Gary Barlow and Rio Ferdinand join BT’s +1 movement

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BT has teamed up with Gary Barlow, Rio Ferdinand, Rylan Clark-Neal and Clare Balding for its +1 campaign movement which aims to beat loneliness by encouraging the nation to reconnect with a loved one they’ve lost touch with.

Kicking off the +1 movement:

  • Barlow spoke to his musical mentor and man who taught him ‘everything’, Bob Howes
  • Ferdinand reconnected with Manchester United dinner lady Carol Williams, affectionately known as his “Manchester aunt”

While later this week:

  • Rylan Clark-Neal will get in touch with fellow X Factor 2012 contestant Lucy Spraggan
  • Clare Balding will catch up with fellow Cruft’s presenter Jessica Holm

Barlow said: “This period has taken a lot away from us, but the biggest thing is connection. I don’t know where I would be now if it wasn’t for Bob giving me his time when I was just starting out. Having someone outside of my family to just say, ‘hey, you’re not bad at this – keep trying’ was so important to me. I’ve really missed being with Bob, but thank goodness during this time we are able to connect, even if we can’t be with those we care about most.”

Ferdinand said: “More than four million people are in a position of loneliness, its staggering when you think about it and really hit home when we went into lockdown this year. You realise that even with a house full of kids, a wife and dogs there can still be moments of loneliness. It’s been a year of total uncertainty with lockdown and a lot of people living in isolation, all the simple things we took for granted have been taken away, so a quick video or phone call to friends or family can have a great impact on mental wellbeing. During the 12 years I spent at Manchester United I saw Carol almost every day at the training ground, she was part of the fabric of the club and always there through the good and bad times. I saw her more than I would see some members of my family. But then after I retired, I didn’t see her for a couple of years. We used to text or chat on the phone, but it’s been a while, so the chance to reconnect with her was amazing. Carol epitomises the people of Manchester, she’s caring, she’s got a great sense of humour and she speaks her mind. Some people just always bring a smile to your face, and whenever I walk into the canteen at Carrington, I’m always looking for her. We’ve built a genuine friendship over the years.  When you meet a person like Carol, you don’t forget them.  Carol was a very funny lady. I loved speaking to her and having a laugh over a cup of tea at the training ground. She would treat everybody the same, academy players, Premier League champions or Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the biggest names in the history of football. She was the only one who could joke with Sir Alex, I remember once he walked in wearing a smart pair of cream chinos as I was talking to Carol, she stopped our conversation and just said to him “what are you wearing?!” which made us all laugh.”

For more information about BT’s +1 movement to beat loneliness visit BT.com/plusone.


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