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CEO Linda Plant says a return to work is needed to ‘keep Britain great’

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ceo linda plant says a return to work is needed to keep britain great

She’s known as one of the tough-talking interviewers on The Apprentice, and CEO Linda Plant isn’t taking kindly to those who dream of working from home for the rest of their careers following lockdown.

Leeds-born Linda, who started her business life on a market stall, is encouraging people to eagerly return to the office when it’s safe to do so.

She insists that staff heading back to workplaces is what needs to happen to ‘keep Britain great’ – fearing that otherwise, ideas will go ‘dull and stale’ and small businesses will suffer from lack of footfall. 

Linda appeared on Good Morning Britain last month to argue that it’s an employer’s ‘right’ to decide how to ‘run a business efficiently’ as long as they create a safe environment – but viewers were divided over the issue.

Here, LINDA PLANT reveals why she believes employees should stop working from home… 

She's known as one of the tough-talking interviewers on The Apprentice, and CEO Linda Plant (pictured) isn't taking kindly to those who dream of working from home for the rest of their careers following lockdown

She’s known as one of the tough-talking interviewers on The Apprentice, and CEO Linda Plant (pictured) isn’t taking kindly to those who dream of working from home for the rest of their careers following lockdown

Let me tell you why I think people should get back to work, but before I do, let me just say this. I love our country and I’m proud to be British. I want to see Great Britain stay just that way. We need to thrive and survive through this horrendous pandemic.

Perhaps it’s me, but I don’t really understand references to ‘the new normal’. What is normal about life today? Wearing face masks wherever we go? Our freedom from life as we knew it, restricted to a massive extent. 

What’s normal about people who are not lucky enough to have a garden being locked up in their homes or flats for weeks on end, many with small children? What’s normal about being forced into an existence of loneliness and virtual isolation?

What would be normal is the consequential devastating and worrying effects on people’s mental health and the panic that evolves from that. Not really knowing if our children can go back to school. 

I’ve got a 93 year old mum who got an MBE for all her charity work. Believe me, I want to see her 94th birthday. So I’m not taking precautions for granted. I’m not saying that we should not accept these changes; they are important for our health and well being.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t see where the word ‘normal’ comes into any of this. I do agree we have to have some acceptance of a new normal for life to carry on, but I want to retrieve some of our original normal.

Keeping our nation safe and protecting our NHS is paramount, I fully concur with this.

Leeds-born Linda (pictured), who started her career on a market stall, is encouraging staff to eagerly return to the office when it's safe to do so

Leeds-born Linda (pictured), who started her career on a market stall, is encouraging staff to eagerly return to the office when it’s safe to do so

Getting people back to the workplace needs careful planning and good communication, relieving you’re employees from as much anxiety as possible by taking all the necessary safety measures.

But let me get back to why I really want to see people get back to the workplace.

As I said I love our country. I’ve had a fairly long journey. I was born in a time when it was the norm to play out in the street, when we had communities and many, many small traders. It’s no secret that my business life started on a market stall and it’s something I’m very proud of. Yes, trading is something I do understand, that’s why I’m so positive about people getting back to the workplace.

I’m a Northern girl, born in Leeds, so for me it’s important not to forget about all the other cities that Great Britain is made up of. Not everyone lives in Zone 1 or works in the City. Not everyone in Britain commutes 45 minutes on the underground, spending small fortunes getting into the office. What about our cities, towns and villages outside our capital?

Back to why I want to see people back in the workplace. Don’t get me wrong I’m not against progress, I’m absolutely for it. But how will Britain be able to thrive and survive? That’s our concern.

I’ve always been a believer in communication. Here are the reasons why we need to return to work.

When you are in your workplace, you are not isolated, you can bounce ideas off each other, communication and collaboration encourages creativity and ideas. Ideas need to be shared and then they can evolve into better ideas. Isolation does not promote the same enthusiasm as personal contact; it can make us dull and stale. There is no healthy competition or productive banter working from home.

