Ed Sheeran, Sir Rod Stewart and Duran Duran have joined with the BBC’s local radio stations to thank key workers on the front line of the pandemic.
The musicians will feature across the broadcaster’s 39 regional services during a special week of programming leading up to New Year’s Eve.
The BBC said each special will be “packed with Christmas spirit” and feature a selection of the artist’s best music.
Chart-topping singer Sheeran spoke to intensive care nurse Kirstie Hill, from Leicester, who works at Leicester Royal Infirmary and during both lockdowns supported colleagues and patients by giving them hugs while wearing full PPE.
“When you’re head to toe in PPE, you can have contact with your colleagues and patients and bring a bit of humanisation to it all,” she told the musician.
Asked what he learned during lockdown, Sheeran said: “We had a baby during lockdown and I spent my time reading books and preparing for being a father.
“I learnt carpentry and built a cot out of cherrywood and when Lyra was born it was about learning how to be a good dad.
“The thing about being a first-time dad is that no-one knows what they’re doing at the beginning.
“I spoke to my friend who is a dad and he likened being a parent to ducks on a pond – so calm on top, but underneath, the legs are frantic.”
Practice nurse Dawn Varney, who works in a GP surgery in Sheffield, visited patients on Christmas day last year and Sheeran praised her efforts as “incredible”.
Ms Varney said: “I realised that some of my patients would be alone over Christmas.
“So I decided to collect presents and delivered them on Christmas morning.
“Some of them have no family and would have had no-one visiting, so I decided to make a small difference and visited them.”
Ms Varney also started a weekly singing group with some of her patients.
She asked Sheeran to play his guitar and sing with her on the track Lean On Me by Bill Withers, which became a favourite of the group.
Other key workers will put questions to veteran rocker Sir Rod and new wave band Duran Duran during the Christmas period.
Chris Burns, head of BBC Audio and Digital for England, said: “It’s been an extraordinary 18 months across local BBC Radio. This Christmas we hope to bring some joy to the nation’s ‘hero key workers’ for making a huge difference across England.
“We hope the star line-up across local BBC radio will go a long way in bringing joy and sparkle to the many who have helped their communities.”
The specials will air across Local BBC Radio at 9.00am from Monday December 27 to Friday December 31.