BLOG: One Love Manchester, One Special Night

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For every one of us inside Old Trafford, broadcasters, musicians, fans, victims, One Love Manchester was a night we’ll never forget. Of course this was an occasion that should never have had to take place. Throughout the evening, in the forefront of our minds were memories of the 22 people who had died tragically at the Ariana Grande concert just weeks earlier. But what a response we were about to witness. Not just locally, nor nationally, but it quickly became apparent this would be a global display of solidarity.

IMG_1997I remember getting a call from the Executive Producer asking if I’d host the night on BBC1. I was in my dressing room preparing for that evening’s One Show. It was a Wednesday, the concert would be on the following Sunday. I knew there’d been talk of a tribute concert, but it was only on the phone that the scale – and short notice – of the event really hit home. Ariana Grande’s team were coming back to Manchester, along with some of the biggest names in music. And this time the world would be watching.

The attack was still so raw for everyone, let alone for the victims and the families of those affected. Less than two weeks had passed and all those nightmare memories would return to the surface. But the outpouring of support and positivity was tangible. It was that sentiment we would try to encapsulate in the programme, the stars and the music would provide the new soundtrack. It was just incredible to experience first hand, the life-changing good we can really do when we come together.

Arriving on site at Old Trafford Cricket Ground that Sunday morning, you could feel something special was in store. The atmosphere, it was understood right around the arena. From crew to security, catering to camera operators, we all shared this desire to put on the best show possible, the perfect tribute.

IMG_2002The wonderful Sara Cox and I were hosting together and took a few moments earlier in the afternoon to drink it all in. It dawned on us for many of the young people attending, this was their equivalent concert to Live Aid or Live 8 more recently. And the woman behind it all, Ariana Grande – who only 13 days ago had been at the centre of the darkest day in her life – was back on stage, in Manchester, sound-checking, refining her performance just like any other arena show. Her professionalism, heart and empathy would win over millions more fans that night. She was quite literally an inspirational presence.

We had a job to do too, and it goes without saying what an absolute honour it was to anchor a programme which touched so many millions of people. Despite a tendency to show my emotions on air (!) when I’m at work I like to think I’m pretty steely to most things. You’d have had to be of iron heart not to at least hold back tears on that night. Manchester had been my home for many years, to see the city come together in such a way was extraordinary.

As for the music, well it did all the talking in its most unifying way. There were too many moving moments to mention (most of which can still be relived here) but watching our host sing ‘One Last Time’, last sung that fateful night, a fortnight later in front of her fellow superstar artists, 60,000 emotional fans, a global audience of millions, and the families and friends of the victims, that’s a memory which will live with me forever.

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