Rylan Clark-Neal has reconnected with BFF singer Lucy Spraggan for a campaign which aims to beat loneliness

Rylan Clark-Neal reconnects with fellow X Factor contestant Lucy Spraggan at part of the BT +1 Campaign

Clare Balding, Gary Barlow, Rio Ferdinand and Rylan Clark-Neal have joined BT’s +1 movement, a nationwide campaign that aims to beat loneliness by encouraging people to add someone they care about back into their lives via a video call, a message, or a DM.

With feelings of acute loneliness increasing during lockdown, the latest campaign is an example of how BT’s Skills for Tomorrow programme is helping people make the most of life in the digital world, through the power of technology.

In the series of short films set to be released throughout the week, created by BT’s advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, audiences will see sporting icons Balding and Ferdinand, popstar Barlow, and presenter Clark-Neal, reconnect with special people in their lives they’ve lost touch with. As well as providing tips and tutorials on how to make the most out of different technology this festive season.

Popstar Gary Barlow sang a happy tune, as he was captured in the short film speaking with his music mentor, Bob Howes, for the first time in months. Barlow said: “This period has taken a lot away from us, but the biggest thing is connection. I don’t know where I would be now if it wasn’t for Bob giving me his time when I was just starting out. Having someone outside of my family to just say, ‘hey, you’re not bad at this – keep trying’ was so important to me. I’ve really missed being with Bob, but thank goodness during this time we are able to connect, even if we can’t be with those we care about most.”

Meanwhile, in his short film, Rylan touched base with fellow 2012 X Factor contestant, Lucy Spraggan in his short film. He commented: “Lucy and I were like the terrible twosome when we met. Completely inseparable. But the last time I properly saw her was more than seven years ago. Our lives went separate ways, but as soon as we reconnected, we were cackling away like naughty school kids again, like no time had passed at all.”

Rio Ferdinand reconnected with Carol, his much-loved dinner lady at Manchester United in his short film. Rio had such a close relationship with Carol that she became affectionately known to him as his “Manchester aunt”.

Ferdinand said: ““More than four million people are in a position of loneliness, its staggering when you think about it and really hit home when we went into lockdown this year. You realise that even with a house full of kids, a wife and dogs there can still be moments of loneliness. It’s been a year of total uncertainty with lockdown and a lot of people living in isolation, all the simple things we took for granted have been taken away, so a quick video or phone call to friends or family can have a great impact on mental wellbeing.

“During the 12 years I spent at Manchester United I saw Carol almost every day at the training ground, she was part of the fabric of the club and always there through the good and bad times. I saw her more than I would see some members of my family. But then after I retired, I didn’t see her for a couple of years. We used to text or chat on the phone, but it’s been a while, so the chance to reconnect with her was amazing.

“Carol epitomises the people of Manchester, she’s caring, she’s got a great sense of humour and she speaks her mind. Some people just always bring a smile to your face, and whenever I walk into the canteen at Carrington, I’m always looking for her. We’ve built a genuine friendship over the years. When you meet a person like Carol, you don’t forget them.

“Carol was a very funny lady. I loved speaking to her and having a laugh over a cup of tea at the training ground. She would treat everybody the same, academy players, Premier League champions or Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the biggest names in the history of football. She was the only one who could joke with Sir Alex, I remember once he walked in wearing a smart

pair of cream chinos as I was talking to Carol, she stopped our conversation and just said to him “what are you wearing?!” which made us all laugh.”

Sports presenter Clare Balding reconnected in her short film with Cruft’s commentator Jess Holmes, and said: “A year like this makes us all realise how much friends matter to us and how important it is to talk and see each other’s faces. Jess and I have shared many happy times together, mainly centred around dogs and she’s been isolating all year because she’s on the vulnerable list, so I haven’t been able to see her for ages. It was so lovely to see her and her Frenchies on the sofa, to catch up and natter away. She’s such a special person and I’ve really missed her. Luckily it’s easy to remedy with a video call and I’d say to anyone – make the effort because it’s so worth it.”

To help inspire the UK public to reach out to loved ones they have lost touch with during this tumultuous time, BT has today launched its +1 hub which features tips and resources from the UK’s leading charities on how to beat loneliness, as well as videos and guides to help the nation learn about different technologies and how to use them to reconnect this festive period.