Linda (pictured) insists that staff heading back to workplaces is what needs to happen to 'keep Britain great'

Linda (pictured) insists that staff heading back to workplaces is what needs to happen to ‘keep Britain great’

So many important relationships are formed in and from the workplace. I like people and I like meeting people. There is something integral and honest about human face to face communication that in my opinion can never be replaced by talking into a screen.

People need change – too much routine can be so detrimental on mental health. The social aspect too of a workplace environment, perhaps just going for that drink or dinner after work is not only stimulating, but out of social conversations relationships and ideas are forged. There are so many reasons to get back to the workplace and so many businesses that just cannot be run from home.

Don’t get me wrong there are some people who have always worked from home and there are some people who will continue to work from home; I do understand this.

But you know what my big worry is? It’s the trickle down effect; it’s the knock on effect for our SMEs. Small and medium business enterprises are vital to our economy. These are businesses which usually employ under 250 people. In 2019 SME’s represented 60 per cent of our employment, around 16million people.

These businesses need support; they are vital to our economy; we need them and we rely on them and we need to get them going. They need our support to survive and maintain employment. 

Cities, towns, village shops need people, need customers. When people see other people shopping and purchasing it’s encouraging; we must support our coffee shops and small and medium traders of all varieties. 

How will they survive if we don’t get people back to the workplace? How will Britain survive if unemployment is massive? Our SME’s need us! 

We need to keep Britain great.

Linda has recently founded the Linda Plant Business Academy to provide help, advice and support for those in business or embarking on a new business during turbulent times. Details on her business courses can be found at www.lindaplant.com

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Britain’s Got Talent contestant who worked as Superdrug security guard wins £11,000 sexism payout

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britains got talent contestant who worked as superdrug security guard wins 11000 sexism payout

A Britain’s Got Talent contestant has won almost £11,000 in a sexism claim after her ‘patronising’ boss kept calling her ‘honey’. 

Peta Jessemey, 43, a security guard who worked at Superdrug stores, was ‘bullied and belittled’ by manager Rod Tolmie, who singled her out because of her gender. 

Mr Tolmie, a former Royal Military Police Officer, reduced her hours ‘because she was a woman’ and repeatedly talked over because he ‘had less regard to what women had to say’. 

A judge criticised Mr Tolmie for having a ‘negative attitude’ towards female security officers and believing that they were more ‘vulnerable’ than male guards. 

An employment tribunal heard that when Miss Jessemey – a singer who made it to the live auditions in the hit ITV show in 2011 – was assaulted at work, he made a ‘disdainful’ comment about female security guards. 

Peta Jessemey (pictured), 43, a security guard who worked at Superdrug stores, was 'bullied and belittled' by manager Rod Tolmie, who singled her out because of her gender

Peta Jessemey (pictured), 43, a security guard who worked at Superdrug stores, was ‘bullied and belittled’ by manager Rod Tolmie, who singled her out because of her gender

Mr Tolmie repeatedly asked her if she thought a male guard would be better suited. 

He even made visits to stores she worked at to try to convince their managers that they would be better off without her. 

Mr Tolmie ‘demeaned and degraded’ her by calling her ‘honey’ – but tried to blame it being ‘from Northern Ireland and ex-military police’. 

Miss Jessemey was forced to resign from the job she loved and launched legal action against Lodge Services, a security firm which provides guards to retailers including Superdrug. 

She has now won £10,906 after a judge ruled she was harassed and discriminated against on grounds of sex. 

She worked at Superdrug stores in Colchester and Clacton, both Essex, and Ipswich, Suffolk, from 2012 to 2014, while Mr Tolmie was her area manager and in charge of 100 staff.

Miss Jessemey no longer works for Lodge Services and has a different job as a security officer.  

At the tribunal in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, Miss Jessemey claimed he blocked her having a pay rise and threatened her with police action when she asked about travel pay.  

A tribunal report outlined some of the alleged incidents she experienced. It said: ‘On January 10, 2013, Miss Jessemey was assaulted at work.

‘Mr Tolmie made a public comment along the lines of ‘another female officer was assaulted recently’.

‘Miss Jessemey says and we accept, that Mr Tolmie was disdainful when saying this, as if her gender was therefore significant. Mr Tolmie asked Miss Jessemey if a male guard would be better suited to the store in question.

