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Eurovision 2019: Darude’s journey from Sandstorm to Tel Aviv



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Anton Sucksdorff

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Darude (in front), real name Ville Virtanen, with singer Sebastian Rejman

You may know the name. You definitely know the hit. Twenty years on, can DJ Darude mix up more success in Tel Aviv?

From Australia’s pop-opera hybrid to Iceland’s leather-clad BDSM enthusiasts, this year’s Eurovision hopefuls are a typically eclectic bunch.

Yet amid the ranks of power balladeers, talent show alumnae and Sam Smith wannabes there is one familiar name.

That would be Darude, the Finnish DJ and producer whose 1999 dance track Sandstorm became both an international hit and an internet phenomenon.

Two decades on from that iconic instrumental track, the man born Ville Virtanen in 1975 is back in the limelight and representing his homeland in Tel Aviv.

“It’s a big undertaking,” says the 43-year-old, who will perform Finnish entry Look Away with fellow Scandinavian Sebastian Rejman.

“I don’t think either of us realised how involved it was going to be.

“In Finland Eurovision lasts one night,” he continues. “But when you’re in the contest the promotions start early in the year.

“It’s been cool to see how involved the fans are from very early on. The real fans who are in ‘the bubble’ are so enthusiastic and vocal.”

Our interview takes place at the London Eurovision Party in April, one of numerous get-togethers held across Europe ahead of the main event.

Darude with Sebastian Rejman (left)Image copyright
Getty Images

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Rejman (left) is the frontman of Finnish band The Giant Leap

Eurovision can be the making of many a young performer, who can use the exposure it gives to kick-start a career in the industry.

For established artists, though, it can be a poisoned chalice, as more than one legacy act has found out to their cost.

The risk of public humiliation is far greater for a performer with a proven track record than it is for a newcomer who is just starting out.

Yet Darude is happy to participate in an event that, in the UK at least, is viewed with as much mocking disdain as passionate adulation.

“I’d been asked before to take part and there were several reasons I didn’t do it, which included the image Eurovision has,” he reveals.

“But this year the timing was good, and I also decided I’ve been around long enough that win or lose it won’t make or break my career.

Mr Lordi of Lordi

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Metal band Lordi brought Finland its only Eurovision win to date in 2006

“It was a challenge to produce a three-minute song and do something different,” the father of two says of a composition he and Rejman will perform in the first half of Tuesday’s semi-final.

“I just decided to take the benefits and the exposure this thing gives – the networking is huge! – and if there are any negatives, I kind of don’t care.”

Israel earned the right to host this year’s competition after winning last year’s event in Lisbon with Netta’s bumptious floor-filler Toy.

Yet the run-up to the event has seen calls for it to be relocated or boycotted on human rights grounds.

In January, Dame Vivienne Westwood, Mike Leigh and others signed an open letter urging the BBC to ask organisers to move the contest

  • Stars call for Eurovision to be moved

Another group of celebrities, among them Stephen Fry and Sharon Osbourne, have since co-signed a statement in support of the contest going ahead as planned.

The BBC has said Eurovision is “not a political event” and that it would not be “appropriate to use [its] participation for political reasons”.

“It’s a difficult matter obviously but we’re just in it for the music,” says Darude, who hopes to be among the 20 semi-final acts who will progress onto Saturday’s grand final.

“We don’t have too much say where it’s held, so we steer away from the politics of it.

“There’s a saying in Finland that if you bow down in one way, you show your butt the other way,” he continues.

(The expression is “joka kumartaa yhdelle, pyllistää toisille“, meaning, “Who bows to one bends over to others.”)

“But we do want people to think. Our song is about finding the courage to take on a problem and do something about it – whether it’s a global issue or a problem within your circle.”

  • Around Eurovision in 20 lyrics

Finland has competed at Eurovision 52 times – but it has only won the competition once.

That victory came in 2006, thanks to mask-wearing heavy metal band Lordi and their song Hard Rock Hallelujah.

“That’s the beauty of Eurovision,” laughs Darude. “You can win with a ballad, with dance music or some monster rock from Finland.

“It’s all about the vibes that year I guess.”

The first Eurovision semi-final will be shown on BBC Four on 14 May from 20:00 BST.

The second semi-final will be shown on BBC Four on 16 May from 20:00 BST, while the grand final will air on BBC One on 18 May from 20:00 BST.

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Newly-discovered Rembrandt work to go on display in Oxford




Art handlers moving the painting at the Ashmolean Museum in OxfordImage copyright
PA Media

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The exhibition featuring Let The Little Children Come To Me opens at the Ashmolean Museum on Thursday 27 February

A newly-discovered Rembrandt painting will go on display for the first time, nearly 400 years since it was created.

Let The Little Children Come To Me will be shown at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford as part of its Young Rembrandt exhibition.

The painting was discovered in 2014 by Amsterdam art dealer and historian Jan Six.

He identified a young man in the painting’s background as a self-portrait by Rembrandt.

