From supermarkets to Heathrow Airport – Our pick of the best Christmas ads this year

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And for the retail industry, it’s by far the most lucrative. And whilst there’s plenty of things to get excited about at Christmas (namely parties, guilt-free carb-loading, parties, days off and more parties) festive TV ads are up there. Whether it’s John Lewis’ Bear and the Hare or Shirley Bassey and her mates going all Bond girl for M&S, Christmas TV ads have become a talking point in the past few years. Take a look at our pick of the best of the big-hitters this year.

Waitrose

Never let it be said that an advert can’t take you on an emotional roller coaster. Waitrose’s tale of a robin who goes on the adventure of a lifetime, across stormy seas and sprawling landscapes all to get a taste of one of the store’s fancy mince pies, is like a movie trailer. The moral of the story? Be nice. Be kind. Help each other out and you’ll get your reward.

Sainsburys

Sainsbury’s ad divides people as soon as it begins: soundtracked by the dulcet tones of Mr James Corden, who seems to be of the Marmite variety for most, it uses quirky animation to list everything that could go wrong at Christmas but also exactly what makes Christmas the best time of the year, and that’s family time. And it’s all in aid of Great Ormond Street. Lovely.

Heathrow Airport

Paddington? Keep him. Winnie the Pooh? Who? It’s all about Edward Bair and his lady friend as they arrive home from their holidays in Heathrow Airport’s new ad. Just as you’re falling in love with the cute pair, as Edward fumbles with his glasses in order to read the signs or knocks over a shortbread display in duty free (he is a laugh a minute) they are met with their grandkids and it turns out they’re regular old Nan and Grandad from Lewisham or somewhere just as mundane (probably) Adorable nonetheless.

WWF

The only ad in the list that isn’t trying to flog you anything, the World Wildlife Fund have released this one to encourage people to donate to the charity and try and protest one of the planet’s most majestic, but endangered, animals: the tiger. The clip sees a family nursing an injured tiger back to health, before releasing it back into the wild. Both poignant and unsettling that these beautiful creatures could become extinct in the very near future, it’s stunning.

TK Maxx

Probably the least sentimental of the bunch, TK Maxx has gone for comedy rather than schmaltz. The family in the ad are propped around the piano in a seemingly traditional scene, before launching into a rather-hilarious acapella rendition of Misirlou, aka the iconic Pulp Fiction song, gargling granny and all. A firm favourite of ours from the car boot sale of the high street.

Amazon

Our favourite of the whole bunch. In the current climate, where hatred is rife and hope sometimes stifled, this one from Amazon is particularly poignant. It shows the friendship between a Christian vicar and a Muslim Imam and how we’re all not as different as you might think. It went viral on premiering and rightly so. Let’s all show a little more compassion this Christmas.

Marks and Spencer

M&S has a reputation of really pulling it out of the stocking when it comes to their ad campaigns throughout the year. But Christmas always brings out the best in them. Remember Shirley Bassey slaying Get This Party Started with her gaggle of supermodel pals? Iconic. This year’s effort isn’t quite as memorable but it’s chic nonetheless and sees Mrs claus taking matters into her own hands #GirlPower.

John Lewis

The one everyone anticipates every year, impressing customers is always a tall order for John Lewis. They’ve given us the Bear and the Hare, the super-cute penguins, the snowman love story and the Man in the Moon, who quite frankly, was a bit creepy. This year, it’s all about an energetic boxer dog named Buster who just wants to get involved with his little girl owner’s new trampoline, all soundtracked by a beautiful cover of One Day I’ll Fly Away by Vaults. Who can resist a naughty puppy? SOMEONE WITH A HEART OF STONE, THAT’S WHO.

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What’s on?: Five things for you to do in the North East this weekend

Bring It On: The MusicalWhen? Sat Aug 12 – Sun 14 Where? Customs House, South Shields

bring it on

Based on the hit film, the Tony Award-nominated Bring It On: The Musical is a high-flying thrill ride where the cutthroat world of competitive cheerleading meets the fierce rivalries of high school politics and romance. The production features bright young talent from the Customs House summer school.

Tickets available from £7 by calling 0191 454 1234 or online here

NE1 Restaurant WeekWhen? Fri Aug 12 – Sun 14 Where? All over Newcastle

restaurant week

A whole host of restaurants have been taking part in NE1’s annual culinary celebration. Evoke, Broad Chare, Cabana (read our review here) and As You Like It are among 90 eateries offering fantastic offers on food and drink.

Click here for more information on Restaurant Week

Summer Design Exhibition in association with Northumbria University When? Sat Aug 13 Where? Sage Gateshead

design

Fresh from shows in London and New York, the regions best emerging designers showcase their work throughout the summer in our stunning building. Come and see the next generation of design talent.

