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YouTube star Nikki Lilly to be given BAFTA Special Award

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YouTube star and charity campaigner, Nikki Lilly, 15, will soon become the youngest ever recipient of the BAFTA Special Award.

Nikki will be honoured for her work in raising awareness of social isues, and being a positive influence on young people through her honest vlog posts about life, music and make-up.

Nikki Lilly has AVM – or arteriovenous malformation. It is a very rare medical condition which causes arteries and veins in her face to swell, sometimes causing life-threatening nose bleeds.



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The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson shows her characters social distancing

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The GruffaloImage copyright
Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson

The makers of the children’s book The Gruffalo have drawn their characters practising social distancing to help children understand the regulations.

Author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler created the panels as a “light-hearted” way of spreading the message.

They feature The Gruffalo, Stickman and The Smeds and The Smoos – all keeping a safe distance from one another.

The characters are also seen helping the vulnerable with their shopping.

  • When am I allowed to go outside?
  • Exclusive Hockney drawings offer ‘respite from news’

The Gruffalo was first published in 1999, and tells the story of a mouse taking a walk in the woods – where he out-smarts a terrifying creature with terrible teeth and a “posionous wart on the end of his nose”.

It went on to sell 13 million copies, and had been turned into a stage play and an Oscar-nominated animation.

One of the new sketches shows the Gruffalo walking behind the mouse, accompanied by the couplet:

“Alright said The Gruffalo bursting with laughter / You go ahead, I’ll follow two metres after.”

Image from The StickmanImage copyright
Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson

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Image from The Smeds and The SmoosImage copyright
Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson

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“Axel had this idea of doing some witty sketches, each based on one of our books and each kind of incorporating a tip about coronavirus,” Donaldson told BBC Breakfast on Friday.

Scheffler started the process by saying to himself, “what can I do as an illustrator?” during these troubled times.

“I’m currently working on a digital, free non-fiction book about coronavirus, which is serious and informative and probably more important than this and is coming out next week,” he said.

“[But] I wanted to do something light-hearted and cheer people up and I thought, ‘what if I imagine our characters in corona situations?'”

“It’s really more about entertainment than serious information,” he added.

Image from A Squash and A SqueezeImage copyright
Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson

As well as social distancing, the characters stress the importance of exercise and making video calls to their family members.

Donaldson hopes the images will emphasise best practices and help with home schooling, without being seen as “preaching”.

While on lockdown, the author is also producing a weekly broadcast on The Gruffalo Facebook page, reading stories, poems and singing songs.

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Matt Lucas reveals the strange way he was hired for Bake-Off

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Matt Lucas and Noel FieldingImage copyright
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Matt Lucas and Noel Fielding announced their partnership on YouTube

New Great British Bake-Off presenter Matt Lucas says he got the job after appearing in one of Noel Fielding’s dreams.

The Little Britain star is to replace Sandi Toksvig as Fielding’s co-host for the 11th series of the cooking show.

Speaking to Capital Radio on Friday, Lucas said it was a “strange” set of events that led to his appointment.

“They were looking for a new host, and Noel had a dream that I was the co-host,” he told presenter Roman Kemp.

“And instead of saying to the producers, ‘I dreamt Matt Lucas was the co-host’, he just said, ‘Matt Lucas would be a good co-host I think’ and then I got an audition.

“I got a call on a Friday, I had the audition on the Tuesday and it was announced on the Thursday.”

  • Matt Lucas to replace Sandi Toksvig on Bake Off

They had been due to start filming the programme this spring but Lucas confirmed that production has been delayed due to Covid-19.

However, he said, “it’s fine” as the lockdown period “gives all of our bakers more time to practice and it means I’ll have an even bigger appetite for all those cakes”.

‘Busy boys’

He also suggested Little Britain could return in full, after a one-off radio special in October – saying that he and fellow star David Walliams “message each other pretty much every day”.

  • Little Britain returns for Brexit special

“We would like to do something again with Little Britain,” he told Capital Radio’s Roman Kemp. “We’re both busy boys, for us it’s about just finding the time [but] yeah, we want to do something.

“We just don’t know 100% what it would be, whether it would be a TV show again or would it be a stage show, I don’t know. But yeah we would like to do some more Little Britain definitely.”

Lucas has had enough on his plate of late anyway, and today released the official music video for his new song, Thank You Baked Potato.

The novelty track, which is aiming to raise money for NHS workers, offers advice on how to “have a better day” during the coronavirus crisis.

  • How Matt Lucas’ potato song is feeding NHS workers

Speaking to another radio breakfast show host on Friday, Radio 2’s Dermot O’Leary, Lucas said he initially wrote the song for the TV show Shooting Stars, but he gave it a re-write after the virus began to take hold in the UK, as he was “feeling a bit anxious as someone at home with asthma”.

He did not expect people to devour it in the manner they have.

“I wrote the lyrics to this baked potato song just in an idle moment thinking ‘well I’ll just put it on Twitter, I don’t think anything will happen with that.’ And I was a bit wrong!” he laughed.

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Lean On Me singer Bill Withers dies at 81

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Bill Withers, the acclaimed 1970s soul singer behind hits Ain’t No Sunshine and Lean On Me has died from heart complications aged 81, his family said.

The singer died on Monday in Los Angeles, the family told the Associated Press.

They described him in a statement as a “solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world”.

“He spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other,” the statement said.

Known for his smooth baritone vocals and sumptuous soul arrangements, he wrote some of the 70s best-remembered songs, including Just The Two Of Us, Lovely Day and Use Me.

Although he stopped recording in 1985, his songs remained a major influence on R&B and hip-hop.

His track Grandma’s Hands was sampled on Blackstreet’s No Diggity, and Eminem reinterpreted Just The Two Of Us on his hit 1997 Bonnie And Clyde.

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father,” said his family.

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“With his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other.

“As private a life as he lived, close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.”

The star’s signature song Lean On Me has recently become associated with the Coronavirus pandemic, with many people posting their own versions to support health workers and other essential services.

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Born in 1938, Withers was the youngest of six children. His father died when he was a child and he was raised by his mother and grandmother.

His entry to the music world came late – at the age of 29 – after a nine-year stint in the Navy

He taught himself to play guitar between shifts at his job making toilet seats for the Boeing aircraft company, and used his wages to pay for studio sessions in LA.

“I figured out that you didn’t need to be a virtuoso to accompany yourself,” he told Rolling Stone magazine in 2015.

He recorded his first album, Just As I Am, with Booker T Jones in 1970. It included the mournful ballad Ain’t No Sunshine, which earned him his first Grammy award the subsequent year.

He scored another million-selling hit with Lean On Me in 1972.

Gospel-tinged and inspirational, it was based his experiences growing up in a West Virginia coal mining town. When times were hard, neighbours would lend each other help and assistance.

It was later performed at the inaugurations of both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

But Withers quit at the top, walking away from his career after scoring a pop hit with Just The Two of Us, although he occasionally toured with Grover Washington Jr in the 1990s.

Despite his influence on generations of musicians, he did not keep track of music after his career ended.

“These days,” he said in 2015, “I wouldn’t know a pop chart from a Pop-Tart.”



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