In a festive Christmas feature on your local BBC radio station, the renowned pop icon Kylie Minogue meets some of the ‘Bravery’ awardees from the BBC Make a Difference Awards, which were hosted by Local BBC Radio stations in September.

The laureates were honoured at ceremonies held across England. The primary objective of these annual awards is to highlight the efforts of everyday, unsung heroes who go the extra mile for their communities. From a multitude of nominations, a shortlist was compiled, and a winner was chosen by a special panel of judges from their respective local regions.

Now, a select group of these exceptional individuals has the opportunity to meet the pop legend Kylie Minogue and share their extraordinary tales of courage and valour.

Tony De Matteis, a volunteer firefighter from Peterborough, was nominated by his daughter Sonia and acknowledged by the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Make a Difference Awards. Until his recent retirement, Tony held the distinction of being the longest-serving member of the UK’s only volunteer fire brigade in Peterborough. Despite also juggling a demanding full-time job, he dedicated his free time to safeguarding the local community as a fully qualified firefighter. Serving as chief officer, he routinely risked his life responding to calls day and night, often missing significant family events.

His daughter Sonia commended him, saying, “My dad is a real superhero; he has been doing this for nearly four decades and I think it’s nice to be recognised. Volunteering in any capacity is amazing, but to do it for an emergency service and do it with a passion that dad has done all these years, is nothing short of amazing.”

Tony, who is a huge Kylie fan said: “I became a volunteer firefighter in 1984 and for me it’s something I enjoy doing and helping people in need.”

Kylie said: “Tony, this feels as if it is from absolutely the heart, and you do it because that’s who you are. I have full admiration and I can see why Sonia has nominated you and got you here today.”

In a series of special broadcasts across England, we will also hear from singers James Blunt and Rick Astley, who will meet remarkable Make a Difference Award winners and listen to their inspiring stories. One such winner is eighteen-year-old Ben Thornbury from Malmesbury in Wiltshire, who received the award from BBC Radio Wiltshire for being an outstanding neighbour in his community. Ben, an avid James Blunt fan, has been quietly performing various tasks around his town since the age of thirteen to assist his community. He helps with Christmas and Halloween trails and contributes to the local food bank, striving to make a positive impact on his community.

Ben said: “We needed to make a difference in our community, so I went out there and started by cutting a hedge, which helped a wheelchair user. We did more and more and even started cleaning up the river to make a positive impact on the community.”

James said: “This is amazing and what I love about that is that most people think it’s always someone else’s job to do that and leave it for someone else to do and nothing ever gets done. But to have someone who is a get up and go person like you and say I will do this today rather than wait for someone else to do it tomorrow, makes such a huge difference. I was in the army, and it was all about people, who say I can do that, and it sounds as if you are that kind of person who just gets up and does things and as a result it makes everyone’s life better, so well done.”

Chris Burns, Controller Local Audio Commissioning for England said: “We’ve heard some amazingly inspiring stories on all our 39 local BBC radio stations about remarkable people doing extraordinary things for others in our communities and we want to share their stories across our local radio stations throughout the festive period. Make a Difference is all about changing lives of others for the better.”
Tune in to your local BBC radio station on Friday 1 December from 6 am to learn more about the upcoming Christmas events across England.

Remember, on Tuesday 26 December (Boxing Day) from 9 am to 10 am, there will be an hour-long special featuring Kylie Minogue expressing gratitude to Make a Difference Award winners for their bravery and kindness across all local BBC radio stations.

Other festive programming across Local BBC Radio in December includes a special Make a Difference feature on Christmas Eve at midnight, exploring different faiths from around the UK. Christmas morning will feature Keeping the Faith at Christmas, followed by a Christmas Day service at 7 am led by the Rev Geoff Eze, Vicar of All Saints Church in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent.

From 2 pm on Christmas Day, BBC presenter Simone Riley will provide updates on how Christmas is being celebrated across the UK, offering a warm and festive atmosphere.

At 6 pm on Christmas Day, Gagan Grewal will present BBC Local Radio’s exploration into communities that don’t celebrate Christmas or mark the holiday in different ways.

Following that, on Wednesday 27 December from 9 am to 10 am, there will be a special Make a Difference Awards programme with singer James Blunt, repeated between 9 pm and 10 pm in the evening.

On Thursday 28 December from 9 am to 10 am, there will be another special programme, this time with singer Rick Astley expressing gratitude to Make a Difference Award winners across England.

Finally, on Friday 29 December from 9 am to 10 am, there will be a Best of the Make a Difference Award Winners special.