2016 (July to December)

2016 (July to December)

<<< 2016: January to June :: Introduction

July 1

Welsh Dragons Roar Again

wales_trendingIf you’re not familiar with football you might think that Belgium is a small nation and therefore no great footballing power. But the nation is currently enjoying a golden era, with superstars like Hazard, Kompany, Fellaini, De Bruyne and Alderweireld helping them to world #2 ranking behind Argentina (Wales was #26). So after Wales dumped Northern Ireland out of Euro 2016 in the last 16, most rational people thought their match against Belgium would be their last. And when Belgium went 1-0 up in the first half, that was that. But Wales mounted a stunning comeback, levelling, going ahead and finally nodding in a third against enormous Belgian pressure. As we can see from the trending chart to the right, the result lit up Twitter.

Corbyn watch: Still in place.

July 2

Caroline Aherne

Late on Saturday night the sad news broke that comedian Caroline Aherne had died aged 52, and social media was overcome with shock and disbelief. She was best known for her appearances in The Fast Show (where she played a judgemental checkout assistant and a South American weather presenter) and The Royle Family, and as the chat show host Mrs Merton, probably her best known role.

July 4

Stepping Down

Still buoyed up by the Brexit vote, UKIP leader Nigel Farage announced he was quitting the leadership. It led to an outpouring of vitriol from Remainers. With Johnson bowing out of the Conservative leader contest and Gove floundering against Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May, the three main faces of the Leave campaign all now look like they will not be sticking around in politics long enough to deal with the consequences of the positions they advocated.

Over in the real world, there was also a shock (ish) announcement from Chris Evans, who today said he was quitting Top Gear. The announcement followed bad and deteriorating viewing figures. However many social media users thought it odd that with all that’s happening in the world, the BBC News website should make the story its headline.

July 7

Chilcot Report Released

At 11 a.m., Lord Chilcot read out his immense report into the reasoning, planning, invasion and aftermath of Iraq in 2003. While many die-hard anti-Blair activists had anticipated a whitewash that would exonerate Blair from blame, the actual report was pretty damning of the ex-PM. Key evidence that came out included Blair telling Bush he would support him “whatever” in the run-up, which was deemed to signal Blair had his hands tied at that moment. Chilcot concluded that not all peaceful means had been explored to ensure Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction before the invasion, and that the legal basis for the invasion was “far from satisfactory. Who knows where this will end?

July 7

Sports Stars Sentenced

messi_blairEarly in the day it was announced that Oscar Pistorius was to be jailed for six years for murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, which did not come as much of a surprise to anyone following the case (although many considered it a lenient sentence).

But buried in the news as Chilcot delivered his summary, in Spain football’s number one superstar Lionel Messi was being sentenced to 21 months (suspended) for tax fraud, and suddenly became the day’s trending story.

July 10

Great Day of Sport for Brits

Brits did pretty well today, sports-wise. First Lewis Hamilton romped home in a wet-dry British Grand Prix, and thanks to a penalty for rival Nico Rosberg, drew up to a single point behind him after having a distinctly rocky start to the season.

Over in SW19, Andy Murray triumphed at Wimbledon for the second time. Although the big guns had all been knocked out by the final, Murray beating Milos Raonic came as no surprise to anyone following the tournament; Murray had been in imperious form throughout.

Euro 2016 finished with a final in Paris between hosts France and perpetual bridesmaids Portugal, but the Iberians went and clinched it with a goal in the second half of extra time. Ronaldo limped off with an injury long before the goal and then got attacked by a moth. England were left wondering “what if” (i.e. what if they could have crushed Iceland then seen off France, Germany and Portugal in an increasingly unlikely series of events). The British heroes were undoubtedly Wales, who won their group then overturned Northern Ireland and Belgium before being overwhelmed by the eventual winners in the semis.

July 10

Gotta Catch ’em All

Again.

July 11

May Wins it by Default

With the Conservative leadership contest down to two (May and Leadsom), we were all set for a long battle to win the hearts and minds of the Conservative grass roots before a winner was elected, but this morning Leadsom dropped out of the race; with May the only remaining candidate, she will become the leader and PM on Wednesday after Cameron’s final PMQs. Leadsom had had a torrid few days after she suggested in an interview that being a parent made her a more capable leader than childless May, and most of the press had turned on her. With May’s appointment, there was some talk of Gove (eliminated in the last round) re-joining the fight to give party members a choice between a Remainer and a Leaver, but it fizzled out as the day progressed, and May became heir apparent.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn remains entrenched in his office protected by loyalists. Many people online noted that when May was appointed he didn’t make a statement of support, opposition of even unicorns, but attended a Cuban solidarity meeting instead …

July 13–14

Cameron Goes. May Comes. New Cabinet Announced.