‘On June 6, 2014, Miss Jessemey was assaulted again at work. This resulted in her finishing work very late, attending the police station the following morning and therefore being late to start her shift.

‘Mr Tolmie was angry with her for being late. Miss Jessemey was not paid in full for her late hours and her time at the police station. She worked three hours overtime and was only paid for one hour.’

It added: ‘[Miss Jessemey] had been informed by clients that Mr Tolmie had been visiting stores without listing his attendance by signing in and out, so that his attendance could not be traced.

‘He had endeavoured during these visits to convince the staff in those stores that they would be better off without her.’

Miss Jessemey was forced to resign from the job she loved and launched legal action against Lodge Services, a security firm which provides guards to retailers including Superdrug (file photo)

Miss Jessemey was forced to resign from the job she loved and launched legal action against Lodge Services, a security firm which provides guards to retailers including Superdrug (file photo)

During a performance review, it was claimed Mr Tolmie said she ‘wasn’t worth much to him and so would not be getting an increase in pay; told her she would not be any good at training and that he would not bother wasting his money with her on CCTV or First Aid training’.  

Employment Judge Martin Warren said: ‘Mr Tolmie’s behaviour towards her could accurately be described as bullying and belittling.

‘Addressing women as ‘honey’ is patronising, demeaning and degrading. Mr Tolmie did not address men as ‘honey’. 

‘All the instances of talking over others in the evidence, albeit much of that hearsay, are in relation to conversations with women.

‘Mr Tolmie’s tendency was to talk over women and have less regard to what they had to say.

‘Repeatedly questioning whether a male security guard is to be preferred is related to gender.

‘It was clear from Mr Tolmie’s evidence, cutting through some of his very long and rambling answers, that his attitude was that female security officers, be they store detectives or security guards, were more vulnerable than their male colleagues.’

The judge added: ‘Mr Tolmie’s explanation for using the term ‘honey’ is that he is from Northern Ireland and ex-military police.

‘Neither of those are an excuse, or an acceptable one.

‘Mr Tolmie’s explanation for querying whether or not a male security guard would be better was rambling and evasive. It left us with the impression that he had a negative attitude toward women working in security.’

Miss Jessemey, who lives near Ipswich and is now a security officer, won claims of unfair dismissal, harassment and direct sex discrimination against Lodge Services.

Speaking after the tribunal, Miss Jessemey, who still sings, told how she faced multiple setbacks with the tribunal process but finally won.

She also said: ‘I am glad that I won. I know I was not the only person to be treated this way and felt that I had to speak out.’

Superdrug told MailOnline in a statement: ‘We are aware of the recent settlement between the external security provider, Lodge Services, and a security guard who was employed by this third party supplier.

‘Superdrug has not worked with Lodge services since 2016.’ 

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Scientists question 10pm closing time because ‘the virus doesn’t understand the clock’

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Top scientists today cast doubt over Boris Johnson‘s 10pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants to control coronavirus, warning the drastic move is unlikely to curb the spread of the disease.

One epidemiologist argued coronavirus ‘doesn’t understand the clock’, questioning why ministers have ordered all hospitality businesses to shut at that time. 

And other infectious disease experts fear the curfew will be ineffective because it runs the risk of ‘compressing activity’. People would all leave at the same time and visits may end up being concentrated into a shorter period, making places busier, instead of being staggered over hours. 

Professor Linda Bauld, a public health expert at the University of Edinburgh, warned a lack of ‘carrots’ in the policy risks ‘rising levels of non-compliance’ from venues and ‘further declines in public support for the UK government’.

But some academics praised Number 10 for imposing the curfew, saying it is needed to avoid ‘greater spread of the virus’ and to simultaneously protect businesses and the economy.

They argued shutting bars simply keeps people less drunk, meaning they are sober enough to remember to put on a face covering on the way or home or stick to other social distancing measures.

The Prime Minister’s curfew — announced in the Commons today — sparked an immediate industry backlash. The UK Hospitality group said it was ‘another crushing blow’ as many businesses were just treading water following the shutdown in March, while the Campaign for Pubs called for financial support for the sector.

