Virgin Radio’s 21 biggest stories of 2021

Virgin Radio

21 Dec 2021, 18:27

It’s been a busy ol’ year here at Virgin Radio! We launched The Graham Norton Radio Show with Waitrose, had some amazing artists perform live at The Top of The Tower on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky, and even set-up a whole new pop-up radio station (Virgin Radio Pride) all while facing the daily challenges 2021 has thrown at all of us - and it’s been YOU who have kept us going through everything.

On top of all of that, we re-launched this very website with a shiny new, revamped look and loads more stories each day for you to read! We’ve done the maths and worked out which of those stories you loved the most over the last 12 months - here are the top 21 stories of 2021

1. Former Bake Off contestant has created a giant Hogwarts Castle from gingerbread

This was one story no one could get enough of! Former Bake-Off star Terry Hill, who appeared in the 2018 series, created this incredible showstopper of his own doing. 

He made a staggering recreation of Hogwarts, the school of witchcraft and wizardry from the Harry Potter series, and it seriously blew us all away. 

This gingerbread construction stands at half a metre tall, is 1.5m long and 1m wide. Terry was commissioned to make the incredible design, but lockdown meant he wasn’t able to share it at the event it was made for. 

Of the mammoth project, he previously said: “I spent three weeks making the moulds, and then about 50 to 60 hours creating it - it's all made out of gingerbread and icing."

"I'm not a Harry Potter fan as such so I wasn't aware how big Hogwarts Castle actually is. I got a bit of a shock when I saw what it actually looked like - and I think the event organisers got a shock when they saw how accurate I had made it. But it has to be right if I'm going to do it. I do extreme baking."

2. Can you spot the ‘proof’ that this man is cheating on his partner by this food photo?  

This is one mystery that kept everyone guessing. Could you spot the supposed evidence to suggest this TikTok user was being cheated on? 

The video owner, Kayla was sent an innocent photo by her other half, but on further inspection, she thought she spotted proof that he was up to no good.

This US saga has captured the imagination of users and had over 531,000 views. But can you see the clue? And will we ever find out the true answer? Who knows.

Credit: TikTok/@kayla_paeth

Credit: TikTok/@kayla_paeth

3. Tash's Tomato Soup Recipe

Chris Evans' lovely wife Tash was kind enough to share the amazing soup recipe Chris just can’t get enough of! It had everyone talking for a long time (since May!) and as a reminder, here’s the full breakdown for the Evans-approved dish. 

4 or 5 ripe tomatoes roughly chopped 

2 red onions peeled and quartered 

4 cloves of garlic peeled and smashed 

1 fennel bulb, sliced, throngs and end removed 

1 red pepper (optional)

1 Tsp. dried oregano

Small handful fresh basil, roughly chopped 

Put all ingredients in a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil 

Bake at 200 for 30 minutes, until slightly browned

Once cooked, put in a saucepan. Scrape in all the bits and juice. Add 1.2 litre of veg stock (I use Bouillon) 

Blend or use a whisk

4. Graham Norton joins Virgin Radio UK for new weekend shows

It’s not surprising the launch of Graham’s wonderful weekend shows garnered so much attention - and since the first show all the way back in January, he’s gone from strength to strength! 

He’s had some huge guest appearances from the big and small screen, including the likes of Stephen Graham and Ralph Fiennes to masters in music and literature, including Queen’s Roger Taylor and author Caitlin Moran. 

There’s more to come from Graham in 2022, so make sure you keep listening! 

5. A chef swears by an unusual ingredient for scrambled eggs: starch

In potentially the strangest food hack we’ve seen this year, everyone was keen to hear how one ingredient could possibly make the perfect scrambled eggs. 

The New York Times chef, J. Kenji López-Alt swears that starch stops the eggs from setting too firmly.

This recipe means they stay perfectly cooked, whether you like them soft, medium, or hard-scrambled.

It calls for two teaspoons of starch, four tablespoons of cold unsalted butter cut into 1/4-inch cubes, four eggs and a pinch of salt.

