Archive for June, 2017

Media captionSam Arshad of taxi company Street Cars recalls the night of the attack

Taxi drivers who helped on the night of the Manchester Arena attack will join dozens of other ordinary Mancunians later in a mass performance to create a live “self-portrait” of the city.

Bakers, barristers and baristas will join the cabbies on a 100m (328ft) catwalk in Piccadilly Gardens.

The parade comes from an idea by artist Jeremy Deller and is the Manchester International Festival’s opening event.

Many taxi drivers gave stranded people free lifts after last month’s bombing.

They will be among 150 ordinary people who will walk down the runway, with hundreds more expected to watch.

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Manchester taxi drivers turned off their meters to help people affected by the attack

Sam Arshad, co-owner of taxi company Street Cars, is among those taking part.

He was driving past the arena on the night of the attack, and returned to the office to manage the calls as the situation unfolded.

“People were calling up with panicked voices,” he said, “a lot of worried parents trying to get their children home safe.

“That’s when we realised the severity of it all.

“At that point, I reached out to the drivers and said, ‘We need to do our bit and to help these people in their time of need.’”

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Katherine Jewkes

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The catwalk has been built in Piccadilly Gardens

Mr Arshad predicted Thursday’s catwalk show would be “a bundle of joy” – and joked that he had been watching Beyonce videos to get inspiration for some moves.

“It just shows that we’re the faces of Manchester, aren’t we?” he said.

“We’re the first people who are going to be out there strutting our stuff, showing what kind of people we are and as a society how we can come together at a time like this to show the kindness and happiness that Manchester produces.”

They will be joined on the catwalk by dancers, drag queens, football fans, a chef, a Syrian refugee, dog walkers and some famous faces – whose identities haven’t been revealed.

“Rather than putting a bunch of models on it, we’re putting the people of Manchester, and it’s going to be a very beautiful celebration of the city,” festival director John McGrath said.

“Each person who goes onto the runway in a way is an image and a portrait of Manchester – the people who make up the city, the people who make the city special, people you might know, people you might walk past on the street.”

808 State musician Graham Massey will join forces with local buskers to create a live soundtrack.

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New Order will play five gigs in an art installation

The event, titled What Is The City But The People?, will kick off the sixth Manchester International Festival – the first with Mr McGrath as artistic director.

It begins at 18:30 BST on Thursday and will be streamed on the BBC’s Manchester International Festival live page.

The catwalk show will be followed by the first of five concerts by Mancunian band New Order, playing in an installation created by artist Liam Gillick in a former Granada TV studio.

They will be joined by a 12-strong synthesiser ensemble from the Royal Northern College of Music.

The festival will continue until 16 July, with more music, art, drama and dance.

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Nick Grimshaw and Tony Blackburn

Radio 1 will launch a pop-up sister station later this year as part of its 50th birthday celebrations.

Radio 1 Vintage will broadcast on DAB and iPlayer for three days from 30 September.

Tony Blackburn, who was the first voice ever heard on the station, will team up with current breakfast show host Nick Grimshaw to launch the project.

Classic shows from the archive presented by the likes of John Peel and Chris Moyles will also be broadcast.

‘Can’t wait’

The hour-long “best of” programmes will also feature old shows from Noel Edmonds, Kenny Everett, Johnnie Walker, Trevor Nelson, Zoe Ball, Zane Lowe and Sara Cox.

Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper said: “Radio 1 is the soundtrack to young people’s lives in the UK and has been for the last 50 years, so it’s going to be a lot of fun reliving that pop culture and great music.”

Grimshaw added: “Radio 1 is the only station I’ve loyally listened to my whole life. From John Peel playing punk on night times and Sara Cox playing Missy [Elliott] on Breakfast – it was key in forming my musical education.

“I can’t wait to celebrate 50 years with the legend that is Tony Blackburn.”

The station also announced that Foo Fighters, Rag’N'Bone Man and Royal Blood will perform during Live Lounge Month, which will also be held in September.