Greg Mulholland, the group’s campaign director, said: ‘As it is, most pubs were only getting back on their feet and many were not yet trading profitably and this latest news will make it impossible for some publicans to carry on.’

Some scientists argue the 10pm curfew does not go far enough, while others congratulated the Government for their 'clear' messaging. Pictured is an evening out in Soho

Some scientists argue the 10pm curfew does not go far enough, while others congratulated the Government for their ‘clear’ messaging. Pictured is an evening out in Soho 

Public Health England data reveals that of the 729 outbreaks in the week to September 13, only five per cent occurred in food outlets such as restaurants and pubs

Public Health England data reveals that of the 729 outbreaks in the week to September 13, only five per cent occurred in food outlets such as restaurants and pubs

DO CURFEWS WORK AT SLOWING THE SPREAD OF THE VIRUS?

From Thursday evening, bars, pubs and restaurants across England will be required to close from 10pm every night. 

The move is an ‘intermediate’ step in the fight against the virus, and follows in the steps of Thailand.

When Thailand imposed a 10pm to 4am curfew on April 3 it was counting just over 100 cases of coronavirus a day. By the time the curfew was removed on June 15 this number had dropped into the low tens.

Although the country’s success has been attributed to the curfew, some scientists dispute this, saying that the lockdown and other social measures in force at the time had a greater impact.

The UK is hoping that its curfew may help it mirror the success of the South-east Asian nation.

Linda Bauld, professor of public health at Edinburgh University, told HuffPost curfews are used because ‘we know that night time economy generally is risky’.

‘There have been outbreaks linked to nightclubs and to bars and restaurants,’ she said. ‘We’ve known this for months.’

‘The longer people are in these venues, the more they probably let their guard down and the mix of social distancing and alcohol is not a good one despite the best efforts of publicans and venue owners.’

Behavioural expert Professor Susan Michie, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said she thought the 10pm time had been chosen to balance the needs of the night-time economy with the need to control the virus.  

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Questioning the Government’s decision to impose a 10pm curfew, Dr Michael Head, a global health expert at the University of Southampton, said he expects it to have ‘little or no impact’ on the spread of coronavirus.

‘A far better approach would be to shut all pubs and restaurants, and properly compensate businesses and employees for the loss of income,’ he said.

‘This would ensure that public health is prioritised, and business and staff are in a stronger economic position when they are allowed to resume.’ 

Professor Paul Hunter, infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, said it is ‘doubtful’ the 10pm curfew and other measures – including table-only service and working from home – will be sufficient to prevent a second wave.

‘It is doubtful that measures currently being enacted will be sufficient to reduce the R value to below one much before this side of Christmas,’ he said. 

‘Given that it is now almost certain we will see big increases in the epidemic over the next two to three months we really need to be focusing on how better to identify, protect and support our more vulnerable citizens.

‘This has been a big omission in the public debate over recent weeks and it is disappointing that such an important issue was not discussed in the PM’s speech.’  

Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the school of medicine at the University of Leeds, said he was ‘less convinced’ the curfew would be effective as it ‘runs the risk of compressing activity and having people leave at a single time in large numbers’. 

‘The concern is that an unfavourable public response to such measures will erode compliance on the fundamental issues of maintaining space and ventilation, wearing face coverings indoors and in crowded areas, and maintaining good hand hygiene,’ he said. 

Voicing her opposition, Professor Bauld, said the Government’s new restrictions are ‘not as stringent as might have been expected’.

‘Fines will rise for individuals and businesses that don’t comply,’ she said. ‘The police will be tasked with enforcement and it was mentioned that the military could be called on if needed.

‘But financial support for those required to self-isolate will be limited and there are still no signs that furlough will be extended, despite the inevitable economic consequences of ongoing restrictions.

‘Urgent attention is needed regarding support packages if these new measures are to succeed.’