Free event

The Ken Dodd Happiness ShowWhen? Sat Aug 13 – Sun Aug 14 Where? Whitley Bay Playhouse

ken dodd

Legendary comic and British icon Ken Dodd brings his famous Happiness Show to the region for two shows this weekend. You’ll be ‘absolutely discumknockerated’ (that’s Knotty Ash for ‘over the moon’) by a truly tattifelarius (fun-filled) evening of laughter and songs.

Tickets available from £20 by calling 0844 248 1588 or by clicking here 

Henri Matisse: The Last Works – When? Fri Aug 11 – Sun Sep 11 Where? Ustinov College, Durham University

matisse

Ustinov College and The Global Citizenship Programme are hosting an exhibition of lithograph prints by Henri Matisse from the 1958 publication of Verve magazine. A renowned painter, in 1953 Henri Matisse (1869-1954) began working with the printer Fernand Mourlot and the art publisher Tériade on a special edition of Verve to reproduce 40 of the artists infamous cut-outs as lithograph prints. The series became known as Verve: Dernières Oeuvres de Matisse 1950-54 (The Last Works of Matisse).

This is a free event. For more information call 0191 3345470 or click here

WATCH: Our list of the UK’s best 10 Eurovision entries

The UK may have a love-hate relationship with the rest of Europe when it comes to the Eurovision Song Contest (mainly we think they love to hate us) but we’ve certainly had our ups as well as downs. Sure, we haven’t won in a while. But, when we did win, we stormed it, usually with songs that have gone down in UK music history. Here, in no particular order, we look at our favourite winners (and those who didn’t quite get to the top) over the years.

Javine – Touch My Fire

She may have narrowly missed out on a place in Girls Aloud on Posters: The Rivals, but Javine Hylton makes our list with her Turkish-tinged entry to the 2005 contest. She brought dancers, she brought drummers, she brought the house down but sadly didn’t bring the title home; Touch My Fire came 22nd and only received a measly 22 points.

Jade Ewen – It’s My Time

What’s that? You need a hit written? Call Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Diane Warren. And that’s exactly what we did in 2009, resulting in Jade Ewen’s epic ballad, which became the UK’s most successful Eurovision entry since 2002 by coming fifth. Thanks to Lloyd-Webber (who also played piano for Ewen on the night) the song has more than a hint of musical theatre about it and Europe lapped it up. Bravo! (P.S If you fancy a chuckle, skip to 1.04 for an awkward collision between Ewen and an over-zealous violinist. Gold.)

Precious – Say It Again

Armed with one of the best key changes in 90s pop (say it, say it, say it, say it…Say it A-GAIN!) these five sassy girls placed 12th in 1999. Featuring a pre-Atomic Kitten Jenny Frost, Precious, and their song Say It Again, sadly didn’t win but will always have a special place in our pop nostalgia. Cue perfectly precise, 90s dance routine.

Molly – Children Of The Universe

Taking her rightful place on the list of UK Eurovision divas, Molly Smitten-Downes dropped the surname to attempt to take the top spot in Austria in 2014. One of the firm favourites before the final, she lost fair and square to one of the most famous entrants in the contest’s history, Conchita Wurst. In any other year, Molly would have stood a good chance of glory but Conchita came along at a special time in history and pipped her to the post.

Brotherhood of Mann – Save Your Kisses For Me

Dressed like the love child of Agnetha from Abba and John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, Brotherhood of Man’s performance was deliciously 70s. Makes perfect sense though, as it was way back in 1976 when the four-piece won the contest for us with Save Your Kisses from Me. The song hit Number One in the UK two weeks before the contest and remains the entry with the second most votes ever and the biggest-selling Eurovision winner ever.

Jessica Garlick – Come Back

In 2001, Jessica Garlick made it to the final 10 in Pop Idol. A year later, the Welsh beauty was representing her country in a very different contest. Come Back is the type of big ballad you would expect from a Pop Idol winner, never mind a runner-up and it certainly struck a chord with Europe; Garlick came joint-third.

Katrina and the Waves – Love Shine A Light

Cementing her place in Eurovision history, and a gig at Pride events across the world ever since, 1997 saw Katrina and her eponymous Waves storm to victory with Love Shine A Light, a, quite frankly, inspiring power ballad. It became the band’s biggest success since Walking On Sunshine 12 years earlier. The singer said about the song, “For Eurovision you need a song with a universal message, lighters in the air, Coca-Cola, heartwarming positive ‘all-unite’ message and I think that’s what ‘Love Shine a Light’ says and I’m just lucky that I’m the one that gets to sing it.” *Tears*

Gina G – Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit

The UK has always had a special relationship with the land of Oz, which is why in ’96 we called upon Aussie songstress Gina G to sing for us. Not only did she sing, though, she danced her arse off like it was the last rave on earth. The performance tapped into the 90s dance culture and I defy anyone to sit still when they hear the opening to the track, which gave Gina G a UK number one. Oh and try to stop yourself from singing a long. I DARE YOU.

