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Eurovision 2019: SuRie’s tips for surviving the contest



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SuRie – full name Susanna Marie Cork – finished 24th last year

On Saturday night, acts from 26 different countries will take to the stage in Tel Aviv for the final of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

One of them will be 21-year-old Michael Rice, who will be flying the flag for the UK with his song Bigger Than Us.

  • ‘Game time’ for UK Eurovision hopeful

Like many participating acts, Rice has spent the last few months criss-crossing Europe in the hope of securing votes from our continental neighbours.

We asked British singer SuRie, the UK’s representative at the 2018 contest in Lisbon, to give her tips on how to come through the competition unscathed.

1) Ignore the bloggers

Eurovision is unique, in that the very first rehearsals go on YouTube straight away.

Nowhere else would you find that. You wouldn’t get Taylor Swift’s next arena tour online before it was ready.

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Michael Rice will be hoping to fare better in Tel Aviv this year

It’s very difficult to ignore the comments. For every 99 positives, there will be one negative and that’s the one that gets in, especially as you get more tired and fragile and vulnerable.

Try hard to get a perspective on the comments if you do read them, but try not to read them at all.

Trusting your team, and yourself, is more important than what Barry from Bognor thinks of the lightbulbs or your trousers.

2) Bring headphones

The dressing room cubicles in the Eurovision village are quite something. There are no roofs – there are barely any walls – so it gets incredibly loud, non-stop.

When everyone starts vocally warming up, it’s a unique sound indeed.

I survived by downloading a lot of podcasts, audiobooks and quite chilled playlists.

I also got a good set of headphones to balance all that out.

3) Protect your voice

Being in Eurovision is long and arduous. Your singing voice needs to be on top form, so you need to keep yourself healthy.

The amount of interview requests that come in is huge, and that can take a toll on your speaking voice too.

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You’re never far from a camera at the Eurovision Song Contest

Remember you don’t have to do every single blog request that comes in, and that not every DM [direct message] needs a response.

The platform to engage with fans is amazing, but you’re there to sing – that’s your job.

4) Keep things fresh

There’s a danger of going into autopilot. The way to avoid that happening at crucial moments is to feed off the audience.

There’s always someone to perform to, even in rehearsals, and they could be hearing your song for the very first time.

Their reaction in that moment will be brand new and fresh and you need to hang onto that spontaneity.

5) Just keep singing

Even if you prepare as much as you can, there might still be surprises on the night.

[Surie’s performance last year was interrupted by a stage invader who grabbed her microphone before being removed.]

But the show must go on. If something unexpected happens, there is a performer’s instinct that kicks in immediately.

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The moment SuRie’s performance was interrupted

I had an amazing Eurovision experience and the 10 seconds on stage that were not invited did not taint what was an incredible opportunity.

I didn’t anticipate Eurovision would give me quite so many life lessons to navigate and process, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

6) Get back to the day job

The post-show blues is a real thing. The comedown is hard and it always is.

But because I was used to being an independent artist it wasn’t a surprise to me when the support network went away and it was back to being alone in the studio.

Five days after Lisbon, I went on tour, which was amazingly therapeutic. I then went straight into recording a concept album that meant a huge deal to me.

You’ll be fine if you have something you can throw yourself into next.

8) Never say never

If the invite came to do it again, I’d of course consider it. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of and there’s so much to love about it.

But if I was lucky enough to get the opportunity again it would have to be with a song I’d written, so that I was really proud of what I was putting on stage.

It’s nice to pass the baton on, though, and I wish Michael well. I know he’s in for the time of his life.

I hope he has the most incredible time in an amazing city.

The Eurovision Song Contest final will air on BBC One on 18 May from 20:00 BST. SuRie’s new single, Only You And I, is out now.

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Emilia Clarke and Emma Thompson on Last Christmas and reading reviews




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Clarke with a less controversial coffee cup than the one she appeared with in Game of Thrones

One thing we definitely aren’t going to do in this article is give away any spoilers about Last Christmas. Apart from anything else, we’re quite scared of Dame Emma Thompson.

