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Tag Archives: final

Keep dancing?

Gemma Atkinson, Alexandra Burke, Joe McFadden, Debbie McGeeImage copyright Guy Levy/BBC
Image caption The fantastic four: Gemma Atkinson, Alexandra Burke, Joe McFadden and Debbie McGee

“It’s a really life-changing thing that we’ve done. It feels like we’ve been altered, in a really good way.”

Joe McFadden is musing on his Strictly experience before he steps on to the dance floor for the last time during the show’s grand final at 18:30 GMT on BBC One on Saturday.

“It’s made me so much braver and more adventurous than I was before,” he says, talking about the 13-week roller coaster that’s taken him from ballroom beginner to debonair dancer.

Adventurous is one word for the daring cantilever move he and professional dance partner Katya Jones executed in the semi-final.

‘Beyond thrilled’

Jones hoisted the former Holby City actor to his feet in a tricky balance during their Argentine Tango which McFadden jokes has seen “doctors’ appointments go up 300%”, because of fans attempting it.

“We’re beyond thrilled,” he beams, speaking ahead of the finalists’ press conference on their last day of rehearsals. “It’s fantastic to still be here. It’s lovely to have that hard work recognised.”

Image copyright Guy Levy/BBC
Image caption Joe McFadden’s gravity-defying move

He’s not the only one of the four finalists to be pinching themselves at getting through – and to feel that the show is life-changing.

Actress and radio host Gemma Atkinson, singer Alexandra Burke and presenter Debbie McGee are also in the final four.

Former X Factor winner Burke recalls that when she found out she was to be on Strictly, she screamed so much she lost her voice – and she was appearing in a show in Cardiff that night.

The singer has perhaps has had to cope with more than most, as her mother Melissa Bell died shortly after it was announced she was appearing on the show.

Image copyright Guy Levy/BBC
Image caption Alexandra gives Debbie “Flexie” McGee a run for her money

“At the time I was going through so much, and then of course, as soon as we started, that was a very hard time for me,” she says.

“But to have this as an amazing distraction, a blessing in disguise, something I’ve been able to focus on and also as well to get the most amazing friendship with Gorka out of it, has been absolutely out of this world.”

Burke says Strictly was her mum’s “favourite show”, and adds: “My mum was just the most amazing woman who gave me so much strength and she still does to this day. Everything I do is for my family, so I think she’d be proud.”

She admits to being “quite emotional” at reaching the final, adding: “My highlight has been meeting Gorka and making a friend.”

‘You’re a team’

Gemma Atkinson, the actress and radio presenter, says: “It’s been a lot more than I expected. I didn’t think it would be so mentally involved – I thought I would just learn to dance.

“Since meeting Aljaz [Skorjanec], and him being my dance partner, I feel like there’s a lot more to it. Every week, we’ve gone out wanting to do more than what you’re physically capable of, not letting him down. You feel like you’re a team. I never expected to be that involved in it.”

Image copyright Guy Levy/BBC
Image caption Gemma and Aljaz danced to Downtown in the Blackpool Tower ballroom

She adds: “Being on Strictly has just been one of the best, most enjoyable experiences of my life. Me and Aljaz were the first couple to dance on the Strictly dance floor of 2017. The pressure was on to start the series with a bang. At the end of the dance, I remember he whispered in my ear – ‘you’ve done it kid, first one down’.

“I’ve never danced in my life. I never did stage school or drama school. Putting on a show every Saturday is new to me. I hope I inspire other women to think, ‘if she can do it, I can do it and all’.”

‘I lost who I was’

And McGee says that her experience has brought her “nothing but happiness”.

“I’ve loved everything about it – mostly because of Giovanni [Pernice, her dance partner],” she explains. “He’s taught me a lot more than just learning to dance. He has nurtured me through such a lot. I couldn’t imagine having done it without having him as a partner.

“After [husband] Paul [Daniels] died, I kind of lost who I was. And I think Strictly has given me my confidence back. I’ll remember my Strictly experience as being a time that brought happiness back into my life.”

Image copyright Guy Levy/BBC
Image caption Debbie and Giovanni did a routine to Memory from Cats in Musicals week

She describes Strictly as “a family” – and that any negative press or social media comments “is not even 1%” of the overall experience.

“Everything else is so positive and happy that it doesn’t affect you much. Everything about Strictly is a happy experience.”

They all say they hope to carry on dancing after the final – even though of course, only one of them can lift the glitterball trophy on Saturday night.

