Lady Macbeth character, and I don’t think that’s who she is,” Clifford says. “She struck me as an introvert and a nerd, and someone who’s actually quite shy, quite sweet, definitely naive.”

Most of the cast seem at least open to the possibility that the Ingrams could be innocent. But host Chris Tarrant thinks there is no doubt about the couple’s guilt.

“I sat through so many hours with the police and fraud squad of tapes of the major’s show, and he is so guilty,” he told This Morning in November. “It’s like once you lock into it, it’s like oh, for god’s sake.”

Tarrant is played by Michael Sheen in the new ITV adaptation.

Image copyright ITV/Matt Frost
Image copyright PA Media

Graham says the fact the drama is airing on ITV, the channel on which the scandal occurred in the first place, didn’t affect how he wrote the story.

“I never had a single note [from them], they were such good sports all the way through, even though they knew from the beginning that one of the central propositions is ‘were they right?’ And is the perceived narrative that they were responsible for telling entirely correct?

“But I think there is a mischief in putting it on the broadcaster which was responsible for the story, and it also frees you up to do certain things.”

Quizzing network

The TV series explores an element of the story not well-known before – the existence of a small network of quizzers around the country who would share tips about how to get on to the show and reach the jackpot.

The group, who called themselves The Consortium, realised that Millionaire’s researchers would always ask the same general knowledge questions over the phone when they were screening potential contestants.

The Consortium shared the answers between themselves, increasing the chances of each of getting on the show.

They even offered a bespoke service where a contestant could ring a number via their “phone-a-friend” lifeline, and their small gang of general knowledge experts would be on hand to pose as their friend and provide the answer.

The drama’s exploration of this group, and Ingram’s contact with them, further encourages the assumption that he was guilty.

When Quiz was running as a stage show, the theatre audience was given keypads and asked to vote at the end of the first half – and then again at the end of the second half – on whether they thought the Ingrams were guilty or innocent.

“The audience always said at the beginning that they thought they were guilty,” notes Graham. “But then by the end of the play, every single night, they converted to innocent.

“Except, weirdly, for matinees, we don’t know why,” he laughs. “Obviously a different crowd.”

Quiz begins on ITV at 21:00 BST on Monday 13 April.

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