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22 June 2017

Pop stars including Rita Ora, James Blunt and Leona Lewis have spent the weekend recording a charity single to raise money for the Grenfell Tower victims.

The cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water is expected to be released this week and is tipped to raise several million pounds.

It was the brainchild of Simon Cowell, 57, who took action after watching harrowing news coverage of the blaze. He said many artists had asked to take part.

Other singers who have agreed to take part in the project are said to include Paloma Faith, Emeli Sande Craig David and members of One Direction.

The singers have been recording the single at the Sarm Music Village in west London, just a few minutes’ walk from the blackened tower.

Chorister Gareth Malone has put together an ensemble of 300 people, made up of local choirs and local people.

He said: “I just think we need something really positive at the moment.

"Singing absolutely cannot fix anything, a record cannot fix anything, but we might be able to raise some money, we might be able to touch a few hearts.

"To be frank I don't care what it sounds like, it's just about doing something good."

After recording her part, Sande said it was a "real pleasure" to sing on the track.

"It's really inspiring to see people come together," she said, "It gives you hope in humanity."

As for the song, she added: "It sounds beautiful."

Ora, 26, grew up in west London and said she used to play in the streets around Grenfell Tower. She was among those who visited the scene to help distribute supplies to residents left homeless by the fire last week.


21 June 2017

L R Tom Beech Nicola Byrnes and Patrick Byrnes

A dedicated husband will go the distance to mark his wife’s blood cancer journey whilst raising awareness and funds to thank the charities that helped save her life.

On 4 June Patrick Byrnes, 45, from Warrington, Cheshire, will cycle the Tour de Manc, an open road, 100-mile ride travelling through all 10 Greater Manchester boroughs.

Patrick’s wife, Nicola, 47, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, in June 2015, she faced months of chemotherapy, at The Christie, Manchester, to get her into remission, so she could receive a blood stem cell transplant – which was her only lifesaving option.

The blood cancer charity, DKMS, found a blood cell stem donor match from Germany and in March 2016 Nicola received her transplant, at the Haematology and Transplant Unit, at the hospital.

As a thank you for helping save Nicola’s life Patrick wanted a challenge to raise awareness and much-needed funds for DKMS and HaTS (Haematology and Transplant Support), an independent charity which directly supports the patients and the families of the Haematology and Transplant unit.

Patrick said: “To say it changed our lives is an understatement – the hospital has been our second home and the medical team have saved my wife’s life on multiple occasions. At times getting to the transplant seemed to be out of reach, an impossibility, and despite some very dark days we managed to get through it.

“If the donor hadn’t signed up to be a potential lifesaver and without the brilliant support of DKMS and the medical team my wife wouldn’t be here today. I wanted to do this challenge to raise awareness of blood cancer and how important it is to register as a potential blood stem cell donor –  you could help give someone a second chance of life. I wanted to give something back to say thank you, so please donate to these two great charities.”

Patrick who has been married to Nicola for three years and will be doing the challenge with his friend Tom Beech, 37, from Monton, Salford.

Miguel Leon, Head of Fundraising at DKMS said: “We are dedicated to helping the fight against blood cancer through the recruitment of blood stem cell donors. Nicola’s story is an example of how important it is for people to sign up to the DKMS register and we wish Patrick the best of luck with the challenge.”

Every 20 minutes someone in the UK is diagnosed with a blood cancer. Anyone aged between 17-55 and in general good health can register to become a potential lifesaver. Please join the DKMS register today by visiting

If you would like to support Patrick’s chosen charities, you can make a donation by visiting:


14 June 2017

Screen Shot 2017 06 15 at 12.43.50A charity dinner attended by former US President Barack Obama raised £670,000 for causes in Scotland. 

Organised by the Hunter Foundation, Mr Obama made his first trip to the country for a speech in front of about 1,200 people including First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, author JK Rowling and musician Annie Lennox. 

All profits from the night, including an auction, are to go charities taking part in the Kiltwalk campaign.

The Hunter Foundation said £570,000 was raised on the night, with a further £100,000 to be allocated to charities chosen by comedian Kevin Bridges and singers Lennox and Sharleen Spiteri in lieu of performance fees.

Those to benefit include Unicef, Maggie’s Centres, the Beatson Clinic, Clic Sargent and CHAS.

More than £1 million has already been raised by Kiltwalks in Glasgow and Aberdeen, with two more planned in Edinburgh and Dundee.

Philanthropist Sir Tom Hunter invited Mr Obama to the event and was delighted with the total raised.

He said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for charities across Scotland to have a great day out at the Kiltwalk, raise much-needed funds and get at least a 40% boost to their fundraising.

“Personally, I’d like to thank everyone who helped raise these amazing funds by supporting the Obama dinner event – it clearly shows the spirit of Scotland; we care always for those most in need in our society and believe fundamentally in opportunity for all.”

Despite the one-day visit, Mr Obama made the most of his time in Scotland by first going to the home of golf for a round at the Old Course in St Andrews. 

The Democrat vowed to return to experience ”real” Scottish weather after playing golf in 26C (78.8F) heat at the end of May. 

He said: ”I promise you I will be back because, unless it is raining and blustery, I will not feel I have got the full Scottish experience.” 

Mr Obama was presented with a kilt to mark his visit but seems unlikely to wear it in public. 

He told the audience in Edinburgh he would prefer a pair of Sir Tom’s tartan trousers. 

Mr Obama said: ”Unfortunately, I have concluded my legs are too thin to pull it off, but those (tartan) trousers I have seen you wear. I think they look pretty good. So I might try some.”


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