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Newspaper headlines: ‘Royal own goal’ wedding and final clash

Image caption The Daily Mail leads on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding day, which the paper says presents a “diary clash for millions” as it coincides with the day of the FA Cup Final.
Image caption The Sun is more optimistic about the wedding date, claiming Brits will be “gearing up for a party marathon” come 9 May, which it says will give the economy a “huge boost”.
Image caption The Times reports on comments from senior barristers that the collapsed rape trial against student Liam Allen is just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to serious police failings in handling evidence. Mr Allen spent two years on bail before police handed over text messages that led to the case collapsing.
Image caption The Daily Mail reports that some NHS nurses are being charged “up to £1,300 a year” to park at work, which the paper calls “despicable”.
Image caption The Daily Telegraph reports that eight in 10 rural homes and businesses cannot get a good 4G mobile phone signal, ahead of a rollout of relaxed planning laws which the paper says will help build a new generation of masts.
Image caption The Guardian leads on the resignation of the chairman of the house builder, Persimmon, who the paper says “orchestrated a £100m plus bonus” for the company’s chief executive. Critics called the share scheme “obscene” and accused the company of benefiting from the help-to-buy scheme.
Image caption The i paper has the latest on Brexit negotiations and asks whether the prime minister has managed to “turn it around” as trade talks are set to begin in weeks.
Image caption The FT Weekend calls the Brexit progress “a boost” for Theresa May, but adds that the EU has “stepped up calls” on the prime minister to clarify the type of future relationship Britain wants with the EU.
Image caption The Daily Star looks ahead to Saturday night’s Strictly Come Dancing final, saying that a “catfight has erupted” between Alexandra Burke, Gemma Atkinson and Debbie McGee who will all be vying for the glitter ball glory.
Image caption Meanwhile, the Daily Express leads on a study that finds losing weight “could be the key” to beating rheumatoid arthritis, adding that obese or overweight patients are “far less likely” to respond to treatment.

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Beard-stroking ‘job’ advert gets thousands of responses

Woman strokes a man's beardImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption The firm hopes a good stroke will have a calming effect on last-minute Christmas shoppers

More than 4,000 bearded men have applied to have their facial fuzz stroked by stressed-out Christmas shoppers.

Mo Bro’s Grooming Co in Leicester advertised for hirsute gentlemen to staff its “beard stroking station” in return for £30 an hour.

It hopes the soothing service will “de-stress” shoppers in the final days before Christmas.

The firm said there had been a “phenomenal” response.

Profits from each £5 session will go to homeless charity Shelter.

Image copyright Hemera / Getty Images Plus
Image caption Pognophobes need not apply

Co-owner Keval Dattani said 46 shoppers – a mix of men and women – had submitted advance applications to be strokers.

Local bearded celebrities, including Leicester Tigers players and world champion clay pigeon shooter, Ben Husthwaite, had also shown an interest, he said.

Just as studies have suggested stroking pets can reduce stress, Mr Dattani said he hopes human beards will have a similarly calming effect on last-minute Christmas shoppers.

“We didn’t want to enlist the help of animals because they obviously can be somewhat unpredictable and chaotic,” Mr Dattani said.

“So, doing what we do, we thought beards are the next best thing.”

Image copyright iStock / Getty Images Plus
Image caption Beards will be stroked through a seaside-style hole in the wall.

The stroking station will consist of a seaside-style hole in the wall, where the bearded men will put their chins through wooden screens for 20-minute stroking sessions, accompanied by soothing music.

They can even make conversation with their stroking partner, if they wish.

It will also be open to passers-by from Wednesday 20 December.

Itchy

For hygiene reasons, hand sanitiser will be available and every stroker has the option of wearing disposable gloves.

The company’s own grooming products will be on hand to combat dry skin from too much rubbing, Mr Dattani said.

“The last thing they’ll want is itchy beards.”

How a performance poet won chance to be first UK Muslim in space

A POET and campaigner who is now training to be an astronaut after winning a trip to space visited students at Bradford College.

Hussain Manawer, 26, gave a lecture on different topics – including how he could become the UK’s first Muslim in space.

A Bradford College spokesperson had contacted him via Twitter and he gladly accepted – even promising everyone who attended the lecture a Nando’s, which unfortunately he couldn’t buy after becoming stuck in traffic.

During the talk he explained how he had entered a global competition held in association with One Young World – a platform for 18 to 30-year-olds – which posed the question ‘how would you change the world’?

He created a piece of performance poetry about young people and mental health, for which he is an active campaigner.

