By Jill Dando News
Sir Richard Branson, Sir Cliff Richard, Nick Ross and Fiona Bruce are leading tributes to the ‘absolutely brilliant’ Jill Dando News on the anniversary of the BBC presenter’s death.
Watch Sir Richard Branson’s video message here https://youtube.com/shorts/JNeArZT27zs?feature=share
Celebrities including a billionaire entrepreneur, pop star legend and top journalists past and present have lined up to congratulate student reporters aged 8 to 18 who are doing ‘journalism with a smile’ for the legacy of Jill Dando.
In the face of unprecedented bad news across the globe and via social media in recent years, Jill Dando News was born out of her old school Worle Community School Academy in 2017 to inspire journalists of the future, but also to model Jill’s life of positivity, kindness, joy, humility and aspiration.
Now on the anniversary of her death, (Wednesday 26th April) former friend and colleague Nick Ross will visit the school, part of The Priory Learning Trust in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, along with Jill’s older brother Nigel Dando to congratulate the reporters in person.
He will be joined via recorded video message by Sir Richard Branson, Sir Cliff Richard, Alan Titchmarsh, current and former BBC journalists Fiona Bruce, Emma Britton and Katherine Smith.
Hundreds of Jill Dando News reporters since its inception have written countless stories and interviewed scores of people worldwide in the scheme which has seen reporters based as far off as Malawi, Africa, and which even took them to Downing Street to interview Prime Minister Boris Johnson in August 2019.
Jill Dando News, a creation of Purple Sheep PR, has a team of patrons and works in partnership with the online newspaper, the Good News Post and Business Leader, Britain’s biggest magazine for entrepreneurs, which helps students to interview an array of CEOs and world figures.
Reporters are all across The Priory Learning Trust as well as Ashcombe Primary School, and children have been involved as far away as Berkshire, Wiltshire, Devon and Malawi, Africa in the expanding legacy.
Nick, who presented Crimewatch with Jill in the 1990s, said: “Jill Dando was a warm and generous colleague who could light up a room.
“She’d be thrilled that budding journalists were following in her footsteps, but she was always unassuming and she’d be astonished as much as delighted that they were doing so in her name.
“Jill was a professional who knew we can’t escape the fact that bad news sells. But she was also conscious that drama crowds our normality, and the result is inevitably distorting. She’d be so proud of this initiative.”
Nigel Dando, founding patron of Jill Dando News, said: “This scheme is absolutely brilliant! It has taken these students all the way to Downing Street but is building their journalism skills at such an early age. Well done to every single one of them. Jill would have been extremely proud.”
Sir Richard Branson, speaking from his Caribbean home, who was interviewed on several occasions by Jill, said: “I was really fortunate to know Jill and also remember her as a fantastic journalist and presenter.
“It is wonderful to hear what students have been doing to take Jill Dando News across the world, even reaching Africa and 10 Downing Street.
“So well done to all the hundreds of children and young people who have been keeping her legacy alive through so many stories of great news and positivity.
“It is a fitting legacy for Jill and she would be incredibly proud of all you are doing. Well done.”
Sir Cliff Richard, speaking from Barbados, congratulated the Jill Dando News reporters:
He said: “If ever we need good news it is today. Jill was a great friend of mine and a sad loss to the world really but you can keep her name alive.
“If you can get there, be the journalist that faces facts and keeps all of us with a smile on our face because you write stories that are good to read.”
Alan Titchmarsh, speaking from his Hampshire garden, said: “We need positive stories in life to keep us buoyed up and going forward, very much in the spirit that Jill herself whom I knew would have followed.
“So thank you for what you have done. Keep being positive. This is a glorious world if we look around and find out what those stories are.”
Speaking from the BBC Question Time set, shortly before the show went live this week, Fiona Bruce said how much she enjoyed being interviewed by the reporters during lockdown: “Congratulations to all of you. This is a fantastic legacy for Jill. I can’t think of anything she would be anything but hugely proud of what you are all doing in her name. I certainly am.”
Purple Sheep PR began Jill Dando News at Worle, with a slogan ‘Worle to the World’ with a mission to take the project global.
Students Olivia Finch and Josh Keyes, then aged 12 and 11 became the first reporters and the enthusiasm quickly spread to dozens of others.
Within a year it went to fellow TPLT school, Priory Community School Academy with Jeffrey Archer as the special guest opening the centre, then shortly after to Malawi in Africa. It is now across many schools and one Sixth Form in Highbridge, Somerset.
Nigel Dando and other professional journalist help out in the training. Their stories then go on to the world newspaper Good News Post www.goodnewspost.co.uk also founded by Purple Sheep PR, and then to the wider Media.
TPLT schools are Worle Community School Academy, Priory Community School Academy, The King Alfred School Academy, St Anne’s Church Academy, Castle Batch School Academy, Pawlett Primary School Academy, West Huntspill Community Primary and East Huntspill Community Primary.
Jill Dando reporters get to interview people in the community as well as high-profile celebrities.
Stories can go to firstname.lastname@example.org