6. Tash's quick and easy cauliflower and white bean soup recipe

Another one for the foodies out there - Tash’s famous cauliflower and white bean soup sounds perfect for getting your veggies in during the post-Christmas food coma. Here’s the recipe again: 

1 small cauliflower, cut into small florets 

3 gloves of garlic, roughly chopped 

1 litre of veg stock 

1 can of cannellini beans, rinsed 

Handful of cashew nuts 

Sprig of fresh thyme

Sprig of fresh Rosemary 

1 bay leaf 

3-4 tbsp nutritional yeast 

Put all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Remove the herbs. 

Hand blend. 

7. Sam Heughan on SAS: Red Notice, deep fried Mars Bars & filming with Celine Dion

Back in March, Outlander star Sam Heaughan sat down on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show With Sky to discuss his movie, SAS: Red Notice, and you were going wild for his appearance on the show after learning about his diet since filming the action flick. 

When Chris asked if he was staying fit after the cameras stopped rolling, Sam said: “I’m currently having a donut for my breakfast.

"I got send some mini donuts the other day. I didn't even bother to sit down to eat them. I just stood there in my kitchen and just consumed the whole lot.”

And if you thought deep fried Mars bars were bad, Sam added: "Try deep fried pizza and chips. It’s a heart attack on a plate, but I can tell you right now it's something of beauty.”

8. Eddy's Good News

In a year filled with yet more lockdown anxiety, there was one man with a mission to bring us some good news daily, and that was Virgin Radio's Eddy Temple-Morris. He’s been bringing us his positive news stories from around the world to give us all some hope that things aren’t all bad out there. 

Among his stories this year, there was good news from China, who’ve really been stepping up to the plate with efforts to tackle climate change. Earlier this month, they announced plans to plant a forest roughly the size of Belgium every year until at least 2035. 

And in November, a team at Northwestern University in Illinois started experimenting with nanofibres to help the body repair itself after severe spine injuries. They injected nanofibres into spinally damaged mice and after four weeks all the mice were able to walk again.

9. Parents in tears after headteacher’s heartfelt homeschooling letter

Another good news story had everyone sobbing back in January, featuring a letter written by a headteacher to parents urging them not to panic and give themselves a break over homeschooling hell.

The sincere and thoughtful lockdown-inspired letter was sent out to parents to highlight what a great job they are all doing in the midst of mayhem.

Headteacher Mrs White of Coates Lane Primary School in Lancashire joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky and said: “Parents at home are not trained teachers and all we can ask them to do is follow our plan, attend the live lesson and do what they can… as I said in the letter that there might be bad days. It might be a day when you can only fit in a little bit reading and some timetables – that's OK.”

Credit: Facebook

Credit: Facebook

10. Mum shares 'game changing' hack to get frost off the car windscreen

We loved our life hacks this year - everything from getting stickers off of presents to how to get your radiator to heat up quicker, we were the masters of our households with these helpful videos. One of these great hacks came from Facebook user Angela Hickling, who posted a handy tip on the social media site on how to get rid of frost on a car windscreen, which involves using just an empty stain remover bottle - and not much else.

Taking the empty bottle of carpet stain remover, she suggested to fill the bottle with warm water (not boiling) then use the brush attachment as a scraper. Voila. Melted ice and a clear screen.

11. Strictly's Amy Dowden LIVING with Tom & Giovanna Fletcher after he carried her to an ambulance

Strictly Come Dancing proved very popular with audiences as the series continued to bring light and levity to the dark winter months as always. But it was one particular story which warmed everyone’s hearts. 

Mcfly’s Tom Fletcher was previously partnered with pro Amy Dowden in the series, who has Crohn's Disease, and had briefly stayed at Casa Fletcher with Tom and his wife Giovanna.

The Strictly pro dancer explained on Instagram: "Thanks for all messages over the weekend. Unfortunately, I was missing from the show as I had an unexpected Crohn's flare-up and hospital admission in which I received unbelievable care. I'm recovering very well and certainly being well looked after and look forward to returning to the dance floor.

"To the Fletchers who made sure I had everything and more at the hospital, have brought me back to theirs where the whole family are giving me all the love, care, burnt toast (Tom), unlimited supply of @mrsgifletcher clothes along with @tomfletcher sock choice you could possibly need, lots of drawings and pretend injections from my new doctors Buzz, Buddy and Max. Thank you, they really were sent to me."

