THE COUNCIL have written to the producers of the Gareth Malone Christmas Special to express thanks for 'raising people’s spirits' and 'increasing community pride'.

Blackburn Sings Christmas with Gareth Malone was broadcast on BBC2 on December 23 as part of the BBC’s festive programming.

The programme was the touching culmination of the two months the celebrity choirmaster spent in Blackburn meeting a variety of people impacted by the pandemic – including ambulance crews, hospital staff, patients and young people.

When originally broadcast, the show attracted an audience of 1.4 million people, with many more watching on catch-up services over the festive period.

In response to emails from the BBC thanking Blackburn with Darwen Council staff for their role in making the programme a success, council leader Mohammed Khan CBE and chief executive Denise Park sent a joint response.

They said: "On behalf of the people of Blackburn, we would like to thank you for your insightful and positive portrayal of community spirit in the town through the programme Blackburn Sings Christmas.

"Far too often we see a focus on stereotypes and issues linked to poverty instead of the real beauty of the place and its people. Our communities have been hurt by sensationalist journalism in the past and it has dented trust. Your genuine approach, exploring the humanity and partnerships in the town, really gave people a lift. It is to be applauded.

"We believe that through your work in the town, you have significantly raised people’s spirits and increased community pride and perceptions of the place which can only lead to improvements. We work hard to talk up our town because we know how special it is. You have given these efforts a tremendous boost.

"We appreciate you taking the time to acknowledge the role that Council officers have played in making the programme happen alongside our NHS and community partners and we would certainly be happy to welcome any team with your standards back."

Blackburn Sing Christmas with Gareth Malone is still available on the BBC iPlayer.