BIG Ian Donaghy's favourite film must surely be Field Of Dreams, the one where the godlike voice of James Earl Jones mysteriously advises Kevin Costner's Iowa farmer, "if you build it, he will come".

The Huger-than-life frontman keeps building it, and they keep coming, first at York Theatre Royal, next the Grand Opera House and now the York Barbican, each year's Night To Remember an even bigger sell-out success.

There is no mystery to Big Ian's method. He has poured two months of cheeky chappy chutzpah and north eastern graft into putting on his latest fundraiser for St Leonard's Hospice (his mother died from cancer) and dementia projects in York (the field in which this ever loquacious, inspirational former teacher now works).

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Big Ian Donaghy, on song at A Night To Remember. Picture: David Harrison

Who did he know who could give him access to Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker and pundit Alan Shearer to film a special introductory message? Guy Mowbray, of course, the supreme MOTD commentator, who lives in York and was present in Thursday's audience by the way.

"Why do we do nights like this in York?" Big Ian asked himself. "It's because we can." Not everyone, however, gets off their derriere to do what Ian does, conjuring a charity show with something of the gung-ho spirit of The Blues Brothers, a cracking house band led by keyboardist George Hall, and the cream of York's musicians from the city streets, bars, open-mic nights and star players, such as saxophonist Mick Donnelly and Kieran O'Malley, a fiddle-playing Irishman from Leeds.

Then let a wonderfully exuberant crowd, 1,500-strong, make the Barbican feel as intimate as a phone box.

The format is a winner, with Big Ian as a humorous and emotional master of ceremonies for a night of cover versions. Taking the lead in several songs too, from One Of These Nights to Ain't No Sunshine, he urged donations, highlighted the good causes, and introduced the street musketeers The Y Street Band, balladeer Graham Hodge, golden-voiced Rachel Croft, bar-room dude Boss Caine and bonny Beth McCarthy (for an exhilarating reinterpretation of Man In The Mirror).

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Chris Helme takes on Moon River in a night of cover versions. David Harrison

At the heart of the first half was a life-affirming performance by Vocal Flourish, whose members "live with dementia but sing without it". Everyone, but everyone, rose to their feet and the tears flowed. "A life without risk is merely existence," said Professor Donaghy. "We just got a double six there."

Into the second half, Heather Findlay did her earth-moving Carole King; Chris Helme risked his mother's scorn by honouring a song she's never liked, Moon River; and Las Vegas Ken turned the hall temporarily Irish with The Wild Rover.

Big Ian reckons Jess Morgan, the singing hairdresser with the tumbling tower of red hair, has the best female voice in York, so he set her the challenge of performing the two songs that most terrified Strictly Come Dancing's lead singer, Andrea. If Adele's Hello was Ben Nevis, Whitney's I Have Nothing was Mount Everest and frankly Jess leapt over them both. Wow.

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Team photo: Big Ian's helpful friends at A Night To Remember. Picture: David Harrison

And there was still more, a crowd scene of a finale with Big Ian and Jess swapping leads on The Human League's disco stomper Don't You Want Me and a wildly celebratory encore of The Beatles' With A Little Help From My Friends. With plenty of help from friends on stage and off stage alike, Big Ian had just moved the goalposts for charity gigs in York: raising money, awareness and community spirit all at once. A night to remember? Unforgettable.