“The correct spoiler etiquette is: don’t spoil it!” the actress and writer tells BBC News after a week of critics’ reviews that have revealed the ending.

“It’s easy isn’t it? It’s like ‘don’t punch strangers’. Just don’t spoil it. Easy. Easy rule. Not complex.”

Luckily, Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, who plays the lead character Kate in the movie, has plenty of experience in keeping plot lines secret.

“I’ve never done a job that didn’t involve a spoiler,” she points out. “Literally, there is no job I’ve done. And some of them are bigger than others. But with this particular twist, there are ways about talking about our characters and the premise without going anywhere near it.”

One thing that definitely isn’t a secret is that the movie is based on the music of George Michael. His (and Wham’s) best-known songs make up the soundtrack, and in a few cases are sung by the characters.

Arguably, the most recent Christmas-themed movie to have become an annual audience favourite is 2003’s Love Actually – which also starred Dame Emma. But she says trying to make the next great festive film “wasn’t her prime motivation” for co-writing Last Christmas.

“Love Actually, of course, was made by one of my best mates,” she says, referring to writer-director Richard Curtis. “And I’m so happy that people are still fond of it. So we certainly weren’t thinking we were in competition with anything. I just wanted to try to make a good film, which has Christmas in it. And a bit of love, a bit of drama, and just everything we could throw at it.”

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George Michael died on Christmas Day 2016 at his home in Oxfordshire

Some reviews so far have been positive. The Mirror gave it five stars, while The Wrap said it “provides enough of a warm, fuzzy glow to light up a bleak midwinter”.

It’s fair to say, however, that many critics have been less enthusiastic.

“Last Christmas is the worst festive film I have ever seen,” wrote Dan Wootton in The Sun. “It’s a woke, remoaning, overly politically correct mess of a movie that manages to suck every inch of fun, joy and togetherness out of the season where we should be jolly.”

‘We couldn’t avoid Brexit’

His comments refer to the film’s Brexit references, along with fact the central family are immigrants. Dame Emma’s character (Kate’s mother) comments that the EU referendum result makes her feel unwelcome, while one scene on a London bus shows someone telling off passengers who aren’t speaking English.

But Dame Emma argues: “I think [the political references] are very lightly brushed in. Because our main character is the daughter of immigrants, it would be very difficult to tell this story without mentioning, at least, the fear that people have who are immigrants with Brexit.

“Because it’s set in a very particular time as well, it’s set in 2016, we couldn’t avoid it. Having it not there would’ve been slightly psychotic. And I think what’s more important about what’s under the fun of the movie is a message about kindness.”

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As well as co-writing the film, Dame Emma Thompson plays Kate’s mother

Clarke has her own policy when it comes to reading reviews. “I don’t look at them at all. It’s partly drama school training, and then you do a bit of theatre, and it’s just not helpful,” she says.

“The way I see it, right, is that I stopped Googling myself within a year of Game of Thrones happening. Because I was like, ‘I don’t need to know what people think about the size of my bottom, thank you so much.’

“And then when you stop Googling yourself, you then stop reading reviews. If someone says something really good, if you get a 15 million-star review, someone will tell you, and if you get a ‘one-star coal in the rectum’, someone’s going to tell you!” She laughs while glaring at her co-star Henry Golding.

(She’s referring to the rather graphic way Rolling Stone described the experience of watching the film, which Clarke says Golding drew to her attention “right before we stepped on live TV!”)

George Michael’s ‘poetry’

Last Christmas is the latest in a string of movies that have been based on the back catalogues of a particular musical act. Queen, Bruce Springsteen and Elton John have all had the Hollywood treatment recently. “Maybe Mamma Mia put that idea on the map,” Dame Emma says.

Golding, who is best known for starring in Crazy Rich Asians, says the benefit of such films is that they “spark joy, memory, nostalgia”.

“Especially with Freddie Mercury and Elton John,” he continues. “It’s music we all grew up with, and to see what was actually happening, a glimpse of their biography, it kind of invigorates us, and makes us fall in love with that artist over and over again.

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Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding stars in Last Christmas alongside Clarke

“And hopefully that’s what happens with George, and a broader market gets to listen to George for the first time, which I think is going to happen.”