The measures have been brought in because alcohol makes people less risk-averse, one scientist said. Pictured are a group of young men in Sheffield on Sunday night

The measures have been brought in because alcohol makes people less risk-averse, one scientist said. Pictured are a group of young men in Sheffield on Sunday night

RESTRICTION WILL LEAD TO BOOM IN HOUSE PARTIES, INDUSTRY WARNS 

Hospitality bosses warned that a 10pm curfew introduced today for pubs would exacerbate lockdown ‘bad behaviour’ with no track and trace at house parties.

The curfew, which will begin on Friday in Scotland and from Thursday in England, was introduced in a bid to stop coronavirus from spreading.

But hospitality bosses north of the border warned it would be a death knell for many businesses – and would just exacerbate house parties with no regulation.

Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG), said: ‘We are now staring into an abyss.

‘There is a real concern that the hospitality industry is being singled out for restrictions with very little evidence to support a link to coronavirus transmission.

‘We are already seeing an explosion of house parties and closing bars and restaurants at 10pm will only increase this.’ 

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But other scientists lined up to congratulate the Prime Minister on his ‘very clearly’ messaging that, they argued, will help stop the disease in its tracks. 

Backing the measures Dr Jennifer Cole, biological anthropologist at Royal Holloway University, said that one of the biggest influences over people observing social distancing, and hence controlling the spread of the virus, was alcohol.

‘The more drunk you are, the less inhibited and less risk-averse you are,’ she said.

‘Closing the bars and restaurants at 10pm simply keeps people more sober. It gives them plenty of time for a meal, or a quick drink with friends after work, but means they are likely to be sober enough to remember to put on a face-covering on the train or bus home, and to be careful around elderly relatives when they get home.

‘It gives restaurant and bar staff time to give the venue a thorough clean when the last customers have left, without having to work unreasonably late. This means that a lot of the risk is reduced.’ 

Dr Rachel McCloy, associate professor in applied behavioural science at the University of Reading, added that the Government appears to be taking a more ‘calculated and careful’ approach with its restrictions.

‘What we learnt from how people responded to the last lockdown appears to have been heeded,’ she said.

‘Last time, the panic buying and over-reaction by some people frightened by the situation was matched by apathy and distrust by others. The complexity of the range of rules that followed as lockdown was relaxed gave the impression that the Government didn’t really know what was going on or how best to respond.

‘(But) now, some of this messaging has been simplified and illogical loopholes have been closed – for example, shoppers having to wear masks when they were not compulsory for retail staff. 

‘The “Rule of Six” is also a simplification, although it has suffered in its application to some situations.’

Public Health England data reveals that of the 729 outbreaks in the week to September 13, only five per cent occurred in food outlets such as restaurants and pubs – 45 per cent were in care homes, 21 per cent in schools and 18 per cent in places of work.

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The Prime Minister this afternoon announced a tightening of restrictions for pubs and restaurants which will last six months

Exasperated hospitality sector bosses are crying out for clarity over whether the 10pm curfew is the point they must clear the premises (Pictured: Soho in London last night)

Exasperated hospitality sector bosses are crying out for clarity over whether the 10pm curfew is the point they must clear the premises (Pictured: Soho in London last night)

Hospitality bosses have accused ministers of unfairly singling them out for restrictions, and warned a curfew will lead to a boom in illegal house parties where the virus is more likely to spread.

Wetherspoons founder Tim Martin said: ‘The curfew doesn’t even stand up to five minutes consideration by an intelligent person because if you look at the stats… there are relatively few transfers of infections in pubs.’

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality, urged the Government to heed its own statistics because the curfew could take a sledgehammer to the industry which is already ‘on its knees’.

She said this morning: ‘People will think it’s not that significant, but it really will have a big economic impact on jobs, not just on pubs, but also for cafes and restaurants.’

Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG), said: ‘We are now staring into an abyss.

‘There is a real concern that the hospitality industry is being singled out for restrictions with very little evidence to support a link to coronavirus transmission.

‘We are already seeing an explosion of house parties and closing bars and restaurants at 10pm will only increase this.’

The rule change will apply on Thursday in England and on Friday in Scotland, almost two weeks after the ‘Rule of Six’ came in to force. 

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Manchester bombing’s youngest victim’s mother tells inquiry of her grief

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The mother of the youngest victim of the Manchester Arena bombing has described how she came round from a coma to find her daughter was dead.