At around 5 p.m. on July 13 we got a new prime minister, Theresa May. She quickly got to work installing her new cabinet, and it signalled the end of the Cameron era. Out went Chancellor George Osborne (replaced by Philip Hammond), and May’s own hitherto post of Home Secretary was filled by Amber Rudd. Gove was sacked from justice (Truss) and Nicky Morgan lost her Education role (Greening). But the biggest shock of all, that elicited gasps and guffaws in equal measure, was the appointment of Boris Johnson to Foreign Secretary.

July 14

Horror in Nice

It was late in the evening when news filtered through on social media that something terrible had happened in Nice as crowds gathered to watch Bastille Day fireworks. A lorry had ploughed through the crowd, and the death toll escalated with every official announcement. By next morning it stood at more than 80, many of whom were children. It quickly became clear that this was no accident as the driver was armed and shooting members of the public. He was eventually shot and killed by police.

One aspect of this particular tragedy was that quickly people were posting incredibly harrowing pictures and videos of the event that were being widely shared. Prominent people pleaded with users not to potentially subject loved ones to such appalling images, but they kept appearing in everyone’s timelines. Posters used the argument that “the truth needs to be known” as justification for posting, although mainstream media had settled on the more respectful side of the argument long ago.

15 July

Turkey in Turmoil

By the time many early-night Brits had woken up on Saturday morning it had started and finished, but Turkey suffered a bloody attempted coup in the small hours while President Erdoğan was on holiday. The President urged the people to take to the streets to outnumber and overcome the relatively small military rebels, and they heeded his call. Unfortunately there was gunfire and fighting, and by the time the plotters had surrendered, almost 300 Turks had died. Shortly after, Erdoğan suspended or sacked thousands of military top brass and judges.

Many commentators on social media were less than convinced that the attempted coup was real, saying it was a way for Erdoğan to tighten his grip on power. Plenty of the soldiers involved in the coup had said they did not support it; many said they had been told it was a training exercise. Here’s a summary.

18 July

Reports of Atkinson’s Death Greatly Exaggerated

This being 2016, it came as no surprise that another much-loved celeb had passed on to the next world. But Rowan Atkinson insisted that he was very much alive despite the story that trended throughout social media. As you were.

20 July

It’s Sam

So now we know who the England manager is: Sam Allardyce, presently managing Sunderland after keeping them in the Premier League last season. The news was met with a degree of exasperation and surprise, as he’s not a manager with a particularly shining CV trophy-wise, although perhaps it’s his gritty ability to prevent abject humiliation that made his the number one choice over Steve Bruce. But as long as the FA insists that the England manager must be English, we probably have to accept that the cupboard is always going to be relatively bare.

21 July

Trump’s Air Kiss

It was Trump’s moment. The Republican Convention, when Trump’s presidential nomination is officially endorsed by the party. But when he introduced his running mate and would-be vice president Mike Pence, this happened:

Oh, how we laughed. But then we all laughed when Brexit supporters sent a flotilla down the Thames, didn’t we?

August 5

Someone at Sprite thought it would be a good idea to run ads under the “brutally refreshingly” slogan with such cutting comments as “She’s seen more ceilings than Michelangelo”, “A 2 at 10 is a 10 at 2” and “You’re not popular … you’re easy” to people in Ireland. After a social media uproar, Sprite’s owners Coca-Cola stepped in and pulled the campaign.

As with all such disastrous campaigns, the obvious reaction is: “surely someone on the campaign should have said, ‘This is a bad idea.'” Yet the fact that it keeps on happening shows that either marketers don’t feel confident enough to speak out or that they really do lack a sense of awareness of how the campaign might be received outside the bubble. There’s a fine line between pushing the boundaries of taste and being simply offensive, and whatever your opinions on the right to be offended, it’s rarely a wise move for marketers to indulge.

August 5

Rio 2016 is Open

The long-awaited opening ceremony took place. After much speculation that the cauldron would be lit by Pelé, the honour finally went to Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, the Marathon runner who was ahead of the field during Athens 2004’s marathon when he was purposely attacked by a protester, eventually finishing in third place.

August 6

Where’s Daniel?

Several British newspapers were criticised for putting pictures of synchronised diving bronze-medallist Tom Daley on their front pages without his diving partner, Daniel Goodfellow. The papers said Tom was just more famous.

