The Big Christmas Care Singalong concert returns as Big Ian Donaghy’s antidote to care home loneliness in the festive season

Singer Jess Steel and guitarist Stuart Allan, top left; harpist Sarah Dean and singer-guitarist Graham Hodge: All taking part in The Big Christmas Care Singalong

THE Big Christmas Care Singalong, an hour-long concert celebrating all those who live and work in social care, is running online from today through to the New Year.

The video is being broadcast in its premiere this afternoon in care homes, hospitals, hospices and people’s own homes in an effort to tackle loneliness among vulnerable people, loneliness only exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Returning for a second year, the “play as live” event has been spearheaded by Big Ian Donaghy, the prominent York advocate for the social care sector and motivational speaker, who has published the helping-hand books Dear Dementia, A Pocketful Of Kindness and The Missing Peace.

Donaghy and friends from everyLIFE Technologies launched the inaugural Christmas Singalong last winter when Christmas was called off, leaving families unable to visit loved ones.

The Big Christmas Care Singalong poster

“After a resounding success last Christmas, the support of the organisation continues again this year,” says Ian. “Last year’s event was watched by thousands of people who live and work in the social care sector, with viewers drawn from the UK and further afield in Australia, New Zealand and even Venezuela.

“The online concert, funny, heart-warming and heart-breaking in equal measure, was created in response to the isolation experienced by many vulnerable people during the festive period. With Covid-19 causing significant disruption to the social care sector, the Big Christmas Care Singalong was a welcome reprieve from the challenges of the pandemic.” 

This winter’s online Singalong is bigger and bolder, thanks to Big Ian and his team pushing through adversity to make a “festive feast to remember”.

Many of the performances were recorded in a purpose-made barn studio at York Maze, in Elvington Lane, during Storm Arwen. Recalling the recording sessions, Big Ian says: “It was freezing, snowing outside, and we were unsure if the roof was going to hold out, but sometimes adversity brings us even closer together.”

Charlie and Jim, “two of the Gogglebox critics”, enjoying the Big Christmas Care Singalong

The free-to-watch concert features care home residents and team members performing their favourite Christmas songs and wishing festive cheer to all, across the country. Viewers also can look forward to a brass performance of In The Bleak Midwinter, arranged and performed by trumpet player Johnny Thirkell, who has recorded previously with George Michael, Phil Collins, Kylie Minogue and Bruno Mars, no less.

York favourites Jess Steel, Graham Hodge, Sarah Dean (harp) and The Grand Old Uke of York take part in the show, along with Teesside soprano Samantha Holden.

“It also features people singing their festive favourites from all over the world to varying degrees of quality,” says Big Ian. “People with hearing aids may wish to turn them down for some sections of the show!”

The singalong is available to watch on demand at  from today over all the Christmas and New Year period. Already, on the first day, it has drawn viewers from Spain, Italy, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, as well as from the UK.

Santa hats aplenty at the Big Christmas Care Singalong

“We were determined to recreate the magic of last year’s singalong after seeing the beautiful response it generated. It proved to be more than an online concert: it was an opportunity for people across the entire care sector to come together and share their personal memories and love of Christmas,” says Big Ian.

“I’m incredibly excited about the release of this year’s video, which promises to once again galvanise all those who live and work in social care. Expect the unexpected. You will laugh, and you may cry, as people share their stories.”

Duncan Campbell, director at everyLIFE Technologies, provider of PASS, the care management platform, says: “The Big Christmas Care Singalong is quickly becoming a Christmas staple for those who live and work in social care sector.

“Its unique ability to bring people together, particularly in the wake of Covid-19, is a quality everyLIFE Technologies admires and fully supports. We’re proud to have partnered with Big Ian to create this year’s concert and look forward to seeing its positive impact across all care settings up and down the country.”

In addition, Big Ian and the rest of the Xmas Presence team will be busy in York on Christmas Day delivering hampers and Christmas dinners for older people living alone in this annual project run in conjunction with Age UK York.

“Unless you are very lucky…,” says Big Ian Donaghy, “…we either have to care for someone or be cared for!”