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Uplifting adverts, director disqualifications and Tony Morris: The 10 best-read stories on Prolific North in 2020


2020 has been an unforgettable year, for mostly the wrong reasons.

But it’s been another busy year at Prolific North as we have continued to document the highs and lows – and the in-betweens – as our community has done what it can to navigate unprecedentally troubled waters.

As has become tradition at the end of the year, we’ve taken a look back at some of the stories that most grabbed your attention.

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10. VST Enterprises signs deal to supply 50m digital health passports

As conversations continued in earnest about how to keep the most people safe around the world from the pandemic, there was also a lot of talk about safely returning to some semblance of normality. In May, Manchester’s VST Enterprises struck a deal to help supply 50 million COVI-PASS Digital Health Passports to more than 15 countries.

The Digital Health Passport, which integrated VSTE’s VCode and VPlatform, could be used as a gateway for public services, businesses and individuals to ensure a safe return to work, life, and travel.

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9. Leeds brothers sing Oasis in heartwarming Co-op Christmas ad

Perhaps the article with the year’s fastest growth in readership – entering the Top 10 having only been published in December – we showed the newest Co-op Christmas ad, an uplifting piece created by Lucky Generals featuring 12-year-old Austin and his six-year-old brother, Rocco, singing Oasis’s Round Are Way outside their local Co-op.

The real-life brothers from Leeds sing to raise the spirits of their community during COVID, in the ad which launched at the beginning of December and has already captured the hearts of many from the North. “I love [the ad’s] simple and easy portrayal of how special moments can happen when family, community and goodwill come together”, said the supermarket’s Customer Director.

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8. BBC presenters salaries revealed

Coming round once again, in September the BBC published the salaries of all its on-air stars earning more than £150,000.

It demonstrated that many women at the corporation had had their pay increased and ended up reaching the top 10, while Zoe Ball’s salary had jumped a staggering £1 million for her show on BBC Radio 2. On the same day, it was announced that Gary Lineker had agreed a new five-year contract involving a pay cut of 23%.

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7. Alan Green hits out at BBC for showing him “very little respect”

More BBC news made the Top 10 when, in March, it was reported that football commentator Alan Green had expressed his “disappointment and anger” after being let go by the BBC. Having not missed a World Cup or European Championships for more than 30 years until 2018, his 5 Live contract was not renewed in 2020.

He said: “[The BBC] have shown me very little respect in how that is ending… I don’t think it’s justified. I was basically told, ‘You don’t fit our profile.’ I got a fair idea of what they meant by just listening to the output over the last year or so. There isn’t an ageist, sexist, racist bone in my body. I only care about ‘Can somebody do the job?’ There are new people in favour. They match the requirements in terms of ‘bants’ – banter with presenters.”

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6. Granada Reports presenter Tony Morris dies aged 57

We said goodbye to ITV stalwart Tony Morris in 2020, after being diagnosed with kidney cancer last year. He continued presenting on Granada Reports, where he’d been on-screen for 17 years, right up until only a few weeks before his death.

Morris was instrumental in earning Granada Reports its BAFTA, becoming the first regional news programme to do so, after the 2007 News Coverage winner with Lucy Meacock covering the Morecambe Bay Cockle Picking tragedy. On the evening the news broke, Granada Reports aired a special tribute fronted by Meacock – a full 30-minute programme about Tony’s life and work.

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5. Co-op pulls TV ad and donates £2.5m airtime to food charity

COVID-19 informed the Co-op’s advertising decisions at Easter as well as at Christmas – though the retailer can’t have thought it’d be the case back in April. That month, it made the generous decision to pull its planned Easter television advertising campaign, and instead donating the airtime to a food charity, FareShare.

Instead of chocolate eggs, Co-op used the TV time to promote “local heroes”. Co-op’s Retail CEO said “I’m delighted we can make it easy for [customers and members] to donate what they can to help FareShare and its very own band of local heroes. If we all co-operate together, we can make a huge difference.”

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4. Co-founders Steven Bartlett and Dominic McGregor to leave Social Chain

Six years after launching the renowned social media agency, the Social Chain Co-founders Bartlett (pictured) and McGregor suddenly announced together in August that they would be stepping away. Bartlett and McGregor were just 20 and 21 respectively when they launched Social Chain, and have overseen exponential growth.

There were no other announcements about what the two had planned, separately or together, simply a comment from Steven’s LinkedIn profile saying “Soon it’ll be time to dream again.” Both said they owed a great deal of gratitude to the company, which has grown to employ more than 750 staff and with revenues forecasted for $200 million.

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3. Manchester agency director disqualified for three years

Back in January, it was revealed that Mylo Kaye, the former CEO of Dreamr, which he left in 2018, had been disqualified from being a company director until 7th July 2023. Kaye had also been a Director at dissolved companies Atomonix (UK) and Mylo Kaye Manchester. His disqualification related to Redfishmedia Limited, dissolved in February 2019.

The Insolvency Service told Prolific North that Kaye had caused Redfishmedia to trade “to the detriment of HM Revenue and Customs from at least November 2016 to the date of liquidation”. The sums owed to HMRC in relation to PAYE and NI were £185,298, with creditors owed more than £13,000 in addition.

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2. Chapman stepping down from BBC’s NFL Show after five years

“Nobody can go on for ever (unless you are Tom Brady). I wish Dan and the boys continued success. Thank you to the NFL communities on both sides of the pond for welcoming me into their sport.” One of the year’s undeniably most popular stories came after sports presenter Mark Chapman announced he’d be ending his run as a presenter of the NFL Show.

The Manchester-based presenter tweeted he would be leaving the BBC Sport show after five years. After stepping down, Dan Walker announced that he would be taking over from Chapman, and joining Osi Umenyiora and Jason Bell on the show, which appeals to both die-hard American Football fans and those new to the sport.

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Neil Ashton
1. Ashton leaves The Sun to become PR adviser for Manchester United

We finish with the year’s most clicked-upon story, which came in January this year when The Sun lost its Chief Football Reporter, Neil Ashton, to Manchester United, who appointed him as PR adviser.

He now reports directly to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, and set up Ashton Media Group to provide the service to the club – though at the time, it was the case that the group’s only client was Manchester United.

“I have been fortunate to write about the biggest games in the sport for various organisations, travelling the world to watch football for 20 years. It has been a privilege and a passion but now is time for the next chapter of my career,” he said.

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