August 8

Into the Green

Sticking with diving, there was mystery surrounding the reasons why the pool turned a curious shade of green. It turned out to be down to algae, although it didn’t affect the swimming pool right next to it.

August 15

Team GB and Bolt

A wonderful weekend saw Team GB lifted up to an unbelievable 2nd place in the medal table ahead of China. The athletes triumphed in rowing, velodrome cycling, golf and gymnastics, and the nation stayed up until the wee small hours to watch Andy Murray take gold in the tennis in what can only be described as an epic match against Juan Martin del Potro. The hardcore night owls stayed up to watch Usain Bolt retain his 100m gold, making it three wins in three Olympics.

In the UK the weekend had been billed as Super Saturday #2, a reference to London 2012 when Rutherford, Ennis-Hill and Farah won in the stadium after golds in rowing and cycling, but only Farah managed to take gold in the stadium this time (despite falling over during the race). It was quickly rebranded as Super Sunday after the thrills.

August 21

Goodbye Rio

The Olympics ended and there was celebration in the UK as Team GB managed to hold on to their second place position, behind the USA but ahead of China. We took 27 golds in the pool, on the cycling and running tracks, on the lakes, oceans and rapids, on horseback, in the fighting ring and octagon, on the tennis court, around the golf course and in the gymnasium. The total Team GB medal tally was 67, which was more than the 65 we took at our home Olympics in 2012.

The Games themselves were, as usual, deemed a success, but only time will tell what the true legacy was. Brazilians who had been forced out of their homes, lost loved ones in protests and had been forced to sit in interminable traffic jams while VIPs were ushered past them in special lanes probably saw the Games differently. One of the enduring images of the 2016 Games will probably be the empty seats, as overpricing put spectating out of the reach of most locals. Athletes also noted that unless you were Brazilian you could expect boos on the call of your name or the announcement of your victory, but the ear-splitting sound of the crowd when Brazil took gold in football will certainly endure in the memory too.

August 23

Corbyn’s Floor Stunt Doesn’t Stand Up

On August 11, images of Jeremy Corbyn sitting on the floor of a Virgin train from London to Newcastle had been circulated widely, with supposed fellow passengers taking selfies with him. He had claimed the train was “ram-packed” and that the doorway was the only place he could sit, and used the experience as evidence that the railway network and operators needed to be renationalised.

But on August 23, Richard Branson intervened personally, sharing CCTV images of the day showing that the carriarg was nowhere near full, and that Corbyn had simply been engaging in a publicity stunt. This lit the touch-paper (remember, Corbyn is in a leadership election) and supporters and opponents slugged it out online. The argument hit its nadir when Corbyn’s team suggested the seats weren’t empty but were occupied by children, and much hilarity ensued.

https://twitter.com/RupertMyers/status/768099495003426816

August 29

Gene Wilder

2016’s assault on celebrity continues unabated, this time with Gene Wilder. Most of those reminiscing pointed to his appearances in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Blazing Saddles as evidence of his stature. By the standards of many film stars he wasn’t particularly prolific, but people who knew him personally mourned someone who seemed to be a genuinely amiable chap.

August 29

Women wearing Headphones

You’ve got to feel for Dan Bacon. He must have thought he was a shoo-in for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine after his study unlocked the special cheat sequence that could unlock the heart of any woman (wearing headphones). Ignoring the whole concept of personal space, harassment and public nuisance, he had delivered in his barely known “Modern Man” lifestyle blog his step-by-step treatise on the subject, which boils down to standing in front of her and smiling weirdly, and if that doesn’t work, elevating the ticket to waving your hand in her eyeline, gesturing to her to remove her headphones, snipping the wires or jamming the Bluetooth signal, wearing a “talk to me” sandwich board and finally kidnapping her.

Needless to say, social media reacted with mirth and bewilderment at Bacon’s work. Some laughed at the simplification of all women into hackable automatons; others took the opportunity to point out that while people were laughing, women get harassed like this all the time despite overt signals that they are not interested in interaction. Bacon stuck to his guns, and did gather a degree of support, and no doubt his blog will have gained a couple of thousand juicy inbound links in the process.

