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Cannes 2019: Ken Loach says UK work system ‘kills’

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Ken Loach and the cast of Sorry We Missed You attended the film festival

Veteran Cannes director Ken Loach has warned zero-hour contracts can “kill” and has accused companies of being able to turn working class people “on and off like a tap.”

The director was speaking following a screening of his heart-rending film Sorry We Missed You, which premiered at the film festival on Thursday night.

It follows a Mancunian delivery driver struggling to support his family.

“There is no way out, the system has trapped him,” said the 82-year-old.

As debts pile up, Ricky – played by Kris Hitchen – and his contract nurse wife, Abbie – portrayed by Debbie Honeywood – battle to stop their Newcastle-based family from falling apart.

Loach, who won the Palme d’Or in 2006 for The Wind That Shook the Barley and again, ten years later, for I Daniel Blake, believes their situation is representative of many other modern UK families.

“He [Ricky] is imprisoned,” said Loach.

“There is no escape, he’s in debt, he will be further in debt if he doesn’t go to work.

“We met people who went to work with broken limbs and there was one appalling case were a man didn’t keep his hospital appointment for diabetes because he had to work, then his diabetes got worse, he missed more appointments, then he died.

“It was directly traced to his inability to stop work because of debt and financial problems.

“This system kills.”

‘Security to insecurity’

The auteur, whose work often tackles themes like inequality, poverty and the welfare system, said the workplace had changed drastically since he was starting out, noting tradespeople could have a job for life and support their families on a living wage.

“The inexorable change from that security to insecurity, where people can be hired and fired at a day’s notice, where people are on contracts, where the employer makes no commitment to how much work they will get or how much they will earn,” he went on.

“Working through agencies or as Chris is in the film being so called ‘self-employed’ where the worker takes all the risk and the employer is in the fortunate position; he takes no risk and the worker has to exploit himself or herself.

“So it’s the perfect situation for the big companies, the worker has to work himself into the ground.

“That determines the choices families have and determines their relationships.

“The working class is weak and can be turned on and off like a tap and that’s built into the system.”



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Coronavirus: YouTube stars urge fans to stay at home

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KSI, DanTDM, Anastacia Kingsnorth and Caspar Lee appear in the video

More than 100 YouTube stars have recorded a video message urging their fans to “stay home” during the coronavirus outbreak.

The video is introduced by entertainer JJ Olatunji, known online as KSI, who has more than 21 million subscribers on the video clip platform.

“We’re here looking to spread awareness on the UK government’s current advice to stay at home,” he says.

The 20-minute video will be posted on YouTube at 16:00 BST.

As well as YouTube stars, footballer Rio Ferdinand, singer Jess Glynne, and Love Island narrator Iain Stirling are among well-known faces to appear.

The idea for the montage came from the Sidemen, a group of British video-makers, which KSI is part of.

Their joint channel has 7.6 million subscribers on YouTube.

The group says any advertising revenue earned from the video will be “donated to the NHS”.



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‘Memes should be archived in a museum’

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Internet memes are being widely circulated as people around the world are staying indoors.

Memes, a type of media that spreads and goes viral online, are often amusing but could they have broader cultural significance?

Should an image of a woman shouting at a cat or a hefty sheep be archived in a museum? Arran Rees from the University of Leeds thinks so.

Produced and edited: Ian Casey

Camera: James Wignall



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Introducing the soaring melodies of Azure Ryder

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Azure RyderImage copyright
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The singer was born and raised near the north beaches of Sydney

Just before Christmas 2018, Azure Ryder climbed into a vintage propeller plane and took hold of the controls as she soared over the ridges and passes of the Californian mountains.

“Holy guacamole, it was the greatest experience,” she enthused on her Instagram page. “My heart was so high.”

But the experience, a gift from her then-boyfriend, also prompted a deeper realisation for the 23-year-old.

“The plane moves so responsively to your touch,” she tells the BBC, “and it was one of those moments where I realised the control we have over our own lives and the situations we find ourselves in.

“So… It was powerful to be holding that steering wheel.”

The lesson resonated so forcefully with the singer because, over the previous year, she’d been plunged into an unfamiliar and sometimes frightening world.

After being spotted in an Instagram post, the singer had been swept away from her native Australia and put into writing sessions with some of the industry’s biggest names – including Isabella Summers from Florence and the Machine and Natalie Henby from the Highwomen.

“I struggled with it at times,” admits Ryder, “but it’s also magical to be in rooms with people who feel equally as passionate about music.”

The first fruits of those sessions were released on Friday, on Ryder’s debut EP, Running With The Wolves.

Built around the Australian’s warm, beguiling voice, the songs are dreamy and beautiful, with nods to Maggie Rogers’ rural pop and Florence’s earthy drama.

Musically restless, they rise and fall with the currents, as Ryder charts her journey from musical naïf to pop star in waiting.

I’m rising up, I’m not the girl you tore apart,” she sings on Stir The Dust. “I’m turning my scars into art.

