Cheshire’s famous faces choose their lockdown comforts

Antonio Diaz/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Antonio Diaz/Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

From Bach and Beyoncé to baking and biking, the county’s famous faces reveal what’s making them smile during lockdown


Tim Firth, Frodsham-born playwright and screenwriter, whose works include Calendar Girls, The Band and Kinky Boots

“Someone tipped me off about the Berlin Philharmonic streaming loads of their back catalogue free for a month, so I’ve been plundering that, while also trying to find tracks that make me want to go running during my bouts of freedom. One plus side of lockdown is you unearth things long forgotten, both musically (Plastic Bertrand) and physically (an entire garden path buried under moss). On the downside, I’ve fallen victim to the nation’s desire for distraction. Denied access to her mates, my daughter asked me and my wife to help perform the dance to Beyoncé’s All The Single Ladies for a remote audition. She then tweeted it. Within 12 hours we were getting phone calls from the BBC and when it went to more than four million views we had to take it down.”

And when it’s all over… I will be checking all my friends who promised they had erased this from their hard drives have actually erased it from their hard drives.


Philip Rushforth, director of music, Chester Cathedral

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“I read recently more people are listening to classical music to lift their spirits during this time of lockdown, particularly in the morning. I often listen to Bach, Haydn and Mozart and I defy anyone not to be cheered up by the sheer energy, variety and spirit of their music. I also love listening to Jacques Loussier and his jazz interpretations of Bach, plus the wonderful soundscape of Elgar never fails to move me – I always feel better for having listened to his music. The famous Elgarian conductor, Sir Adrian Boult, was born in Chester and I am currently listening to his complete EMI recordings of Elgar’s music.”

And when it’s all over… I’ll welcome the choristers back to the cathedral again. We’re in the midst of recruiting boys aged 7-9 – contact us for more details. I’ll also make a dash for a beach on Anglesey with the family.


Mark Radcliffe, musician, broadcaster and writer, who lives in Knutsford

“I’ve been writing electronic music for the second album by my band UNE, and will be releasing a 20-verse, 16-minute lockdown ballad any day now. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Kate Bush and Jonathan Richman, learning to play Mah Jong and reading the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan novels. And strangely, barely drinking at all. When I do get out, I’ve cycled from Knutsford to my old stomping ground of Great Budworth. The peace and quiet and friendliness – it reminds me very much of the England I grew up in, if that’s not taking too much of a rose-tinted view.

On a serious note, and like everyone else, I’m humbled by the frontline workers, and I’d like to mention the Prison Service. My eldest daughter Holly works for them and they are in some ways the forgotten emergency service in all this. They are doing brave and sterling work and I would like to salute them.”

And when it’s all over… The first thing I’ll do when this is all over is push my mum’s wheelchair down the promenade and gaze across Morecambe Bay while my dog Arlo romps on the sands.


Chris Hawkins, DJ on BBC Radio 6 Music, who lives in Wilmslow

“The Charlatans’ lead singer Tim Burgess (from Northwich) has been hosting brilliant ‘Listening Parties’ on Twitter. Everyone plays an album at the same time and tweets along in real time. Some great bands have been involved and have been tweeting along with their memories of making the album. Blur, Suede and Mark Ronson have all done it, answering fans’ questions as their albums play.”

Here are my top five new albums of 2020:

Black Pumas, Black Pumas: Awesome, cool funk and soul.

Cornershop, England Is A Garden: Sharp, acerbic and super hooky.

Ed O’Brien, Earth: I introduced Ed on stage at the 6 Music Festival back in March, when he played music from this debut solo for the first time. It’s as amazing as you’d expect from a member

of Radiohead.

The Slow Readers Club, The Joy of the Return: I love this Manchester band. For me, they’re a mix of Depeche Mode and Joy Division. They’re an incredible live band. I can’t wait to get out and see them again.

The Big Moon, Walking Like We Do: A relatively new band who make a mix of thoughtful and fun, catchy indie pop.

And when it’s all over… I can’t wait for a cold pint and a gig.