Lulu – Boom Bang A Bang

One of the most successful female singers of the sixties, Lulu is one of a handful of Eurovision competitors to continue a successful career post-contest. Her winning entry to the 1969 competition, Boom Bang A Bang, is like the little pop song that could; a gutsy, powerhouse of a track from the pocket-sized singer. To younger audiences, it is probably better known as the title song of the BBC sitcom, Him & Her.

Bucks Fizz – Making Your Mind Up

Blonde highlights. Detachable skirts for the ladies. White trousers for the men. There’s few performances more stereotypically 80s than this one from Bucks Fizz. Arguably the greatest, and campest, entry from the UK in Eurovision history, Making Your Mind Up has a special place in the hearts of Eurovision fans. A win for us in 1981, a win for fashion 4EVA.

The Eurovision Song Contest will be on BBC1 on May 14

Music: From JT to MKS, we look at pop’s biggest comebacks and some ‘Go aways’

As Adele makes her long-anticipated comeback to the world of pop, Man About Toon looks at some other major music comebacks that took their stars from zero to hero and put them firmly back in the limelight, as well as some that, erm, didn’t.

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE

The year is 2002 and Justin Timberlake is the lead singer of boy band N*Sync and the former Mr Britney Spears. She hasn’t had any children, a sexual awakening or a meltdown and he is yet to establish himself as a bona fide global mega star. That is about to change with the release of his debut solo record, Justified. A heady mix of slick pop with R&B vibez, Justified saw production from Pharrell Williams and The Neptunes, as well as contributions by Rodney Jerkins, Janet Jackson and Timbaland. Justin was a boy no more. The double denim suits were no more. And last, but by no means least, the corn rows and jheri curl were NO MORE. With cropped hair and abs that wouldn’t quit, JT became a solo superstar, this album selling over 10 million copies worldwide and earning him a Grammy.

GREEN DAY

Billie Joe and friends were riding high in the 90s. Their 1997 single Good Riddance (Time of your life) was a pop punk anthem for the great unwashed, full of melancholy and restrained angst. However, music that followed fail to make an impact and many wrote the band off as a flash in the pan. After a few failed attempts to produce an album, the band dropped a little record called American Idiot in 2004. Then all hell broke loose. With the album’s title track, which hit number one on the Billboard Hot 200, Holiday and Wake Me Up When September Ends, the band said a big, loud hello to a whole new generation of fans. American Idiot became the unofficial anthem opposing the Iraq war and catapulted Green Day into the political sphere. A hit musical based on the album has also been produced.

ELVIS PRESLEY

It’s difficult to think of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll being anything but. The swinging 60s, however, were not Elvis Presley’s finest years. He was being overtaken in the charts by bands like The Beatles, who were leading a brand new generation in a different cultural direction than the King had in the previous decade. His newer songs were being laughed at by the industry and his films were not bringing in the same money as they previously had done. In 1968, Presley was approached with the idea of a TV special with the aim of getting him back on top. The show featured classic hits like Jailhouse Rock, Hound Dog and Love Me Tender, which he dedicated to his then-wife Priscilla. It became the highest-rated television special of the year and helped him reclaim his former chart glory, with a US Number One (Suspicious Minds) and his first UK Number One in years, The Wonder Of You. A live album of the recording was also produced. As the 40th anniversary of his death approaches, the music of Elvis is well worth revisiting. This particular clip from his NBC TV special shows not only his natural knack for charming an audience, but also his warm, all-American humour.

MKS

The Sugababes began life as a cutting edge pop girl band with bags of attitude, a stark contrast to their sugary name. The Sugababes ended life as a laughing stock. With a revolving door of members (six) and endless rumours of in-fighting, the newest line-up of the group unofficially called it a day in 2014. Original members Mutya Buena, Keisha Buchanan and Siobhan Dinghy decided to bury the hatchet and get the old band back together in 2013. The unoriginally-titled MKS released a very original tune in Flatline, which was critically lauded but commercially forgotten about. Literally it was as if the fans, who had very vocally campaigned for the band to get together, had forgot to buy the song. It limped to number 50 in the UK charts and disappointingly spelled the end for Sugababes 2.0 before they had even got out of nappies. Their much-hyped debut album has yet to be released and at this point, it looks certain to have been shelved.

EVERYONE FROM THE BIG REUNION

Clues in the title, guys: This was a reunion. And just like family reunions, it should only happen once a year, at a push. However, some of the acts taking part in the ITV2 show, which reunited old pop bands to prepare them for a one-off performance at the Hammersmith Apollo, tried to keep this reunion going. The first series included 5ive, B*Witched, Atomic Kitten and Liberty X, all of whom to be fair have gone on to enjoy a renaissance at charity dos and Pride events up and down the country. After becoming a ratings hit, ITV2 commissioned a second series, featuring such music heavyweights as 3T, Damage and Girl Thing. Needless to say, none of these acts seem to have replicated the success of their glory years. A TV guilty pleasure does not a musical comeback make.