Chris Evans: Virgin Radio DJ talks new move after BBC axe project: ‘We can move quicker’

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Chris Evans, 54, announced he and his Virgin Radio team are rebooting his axed BBC project 500 words, for a one-off pop-up special in aid of the global Black Lives Matter movement. The star explained the new initiative, that will be fronted by children’s TV and radio presenter Angellica Bell and her TV hubby Michael Underwood, would launch from next Monday onwards and the organisational part would be “quicker” than at the Beeb.

We are going to crack on with it because we can move a little bit quicker, the machine at the BBC has lots of machinations, and is brilliant at best but really takes some firing up

Chris Evans

He said: “We are going to crack on with it because we can move a little bit quicker, the machine at the BBC has lots of machinations, and is brilliant at best but really takes some firing up especially for 500 Words with it’s big leading time.

“We think we can accomplish a 500 Words Black Lives Matter special starting from Monday.”

It comes after the DJ broke the sad news that his 500 Words scheme, which he first started in 2011, was coming to an end this year after BBC announced they were axing it after a successful decade.

At the time Chris confessed his dismay on-air, calling it a “shame” that the competition to inspire young people was being scrapped.

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“It’s a real shame,” he moped, before hinting at listeners to petition against the decision.

“Feel free to text and tweet, very politely, very subtly, the BBC saying ‘How about not cancelling 500 Words cos that might be the best idea ever?’ Do that please.”

Releasing a statement, the broadcaster said of their decision: “When Chris decided to leave the BBC to join Virgin Radio, he agreed for 500 Words to be produced and broadcast by Radio 2 for two further years, which has allowed the initiative to complete a full decade.”

A spokesperson for the company also added: “It was a decision taken by the Radio 2 team given it had been on air for a full decade – including the two years that had been agreed with Chris Evans after he left the BBC.”

But on Friday, the presenter seemed more upbeat as he addressed the verdict to stop the children’s competition that catered to 13-year-olds and under, and explained it’s “fine now” after previously venting his disappointment.

“The BBC no longer want to continue with it, which is fine, now,” he said, as he recalled the final that was held last Friday.

“It feels like a month ago! It was seven days ago!” Chris wailed.

“Seven days ago that Zoe Ball and Radio 2 and Virgin and myself, and the team here, and her team there. We came together for the sake of 500 Words.”

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Chris had linked with his former BBC Radio 2 station for an on-air collaboration, where he spoke to host Zoe and the Duchess of Cornwall, who backs the contest and was a judge on the 2020 panel.

And he couldn’t help but look back on his popular project with admiration: “This year it enjoyed its record entry of 135,000 entries, it’s the biggest children’s writing competition in the world.”

But the DJ is determined to “accomplish” with the new competition and appealed to anyone who could add anything more to help with the initiative, even though he admitted they “pretty much” had all corners covered.

Angellica has been involved with 500 Words in the past, after she presented a special film for The One Show back in 2014 featuring 2013 winner Roxanna Toyne and author Lauren Child.

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Chris revealed he was “excited” that the two children’s presenters were involved with the latest spin-off and encouraged listeners who were unsure about the competition to research it to encourage them to take part.

“If you don’t know what 500 Words is, just Google 500 Words,” he said, hopeful that the Black Lives Matter pop-up will draw in an audience that will give the project the send off it deserves for such an important campaign.

The Chris Evans Breakfast Show continues weekdays at 6:30am on Virgin Radio.

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