September 7

Paralympics Are Go

A few weeks after the Olympics closing ceremony, the Paralympics opened with an enchanting display. It got a bit political at times, with spectators booing Carlos Arthur Nuzman, head of the organizing committee. Team GB hoped to emulate the success of the Brits at the Olympics …

September 11

Hillary Stumbles

US Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton stumbled and was stopped from falling by her entourage at a 9/11 commemoration in NYC. It would later emerge that she had been battling pneumonia. Rival Donald Trump stopped short of pouncing, wishing her well, but there was no stopping his supporters from reminding people that Trump had questioned her health several times throughout the campaign

September 12

Bake Off Off

After becoming the BBC’s most successful show, and during the airing of its seventh series, it was announced that the BBC had lost The Great British Bake Off to Channel 4 after they made a better offer to the production company. While on the face of it it hardly matters, much of the debate surrounded the BBC’s role in the media world, with many bewailing that fact that yet again, the BBC had nurtured a show through average viewing figures to make it a massive success – only to lose it to higher bidders.

September 19

Monkman

People who weren’t watching University Challenge started switching over in response to a slew of mentions of an enigmatic “Monkman” started streaming down their timelines. He quickly became a trending subject and the memes started coming …

http://www.standard.co.uk/stayingin/tvfilm/university-challenge-fans-go-into-meltdown-over-intense-contestant-eric-monkman-a3349006.html

September 20

OMG Brangelina

It started as a TMZ rumour then spread to a social media buzz, but unlike most celebrity gossip it was confirmed pretty quickly as true: Angelina had filed for divorce from Brad. The ultimate glitzy relationship was indeed over. Allegations of Brad’s infidelity were favourite reasons, but some wags had other ideas …

September 19

Televised Berate

The first round of presidential debates took place between Clinton and Trump. By most accounts it was a bloodbath, with Trump aggressive and unprepared; Clinton cool and mainly chuckling at Trump’s responses. Time will tell whether their respective approaches were wise, but the debates didn’t really change the polls. Americans seem pretty decided already, and it’s still too close to call.

September 19

Allardyce Resigns with a 100% Record

Oh, Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam. Hapless Sam, manager of England’s all-conquering football team, was caught on camera in sting by Telegraph journalists posing as businessmen and saying he could show them how to circumvent FA rules. He also seemed to agree to some lucrative speaking gigs in the Far East, which would grant him a handy £400,000 to supplement his meagre £3m salary. He was summoned to the FA and social media was wondering if and when he’d be sacked. The news emerged late in the evening that his reign was over. Cue much gnashing of teeth about what football has become.

However, Big Sam left with a phenomenal record of success, with no losses or draws to his name. OK, he won one game, a 2018 World Cup qualifier against Slovakia, where he fielded a team almost identical to Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 failures, and it was 0-0 with 10 seconds of added time left, but let’s not get bogged down with the details.

October 6

UKIP Fisticuffs

When news started filtering through that UKIP MEP Steven Woolfe had collapsed in the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, social media’s first reaction was muted. He was reportedly unconscious and had been taken t hospital. But soon news emerged that he had had a fight with fellow UKIP MEP Mike Hookem, and the mood became infused with schadenfreude before sensible users and politicians from opposing parties reminded us it was a serious incident and the outlook was grim. However, Woolfe appeared to make a remarkable recovery and reported from his bed that there was no bleeding on the brain and he was going to be fine. So social media went back to laughing at UKIP again.

October 7

Hurricane Matthew

A deadly hurricane passed over Haiti, leaving more than 900 dead. Florida braced itself for the landfall that was forecast to be made.

October 7

Trump Leak Leaves Ugly Stain

A video emerged from 2005 of Republican presidential nominee making dreadful comments about groping women, and claiming that being rich and famous lets him do whatever he wants to women. It was a case of a microphone being left on as he arrived at a TV studio in a coach, and he could also be heard making lewd comments about Arianne Zucker, who was meeting them off the coach. The tape emerged the weekend of the second presidential debate, and was naturally pounced upon by the media and the Democrats. Trump partially apologised but claimed it was “locker room banter”. The leak played a part in the debate itself, which turned ugly as Trump accused Hillary’s husband Bill of sexual assault. But some news outlets reported that even worse tapes were about to emerge.

October 10

Killer Clowns

This is not a drill. The killer clowns who have been terrorising America have now made it over to the UK. Granted, it’s mainly kids messing around (which makes it sound like there are actually killer clowns) but there have been a few scares, with clowns being seen hanging around outside primary schools (not cool), clowns carrying knives (the law applies to clowns too, clowns) and a few clowns being beaten up just for being a clown. Some police forces have issued statements saying that they will arrest clowns on sight.