Mr Manawer was among 30,000 applicants from 90 different countries. He was shocked to make the final 300, then the 30-strong shortlist and the final three: “little me from Ilford”.

He competed against a doctor and a humanitarian in the finals, held in Bangkok in 2015.

“I never win anything in life,” said Mr Manawer, whose prize was to travel beyond the 100km mark in XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx spacecraft , a visit to the United States and then NASA.

The date for the trip has not yet been confirmed but Mr Manawer will be the first UK Muslim to breach the atmosphere.

He said he was amazed by meeting astronauts – “imagine that, I speak to astronauts, people who have left the planet” – then going back to having casual conversations about hip-hop artist Stormzy on iMessage while sending GIFs and memes.

Mr Manawer’s training started last year when he visited an XCOR Aerospace training facility in Holland for G-force aerobatic flight training. “I never threw up – just many burps!” he said.

After the lecture at the college he walked down to City Park and shared his thoughts on the city: “Bradford actually really nice, innit!” He also compared Bradford, with its diverse population, to his home town of Ilford.

Mr Manawer’s ultimate aim is to be the head teacher of his own school. He also plans to further his campaign to help young people deal with mental health. “I want to change the world,” he said.

Hillsborough officer not charged over horse burn claims

Leppings LaneImage copyright Hillsborough Inquests
Image caption The scene unfolding at the Leppings Lane terrace where Liverpool fans were standing

A mounted officer and a police worker who claimed Liverpool fans burned a horse with cigarettes during the Hillsborough disaster will not face criminal charges.

The former South Yorkshire Police officer and the civilian farrier were accused of making up the story.

Both men were referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) by the police watchdog.

The CPS said the families of the 96 Hillsborough victims had been informed.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) had submitted files on the two men following allegations about falsified evidence.

Prosecutors said the mounted officer had been seen on camera before the FA Cup semi-final lashing out towards fans, whom he later claimed were burning his horse with cigarettes.

The farrier, who was a friend of the officer, also described the injuries sustained by the horse.

It was alleged that the accounts were false and given to protect the officer from disciplinary action.

‘Serious allegations’

The CPS said the evidential threshold for a charge of perverting the course of justice had been met in relation to the farrier, but it was concluded that it was not in the public interest to charge him.

It said the evidential threshold had not been met in relation to the officer.

IPCC deputy chairwoman Rachel Cerfontyne said: “It was vitally important that allegations of such a serious nature were investigated robustly.”

Six men, including match commander David Duckenfield, are already facing prosecution for alleged offences related to the disaster on 15 April 1989 and its aftermath.

Once all criminal proceedings have concluded, the IPCC will consider whether any former officers would have had cases to answer for misconduct.

Evidence supporting these findings will be set out in a final investigation report.

A total of 96 Liverpool fans were fatally crushed during the stadium disaster on 15 April as their FA Cup semi-final began against Nottingham Forest.

Ashes: No evidence of corruption in third Test after fixing claims – ICC

The third Ashes Test is being played at the Waca, where England have not won since 1978

There is “no evidence” that the third Ashes Test between Australia and England in Perth has been “corrupted”, says the International Cricket Council.

The Sun claimed Indian bookmakers offered to fix aspects of the match.

“We have now received all materials relating to The Sun investigation,” said Alex Marshall, the ICC general manager anti-corruption.

“There is no indication that any players in this Test have been in contact with the alleged fixers.”

The Test started on Thursday at 02:30 GMT, with Australia leading 2-0 in the series. They will regain the Ashes if they win any of the final three matches.

The Sun reported that a gang, working with an Australian called ‘the Silent Man’, was charging up to £138,000 to influence the game.

No England players were named as being involved but the gang claimed to have recruited one former Australian player.

England captain Joe Root, who said he had been “made aware” of the claims, told BBC Test Match Special: “It’s very sad that this has been written about.

“We’ve got to focus on this Test match and do everything we can to win it.”

Australia skipper Steve Smith said: “As far as I know, there’s nothing that’s been going on or anything like that. There’s no place for that in our game.”

It is unclear how the bookmakers proposed to fix the Test, although, according to the newspaper, one told Sun investigators he could “get players to follow ‘scripts’ – such as how many runs would be scored in a session, or an innings, when a wicket will fall and what a team would do if it won the toss”.

Marshall added: “We take the allegations extremely seriously and they will be investigated by the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit working with anti-corruption colleagues from member countries.”The allegations are wide-ranging and relate to various forms cricket in several countries, including T20 tournaments.”

An England and Wales Cricket Board statement read: “We are aware of these allegations and there is no suggestion that any of the England team is involved in any way.”