Dame Emma met Michael before his death in 2016. The singer gave the movie is blessing, and his family and management have been involved in the production since, even gifting a previously unheard recording to the soundtrack.

“The songs just kind of slid in naturally,” Dame Emma says. “I didn’t realise how his poetry describes so much of the acts of self-care and kindness that this film really speaks about.”

The fact that Dame Emma, along with husband Greg Wise, co-wrote the film’s screenplay meant she could personally monitor how the movie was taking shape.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who both wrote and starred in Fleabag, was known for rewriting scenes while shooting. Was that a luxury Dame Emma enjoyed as well?

“Deffo. Absolutely,” she says. “You go, ‘Oh I don’t think that’s quite right’. Or, ‘That could be funnier’. And then we make stuff up as we go. We riff a bit. So yes, it’s useful to be on set, because if someone says, ‘Oh that doesn’t really work’, you can think about something else.”

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A disposable coffee cup appeared on the table next to Clarke in Game of Thrones

This is our first interview with Dame Emma since she personally phoned the manager of Mayfair restaurant Brown’s to ask them to reinstate a waiter who was sacked for asking for a selfie with her. Has she heard whether he eventually got his job back?

“Oh yes, of course he did!” she replies. “Taking a selfie is not a sacking offence. I mean, well done Brown’s for bringing it up. But the selfie thing is something we all need to talk about and think about a little bit, face-to-face.”

Coffee cup culprit

We also have one final question for Clarke before we go, regarding the Game of Thrones coffee cup saga, which has been rumbling on for several months.

After the continuity error in the eighth season, Clarke revealed her co-star Conleth Hill had privately confessed he was the one responsible for leaving it in shot.

The day before our interview, however, he jokingly told Sunday Brunch that his guilt could not be proved.

“THAT LITTLE CHEEKY… NO!” Clarke explodes while we’re only a few words into the question. “STOP! I’m not having it!”

He has, we try to continue through the laughter, playfully threatened legal action against Clarke for dobbing him in. Has she heard from his lawyer?

“No I haven’t heard from his lawyer, he’s going to hear from mine in a minute though!” she laughs.

And with that, we wrap up, wishing Clarke and Golding well with that evening’s premiere.

“Thank you,” Clarke smiles, before adding: “Let us know if Rolling Stone are going to be there…”

Last Christmas is released on Friday.

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Leonardo da Vinci goes ‘immersive’ at London’s National Gallery




London’s National Gallery is running a digital show of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Virgin of the Rocks.

The show is an “immersive” exhibition that allows visitors to walk through multi-sensory rooms and explore different aspects of the painting.

This exhibition is a commemoration of the 500th anniversary of da Vinci’s death.

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Kodak Black: Rapper sentenced to nearly four years in prison




Kodak BlackImage copyright
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US rapper Kodak Black has been sentenced to 46 months in prison after pleading guilty to weapons charges.

The 22-year-old, who had a US number one album last December, admitted falsifying information on background forms to buy four guns.

He was arrested before his set at Miami’s Rolling Loud festival in May.

One of the guns he bought was used in an attempted shooting in March. Prosecutors said “a rival rap artist was the intended target”.

However, he has not been charged in relation to that shooting.

Real name Bill K Kapri, the hip-hop star faced a maximum of 10 years in prison, and prosecutors had pushed for a sentence of eight years. The court heard he was alleged to have beaten up a prison guard while awaiting sentencing.

US District Judge Federico Moreno acknowledged that Black had made anonymous donations to charity in the past.

Black’s lawyer Bradford Cohen told BBC News: “After the court was apprised of all the facts and circumstances of this case and the good charitable work that Bill has done over the years, the court rejected the government’s request of 96 months and sentenced Bill to 46 months.”

The MC has had a number of legal charges and spells in prison in recent years, and is known for his violent lyrics.

His debut studio album Painting Pictures went to number three in the US in 2017.

The follow-up went to number two, and a third album, Dying to Live, reached number one last December. Two hit singles – Zeze and Tunnel Vision – have reached the Billboard top 10.

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