October 13

Killer Gorilla

Killer Gorilla was a Donkey Kong clone back in the day. Kumbuka was an adventurous gorilla who escaped from his enclosure at London Zoo, causing a lock-down and a flurry of interest on social media as people estimated how many thousands of people it would eventually kill. Maybe the news was given more respect than it deserved after Harambe was shot and killed in Cincinnati Zoo in May after a child fell into its enclosure, because it would later turn out that Kumbuka was never a danger to the public, reaching only a staff-level area. Still though …

October 14

Jean Alexander

Older contributors to social media were upset to find out that one of the stars of the golden age of Coronation Street had died. Jean Alexander, who played  Hilda Ogden, did play other roles after she left the Street in 1987, but it was for her role as the busybody cleaner that she will be best remembered.

October 27

Vine Withers

Twitter announced that it was stopping its Vine service. The standalone 6-second video-loop platform was acquired by Twitter in 2012, and although it has spawned its own culture of Vine-makers, use has been falling of late. Twitter has insisted that existing videos will still be available to view, but new ones cannot be posted once the deactivation has taken place. The platform was used widely for comedy shorts, sports highlights and creative pieces like this:

but also found itself widely circulated for news stories such as the Paris bomb attacks:

Apparently, PornHub made an offer for the platform …

October 28

Clinton’s Emails in the News Again

Donald Trump had been tanking in the polls, so the announcement by the FBI that Hillary Clinton’s emails were again under investigation (after being cleared of any worngdoing some months earlier) was pounced upon by the Republican candidate’s campaign. Trump himself, with characteristic understatement, said the revelation was “bigger than Watergate”. The Democrats, meanwhile, questioned why the announcement was made less than two weeks before the day of the election when no specific information had been divulged – merely the existence of another warrant to search the emails of Huma Abedin, the vice chair of Clinton’s campaign, not Clinton’s. Trump’s polling took a leap … this one is going down to the wire.

November 3

Brexback

Theresa May’s plans for government enacting the infamous Article 50under parliamentary privilege (the trigger for leaving the EU) suffered a setback in the High Court as three senior judges ruled that it was unconstitutional and that Parliament must be consulted about negotiating positions and must be able to vote on any deal made with the EU. Leavers were incandescent with rage, claiming the “will of the people” had been overruled. Supporters of Remain told them to “get over it” (i.e. what Leavers have been telling them all along).

The right-wing press made the event sinister with headlines such as “Enemies of the People” (Mail) over photographs of the three judges. Mailonline actually described one of the the judges as “openly gay” for a while online. The headline was changed, but not before it had been extensively screengrabbed and shared on social media.

November 5 (ish)

We’re Still Standing

Tempting though it is to trace viral trends back to their origins, without their virality the origins wouldn’t matter (it’d be just doing stuff). So it’s only when it stars becoming clear that viral status has been reached that it becomes noticeable. And that’s about now with the Mannequin Challenge. Sports teams, politicians and other randoms have been standing still in a trend that’s a bit like the Harlem Shake, except the opposite. Expect it to drag on for a few months more.

November 6

Clinton Cleared

After a seemingly gargantuan task of going through this second set of suspect emails, the FBI declared that Hillary had no case to answer. The news would have been embarrassing for Trump had he been capable of embarrassment, as he had shouted to his supporters that the latest investigation was sure to be dynamite. Instead he returned to his position that the whole election was a fix.

November 8

Tobler Owns Up

On the day the US finally went to the polls, a more pressing issue was infuriating Brits. Toblerone was making the gaps between triangles bigger! It was the most read story on the BBC News site, and apparently only affected UK Toblerones. Scandal! Some people, it has to be said, noticed this happening five years earlier.

November 9

Trump Gets It

Britain woke up to news that was utterly dumbfounding and unexpected – Donald J  Trump is going to be the next US President. The decision of the American people (via the Electoral College system) didn’t just go against the polls; it went against what many saw as human decency. A man who had exhibited anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican, anti-abortion, misogynistic and pro-Putin sentiments, a man who had questioned Obama’s birthplace and said climate change was a myth invented by the Chinese to slow down Western productivity, seemed on this side of the Atlantic to be unelectable. He was seen in the UK as almost as a joke candidate all the way into the right-leaning end of the spectrum to the ground occupied by Farage et al. Indeed, this was the first President for some time to be officially endorsed by the KKK. And yet he did it. Hillary Clinton ended up winning more votes, but only slightly. Trump reached the Electoral College finishing post at around 6 a.m. UK time.

