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Caroline Flack: Laura Whitmore attacks trolls over friend’s death

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Media captionPresenter Laura Whitmore pays tribute to friend Caroline Flack.

Presenter Laura Whitmore has paid tribute to her “vivacious” and “loving” friend Caroline Flack, who was found dead in her London flat on Saturday.

Fighting back tears on her BBC Radio 5 Live show, she said the former Love Island host “loved to love”.

She also appealed to listeners to “be kind” to others and said she wanted to use her platform to “call people out”.

“To paparazzi and tabloids looking for a cheap sell, to trolls hiding behind a keyboard – enough,” she said.

A lawyer for Flack’s family said on Saturday that she had taken her own life.

The 40-year-old had been “under huge pressure” since she was accused of assaulting her boyfriend Lewis Burton in December, her management company said.


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Burton, who did not support the ongoing case against Flack, wrote an emotional tribute to the presenter on Instagram on Sunday, promising the star he would “be your voice baby”, and that he would “try [to] make you proud everyday”.

“I am so lost for words I am in so much pain I miss you so much I know you felt safe with me you always said I don’t think about anything else when I am with you and I was not allowed to be there this time I kept asking and asking,” the 27-year-old tennis player wrote.

He concluded: “I love you with all my heart.”

Bail conditions had stopped Flack having any contact with Burton ahead of her trial next month.

ITV cancelled the scheduled broadcasts of Love Island on Saturday and Sunday but said that the show would return on Monday night with a tribute to its former presenter “who will be forever in our hearts”.

Whitmore, who took over presenting Love Island following Flack’s arrest, said her friend “loved to laugh” and had the “most infectious chuckle”.

“I’m not going to pretend she was perfect, but is anyone? She lived every mistake publicly, under the scrutiny of the media.

“Caroline loved to love. That’s all she wanted. Which is why a show like Love Island was important to her, because the show is about finding love, friendship, having a laugh. The problem wasn’t the show. The show… is loving and caring and safe and protected.

“The problem is, the outside world is not. Anyone who has ever compared one woman against another on Twitter, knocked someone because of their appearance, invaded someone else’s privacy, who have made mean, unnecessary comments on an online forum – they need to look at themselves,” she said.

Whitmore said she had been debating whether she “should, would or could come on air today” but she wanted to talk about her friend “to give her the respect she deserves”.

She said she had also been harassed for “just doing her job” and “words affect people”.

“So to listeners – be kind. Only you are responsible for how you treat others and what you put out in the world,” she said.

She then played Angels by Robbie Williams, saying her friend, who she met at V-festival about 10 years ago, loved music and loved to dance, and the song always reminded her of Flack because she “danced so beautifully to it on Strictly”.

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Caroline Flack danced to Angels with her partner, Pasha Kovalev, on Strictly Come Dancing, which she won in 2014

“Caroline, I’m so sad for you, for your family. I’m angry that you saw this as your only option as I know how much love and support you had. I’m sorry you didn’t know that,” she said just before she played the song.

“I am not sure when, but I know I’ll see you on the dance floor again and I hope you are at peace and know that you are loved.”

Flack had co-hosted The X Factor and won Strictly Come Dancing in 2014, as well as presenting ITV’s Love Island.

Following her death, an ITV spokeswoman said she was a “much-loved member of the Love Island team”. The show did not air on Saturday night.

The presenter stood down from the dating show after she was charged with assault in December. She denied the charges.

‘Finger of blame’

Her management company has criticised the Crown Prosecution Service for refusing to drop charges, even though Burton said he did not want the case to go ahead.

The CPS said it would not comment on the specifics of the case “given the tragic circumstances”.

Former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal said his impression was that the case had been determined to be a serious case, and one which the CPS felt they should proceed with “regardless of what the victim thought”.

Responding to reports that the ambulance service was called to the star’s address the day before she was found dead, a London Ambulance spokesperson said: “We were called shortly after 22:30 on 14 February to a residential property in north London.

“Crews attended and, following a clinical assessment, the person was not taken to hospital. Due to patient confidentiality we cannot comment further.”

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Caroline Flack arriving for X Factor auditions with judges and co-host Olly Murs in 2015

A petition on the online site 38 Degrees, dubbed “Caroline’s Law”, which calls for new laws around media regulation in the wake of the presenter’s death, has attracted more than 110,000 signatures.

Honey Lancaster-James, a TV psychologist who worked with celebrity contestants on an early series of Love Island, said it was important not to “point the finger of blame”.

“There are often a number of factors, and a number of things that have led to a deterioration in mental health,” she said.

Other celebrities and ex-Love Island stars have also paid tribute to Flack, describing her death as “heartbreaking”.

Her co-presenter on The X Factor and The Xtra Factor, Olly Murs, said he “always knew how fragile” she was and his heart was “forever broken” because she was “like a sister” and they were “friends for life”.

“This will hurt forever, love you cazza, Your Ols,” he said.



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Van Gogh painting Spring Garden stolen from Dutch museum

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Media captionOther works by Van Gogh have been stolen, and were later recovered

A Van Gogh painting has been stolen from a museum in the Dutch town of Laren.

Police said on Monday there had been a break in at the Singer Laren Museum at 03:15 local time (02:15 GMT).

The museum later announced that Van Gogh’s Spring Garden, on loan from the Groninger Museum, was missing.

The Singer Laren Museum is closed due to the coronavirus. Its director, Jan Rudolph de Lorm, told reporters he was “incredibly pissed off” over the theft.

The value of the painting is not currently known.

The museum was created in the 1950s to host the collection of US artist William Henry Singer and his wife Anna.

On Monday the Dutch health ministry reported 11,750 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country, and a total of 864 deaths.