Lisa Roussos was with her daughters Saffie-Rose, eight, and Ashlee Bromwich at the Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017.

Her husband Andrew Roussos addressed the inquiry, pleading for lessons to be learned from his daughter’s death saying: ‘Saffie’s life is not a practice exercise for the security service and emergency services.’ 

Mrs Roussos and Ashlee were rushed to hospital and lost contact with Saffie who was carried to ambulances by members of the public.

Lisa Roussos was with her daughters Saffie-Rose (left), eight, and Ashlee Bromwich (right) at the Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017.

Lisa Roussos was with her daughters Saffie-Rose (left), eight, and Ashlee Bromwich (right) at the Ariana Grande concert on May 22, 2017.

Mrs Roussos told the inquiry how her husband was at her bedside when she regained consciousness: ‘The day I woke up from a coma, Andrew held my hand and looked up at me. I instantly knew, Saffie has gone hasn’t she? And he replied, ‘yes’.

‘I cried and begged and pleaded with him to let me die too. I can’t look after her. I did die a little that day.’

She continued for the sake of her other children but told the inquiry in a video-recorded message: ‘I am so desperate to hold her close and smell her hair and to feel her cheek on mine. My precious baby girl.’

Her mother described Saffie as ‘gentle and shy’ but added: ‘At the same time she loved to be around people, especially friends and family.

Mrs Roussos (pictured with her daughter Saffie) and Ashlee were rushed to hospital and lost contact with Saffie who was carried to ambulances by members of the public

Mrs Roussos (pictured with her daughter Saffie) and Ashlee were rushed to hospital and lost contact with Saffie who was carried to ambulances by members of the public

‘She was a very helpful and pleasing little girl who loved to dance and make people laugh.

‘As she grew up, she became more confident and outgoing. She remained gentle and helpful, always giving us little cuddles and leaving notes of ‘I love you’ everywhere.’

Saffie looked up to her big sister Ashlee and absolutely adored Xander, crying all the way home after dropping him off for his first sleep over.

‘She could and would talk to people and have their complete attention all the time being her gentle, funny self,’ her mother said.

Armed officers at the scene of the Manchester Arena bombing. Mrs Roussos described her daughter's infectious smile and said she would 'share it often'

Armed officers at the scene of the Manchester Arena bombing. Mrs Roussos described her daughter’s infectious smile and said she would ‘share it often’ 

‘She had this amazing magnetic personality that drew people to her of all ages. I would just watch in wonder. She was special and I understood this the moment she was born.’

Mrs Roussos described her daughter’s infectious smile and said she would ‘share it often’.

‘You had to meet her to know who she was,’ her mother added. ‘She was eight years old but felt empathy and pain for others. She was clever and imaginative, bright and beautiful, funny and kind.

‘She was enthusiastic about everything. She lit up any room, she was so precious.’

Her mother described Saffie as a very energetic young girl who loved dancing and gymnastics and was constantly doing different routines.

Hashem Abedi, convicted of murder in the Manchester bombing, is seen in this police mugshot released by the Greater Manchester Police

Hashem Abedi, convicted of murder in the Manchester bombing, is seen in this police mugshot released by the Greater Manchester Police

The family talked of her backflips off the couch and how she liked climbing the lamppost outside the chip shop in Leyland and trying to break her record on her pogo stick.

‘She didn’t like people being sad and would do the best to make everyone laugh,’ her mother added.

‘She was a pure gentle beautiful soul who touched people’s hearts with her kindness and infected people with her smile

Schoolgirl, 15, killed in the Manchester Arena bombing dreamed of being a West End singer or a music teacher, inquiry is told

A 15-year-old girl killed in the Manchester Arena bombing dreamed of becoming a singer in the West End or a music teacher, the inquiry into the May 2017 attack was told.

Olivia Campbell-Hardy, from Bury, Greater Manchester, loved music and had ‘so much to give’, her mother Charlotte Hodgson told the hearing.

Known to Mrs Hodgson as Ollie, she said her daughter ‘put 100 per cent into everything she did but she always did it with a smile on her face’.