But Ryder is sophisticated enough to know that life doesn’t always travel in one direction. And that turbulence surfaces on the EP’s lead song, Dizzy, a deceptively funky song that never fully resolves.

Half the time I’m wading water /And the other half I’m in the sky,” she sings, “‘Cause it’s the rise and the fall / That means that I’m still trying.

“I think everyone has situations where one second they’re going, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing,’ and the next second it’s like, ‘The world is crashing down,” she explains.

“I think celebrating that rather than resisting it is a massive thing. So I wanted the melody and the music to represent those highs and lows.

“I like the complexity of life.”

Church choir

Azure Ryder (it’s pronounced Ahh-zoo-ree) was born and raised near Sydney’s north beaches in late 1990s.

Growing up, she says she “struggled connecting with people” outside her “incredible and really big” family but she could always find solace in nature.

“Ten minutes’ walk from my house, I can be on a headland and sit up above the ocean,” she explains. “So that was my peace and calm.”

Although none of her family are musical, they listened to all the classics – Dusty Springfield, Sam Cooke, Carole King – while her elder brother force-fed her a diet of hip-hop and R&B.

But it was joining the church choir at the age of five that showed her the direction her life would take.

“That was like my first experience of actually figuring out what music was – and what it did for me and everyone else around me.

“And I’ve never wavered from then, in knowing this is what I was going to be doing.”

Never?

“Well,” she laughs, “there was stage of also wanting to be a professional horse rider while I was a singer. But music always came first.”

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The singer has recently completed new recording sessions in Nashville

Ryder says she “always had melodies and lyrics in my head” and even now will scrap Instagram posts when the words leap off the screen and suggest a new tune.

As a child, though, she and her friend “would perform a capella to our families” but it wasn’t until two years ago that she started getting help putting melodies to music.

Her big break, when it came, happened purely by accident.

After leaving school, she found herself in a retail job in Sydney that “completely drained every bit of creative spirit I had”.

Eventually, she decided to quit, and spent her savings hiring a recording studio on the surfers’ haven of Byron Bay in New South Wales.

It didn’t go well.

“I spent a lot of money and the results just were not me,” she recalls. “It was my first experience really of feeling like, to other people, I didn’t have much value or much say.”

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Azure Ryder / Instagram

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“I vibe off people’s energies, so if I walk into a room and I don’t feel a connection instantly, I guess I struggle,” says Ryder.

Disheartened, she made some money by modelling for a clothes label, who in turn invited her to attend a local musical event called Bluesfest.

There, on the final day, a friend shot a video of her walking around the site and posted it to Instagram with a caption saying Ryder had the “most beautiful voice”.

The clip was randomly spotted by a local music manager who, intrigued, sent Ryder a direct message the next day.

“Hey, I’m from TAP Management,” it said, “and we manage Angus and Julia Stone, Lana Del Rey, Dua Lipa. What’s your story?”

“I was like, ‘pffft,'” laughs Ryder. “But then I looked him up and was like, ‘Oh, this is real!’

“So I basically met with him, connected instantly, and he had me in my first session the next morning.”

Since then, the 23-year-old has signed to Island Records and relocated to London, where she started developing her sound.

There’s been a lot of trial and error, working with different writers and producers and experimenting with different styles.

She was overawed at meeting Isabella Summers, who “has words pasted all over her keyboard… All these amazing, beautiful words that you can just glance at and it sparks something”.

But perhaps her favourite song emerged at the end of her first session with James Earp, who’d previously co-written Lewis Capaldi’s breakout song, Bruises.

“The first whole day, we were just talking, getting to know each other and then, just when I was about to leave, I went to the bathroom and James was playing something on guitar.

“This melody just popped into my head and I was like [gasps] bouncing out of the bathroom going, ‘Wait!'”

The resulting song, Wolves, was considered worthy to be her first single, but Ryder couldn’t convince everyone it would work.

“The thing that people worried about, was that it was a more stripped-back, acoustic thing and people might overlook it,” she explains.

“I went through a process of everyone being like, ‘Try these different producers, get them to give it something more,’ but I realised that song was meant to just be the way it is, and anything placed on top of it detracted from that.”

In the end, Ryder delved into her hard drive of demos and came across Dizzy – realising its more radio-friendly sound would not only be a better introduction to her music, but would let Wolves survive in its intended form.

“I felt Wolves deserved more [love] than that. So not making it the single fits,” she says. And, if anything, that experience encapsulates Azure Ryder’s emergence as fully-formed, self-assured artist.

“I think I’ve become a lot more confident,” she says. “I believe more in what I have to say and I’m more open about being vocal and standing my ground when I have to.

“That’s why all the songs on that EP are, I guess, about taking control back for yourself”

So, just as she discovered flying that plane, your destiny is in your own hands. You just need to be ready to take the steering wheel.

Azure Ryder’s debut EP, Running With the Wolves, is out now on Island Records.

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