Simon Wood, MasterChef champion, chef and owner of WOOD Restaurant Group, with restaurants in Chester and Manchester

“At the minute I’m cooking all sorts. I’m conscious there are a lot of people out there who can’t cook well or do not have a big repertoire of recipes or go-to dishes to draw on. I’ve developed a bunch of dishes and recipes and posted them on social media, from fake-a-ways such as southern fried chicken to wholesome family roasts, pasta sauces, tempura veg with easy aioli and my take on a Big Mac sauce. Together with my team I’ve also designed our Christmas festive tasting menu, with all the classic flavours… but without a turkey in sight.”

And when it’s all over… I’m dying to get back in the kitchen with the brigade at WOOD Manchester. It’s the best team we have ever had, and it’s taken a lot of change, challenges and some mistakes along the way to get to this point. We’re really pushing ourselves while keeping to our underlying brief of classic flavours with playful authenticity.


Aiden Byrne, chef and owner of The Church Green in Lymm, where he also lives with wife Sarah and their three children

“It has been my wife’s birthday and our anniversary while we have been locked down. We were supposed to be in Venice, but instead, our three children cooked up a three-course meal – prawn cocktail, big steaks, chips and cheesecake. As for everyday cooking, we’re rustling up dishes we don’t usually cook at home: pork pies, cakes and fresh bread.”

And when it’s all over… I’ll work bloody hard on getting The Church Green back to where it needs to be.



Jenny Powell, TV presenter and host of the Hot Mess Mums Club podcast, who lives in Bowdon

“Yoga practice every day has been my lifesaver. I’m aiming to nail a handstand by the end of lockdown. I also try and wake up before everyone else for some ‘me’ time and do absolutely nothing. As for social media, I have been trying to post more uplifting and positive messages (I had FaceTime drinks with Keith Lemon for my birthday). I also love chatting to all our guests on our Hot Mess Mums Club podcast and have built my home studio from cardboard and duvets.”

And when it’s all over… I’ll take my kids over to see their grandparents and hug them like never before. And then go to Ibiza.


Sarah Jayne Dunn, actress

“I’ll never take our garden for granted again – especially with a three-year-old. That and our surrounding Cheshire countryside. Our long walks and working out in our garage-converted gym has been a lifesaver.”

And when it’s all over… I’ll drive to my parents and give them the biggest squeeze; they’ve missed our little boy Stanley so much and I know he’s desperate to see them. And then we’ll make use of the babysitting allowance and go out for

dinner and drinks. I’m also sure there will be a massive works party – I can’t wait to catch up with everyone.



Clare Nasir, meteorologist, author and TV presenter

“I’m spending a lot of time in the kitchen and keep dipping into Keto-tarian by Dr Will Cole. It’s loaded with plant based-ketogenic recipes and the first half has a catalogue of health advice for numerous ailments. For non-fiction, I’d recommend The Book of Gutsy Women by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. Beautifully written with some inspiring stories, this book resonates with me, and as an international bestseller, I suspect I’m not the only one. One excerpt details the triumphs of Florence Nightingale and her pioneering work to make hand washing, ventilation, good food and clean sheets and bandages standard care in hospitals. Thank you Florence – I salute you. There’s a great equivalent for a younger reader: 101 Awesome Women Who Changed Our World, by Julia Adams. It’s wonderfully illustrated with fun bite-size chunks, from Anne Bonny (Irish pirate) to Lauren Fox (transgender activist) and Krystyna Skarbek (Winston Churchill’s number one spy) – a good conversational read for mum and daughter. As for fiction, try Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. It’s a classic and this novel captured my heart and challenged my wider moral platform… and Ishmael is not your typical philosopher. I’ll say no more.”

And when it’s all over... I’ll head to the beach with my family and my dog Buddy, breathe in the sea air and say thank goodness that it’s over.


Nisha Katona, barrister, author and founder of Mowgli Street Food

“I have a number of books on the go: one of them is The Diary of Samuel Pepys (unabridged). There is something about the simplicity of ancient life that realigns my perspective and my expectations. I’m also reading about Charles II when he was in exile, written by Charles Spencer. That’s a bit of an obsession of mine at the moment. And then there’s a History of London in the 1700s by Liza Picard because London is a huge part of my life. The book that I have just finished – a sobering and incredible read – was A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe. How have I found lockdown? I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I think the lockdown and this new world has taught us individually different things.”

