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John McCormick, Campaigns and Communication Officer at Carers NI, give us a behind-the-scenes look at the production of the BBC Northern Ireland Lifeline Appeal.


Quote 1

You know how it goes. You think to yourself ‘oh there’ll be hundreds of applicants so we don’t really have a chance’ – but we applied anyway, more in hope than expectation. Even though we knew we had a great story to tell it still took a moment for the news to sink in when the letter arrived in November telling us that our BBC Lifeline Appeal application was successful.

In a way the application was the easy part. Everything sounded great on paper but how on earth were we going to turn this into a film and who was going to take part? We wanted carers’ real lives to be the main focus, but it’s a big thing to ask people to step forward and tell their story on camera. Would anyone actually do it?

The film shows the public what it’s like to be a carer and puts across our message that no one should have to care alone. It’s impossible to tell every carer’s story in such a short film, but when you watch Maryann, Cormac and Bridghe you’ll immediately understand why we chose them to take part. They so clearly love their family members but are also honest and direct about the challenges of looking after them. Hopefully people who don’t think of themselves as carers will recognise themselves in these stories and come forward and get the support they need.

So, the big day arrived on what had to be the coldest January morning ever. Teeth chattering, we set off to a typical Belfast street to do some background filming with Helen and our narrator, Radio Ulster’s Linda McAuley. It wasn’t just the cold we were battling though. Note to any budding Spielbergs – don’t choose a street with a railway platform at the end! Fortunately it’s only my imagination making me think I can hear the distant echo of train announcements in the film. Anyway, with the first shots in the can (I have all the lingo these days) it was back to the office. There we all are defrosting and looking completely self-conscious doing ‘normal office stuff’. Our career as extras could well be over…

Day two and I’m off with the film crew to visit Maryann and her mum. She’s such a natural in front of the camera that you’d never guess how nervous she was. Such a powerful story too, it’s a shame that we couldn’t use all of the footage. After lunch and we’re over to Cormac and Bridghe’s home in the middle of a blizzard. They were both wonderful in the face of an invading camera crew and gave us a great insight into their day to day experience of looking after their son Kian. We can’t thank them enough for letting us into their lives.

With the film now edited and ready for broadcast, we’re delighted with how it turned out and I hope you enjoy it. If you’d like to help us continue to make life better for carers, please consider making a donation to support our work.Quote 2


  • The appeal will be broadcast on BBC 1 Northern Ireland on Sunday 19 April 2015 at 2pm, then repeated on the same channel on Monday 20 April, 11.15pm and on BBC 2 Northern Ireland on Wednesday 22 April, 11.50am. The appeal will be available on the BBC website once it has been broadcast and on the Carers NI website a week after.

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