12. Is your garden decking upside down? Here's proof it probably is

DIY-ers couldn’t get enough of this nifty trick to see if your garden decking was actually the wrong-way up. 

One social media savvy-decker shocked everyone with the mind-boggling news on Instagram. User @my_london_home revealed that the ridges should not be visible and should be installed ridge-side down.

DIY specialists confirmed: "Contrary to popular belief, the ridges are not there to keep you from slipping and sliding around your deck. Nor are they intended to make your deck look nice. They are actually there as a structural feature to improve its longevity."

13. Noel Gallagher on the upcoming documentary, Oasis Knebworth 1996 

Chris Evans has sat down with a number of high-profile guests on his breakfast show, and after Sam Heughan, there was one artist who had everyone tuning into the radio, and heading online too. 

Back in September, Oasis icon Noel Gallagher joined The Chris Evans Breakfast Show With Sky to talk about the worldwide cinematic release of Oasis Kebworth 1996, which documented his band’s seminal gigs at Knebworth over two historic nights. He shared his memories of that time, and also spoke about the chances of Oasis reforming.

When Chris asked Noel how he felt when watching the documentary for the first time, he said: “Quite emotional and proud and nostalgic. Three things that I don’t really tend to feel.

He added: “These were going to be our big summer gigs. We never thought anything of it. We never thought we’d be sitting here talking about it 25 years later. The band were in a little bubble, and we were doing our thing. When you see the film, me and Liam were getting on great. They were the best days.”

14. How to stop getting tiny holes in your clothes 

Another amazing life hack coming at you - this time it’s all to do with those pesky holes you’ll often find in your clothes. 

The obvious assumption is that they are caused by moths, but this isn’t necessarily the case. If a moth has been nibbling at your clothes, you’ll find clusters of holes together, but if there is just a single hole in one of your garments, the answer could lie elsewhere.

Bayard Winthrop, the founder and CEO of clothing company America Giant, explained to Today that it might actually be because of your belt or jeans. “That part of the shirt is a primary abrasion point. The fabric there is rubbing against the hardware: your belt, the tops of your jeans, all points of wear. The friction, repeated over time, has caused the fabric to deteriorate.”

Don’t worry though, there is a solution other than stopping wearing jeans or a belt. “The real culprit here is often the fabric itself," Winthrop says. "The garment itself might be produced as cheaply as possible, cutting costs where possible. Look for brands that call out what type of cotton they are using – a longer fibre length if a good sign – and how the garment is constructed.”

15. Tom Ellis: "I've had a lot of pinch-me moments" 

Topping the plethora of huge celebs who have chatted with Graham Norton on his Virgin Radio show at the weekend, Tom Ellis joined the host back in May to speak about series 5 of his hit show Lucifer. 

"I've had a lot of pinch-me moments during this whole experience," Tom said of the large-scale show. 

"When we were shooting the pilot, for example, we had that stretch of Hollywood Boulevard closed where they had the red carpet for the Oscars"

"Basically for five nights in a row we had that section closed off to do a shoot and I was like 'This is just... crazy!' and then when we finished the next week we were filming something driving off into the sunset in Malibu and I just... I couldn't get my head around it.”

16. Is your name falling out of fashion? These baby names are at risk of extinction 

In July, everyone was very keen to hear all about which baby names were in and out of fashion. 

As reported in Birmingham Live, Mitchell, Kieran and Ross are the boys’ names which have declined the most in popularity recently. 

For girls, Kirsty, Jordan and Shauna are apparently far less popular than they once were. Apparently, 525 baby girls were named Kirsty in the year 2000, whereas only four were in 2019, representing a drop of over 99 percent!

