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Hugo Duncan: Generous stars all set to turn out in force for my very special annual Children in Need show

Hit family: Jimmy Buckley with daughter Claudia
Hit family: Jimmy Buckley with daughter Claudia
Firing on all cylinders: Cliona Hagan has a new single out and a new album on the way

By Hugo Duncan

It's all systems go for me and my BBC Radio Ulster production team as we gear up for our annual broadcast in front of a live audience at the Blackstaff Studios next Friday in tandem with Children In Need.

Many years have elapsed since this show was launched and, in that time, we have managed to raise a considerable sum for what we all feel is a very deserving charity.

When it comes to throwing their hat into the ring in support of worthy causes, country singers are traditionally never slow to respond enthusiastically.

And that's why I am particularly looking forward to having Jimmy Buckley, Michael English and Declan Nerney on my show next Friday.

Indeed, the list of well-known artists might not end there, as there will be one VIP guest who is certain to create a stir and that is Pudsey, along with all his helpers and their collection buckets.

I could hardly have asked for more high-profile guests, as Jimmy, Michael and Declan are busier than ever just now as they fulfil dancing and concert dates across the country.

Jimmy Buckley has been hosting his own concerts lately along with his daughter Claudia, Michael English is also dividing his time between concerts and dances and Declan Nerney is still as popular as ever on the dancing scene. I believe that performers such as these help to set the tone in terms of fundraising for Children In Need, but they will certainly not have the stage to themselves.

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We will also have people like Country Harmony, Boxcar Brian and Crawford Bell on the show for what promises to be two hours of music and craic from 1pm to 3pm.

While the guest musicians will undoubtedly add considerably to the status of the occasion, I have no doubt that we might just unearth one or two surprises from our audience.

In what has become an established practice, I go down through the audience and persuade a few people to sing or do a turn and I believe that we might be in for a treat this year.

In the past, we have unearthed some latent talent in this way and I expect it to be a case of same again next Friday.

It's the element of surprise that adds to the appeal.

And another element of the show that seems certain to generate an enthusiastic response is the opportunity to co-present a programme with me over the course of the two weeks following Children In Need.

From Monday to Thursday next week, myself, Joanne, Mary and Jackie, with the great BBC phone-in team, will be busily engaged in taking bids to co-present with me, with the money, of course, going to Children In Need.

I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of Ulster people in relation to Children In Need - you would almost think that they had been patiently waiting for the date to come round so that they could get parting with their cash.

Obviously, my guests will be doing their own party pieces, meaning that our audience and listeners will enjoy top-class entertainment.

I have no doubt that Jimmy Buckley will want to do his party piece of mimicking some well-known people - no one is safe when Jimmy is in this mode!

Last year, there was a huge response to our appeal and we hope that it will be a case of same again this time round.

Children In Need day does what it says on the tin - it collects money for children in need.

Friend's tragic death cast shadow over special night

Sometimes, grief and joy can be felt in a brief passage of time. This was my experience on Monday night.

When I arrived in Castleblayney to perform at a show in the Old Coach House, I was informed by a friend of mine that the brother of well-known local band manager Kevin McCooey had just passed away.

I knew Patsy McCooey - my links with the family extend over many decades.

Kevin managed Big Tom and The Mainliners, as well as other bands, and is still a prominent figure on the Irish country music scene.

While the news of Patsy's passing cast a shadow over the night, I have to say that I was very impressed with the manner in which the Old Coach House Show was staged.

Upwards of a dozen artists contributed to the occasion, underlining the depth of singing talent that the area boasts.

The Ryan Turner Band, from Donegal, provided excellent backing for the acts. They had their own brush with trauma recently when drummer John Doherty was taken suddenly ill while returning from a performance in the South.

John and I were reared near each other in Strabane and I was saddened to learn of his misfortune. He was detained in hospital in Limerick for a few days.

I am happy to say, though, that he is back, providing the beat that has helped to make the Ryan Turner Band such a popular act.

Meanwhile, Cliona Hagan is certainly keeping busy on all fronts.

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Firing on all cylinders: Cliona Hagan has a new single out and a new album on the way

Last weekend, she was participating in another Dancing With The Stars spectacular in Killarney.

Now, she is turning her attention to promoting her new single, Keepin' Cool Company, a lively number that is sure to set feet tapping.

The song is from her new album, which is just going on release and which looks as if it will give Cliona's career a further boost.

As a dancer and singer, she has rarely been out of the headlines this year and she seems destined to end 2019 on a high note.

Aughabrack Hall turning back the clock with 60th anniversary concert

Everything is set for a trip down memory lane in Aughabrack Hall, near Donemana, tomorrow night.

To mark the 60th anniversary of what was formerly a leading dance venue that pulled in all the big bands, a concert featuring country and folk music is being staged.

The hall, at one time an entertainment landmark in Tyrone, proved the meeting place for many couples who went on to get married.

The organisers of tomorrow night's show are urging many of these folk to come along and join in the reminiscing.

I recall the excitement that the dances generated. Even though the facilities may have been sparse compared to what they are nowadays, this did not stop people from having a good time.

I performed in Aughabrack Hall myself, and the craic and the hospitality were mighty in the days when people made their own fun.

The first band I played with there was The Dermot Dunne Ceilidh Band, when I was a teenager.

Later, I went on to perform with a few other groups at the venue.

I think it's great to see people preparing to recall what is a bygone era and bask in the memories they fondly cling to.

I know there are many halls similar to Aughabrack Hall dotting the Ulster countryside and harbouring a treasure trove of memories.

Carol Kerlin and others have put a lot of work into preparing tomorrow night's programme. I have no doubt their efforts will be rewarded with a feast of music and song.

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