Campaign driven by ex-JFS pupil beats Justin Bieber to Xmas number one
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Campaign driven by ex-JFS pupil beats Justin Bieber to Xmas number one

Harriet Nerva

The NHS choir has beaten Justin Bieber to the coveted Christmas number one, following a campaign spearheaded by a former JFS pupil. 

The Lewisham and Greenwich choir’s charity single, A Bridge Over You, has claimed the top spot in the closest chart battle since 2009 when Rage Against The Machine beat X Factor star Joe McElderry. 

Harriet Nerva, a junior doctor at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridge, started the campaign with two others as a celebration of the NHS’ work despite not knowing any of the staff involved in the single Bridge Over You.

This week she toured radio studios with the doctors, nurses, physios that make up the Lewisham and Greenwich choir after a Facebook group promoting the charity single garnered more than 183,000 supporters.

It was narrowly ahead of Bieber’s Love Yourself on combined sales and streams on Monday in the race for the top spot, with Stormzy’s Shut Up also making ground.

Before it emerged that the charity single pipped Bieber to the top spot, Nerva, 26, told the Jewish News: “I heard the song after a very hard day at work when a patient I had been looking after for a while passed away – and it brought back to me how proud I am to work for the NHS.

I thought getting the song to number one would be a fantastic celebration of the NHS and a big morale booster as morale is low at the moment.”

She contacted Dr Katie Rogerson and NHS communications manager Joe Blunden who had both been involved in the campaign when the track came out first in 2013.

“We started the campaign back in late October,” recalled the Belsize Square Synagogue member. “It has been mainly circulated through social media and we have been very touched by all the messages of support and people sharing their NHS stories.”

Proceeds from the song – a mash-up of Coldplay’s Fix You and Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water – will go to Carers UK and Mind.  

High-profile supporters include Stephen Fry, James Corden, Labour Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Luciana Berger and Chris Evans, whose Radio 2 breakfast show the choir performed on this week.

Nerva said: “We think the NHS needs the Xmas number one more than Justin Bieber.”

Speaking to OfficialCharts.com the choir said: “We are absolutely overwhelmed and couldn’t be any happier! It’s a brilliant celebration for the NHS across the country so well done and thank you everyone for downloading and streaming.

“A massive cheer for the NHS, thank you!”

The choir clinched the top spot nearly 31,000 copies ahead of Bieber, with a total of combined chart sales of over 127,000 copies against Bieber’s 97,000.

The NHS Choir’s bid was boosted by Bieber earlier in the week when he called on his fans to “do the right thing” and help the charity single get to the top spot, saying that “for one week it’s OK not to be number one”.

Bieber actually tweeted support for the NHS single, adding it was “for charity”, “so for 1 week it’s ok not to be #1. Let’s do the right thing & help them win. 

It’s Christmas.”

Martin Talbot, chief executive of the Official Charts Company said: “What a fantastic result for the NHS Choir to claim the 2015 Christmas Number 1. There will be thousands ofNHS staff across the country working through Christmas Day, while the rest of the nation is putting its feet up – this success is for them. There couldn’t be a more deserving group of winners.”

Bieber still holds a strong chart presence with three of his songs placing in the second, third and fifth positions in the charts.

Another singer celebrating festive success is Adele, who has scored the biggest selling album of Christmas week for 2015.

Hew album, 25, has already made chart history and now holds the top spot for the fifth week running.

According to the Official Charts Company, sales in the final week before Christmas reached nearly 450,000 copies.

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