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said: “Cricket Australia, the ICC and the England and Wales Cricket Board have a very strong stance against corruption.

“Any credible allegations will be taken very seriously. We have a zero-tolerance approach to corruption and we take seriously any allegation that threaten to undermine the integrity of our sport.”

Based on the information in the dossier received from the newspaper, Sutherland said: “There’s no evidence, substance or justification to suspect that this Test match or the Ashes series as a whole is subject to corrupt activities.”

He said Cricket Australia had “full confidence” in its players.

Spurs player in global teacher prize shortlist

Eartha Pond
Image caption Eartha Pond has made the final 50 in a competition for the world’s best teacher

A London teacher who raised £100,000 for survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire and who plays top-level football has been named in the top 50 shortlist for the annual Global Teacher Prize.

Eartha Pond is a finalist in the $1m (£750,000) teaching competition.

The PE teacher, who plays for Tottenham Hotspur Ladies, is assistant vice-principal at the Crest Academy in Neasden, north-west London.

She says it’s great to see the value of teachers’ work being recognised.

The teachers in the final 50 are from 33 countries, in a competition run by the Varkey Foundation with the aim of raising the status of the teaching profession.

‘Every day is a lesson’

Ms Pond, who trained as a teacher six years ago, has helped to run Girls Allowed clubs in schools, encouraging young women to take part in sport.

As a footballer she played for Chelsea and Arsenal before signing for Spurs – and in teaching she has also been a top performer, with a strong record in results in sports qualifications.

As a teacher, she says “every day is a lesson”. And combining teaching with football, she says can feel like trying to live the lives of two people.

She lives close to the site of the Grenfell Tower fire – and says that when she saw what had happened she began to raise funds.

“I hoped to raise £5,000,” she said. But in the end she collected £80,000 and then a school’s sports day and support from local businesses took the total to £100,000.

“It’s my community, it was a natural reaction, my people needed help,” she says of the efforts to support survivors.

Ms Pond is one of four teachers from the UK in the top 50, in a shortlist drawn from more than 30,000 nominations.

Also in the running are:

  • Andria Zafirakou, an arts and textiles teacher from Alperton Community School, north-west London. She has learned several languages to engage with local communities and worked to encourage more of her pupils to get university places.
  • Rebecca Cramer, head teacher and co-founder of Reach Academy Feltham, south-west London. In its first GCSE year, 98% of pupils achieved good grades in maths and English.
  • Tuesday Humby, principal of Ormiston Chadwick Academy, Widnes, Cheshire. She has helped to widen the horizons of disadvantaged pupils, with an “enrichment charter” which offers residential trips, theatre visits and an overseas trip to Kenya.

The winner will be presented next year with their prize at a ceremony in Dubai.

Last year’s winner was Maggie MacDonnell, who teaches at a remote village school in the Canadian Arctic and who has campaigned about the problem of youth suicides in the Inuit community.

The winner was announced by a video-link with astronauts on the International Space Station and with a message from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, congratulated the finalists and said: “We intend to keep this momentum going as our journey continues to return teachers to their rightful position as one of the most respected professions in society.”

Rebellion threat to EU Withdrawal Bill

EU flag at WestminsterImage copyright Getty Images

The government is facing the threat of a defeat by rebel backbenchers when MPs vote on its flagship EU legislation.

Led by the former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, the rebels want to insert a legal guarantee that MPs should get a vote on any final Brexit deal before it is finalised.

The government has no majority in the Commons and is vulnerable to a revolt by its MPs.

Theresa May said the government was listening to MPs’ concerns.

The UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019, and the EU Withdrawal Bill is a key part of the government’s exit strategy.

Its effects include ending the supremacy of EU law and copying existing EU law onto the UK statute book, so that the same rules and regulations apply on Brexit day.

The bill is currently making its way through Parliament, where MPs from across the House of Commons have been trying to amend it.

So far it has emerged unscathed, but on Wednesday several rebels are lining up behind Mr Grieve’s bid to ensure a “meaningful vote” on any final deal agreed with Brussels.

The government has already offered a take-it-or-leave-it vote via a new act of Parliament on the final deal reached with Brussels.

But Mr Grieve said the bill as currently worded would allow ministers to implement the agreement themselves without consulting MPs.


Who will blink first?

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg

For vulnerable governments, losing is potentially much more dangerous than the odd defeat for governments who are secure in the level of their support.

It’s in that context that the government faces a potential defeat on Wednesday on the Withdrawal Bill and must weigh up its best course of action.