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Tachia Newall and the cast of FatherlandImage copyright
Helen Maybanks

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Fatherland has been created using interviews with men about their dads

The 2009 children’s film Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was a zany and fun animation. So how did it inspire a theatre project attempting to take stock of masculinity in 21st Century England?

Along with his Spray-On Shoes and Hair-Un-Balder, the Monkey Thought Translator was one of madcap inventor Flint Lockwood’s greatest creations.

As well as letting the film’s characters hear what Steve the monkey was thinking, the contraption was put on the head of Flint’s emotionally inarticulate dad to allow his son to hear his inner thoughts.

“This invention gets put on this man and he spoke beautifully and honestly about his son,” recalls theatre director Scott Graham. “It’s a great little film.”

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The Monkey Thought Translator in action in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

That scene inspired Graham to embark on his own project asking men to talk honestly about their dads, and dads to talk about their sons, in the hope of getting an insight into the state of fatherhood and masculinity.

Graham, who is the artistic director of the Frantic Assembly theatre company, enlisted award-winning playwright Simon Stephens and Underworld musician Karl Hyde.

Together, the trio tried to tap into the often-unspoken emotions that lie beneath blokeish bonhomie. The resulting interviews have been turned into a theatre show, Fatherland, for the Manchester International Festival, which opens on Thursday.

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Tarnish Vision

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Left-right: Karl Hyde, Simon Stephens and Scott Graham

The three men decided to go back to their home towns to conduct the interviews. Stephens is from Stockport, Greater Manchester, Hyde is from near Kidderminster in Worcestershire and Graham is from Corby, Northamptonshire.

They interviewed their own dads, old school friends and strangers – but had to find a way to drill beneath the usual surface small talk.

This is how Stephens describes an average conversation: “I was talking to a really dear friend of mine and there’s so much I want to say to him and end up saying nothing, ‘All right mate, how’s it going? What you up to? Nice one. See you later’. And all those questions sit on this volcano of feeling.”

The best way to get men to open up was to make their interviews feel artificial and staged, they decided. Not just everyday chats. So their interviewees wore headphones, plugged into recording equipment. Their own Monkey Thought Translator.

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Simon Stephens won a Tony Award in 2015 for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Stephens has written about father-son relationships in plays like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, On the Shore of the Wide World and Herons. His own dad died at the age of 59.

He says “the artificiality of the situation” helped when interviewing his stepdad for Fatherland.

“I was confronting the volcano with my stepdad, talking to my stepdad about his dad’s death. My stepdad raised his biological children as a single father and [I was] talking to him about what it was like the moment his wife left him.

“I really love my stepdad but I mainly talk to him about Manchester United.

“So that artificiality was really exposing and really tender as well.”

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Karl Hyde is also one half of dance duo Underworld

Hyde, 60, a dance music pioneer in the 1990s and beyond, took his two collaborators to see his mum and dad.

“It was very strange to be sat there with recording equipment attached to my dad with a pair of headphones on and my two friends sat on my mum’s sofa,” he says.

“And then they ask him, after he’s been very chatty, ‘What’s your earliest memory of your father?’ And he replies, ‘I don’t want to answer that’.

“I’m sat there thinking, ‘Woah, what don’t I know after all these years? These two guys have just unearthed something that’s been lying dormant all my life and I don’t know’.”

‘Genuine survivors’

Whatever Hyde’s father didn’t want to talk about must have been worse than some of the “real horrors” from his life that he was willing to discuss, the musician says.

Months later, back at his mum and dad’s house, another thought struck him.

“Whatever had happened, he’d protected his children from it. He’s carrying it with him to this day and he won’t let that infect his children. And I think that’s amazing.

“Those are the kind of characteristics [we found]. People who are prepared to say, ‘This is not good enough for the way we want our children and our friends and families to live, so that’s enough of that’.”

After speaking to lots of men about their upbringings, Graham was surprised to find how many were “genuine survivors of a very difficult situation”.

That’s not only true of men, of course. “That there’s so much trauma in everybody’s everyday life and the way that we challenge it and rise above it is incredibly heroic,” he says.