Steve Goodman, Olivia Campbell-Hardy's grandfather, shows a pendant with her face

Steve Goodman, Olivia Campbell-Hardy’s grandfather, shows a pendant with her face

Mrs Hodgson, told the inquiry about a holiday to Haven in Blackpool when Olivia was five and she entered the talent competition with her sister and a friend’s daughter. They performed a dance routine to the Tiger Club song.

‘Ollie was dead proud of herself for getting up on stage. She always said she hated being the centre of attention but I could see how much she enjoyed the limelight,’ her mother said.

In a video message played during the commemorative stage of the inquiry for the 22 victims, Mrs Hodgson said: ‘Ollie were a funny kid, she would always do things purposely to make people laugh.

‘Ollie didn’t walk into a room, she made an entrance. The door would fling open, she would stand at the doorway and she would shout ‘Bonjour!’.

‘One thing Ollie was serious about was her music and singing. That was her life. If anyone had taken that away from her, her life would have been over.

‘Music or make-up or her bed. Those were her favourite things.’

The inquiry was played two of her songs, which showed her talent, ‘On my own’ from Les Miserables and ‘There you’ll be’ by Faith Hill. 

‘Despite her love of make-up, Ollie was not a girly girl. She loved sport and she was basically a tomboy in make-up,’ her mother added.

‘Ollie had really wanted to make music her career, either as a singer on the West End or as a music teacher. It always had to be about music.

‘She told me she was going to be famous one day and get a house in New York and she said she wanted me to have a big house and a cleaner and someone to do my ironing so I could have a break.

‘Ollie had so much to give. She had her life ahead of her. With her determination she would have accomplished whatever she set out to achieve.

‘She would put 100 per cent into everything she did but she always did it with a smile on her face.’

Mrs Hodgson said her daughter made an impact on everyone she met.

She said: ‘Since Ollie’s gone the laughter has left. I tell a story and expect to hear her laugh but there is just silence. I am never going to hear her laugh again.’

She explained how her daughter ‘hated’ odd numbers and would turn the television volume to a 10 if it was on 11.

She said: ‘When she died she was given a body number, she was number five. 

‘She would have hated that, being an odd number.

‘Whoever gave her that number is surely being haunted by her.

‘Olivia is not a number. To the world she is one of the 22 angels. Not to me, she is Ollie.

‘She will never just be a number.’ 

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‘She would smile at strangers and they would smile back. The world was a joyous and happy place for Saffie with so much to offer and in turn she had so much to offer the world.

‘To say our lives are completely devastated is an understatement. Saffie completed our family.’

Saffie’s father, Andrew Roussos, was present in the hearing room and addressed the chairman, Sir John Saunders, saying: ‘With the greatest respect what we are all going through, the failures we are all listening to and the excuses we will all sit through need to stop. Enough is enough.

‘If at present, in 2020, we are still learning lessons then nothing will ever change. The biggest lesson and wake-up call should have been 7/7 and 9/11.

‘Saffie’s life is not a practice exercise for the security service and emergency services.’

Andrew told the inquiry that his daughter was a ‘free spirit’ and her parents would ‘watch in amazement and admiration at how someone at eight years old had so much charisma and confidence to become whatever she wants to be.’

‘How can I describe perfection?’ he added. ‘How do you describe heart melting love? 

‘How can I explain those big brown eyes? How can I stand here and explain to you all in words what a beautiful little girl she is?

‘It’s like the best artists got together and drew her from top to toe, with a heart so pure, so innocent, she melted people hearts.’

He said he still spoke of her in the present tense, adding: ‘I can’t accept I am standing here doing this without Saffie, it’s like having an out of body experience, it can’t be real. I am never going to accept life without Saffie.

‘She is my star, my admiration, my perfect daughter. Going out with Saffie was like magic. She captured people by just looking at them and smiling.’

Ariana Grande was Saffie’s favourite singer and her favourite song was One Last Time, her best friend told the inquiry in another video message.

Her friend, now aged 11, described how she took Saffie to her first school disco: ‘She loved it at the disco. We gave each other facial tattoos with red Sharpy [pens] and it never came off so we went to the school disco with big red blotches on our face.’

