It’s hard to believe, but Channel 4’s alternative Christmas message has now been running for 24 years.
Starting as a neat idea to do something quirky and different to the Queen’s festive message which - and I say this with all due respect and not harming my chances for a future knighthood - can be a bit on the dull side, it’s gradually become as important as Her Maj’s message, with a range of interesting and moving speeches being broadcast to the nation from the likes of Brendan Cox, Edward Snowden, and volunteer nurse and former Ebola patient William Pooley.
And this year is no exception, as it’s been announced that it will be given by five boys and girls, aged between seven and 12, who survived the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire in London, back in June.
They will talk about the impact of the event on their lives and give their own messages to the watching public. And they are rather wonderful.
Luana Gomes, 12, whose family escaped from the 21st floor, says: “My Christmas message is that everyone should love and respect each other because you never know what tomorrow will be like. And it’s important to love and cherish your family.”
Her sister Megan, 10, says: “I think all families, children and parents should have a nice, warm, cosy home. I just want everyone in the world to have a house at least.”
Speaking about Christmases in the past, Megan adds: “We always got a real tree, not a fake tree. We would all gather round the tree and open our presents, and sometimes go round to our gran’s.”
Megan, Luana and their mother Andreia were placed in induced comas after suffering smoke inhalation. Andreia was seven months pregnant at the time and the ordeal led to her son Logan being stillborn, hours after the fire, while she was still unconscious. After five months spent living in a hotel, they have recently moved to a temporary flat.
Hayam Atmani, 10, is not so lucky, and is still in a hotel with her family.
She says: “It’s not that much fun. My message for everyone at Christmas is to stay as a family, and don’t suffer about anything. I know it’s been a really hard time for everyone, but everyone went through and everyone helped as a family. So I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.”
Talking about the fire, she says: “All we could see is this big flame on the side of the building.”
Amiel Miller, 10, and his brother Danel, 7, talk about their mother telling them to get dressed and run down the stairs to escape.
Danel explains: “We got outside and then saw stuff falling down from the tower and grass on fire.”
Amiel’s Christmas message is: “It’s not all about getting presents, it’s also about giving.”
And that’s a pretty great message to take away.
(Main image: Richard Ansett/Channel 4/PA, other image: Rex)