The exhibition will explore the early years of the artist’s work from 1624-34.

Let The Little Children Come To Me is believed to have been painted around 1627-28.

The exhibition will feature 31 paintings by Rembrandt, 13 by his notable contemporaries and a further 90 drawings and prints from international and private collections.

Among those on display will be Rembrandt’s earliest known work, The Spectacles Seller (1624-25), which is described by the museum as a “crude, garishly coloured painting by an artist struggling with his medium”, as well as Jeremiah Lamenting The Destruction Of Jerusalem (1630), hailed as an “acknowledged masterpiece”.

The Young Rembrandt exhibition runs from 27 February until 27 June in the John Sainsbury Exhibition Galleries.

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Dot Cotton: Actress June Brown says she has left EastEnders ‘for good’




June Brown as Dot Branning in EastEnders, sitting in an armchair drinking a cup of tea

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“You should appreciate your fans,” Brown told the podcast

Veteran EastEnders actress June Brown has said she has left her role as much-loved character Dot Cotton after 35 years.

“I’ve left for good,” said the 93-year-old in an interview with podcast Distinct Nostalgia.

She is one of the BBC soap’s longest-running characters and has become a firm favourite with viewers.

Her character Dot has not been in an episode since January. An EastEnders spokesman said the “door remains open”.

Brown joined the show in 1985, the year it was created.

In the last episode she featured in, aired last month, Dot Cotton – or Dot Branning – left a voicemail message for character Sonia Fowler saying she had moved to Ireland.

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Brown told the podcast she is hoping to do a documentary next

Asked by interviewer and former co-star Rani Singh whether EastEnders had put her on a retainer, Brown replied: “I don’t want a retainer. I’ve left. I’ve left for good.

“I’ve sent myself to Ireland and that’s where she’ll stay. I’ve left EastEnders.”

One of EastEnders’ best-known stars, Brown was in her late 50s when she joined Albert Square.

Actor Leslie Grantham, who played Dirty Den, suggested her for the role. Until then, Brown’s career had incorporated stage, film and television, with appearances in Coronation Street and Doctor Who.

“I think I got it because they thought I was a punctual actress,” Brown told the podcast, which aired a special episode to celebrate 35 years of EastEnders.

“I’m not really but I became so. In fact I became so punctual I used to be in an hour before I should be.”

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Media captionJune Brown: 90 years in 90 seconds

She said it “was a very strange feeling” leaving the soap.

“I was feeling rather down the other day,” she said. “I thought, ‘what’s the matter? Why do I feel so sad?’ It’s almost as if I’ve been bereaved.

“I’ve played two people simultaneously for 35 years. Really Dot wasn’t me, but spiritually she probably was.”

Brown took a four-year break from the soap between 1993 and 1997

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An episode from 2008 shows Dot being teased by a gang as she walks to the Tube

In 2008, Brown became the first actor in a British soap to carry an entire episode alone, with an emotional monologue dictated to a cassette for her screen husband to listen to in hospital following a stroke.

That same year she was made an MBE for services to drama and charity.

Last year, Brown revealed she was losing her sight after being diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration and could no longer recognise her friends.

An EastEnders spokesman said: “We never discuss artists’ contracts, however as far as EastEnders are concerned the door remains open for June, as it always has if the story arises and if June wishes to take part.”

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Caroline Flack: Met refers itself to watchdog over contact with star




Caroline FlackImage copyright
AFP/Getty Images

The Metropolitan Police has referred itself to the police watchdog following the death of TV star Caroline Flack.

Scotland Yard’s directorate of professional standards (DPS) reviewed all previous contact with Ms Flack, 40, before it made Wednesday’s referral.

It was standard practice for a referral to be made when a person who had recent contact with police died, the Met said.

Ms Flack was found dead at her London flat on Saturday as she awaited trial for allegedly assaulting her boyfriend.

An inquest into the former Love Island host’s death was opened and adjourned on Wednesday.

A statement from the Met said: “No notice of investigation has been served on any officer and no conduct issues have been identified by the DPS. No officer is on restricted duties or suspended.”

An Independent Office for Police Conduct spokesman said: “We will make a decision on the level of our involvement after carefully assessing the information we have received.

“Receipt of a referral does not mean an investigation will necessarily follow.”

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Flowers were left outside Caroline Flack’s former house

Ms Flack left her role presenting the ITV2 dating show after being charged with assaulting her partner Lewis Burton in December and was due to stand trial next month.

In an unpublished Instagram post shared by her family, she said her “whole world and future was swept from under my feet” following her arrest.

Ms Flack pleaded not guilty to assault by beating at a court appearance in December, when it was heard her partner did not support the prosecution.

She was released on bail but was ordered to stop any contact with Mr Burton ahead of the trial.

Love Island did not air on Saturday or Sunday but returned on Monday with a tribute to the former X Factor presenter and Strictly Come Dancing winner, who started hosting the programme in 2015.

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