The day was awash with opinion pieces and hot takes on how Trump pulled it out of the bag. But once again, it seems that there’s a comforting bias on social media towards liberalism and acceptance that belies a more reactionary and conservative undercurrent, what could be called the “silent majority”.

When the polls were pointing to a Clinton win, Trump had, rather like Farage before him, claimed the electoral system was a sham (“fixed” in his words) and that losing would not be the end of it. He seemed to put this opinion to one side after winning. Clinton’s concession speech was tearful but more dignified than any reasonable person could have predicted Trump’s to be; and Obama went on to emphasise that the result is legitimate and that a peaceful transition of power was now the highest priority.

These are indeed strange times.

November 11

Leonard Cohen

For those who have been following Cohen’s health for some months, the news was a sad revelation rather than a shock that the Canadian-born poet and singer-songwriter, famous for his pathos and razor-sharp sense of the human condition, had died. The news briefly dominated social media, the contributors to which were still trying to make sense of the US elections.

November 26

Fidel Castro

The death of Cuba’s revolutionary leader certainly split the internet. He became a beacon of hope in 1959 to many when he overthrew the Batista regime. He will best be remembered for his part in the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Russian nukes were set to be placed 90 miles from mainland USA; the crisis is said to be the closest we have come to nuclear war. His crackdown on civil liberties made all but his hardcore supporters desert him. However he retained an air of romance that trickled down the decades, and never really disappeared from the public consciousness. On his death, however, the debate was re-ignited as social media was used to try to play a part in his legacy. In Miami’s Little Havana, they danced on the streets.

November 27

Hamilton’s Titanic Effort Hits a Rosberg

With Mercedes dominating the Formula One season, Japan, the 17th race of a 21-race season, proved pivotal in two ways. First, Mercedes’ 1-3 finish sealed the constructors’ title. But Rosberg’s win at Suzuka also put him 33 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton, meaning the German could win the championship by finishing second in the remaining four races, even in Lewis won them all. And that is exactly what happened. But going into the final race at Abu Dhabi, Rosberg’s 12-point lead could only be overturned if he finished 4th or lower, with Hamilton winning. This led to probably the most exciting finale since 2008, as Hamilton led from pole but drove slowly through the winding sections to try to back Rosberg up into the clutches of Verstappen and Vettel. Mercedes ordered Hamilton to speed up over the radio, but Lewis was in control, and ignored their orders.In the end, however, it was all for nothing, as Nico skillfully kept his second place and too the title.

November 29

Chapecoense Tragedy

News broke on November 29 of a sporting tragedy in South America in the late hours of the previous evening local time. Brazilian club Chapecoense had been compared with Leicester City, an unfancied club that had reached unexpected heights – in this case, the final of the Copa Sudamericana, which is roughly South America’s equivalent of the Europa League. But whilst flying to their match against Atlético Nacional of Medellín, Colombia, their plane crashed into mountains apparently after running out of fuel. Of the 77 passengers and crew on board the plane, 71 died, including most of the team and its staff. At the time of the scheduled match, the stadium was given over to a heart-rending tribute.

December 2

Andrew Sachs

The death of actor Andrew Sachs led to many people sharing their favourite Fawlty Towers moments on social media. Sachs had escaped Nazi Germany  as a child in the 1930s and settled in the UK, where he became an actor. He played Manuel, the Spanish waiter as Basil and Sybil’s terrible hotel in the 1970s, one of the best regarded sitcoms in British TV history. Younger people unfortunately knew him for being the victim of a 2008 prank phone call by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, which cost both men their jobs at the BBC.

December 25

George Michael

On Christmas Day George Michael was found dead by his partner Fadi Fawaz. He was ironically probably being listened to up and down the country at the time of his death, thanks to his song Last Christmas being a huge festive hit (it was only kept off number one in the year of its release by Band Aid, which Michael also sang on). George Michael had been a star in the 1980s , first as half of Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley, and then as a highly successful solo artist and songwriter.

December 27

Carrie Fisher

After Carrie Fisher was taken ill on a flight from London to Los Angeles on 23 December, it looked as if she had avoided the curse of 2016 when she seemed to respond well to medical intervention. However on 27 December she died. Fisher was of course best known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, a role she made her own. With the resurgence of interest in the Star Wars franchise over several generations, the loss was felt by social media users of all ages.

December 28

Debbie Reynolds

Carrie Fisher’s death was followed a day later by her mother, Debbie Reynolds. Reynolds had been a film star herself, most notably performing opposite Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain in 1952. Fisher’s death appears to be a contributing factor in the stroke she suffered.

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