‘When she’s older I reckoned she would be a famous dancer, I don’t know why, I could just tell.

‘I miss her so, so much. Words can’t describe it. It’s not a normal day without Saffie.

A normal day with Saffie would be crazy but now a normal day for us is just calm and I don’t like it, I really don’t.

‘I have dreams of Saffie waiting for me at the school gate and I wake up and it isn’t real. I feel torn, I feel broken, and I just miss her so, so much.’  

The child’s mother said her daughter wished she had gone to the Arena with Saffie and could have got in the way and pushed her clear of the blast.

She added: ‘We do still go to concerts. (The girl) loves concerts, Saffie loved concerts. Why should a child not go to a concert? We’re not going to stop doing anything, nor would have Saff. Saff would have kept going, of course she would have … she would have made the best, THE best entertainer in the whole entire world. She loved to sing, she loved to dance.’ 

Saffie’s sister Ashlee Bromwich, said: ‘She would always be dancing, singing, spinning, doing acrobats. She was a born entertainer and I knew that for the rest of her life she would live to put a smile on everybody’s face, even a stranger.

‘Our family will never be the same. Each and everyone of us remains a spare part watching the world pass us by. I have lost the ability to feel such emotions other than grief and anger. It’s like falling down a never-ending empty pit of sadness.

‘The things that once brought us joy don’t. How can we feel joy in our lives without Saffie? She was our joy.

‘Saffie didn’t know the horrors of this world. A child should be allowed to live an innocent life. At eight years old she should have only known of love and happiness and what she could only dream to become one day. She should never have had to experience that.’

Chris Upton, the headteacher of Saffie’s school, Tarleton Community Primary School, spoke of the schoolgirl’s excitement when she told her classmates she was given a ticket to see her idol in concert for Christmas.

He said: ‘It may sound like a cliche but the world really was her oyster.’ 

The commemorative part of the hearings will conclude this week.

The public inquiry will examine the background to the attack by suicide bomber Salman Abedi and the response of the emergency services and will conclude next spring. 

After-school club manager’s death in Manchester Arena attack left the children she cared for ‘bewildered’ 

The death of an after-school club manager in the Manchester Arena attack left the children she cared for ‘bewildered’.

Mother-of-two Wendy Fawell, 50, from Otley, West Yorkshire, was a ‘nice and caring person’ who loved her job and ‘tried to mother everyone’, the public inquiry into the May 2017 bombings was told.

She was waiting to collect her daughter in the foyer of the Arena at the time of the explosion at the end of the Ariane Grande concert.

In a pen portrait of her life, her family said the huge Elvis Presley fan was ‘the life and soul of the party who had so much to live for’.

Brought up in Rawdon, Leeds, Mrs Fawell first worked with children at a pre-school nursery in Yeadon, went on to be a dinner lady and later a manager at Eye Spy out-of-school club in Guiseley, where she looked after older children.

Her family said: ‘She loved her job, she loved children and, as she was fun to be around, children warmed to her and enjoyed spending time with her.

‘Her death left all the children she cared for bewildered.

‘Wendy has always been a fun person, the life and soul of the party. She loved socialising and she loved her role of being a mum to Adam and Charlotte. She tried to mother everyone. She was just a nice and caring person that way.

‘She loved being outside and walking the dog. She was a true sun worshipper. If the sun was out then mum was out. 

‘She enjoyed reading and spending time with her family and friends. She had so much to live for and she gave so much of herself. She was the one that could be relied on.

‘How can anyone put into words the devastation of losing a loving daughter, mother and friend in such tragic, insane circumstances? The loss is indescribable. We have never felt such grief.

‘All this has left us all totally heartbroken and our lives will never be the same. Every day little things bring home the fact that she is no longer with us. This we will have to live with for the rest of our lives.’

Mrs Fawell’s father Michael, who died 11 months after his daughter, never got over her death, the hearing in Manchester was told.

Her mother, Julia, said: ‘It was double heartache for me when I lost Michael. I like to think he is with her now doing what he always did – looking after her.’ 

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