THE Beast From The East was sent packing as people shook off their cabin fever stir craziness to fill York Barbican.

The foyer was crammed with raffle prizes all donated by the audience. Now in its fifth year, could host Big Ian Donaghy’s team live up to past successes?

The evening began with a surprise recorded message from Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs. Short powerful films punctuated the night like a live version of Comic Relief.

“I Just Love Maltesers” explained how we should treat people living with dementia; the Bereaved Children Support Group explained the impact their founder Jo Cole has made on their lives and DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles extolled the virtues of community as “our most valuable resource” in York, talking about Xmas Presence and A Night To Remember.

The house band showed their versatility playing anything from ballads to skiffle. Much more than solo performances, the stage was packed for most of the night with grand ensemble numbers where Jess Steel’s performance would have made Dusty smile and Annie Donaghy’s finale of This Is Me from The Greatest Showman had everyone singing along. Chris Helme’s Never Tear Us Apart (INXS) was spine-tingling. Las Vegas Ken charmed the crowd with a skiffle knees-up favourite in his first show since his wife Polly passed away in January.

The freak snow resulted in Archbishop Holgate’s School musical being cancelled, so Big Ian gave Molly Newton’s cast the opportunity to open the second half.

On screen, Dawn Watts reminded everyone how much York needs St Leonard’s Hospice, delivering a message from her hospital bed before she went into the hospice. The room fell silent, then applause rang out as if she had played the biggest song of the night. Three other charities benefited from the show too: Dementia Projects in York, Bereaved Children Support Group and Accessible Arts.

Best news of all: between them, they will share £21,000, a sum to remember.

Review by J Maddison