“I don’t think that’s purely a masculine thing. It’s constantly surprising, constantly inspiring.”

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Helen Maybanks

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Tachia Newall (left) and Eddie Kay are among the cast of Fatherland

Stories from the interviews have been woven into the show, with actors portraying the men the trio met. Snippets of speech are also used in the music, composed by Hyde and Matthew Herbert.

But Hyde, Stephens and Graham didn’t just interview other people – they also interviewed each other. So they too are played by actors on stage.

What did they learn about men and themselves during their interviews?

Stephens says: “In drama, characters don’t learn anything new – rather a truth which they’ve known for a long time is revealed and articulated.”

Referring to himself, Stephens adds: “I think [I learned about] my relationship with my dad’s drinking. The extent to which I write out of fear that I might become an alcoholic.

“The extent to which I write out of fear that I might die before I’m 60. The extent to which I am unapologetically a middle class man from a suburb. I could go on.”

‘A celebration of England’

What started as a journey to the heart of England has become a somewhat unsettling step into their own emotional hinterlands.

Stephens later says they did build up a bigger picture of the nation too.

He says that through the men they interviewed, they found a country that’s “capable of bravery and kindness and compassion and defiance”, and says that’s been proven by the reactions to recent tragic events in London and Manchester.

“Weirdly, it’s become a celebration of how good this country can be,” he says of the show.

“It’s been difficult to be English and to talk about how good the English have been until the last two months and then all of a sudden, with the events up the road [Manchester Arena] and London Bridge and Westminster and then Grenfell and Finsbury Park, actually the English are great.

“And I don’t mean in a nationalistic way. I mean there is a dignity and a brilliance to the English that is really beautiful. That’s what I found when I went on the road with these guys.”

The Monkey Thought Translator triumphs again. Perhaps every man should own one.

Fatherland is at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester from 1-22 July. The Manchester International Festival opens on Thursday 29 June.

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Johnny Galecki said he would visit the scene once the fire was contained

The Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki has said he is “relieved no-one has been hurt” in a fire which burned down his house.

The actor’s large ranch was engulfed by a bush fire in San Luis Obispo, located between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Galecki’s representative told Variety the actor was not at the property at the time of the 1,200-acre fire.

The spokesman added Galecki had not yet seen the damage, but would visit the scene once the fire was contained.

The actor’s rural holiday home was one of several properties which were destroyed following the blaze, which began on Monday night.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said on Tuesday night the fire was 60% contained.

Galecki is best known for playing Dr Leonard Hofstadter in the hit US sitom, which was recently renewed for two more seasons.

Johnny Galecki’s statement

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“My heart goes out to all in the area who are also experiencing loss from this vicious fire, the threat of which we live with constantly, which may seem crazy to some but we do so because living in our beautiful, rural area makes it worthwhile.

“It’s never the structures that create a community – it’s the people. And if the people of Santa Margarita have taught me anything it’s that, once the smoke has cleared, literally and figuratively, it’s a time to reach out and rebuild.

“We’ve done it before, and will need to do it together again, and it will make our community even closer and stronger. Endless thanks to CalFire and the Sheriff’s Office. I know you guys are fighting the good fight to keep us safe. So very relieved no one has been hurt.”

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More than 35 million Paddington books have been sold worldwide

Michael Bond, the creator of beloved children’s character Paddington Bear, has died at the age of 91.

He died at his home on Tuesday following a short illness, a statement from his publisher Harper Collins said.

Bond published his first book, A Bear Called Paddington, in 1958.

The character, a marmalade-loving bear from “deepest, darkest Peru” who comes to live in London, went on to inspire a series of books, an animated TV series and a successful 2014 film.

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The beloved character has been seen on both TV and film

As well as Paddington, he also created characters including Olga da Polga, A Mouse Called Thursday and a French detective named Monsieur Pamplemousse.

A sequel to the Paddington film will be released later this year.

“So sorry to hear that Michael Bond has departed,” Stephen Fry wrote on Twitter. “He was as kindly, dignified, charming and lovable as the immortal Paddington Bear he gave us.”