The legislation has been grinding its way through the Commons for weeks. Tory rebels have threatened to vote against the government on a few different occasions.

This time however, with the rebellion led by one of the most unlikely troublemakers, the former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, they really do mean business.

And while the government today has sought to say ministers are listening, government sources say they are looking to do what they can to make peace – as things stand, it’s feasible that the prime minister will be beaten in the Commons on Wednesday. Yes, a possible defeat on the eve of the European Council.

Read the rest of Laura’s blog


Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One, Mr Grieve said his amendment to the bill would not prevent Brexit from happening, but suggested MPs should be able to send the government back to the negotiating table if they did not like the deal that was being put forward.

He said he would listen if ministers promised to come back with further measures at a later date but would not be backing down.

Asked about his chances of inflicting a government defeat, he said: “I think there are quite a few who may support me – I think enough, if this comes to a vote, to defeat the government.

“I think there is a real possibility that that will happen.”

Conservative Eurosceptics have reacted angrily to the threatened revolt.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: “There comes a moment when really grandstanding has to stop. Tying the government’s hands in the way that he would wish to tie them so early on is quite wrong.”

But Labour, which has tabled a similar amendment, signalled its backing for the change in the bill’s wording.

“Labour have always been clear that Parliament, not ministers, must have the final say on the UK’s withdrawal agreement with the European Union. This means both a vote on the draft deal and then primary legislation implementing the ultimate agreement,” said shadow Brexit minister Matthew Pennycook.

“Warm words and woolly concessions from ministers are not enough.”

Speaking in Paris, Mrs May said there were MPs “looking for reassurance” about the EU bill, adding that “of course we’ve been listening and talking to those colleagues”.

Keighley rescue cat finds new home in Oxfordshire thanks to social media

THE power of social media has again helped a Keighley cat and kitten welfare charity get a needy feline to a loving new home.

Kimmy, a female rescue cat, was being looked after by Keighley Cat Care.

Charity spokesman Trish Armistead said: “Kimmy had a health problem which put potential adopters off. She had an ear polyp.

“Our local vet advised that she needed referring for specialist treatment, but this treatment would include a CT scan.

“The cost of the scan was around £1,000, so one of our volunteers set up a Just Giving fundraising page for Kimmy in the hope that we could raise something towards the cost.

“In no time at all we had over £1,000 thanks to the generosity of our followers.

“Kimmy went to Abbey House Veterinary hospital on October 26 and the polyp was removed successfully.

“Once Kimmy was discharged we set about finding her a home.

“She was given her own Twitter account, Just Kimmy@KCCrescuecat, and once again our followers set about finding her that forever home.”

Once an Oxfordshire resident came forward, offering to take in Kimmy, the charity was able to use Twitter to arrange a relay-style journey for the cat on November 26.

Volunteers drove her from Keighley to Chesterfield, from Chesterfield to the Leicester area then on the final leg to her new home in Oxfordshire.

Trish added: “We will never have enough words to thank all of these people. Our followers are the most amazing people.”

Plymouth house fire woman died after 999 call handler delay

Molly WigmoreImage copyright Keyham Community Partnership
Image caption Molly Wigmore’s sister said after the inquest: “We have lost a good soul”

A woman died after a call handler refused to send a crew to a fire in her house, an inquest was told.

Molly Wigmore, 76, died at her Plymouth home in October last year.

The first 999 call was made by a neighbour at 05:17 GMT but the caller was told it was “only smoke in the area”.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said the call handler who took the first call had been sacked.

Another officer has received a final written warning.

More on this story and others from Devon

The second call by another neighbour was made at 06:44 with a fire engine arriving at 06:50, the inquest in Plymouth heard.

The hearing was told a neighbour shouted “if she’s dead, it’s on you,” at firefighters when they arrived at the scene.

Image caption “This was an individual failing rather than an organisational failing,” the fire service said

Station manager David Roddy said: “More care should have been taken by the operators to establish the full facts.

Plymouth coroner Ian Arrow said: “This was an exceptional case with a tragic outcome.”

Mr Arrow, who recorded a narrative conclusion, accepted that it was a “one-off individual failing”.

He added: “A decision not to deploy should be exceptional and made by the most senior person in the control room.”

The cause of the fire is unknown.

Ms Wigmore’s sister Sheila said after the inquest that she was “satisfied this was a one-off, but it is too tragic because we have lost a good soul”.

Neil Blackburn, head of operations for the fire service, offered the victim’s family and friends his “deepest condolences”.