GMBs Charlotte Hawkins on death of ‘irreplaceable’ family member: ‘She was so beautiful’
As a vicar’s daughter, Good Morning Britain’s Charlotte Hawkins knows a thing or two about the true meaning of Christmas.
And as the 48-year-old journalist and presenter prepares to officially kick-off her festive season, she tell us she is determined to pass on her dad Frank’s teachings to her own daughter, Ella Rose – and us!
“For my dad it was all about making sure that people in the community were okay” she says, “it was about looking out for each other, pulling together when times were tough, and making sure that no one was left out and no-one went without.
“If everybody remembered that, I think the world would be a better place.”
Vicar Frank died in 2015 after a three-year battle with Motor Neurone Disease, and his presence is particularly missed at this time of year, especially when it comes to the inescapable sound of classical Christmas tunes.
“It’s actually lovely,” Charlotte says. “It all reminds me of my childhood and being in church where my dad would be taking the services. So for me, yes it’s a time of celebration, but it’s also a time to look out for each other and to share the love.”
Newsreader Charlotte is making sure she passes on her dad’s community spirit to Ella-Rose, eight, who she shares with her film and TV producer husband Mark Herbert.
“I want to make sure she knows the importance of community and the importance of giving back at Christmas, because that’s what my dad taught me,” she says.
“We’ll always go to the church service at Christmas, and visit our neighbours to check if anyone needs anything, and we’ve been gathering presents together for the shoebox appeal to go to the Ukraine."
She continued: “When I look around at what we have, and what other families are lucky to have, all the lovely food and drinks and presents, it really puts it into perspective. It’s so important to me that we consider the people who don’t have that.”
With an eight year old in the Hawkins-Herbert house, Christmas “is all about the magic”, with festive traditions of leaving food for Father Christmas and his reindeer and wrestling with a “fiendishly difficult jigsaw puzzle”.
On top of present buying and planning, Charlotte, who will celebrate 10 years as part of the GMB line-up next year, is currently preparing to host a special winter wonderland extravaganza with the legendary violinist André Rieu.
Filmed in a palace adorned with 50 Venetian candelabras and 150 glittering chandeliers, André performs festive favourites Hallelujah, Ave Maria, Oh Holy Night and Jingle Bells, accompanied by his 60-person strong Johann Strauss Orchestra, with the concert screened in cinemas across the country on 2 and 3 December.
Charlotte has been collaborating with the Dutch violinist and conductor for over a decade but his Christmas concert is always her highlight.
“It’s just a magical way to kick off those Christmassy feelings,” she tells us. “I don’t think there’s anything like being surrounded by beautiful classical music, and these are pieces we’ve known and loved for so many years and they carry so much emotion with them, they can transport you to another place.”
Charlotte, who lives with Mark and Ella-Rose in Sussex, is a huge classical music fan, as fans of her Sunday-night Smooth Classics at Seven radio show on Classic FM will know.
In 2020 she also released a classical Mindfulness Moments album, dedicating it to Frank, who she credits for her love of the music that was the “soundtrack to my early childhood”.
This year has seen the star celebrate 15 years of marriage, but “I don’t feel Mark and I need the all-singing, all-dancing celebrations,” she explains. “We know our marriage is important, and being able to celebrate it with our child was a really special thing.
On the work front, Christmas on the Good Morning Britain set is incredibly busy, but it’s actually one of Charlotte’s favourite times of year in the office – especially as “everyone’s always handing round chocolates”.
“Good Morning Britain is always really lovely and festive with all the trees up, and there’s loads of festive features, so I actually love it,” she says, adding that “it’ll be nice to have a bit of time off and not have to get up at quarter-to-three in the morning!.”
The eye-wateringly early starts would be horrendous for most of us, but they actually work in Charlotte’s favour.
“I feel lucky really, because if you do a job in the city and you’re out all day and don’t get back until the evening, that’s a juggle in itself. Even though I do have an early alarm call, once it’s done, I’ve got the rest of the day to do other things – if I can stay awake!.”
Another silver lining – if you can call it that – is Charlotte getting to enjoy a regular “bed time of an eight year old”, which her daughter is thrilled about.
“She loves the fact that if I’m working the next day she can say, ‘right mummy, it’s your bedtime as well, we’re going to get up early tomorrow’.”
Next year will mark Charlotte’s tenth year on GMB, making her one of the show’s longest-serving faces.
It’s fair to say certain factions of British daytime television have been having their “annus horribilis” this year, with This Morning undergoing huge shakeups following Philip Schofield’s – and now Holly Willoughby’s – departure.
“On Good Morning Britain we’ve welcomed new faces, and I think it’s great to include lots of new people. So yeah, we’ll wait to see what happens on that one,” she says of line up changes on the horizon.
One thing Charlotte says won’t be changing is her commitment to her charity work. After watching her dad endure his battle with MND, she signed on as a patron of the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
“I saw what Dad went through and I just thought, ‘I want to do anything I can to try to make sure that other families don’t have to go through that I’ll do anything I can to help.”
Another cause close to her heart – which saw her break down in tears on GMB in August – is her affiliation and adoration for the Dogs Trust.
Charlotte and Mark rehomed their rescue dog Bailey when she was just four months old, and she spent a happy 16 years with them until her sad death in August.
After sharing her loss, Charlotte was inundated with “love” from kind viewers.
“We knew we only had a matter of time with Bailey but the physical pain I felt when we lost her still took me by surprise,” she remembers. “She was a really important member of our family and such a beautiful, special dog.”
For now, she says, the family are still riding the waves of grief, especially “not hearing her paws on the tiles and thinking, ‘oh I have to feed the dog’, and remembering she’s not there”.
“At the moment it feels like she’s irreplaceable, but I’m a massive dog lover and I know we’ll have another pet at some point, we just have to work out as a family when it’s the right time.
“Ella is currently campaigning for a cat, but Mark doesn’t like them so I think she’s going to have a bit of a battle on her hands!.”
André Rieu’s 'White Christmas' will be in cinemas nationwide for one weekend only on 2nd and 3rd December. Tickets available now at WWW.ANDREINCINEMAS.COM
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