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5 minutes with Charlotte Hawkins

Music kept me sane in lockdown.

By Jo Dunbar

Covid-19 meant some very busy days at work for Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins. Here, she tells High Life North how she switched off from the pandemic panic, handled lockdown as a parent and why music could help us all.

Aside from her Good Morning Britain day job, Charlotte hosts a show on Classic FM and it’s her passion for classical music which sees her host a concert by André Rieu – Magical Maastricht – Together In Music – which will be shown in cinemas across the UK, with plenty in the North East planning to screen the concert. Charlotte lives in London with her husband and daughter.

We’re moving away from lockdown now. But what did you miss most when restrictions began?

It’s only when things are taken away from us that we realise how important they are. When we first went into lockdown and we couldn’t see anyone, it was very much the people side of things that I found really hard. The fact that I couldn’t give family and friends a hug or see our friends who live around the corner. Then I think you miss all of the music concerts, the theatre performances, going to the cinema. There’s just a huge long list of things that you want to do. What I do find amazing is how creative companies have been; those theatre companies who have opened up their productions so that people can watch online. It’s important that, when it’s safe to do so, we all do our bit and make sure that we support the Arts so that they can continue.

Unlike a lot of people who have been working from home, or furloughed, your job meant you were still going to the studio. Did you feel a responsibility when you were broadcasting?

I was massively aware of the responsibility that I felt for making sure that every single word I was saying was correct. Of course, you always do that but particularly in this case because you want to make sure that the message you’re putting across to the viewers, or any advice that’s being put out on the news, is as accurate as possible. The responsibility of holding the politicians to account: making sure that we are asking the right questions so that people are as well informed as they can be but also really grilling the politicians on the figures, what decisions have been taken, why they have been taken, were they the right decisions? Should things have been done differently? The interesting thing is, normally with a breaking news story, it lasts for a few days and with this one, we literally can’t see when the end of it is going to come.

Have you found a way to switch off from constant Covid updates?

A lot of people were saying to me that they couldn’t watch the news because it was affecting their mental well-being, but of course, when you’re working in news you can’t do that. I did start to limit when I was watching it because otherwise you get obsessed and you watch it the whole time and that’s not sustainable. It’s not good for your head either. I had to make sure that I got that balance right and, also, I’ve got a five-year-old daughter. So as much as I talk to her about coronavirus and she knew about washing your hands and why we were in lockdown, I didn’t want her to be bombarded by the news, so quite often I had to take myself off and make sure I was up to date. It is important children understand what’s going on, but you don’t want them to be too worried and upset.

Charlotte Hawkins daughter

I think many parents have found their children to be a great distraction during lockdown. Would you agree?

I wanted Ella to look back on this as a special time. I know it’s been difficult because she wasn’t able to play with any of her friends, which is tough, but I wanted to make sure, at the same time, that she could look back on it as some lovely family time. My husband obviously hasn’t had a commute, he’s been working from home the whole time. He would be able to finish in time for us to sit around and play Monopoly in the evening, which was something we haven’t had time to do before. We camped in the back garden and going out to clap for carers and being able to wave at all the neighbours was such a highlight of her week. Hopefully, Ella will look back and think it was a strange time because she couldn’t go anywhere and couldn’t see anyone, but we did really special things. For some people, whether it’s health reasons, financial reasons or anything else, it’s been a really tough time. I really feel for those families who have been going through hell the last few weeks. I’m conscious it’s been a really tough time for lots of people.

Have you done anything in lockdown which you are going to try and continue as restrictions ease?

I think lockdown has put things in perspective for a lot of people. When I think about what I usually say yes to and what my diary usually looks like, I definitely think we value the time that we spent together as a family and now I feel even more protective of family time. A lot of people are talking about the fact that lockdown has pressed their reset button, and many don’t want things to go back to how they were. It will be interesting to see how much further we do go back to normal or whether people want to keep hold of this.

How have you relaxed during the pandemic?

One thing that has kept me sane is the music side of things. I’ve got my show on Classic FM and I love kind of playing those relaxing, classical pieces of music: I think we can all benefit from listening to music and getting a bit of escapism. That’s why I love the fact that André is going to broadcast his concerts in cinemas. It’s great that he is determined not to let lockdown and the quarantine situation stop the music continuing and that people will be able to go to their local cinema and be able to see he and the Johann Strauss Orchestra performing. I really hope it will be something that people will really look forward to seeing and will prove uplifting and put a bit of a spring in their step and help them feel that things are getting back to normal. It really is the next best thing to being able to go and see him perform live.

What if you’re not a big classical music fan?

I don’t want people to get put off by thinking that André Rieu and Johann Strauss Orchestra is classical music done in a traditional way. André injects life and passion and energy into his performance and holds the audience in the palm of his hand. He’s such a great showman when you see him on stage and he’s in the audience, having a laugh with them. Audiences are clapping, singing, swaying and dancing along with the music so he does things really differently when he puts his kind of concert on.

I think people want that chance to immerse themselves in something that allows them to forget about what else is going on and André is absolutely brilliant at doing that because he puts on such a great show. He’s a phenomenal musician, but he brings it all to life because he’s got so much energy. I really hope it will give people a huge boost when they go and see this – that they are able to put everything to one side and just enjoy the music.

André Rieu’s Magical Maastricht – Together In Music comes to cinemas nationwide from 18 September to 15 October. Tickets available via andreincinemas.com

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