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Huggy New Year: Bells host Susan Calman looks forward to getting touchy in 2021

© Tiger Aspect Productions / Graeme HunterSusan Calman.
Susan Calman.

Susan Calman doesn’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, but one change she is hoping for in 2021 is being able to hug people again.

The comedian and broadcaster is the host of BBC’s Hogmanay show, which was recorded in front of a virtual audience this year rather than a live crowd, and she admitted she has been missing human contact.

She said: “I want to hug people again. I really don’t like human contact and I’m usually not one for touching and people coming near me, but I’ve missed hugging people this year. Like so many others, I haven’t hugged my mum since March and haven’t really been near anyone apart from my wife and cats. A return to normality with hugs would be great in 2021.

“I don’t make resolutions – they’re a waste of time. I do think it’s a reflective time of year, and this year more than ever we’ll all be reflecting on what happened in 2020. This is a very different Hogmanay from any other I’ve experienced and I have never been so glad to see the back of a year. A lot of people feel the same – let’s get 2020 out of the way and get on with 2021.

“As far as traditions go, one of the main things I do is always make sure there is no rubbish in the house. This is something my mum taught me – start the New Year with a clean house, a clean slate. The ironing gets done and all the housework, so the New Year starts off perfectly.”

Despite taking over the mantle of Hogmanay host from Jackie Bird, Susan revealed she is not much of a party-goer at this time of year.

“There are some years I’m in bed by the bells,” she smiled. “I’m not one for big parties, I usually have a quiet one. This year, depending on the weather of course, the plan is for everyone on our street to go outside for the bells, stand on our doorsteps and wave to each other, which will be nice.”

Recording the Hogmanay show in current circumstances was a different experience from before, but no less enjoyable for Susan.

“It’s obviously slightly different to usual because there’s lots happening in the world. But, at the same time, it’s exactly the same joyous, exciting, wonderful show we put on each year for Hogmanay. There’s music and famous faces and lots of fun. We have Brian Cox, Karen Gillan, Deacon Blue, Amy Macdonald, David Marshall and many more.

“The virtual audience was absolutely amazing. I’ve done radio shows with a virtual audience but never a TV show until this. Every single person made such an effort – they were dressed up and had their Christmas decorations up and it was lovely for all the guests to see a virtual audience. It was like having a live audience but they were in their own houses, enjoying their snacks and drinks, and joining in the party.”

Susan has remained busy with television work this year despite the pandemic, although she often found herself swapping the TV studios for her garden.

“Socially Distant With Susan Calman was a really good experience and I also filmed Socially Christmas in my new shed,” she said. “Doing these shows when lockdown first started made me feel like it was the only way I was connecting with anyone so it was, at times, quite an emotional thing to do, to be part of.

“We were suddenly plunged into this different way of life that we’d never expected to happen and so filming this made a world of difference. It was basically just myself and one guy in my garden with a camera. I didn’t meet any of the team involved and haven’t met them since but it was a pretty special project to be involved in from the start. Without a doubt, it’s one of the things I’m most proud of in my career.

“It was done in such a difficult, strange time, yet it was a still a really good television show and lots of fun to work on. Socially Distant was an incredible experience and one that will stay with me forever.

“This year has been so strange, I’ve filmed five TV shows but barely met any of the teams who made them happen. I’ve already promised them that when this is all over, we will have a party to celebrate. It’ll be lovely to see everyone. I’ll probably not have it in my shed, though.”


Hogmanay 2020, BBC1, Thursday, 11.30pm