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Author Michael Rosen ‘poorly but stable’ say family

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Former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen is “very poorly at the moment” and spent a night in intensive care, his family have said.

The statement on Twitter said he was “now doing OK” and was “stable” and “alert” having been moved to a ward on Sunday.

It is not known whether the 73-year-old’s condition is related to the coronavirus.

The children’s novelist and poet was Children’s Laureate from 2007 to 2009.

His many works for children include We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Little Rabbit Foo Foo and Tiny Little Fly.

Cressida Cowell, author of the How to Train Your Dragon series, said she hoped he would “recover swiftly”.

Rosen’s family thanked all his Twitter followers “for all their kind concern”.





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Arts go interactive during coronavirus lockdown

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The Royal Academy of Dance’s Silver Swans, pictured before the recent restrictions

As Britain begins its second week under strict conditions restricting movements and gatherings, arts organisations are getting creative in their attempts to interact with patrons.

The Getty Museum in the US, for example, has found a novel way for art lovers to engage with its collection.

Later this week the Royal Academy of Dance is launching a weekly series of online ballet classes, specifically tailored for the over-55s.

Theatres are now closed all across the country. But that doesn’t mean theatre lovers are being denied the joys of the communal experience.

Choirmaster Gareth Malone, meanwhile, is assembling a Great British Home Chorus to get us singing together even while we are apart.

Art imitating life

Based in Los Angeles, the J Paul Getty Museum is home to works by Rembrandt, Cezanne and hundreds of other world-renowned artists.

When the museum closed to the public on 14 March, its social media team started looking for ways to keep its audience entertained.

The answer lay in a Dutch Instagram account featuring elaborate recreations of works by Frida Kahlo, Rene Magritte and others.

The Getty put its own spin on the idea, inviting its followers to recreate artworks using three things lying around their houses.

Art fans jumped at the challenge, deploying everyday items, relatives and even pets to emulate works by Monet, Warhol and others.

One participant used coffee filters to make a mock-up of a ruff worn by one of El Greco’s subjects.

Another employed a shower cap and her own baby bump to replicate Raphael’s La donna gravida.

Bread, jam and a biscuit, meanwhile, were used to fashion an edible version of The Scream that certainly puts the munch into Edvard Munch.

“We are loving all your creative recreations,” the museum tweeted, exhorting its followers to “keep sharing”.

Keep dancing

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Millions know Angela Rippon for the glamorous dance routine she performed with Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in 1976.

Forty-four years on, the former newsreader is still championing the terpsichorean arts in her role as Royal Academy of Dance ambassador.

Since 2017, the HealthCheck UK presenter has been raising awareness for the RAD’s Silver Swans project, branded ballet classes aimed at the over-55s.

This week the RAD is putting those classes online in the hope they will encourage older audiences to “unleash their inner dancer”.

“It’s a series of exercises that anyone can do at any level, that you can do at home in a small personal space,” Rippon told BBC News.

“You’re not going to be flying across the room like Carlos Acosta – you can do most of them holding on to something solid.”

According to Rippon, though, it’s not just the body that gets a workout.

“You’re having to use your brain as well so it’s a mental as well as a physical exercise,” she explained.

“It makes you feel good physically, but it makes you feel good psychologically too.”

The first online tutorial goes online on Wednesday, with new classes released weekly over the next nine weeks.

All the world’s a stage

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The closure of the UK’s theatres and performing arts venues has left the industry mired in turmoil and uncertainty.

With its base shuttered indefinitely, though, the National Theatre has decided to make some of its older productions accessible to a wider audience.

From 2 April, some productions previously screened in cinemas will be put on YouTube for theatre lovers to watch free of charge.

They include the comedy One Man, Two Guvnors starring James Corden; adaptations of the novels Jane Eyre and Treasure Island; and a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night starring Tamsin Greig.

The Hampstead Theatre in north London is also putting some of its plays online, starting this week with its 2016 staging of Mike Bartlett’s Wild.

If recent TV dramas Belgravia and The English Game haven’t sated your Julian Fellowes cravings, meanwhile, a 2017 recording of his musical version of The Wind in the Willows can also be streamed for free.

Lisa Burger, the National’s executive director, said its “varied” programme meant there would be “something for everyone to enjoy from their own homes”.

“We will be streaming each production at the same time each week in order to recreate, where possible, the communal viewing experience,” she added.

Roxana Silbert, the Hampstead’s artistic director, said its own offerings over the next three weeks would give audiences “entertainment, connection and nourishment in a time of uncertainty and isolation”.

The show, they say, must go on – something that producer Robert Myles has taken to heart.

He and a group of actors are gathering every Thursday to live stream performed readings of Shakespeare’s Complete Works.

So far they have tackled The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Taming of the Shrew, with the first part of Henry VI to follow later this week.

Sing for your supper

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Self-isolation is proving no hindrance to Gareth Malone’s new project, an online response to the nationwide closure of communal rehearsal places.

More than 160,000 people took part in the first rehearsal last week on YouTube.

“It is amazing how many people have signed up,” said Malone, promising to create something “really wonderful and inspiring”.

Those who have got involved have extolled the virtues of being part of what is now a globe-spanning venture.

“Amazing how a bit of singing lifts my spirits,” wrote one participant, while another said they were “absolutely loving the choir”.

“This is a wonderful idea,” wrote another choir member. “Thank you so much Gareth and everyone who is making this possible.”

For Angela Rippon, organisations and initiatives like the ones above are in an ideal position to appeal to a largely housebound populace.

“This is a great opportunity to reach a wider audience than they ever have before,” she said.

“Millions of us are in lockdown in our own homes and have the chance to do things we never felt we could.”





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