Have a look at the lists to see if your name almost fell off the list this year: 

The Top 10 Endangered Girls Names 1. Kirsty 2. Jordan 3. Shauna 4. Shannon 5. Courtney 6. Lauren 7. Gemma 8. Jodie 9. Jade 10. Natasha

The Top 10 Endangered Boys Names 1. Mitchell 2. Kieran 3. Ross 4. Brandon 5. Craig 6. Ben 7. Jordan 8. Callum 9. Kyle 10. Scott

17. Prepare to cry at a young England fan’s beautiful letter to Marcus Rashford

A few days after their devastating defeat at the Euro 2020 final against Italy, one heartwarming story proved there was still some good will amongst football fans. 

One young England fan has demonstrated the correct way to react to last night’s disappointing penalty shoot-out loss, by writing a lovely letter to his hero, Marcus Rashford. 

In the handwritten letter, which his mum Samantha has posted on Twitter, 9-year-old Dexter Rosier said, “Dear Marcus Rashford, I hope you won’t be sad for too long because you are such a good person.

“Last year you inspired me to help people less fortunate. Then last night you inspired me again, to always be brave.

“I’m proud of you. You will always be my hero."

18. Lidl's wine-cooling handbags with secret taps are here to improve your picnics 

We might be in the depths of winter, but this life hack will absolutely come in handy come Spring/Summer 2022 (or could provide some very late Christmas present inspo!)

Back in June, Lidl launched a handbag which holds a whopping 1.5 litres in an insulated liquid compartment. It features a discrete tap dispenser, hidden by a small flap, meaning you can keep your wine at a nice temperature and sneakily pour yourself some without anyone noticing. Perfect for those picnic experiences where you don't want to share!

As well as keeping your booze chilled, they also act as normal, everyday bags, with two internal pockets and a main compartment area, all kept secure with a zip. If that all sounds too good to be true, then the even better news is that they won't set you back a fortune, as they are priced at £19.99.

Credit: Lidl

Credit: Lidl

19. An optical illusion of a girl ‘stuck in concrete’ is baffling people 

In May, an optical illusion had everyone scratching their heads when a mum in the US posted a picture of what seemed like her daughter stuck in concrete - and it drove the internet crazy!

The picture, which first appeared on Reddit, shows a young girl seemingly disappearing into a paved street. The mum, who presumably didn’t recall taking a photo of her daughter while she was stuck in concrete, wrote in the photo’s caption, “My daughter, where’s the rest of her?” 

Thankfully though, the girl was fine, and some people spotted what was going on in the photo straightaway. If you haven’t managed to work it out yet, the illusion comes from the fact that (spoiler alert) the girl is standing behind a wall, which blends in with the street behind it.

Credit: Reddit

Credit: Reddit

20. Santa has a boyfriend in emotional new Christmas advert 

Back in November, Norway pulled at all of our heartstrings with a beautiful Christmas advert courtesy of the national postage service. 

Their advert focused on the tradition of waiting up to try and catch a glimpse of Father Christmas.

However, this time it isn't a young child waiting to see him.

The advert has been called 'When Harry met Santa' and tells the story of a man who waits 364 days every year for one evening with his loved one.

Except that loved one is none other than Santa Claus.

Watch here as Santa gets a boyfriend:

21. Check out the cheap Mrs Hinch hack that banishes black mould from windows and walls

And coming in at number 21 on our top stories this year is of course the queen of clean herself Mrs Hinch, who had this incredible hack to banish black mould from your home. 

Over on Facebook, fans of the cleaning dream shared her top tip about removing mould from pesky places.

A follower asked: "Can anyone help with what will get rid of [mould] please? And get it to stay off for longer than two days please. We've tried the mould spray you can get but it just keeps coming back.”

Users suggested covering it in straight or water-diluted bleach. One person shared: “Clean with pure bleach, wait until it’s dry and maybe use a damp seal paint, that’s what I’ve had to do to ours.”

A third penned: "When my son was a student he often had trouble with mould in his digs. Once a month, they would wash mould away with warm water and bleach added.”

Additionally, you could paint over the area once the bleach has been applied.

Behold... no more mould.

And there you have it! Our top 21 stories as read by you over 2021. We’ll make sure to keep you in the know as we step over into 2022 with even more amazing stories. 

Want even more stories? Check out our latest Entertainment News, Music News, TV & Film News and Lifestyle News, plus interviews from The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky and The Graham Norton Radio Show with Waitrose.