And when it’s all over... The first thing I will do is visit my mother and take my dogs to play with her whippet.



Catherine Tyldesley, actress and Strictly Come Dancing star

“How am I keeping sane? Bike rides. Bike rides are everything to us. We bought bikes the week before lockdown, thank God, and do an hour each day along local woodland paths. We often get up very early when there’s no one around (Alfie wakes around 6am) and we take bacon butties for a little picnic halfway. Between that and baking cakes, I’ve been pretty content.”

And when it’s all over… I’ll be straight back into filming for ITV. My husband Tom is a professional photographer and he’s got lots of jobs pending so I think we’ll both be very busy. I miss being busy – I function at my best under pressure. In saying that, as soon as it’s safe to do so, we’ll be booking a holiday.


Julie Neville, food writer and author of Authentic Spanish Cooking and Superfoods: How to Make Them Work For You.

“It’s rare to have Phil (Neville) at home as he works away most of the time, so we’re really making the most of family time. We all train together every day and Phil does a bootcamp. As for cooking, I’m buying fruit, veg and meat from local businesses who deliver, and every evening we all watch a movie together.”

And when it’s all over… Without a doubt, we’ll visit our families. Facetime does help but there’s nothing like a hug from my mum.



Diane Modahl, one of Britain’s most accomplished middle-distance runners, who represented Britain at four Olympic Games.

“My fitness routine has actually stepped up a gear since lockdown – not necessarily in the sense I’m doing more but actually that I’m valuing each session, every run, every walk now more than ever. In a typical week, I alternate between an hour run on a Sunday (approx 12km), 10km on a Tuesday then circuits when I get back, and on a Thursday, I’ll do short intervals one-minute hard, one-minute recovery; and then hill sprints on a Saturday. I also stretch and do a short circuit after each session.”

And when it’s all over… Without hesitation, I’ll give my daughter and grandson (who is just six weeks old) the biggest hugs ever.


Dame Sarah Storey, British road and track racing cyclist, former swimmer, and most successful female British Paralympian of all time

“My own training has been a mix of using my static bike in the garage and also getting out during my allowable exercise slot. As a family we have mixed nature walks, with pretend sports days, assault courses, hallway shuttles, garden games and gymnastics.”

And when it’s all over: I haven’t really thought about what the first thing we’ll do is. My husband is a type-1 diabetic so our distancing has to continue until mid-June at the earliest, unless the advice for vulnerable people changes. Most likely the first thing for me will be finding a bike race.



Tricia Penrose, actress and presenter on Wirral Radio

“I’ve been doing lots of binge watching to keep my spirits up. My recommendations? I watched two series of the BBC drama The Split, which was excellent, and the first series of the American drama, Fargo. I’ve also been trying to keep

fit, watching lots of exercise videos on YouTube. And I’ve managed to master recording my radio show from home, too.”

And when it’s all over… I’ll be celebrating my 50th birthday, which was in April and quite a muted affair. I’ll also be taking a much-needed holiday. Somewhere hot.


Michelle Ackerley, TV presenter

I’m currently watching Home Before Dark on Apple TV. It’s about a young girl who is an aspiring journalist. She wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and sets out to try and solve a crime that happened in her dad’s hometown when he was her age. It’s the perfect mix of intrigue coupled with great characters. I’m also a massive Alan Partridge fan and have been watching all the old box sets which I’m finding completely hilarious. It’s a surefire way to put a smile on my face.

I’m also watching re-runs of Mr Motivator’s workouts from my new BBC show HealthCheck UK Live. At the end of the show he always does a brilliantly fun exercise routine that you can do indoors. He plays great music too so I basically end up just dancing around in my living room.

And when it’s all over: The first thing I’m going to do when this is all over is jump on a train and give my mum a massive hug. This is the longest amount of time we’ve ever been apart so I’m very much looking forward to seeing her and having a great night out together.