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25 December 2020 22:58

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Quentin Blake's Clown, review: a classic on paper but not quite on screen

Alesha Dixon, 42, and Amanda Holden, 49, looked gorgeous as they appeared on ITV tonight. DON'T MISS The spread of the new Covid-19 variant may be "particularly marked" in children, scientists have warned as they say that school closures may be needed to keep the R number below one. A rapid analysis by the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that the variant is 56 per cent more transmissible than other forms of the virus. The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, found that even if another national lockdown - similar to the one in England in November - was implemented, it would be "unlikely" to reduce the R to below one unless schools and universities were also closed. It comes amid growing pressure on the Government to close schools.

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Downing Street has said that keeping schools open is a "national priority", but ministers are now considering keeping schools closed for all of January, with teaching unions demanding delays. They said that the new variant will lead to a wave of Covid-19 cases and deaths that will peak in Spring 2021 for London, the South East and East of England and summer 2021 for the rest of the country. Coronavirus cases, hospital admissions and deaths in 2021 could even exceed those in 2020 unless there is a "substantial" vaccine roll-out, which would mean ramping up vaccinations from the 200,000 per week that are being carried out this month to two million per week. Researchers explained that closing schools in January would delay the peak, which would buy more time for the vaccine to roll out to get underway. They added that the only way to reduce the burden on intensive care units (ICU) around the country would be a national lockdown plus school closures, combined with vaccinating two million people per week.

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This is "the only scenario we considered which reduces peak ICU burden below the levels seen during the first wave", they said. Ministers have repeatedly refused to rule out extended school closures. Schools had been due to return on January 4 but Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, has ordered a week of testing and a return on January 11 for most students, with only GCSE and A-Level students returning on time along with vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics show that secondary school children are the age group in which coronavirus is most rampant. Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said scientists hoped to learn much more over the next two weeks – while schools are shut – about how quickly the variant spreads among children.

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Prof Ferguson said they were "working as fast as they can" to work out whether it is safe to open schools in January and how best to ensure that children do not fuel virus spread. Oti Mabuse: Strictly pro reacts to Christmas special as viewers left divided by format FREE now and never miss the top Royal stories again. SUBSCRIBE Invalid email Sign up fornow and never miss the top Royal stories again. Strictly Come Dancing star Oti Mabuse took to Twitter today while watching the Christmas special of the ballroom dancing programme. The professional dancer told fans the dances on the top 25 list were "awesome," however, some viewers were frustrated by the show's format.

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All of it," Oti announced to her 156,000 followers. Oti top three?" one follower asked. "There's been some Brilliant Jives - so far," a second person added. READ MORE: Charley Webb shares son's sweet letter to Santa after Christmas visit Strictly Come Dancing star Oti Mabuse took to Twitter today while watching the Christmas special READ MORE Kelly Brook tries for Strictly return after Jamie Laing's comeback When the show began, some viewers of the Christmas special were divided over the new format of the show. In previous years, a new set of celebrities have performed a special festive dance routine with their professional partners in a one-off show.

However this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the episode features a look back at 25 of the best dances in the show's history. Some viewers were a little frustrated they couldn't watch the whole dance and many of the routines had commentary over them. Oti Mabuse and Kelvin Fletcher in 2019 Oti Mabuse with 2020 Strictly champion Bill Bailey Oti Mabuse and Danny Mac's Samba made it into second place on the list "It's about dancing Dahhhhling, So WHY all the talking #strictly," one viewer wrote on Twitter. "Wish #Strictly would just let us watch the dances, without all the VTs and additional comments," another added. Disagreeing completely, another social media user said they preferred the change of format. "I've got to be honest I much prefer this version of Christmas strictly than the cheesy Christmas special with celebs we're not really invested in that we normally get #Strictly," the tweet. DON'T MISS... Kate Garraway's heartache as she spends Christmas apart from husband I'm loving seeing some of the best dances ever. So much better than the usual Christmas #Strictly. Strictly pro Oti Mabuse, who won the 2019 and 2020 series of the show, also took to Twitter to share her thoughts on her favourite dances. "Hope you're all tucked in watching @bbcstrictly Christmas countdown," she said. The 30-year-old dancer recalled watching some of the routines while staring in the German version of the show. I remember watching it while I was still on Let's Dance," she said following Janette Manrana and EastEnders star Jake Wood's performance. In previous years, Channel 4 has given us Judith Kerr's The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Michael Rosen's We're Going on a Bear Hunt, as well as the totemic The Snowman. It has come up with the goods again this year, in the form of a 20-minute adaptation of Quentin Blake's Clown, narrated in soothing tones by Helena Bonham Carter. It tells the story of a toy clown, a kind of Pierrot in high-top trainers, who is discarded by his old owners and ends up on a wild adventure. He's fought over by birds, chased by dogs and hurled from a window before he finds refuge at last. The Snowman, a film that has become part of the iconography of British Christmas, looms over these productions. More unluckily for Blake & Co, Clown's storyline also has at least a passing resemblance to another children's entertainment juggernaut, Toy Story. Entirely unfair, given that Blake's book came out in 1980, and any influence flowed the other way. Besides, none of this detracts from Clown, which is delightfully rendered in a style that's faithful to Blake's unmistakeable hand-drawn illustrations. Your appreciation for the film may depend on whether Blake's drawings were part of your childhood. He's done more than 300 books, so you'd have to have been living in a bin yourself not to have come across them. Personally, his scratchy illustrations for the Roald Dahl books are etched into my brain, so Clown was a happy nostalgia trip. Blake's genius is to convey character with a single line, or the tiniest shift in expression, and the film brings this out, leaving in the imprecisions rather than trying to smooth things over or fill in the backgrounds. A still from Quentin Blake's Clown, Channel 4's new hand-drawn animated special (Channel 4) On All 4, there is a 10-minute behind-the-scenes look at how they made the film. It's worth a look, if only to see Bonham Carter clowning around, an interview with Blake himself, and some adorable Italian animators who work in a 16th-century palace in Genoa's medieval old town. They go to great lengths to explain that they were working in a Covid-secure environment, and that no undue risks were taken in bringing you your festive entertainment. If Quentin Blake's Clown has a moral, it's sometimes the best presents are the ones other people have thrown away. "Given the way 2020 has panned out, we're desperate for happy endings," says Bonham Carter. In the event that your children were not too wired on Quality Street to be in bed by 8pm on Christmas Day, Channel 4 offered a new animation: Quentin Blake's Clown. Blake is best known as an illustrator of other people's work, notably Roald Dahl, but has also produced plenty of his own stories. Clown is a picture book in the truest sense, with no words at all. The animation added narration by Helena Bonham Carter but no dialogue. This was unusual enough to be noted by my five-year-old, who I fear has been spoilt by prolonged exposure to Julia Donaldson's rhymes. The Italian animation team did a wonderful job of transferring Blake's freewheeling illustrations to the screen, the grain of the paper visible behind the characters. One of the things that sets Blake apart from his peers is his rejection of cuteness, in the knowledge that stories don't need to be told through fluffy bunny wabbits to keep children engaged.

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