Comedian and author David Walliams also paid tribute, remembering the author as “a dazzling wit and perfect gentleman”.

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Hugh Bonneville, who will be seen in Paddington 2 reprising his role as Mr Brown, said it was “particularly poignant” to learn of Bond’s death on the last day of shooting the sequel.

“In Paddington, Michael created a character whose enthusiasm and optimism has given pleasure to millions across the generations,” he said.

“Michael will be greatly missed by his legions of fans and especially by his wife Sue, his family and of course by his beloved guinea pigs.”

StudioCanal, producer of the Paddington Films, said it was “deeply saddened” by his passing.

“Very sad to hear Michael Bond has died,” tweeted broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson. “I knew him for 45 years and rarely met anyone kinder or more gentle.”

It was Clarkson’s mother Shirley who made the first Paddington toy figure as a Christmas present for her son.

Obituary, by Nick Serpell

On his way home from work on Christmas Eve in 1956, Bond spied a lonely teddy bear on the shelf in a shop window, and took it home as a stocking filler for his wife.

He called it Paddington because they were living near Paddington Station at the time.

While musing over a typewriter and a blank sheet of paper, he wondered idly what it would be like if an unaccompanied bear turned up at a railway station looking for a home.

  • Read the full obituary

Media captionMichael Bond spoke to the BBC in 2014 about the inspiration for Paddington’s famous parcel tag.

Born in Newbury in 1926, Bond began his career at the BBC and later worked on Blue Peter as a cameraman.

He served with the RAF and the army during World War II and began writing in 1945 while stationed in Cairo.

More than 35 million Paddington books have been sold worldwide. The most recent, Paddington’s Finest Hour, was published in April.

Charlie Redmayne, chief executive officer of HarperCollins, said he was “one of the great children’s writers” who had left “one of the great literary legacies of our time”.

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JD Polson the Armadillo (left) was another of Bond’s creations

Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher at HarperCollins Children’s Books, remembered the author as “a true gentleman, a bon viveur, the most entertaining company and the most enchanting of writers”.

“He will be forever remembered for his creation of the iconic Paddington, with his duffle coat and wellington boots, which touched my own heart as a child and will live on in the hearts of future generations.”

Lauren Child, the new Children’s Laureate, said Bond was “a loveable person” who had been “lovely to chat to”.

“I was always delighted if he was at a party,” she told BBC News. “He was cheeky, with a twinkle in his eye, and was always such fun.”

Speaking to the BBC in 2014, Bond revealed he had created Paddington “to please myself” and that he would “carry on writing the books as long as I can”.

He is survived by wife Sue, their children Karen and Anthony, and four grandchildren.

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For those new to Ed Sheeran, his headline slot at Glastonbury caused a bit of confusion. How come he could stop playing his guitar, yet the music carried on?

Was he miming? Or using a backing track? No.

He was using a loop pedal. It allows you to record a few bars of music, which then repeat, while you then play other parts over the top.

Newsbeat’s spoken to the man who taught Ed to use it, Gary Dunne.

But first, if you missed the row, here’s a brief recap.

And they were by no means the only ones. There was so much confusion that the star felt the need to clear things up.

“I remember having to explain live looping 10 or 15 years ago,” Gary Dunne tells Newsbeat.

“Now I can say: ‘You know the thing Ed Sheeran does, that’s what I do!’

“It’s very, very funny. I was talking to Ed about it the day after the set. We’re live looping geeks and that’s what we talk about.

“Back in the day it was usual to have to explain it but I thought those days were gone. With Ed and KT Tunstall and even Thom Yorke using it, I thought it was understood as a craft – but clearly not!”

Gary says he first met Ed when the singer was just 14.

An ever-so-slightly blurry photo Gary took of one of Ed Sheeran's early gigs

“I was playing a gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire and I played solo, with a loop station. At the time I was a struggling musician, so I made a lot of my living through doing concerts in fans’ houses.

“So I got an email from Ed’s dad John a few days after, saying: ‘My kid Ed is 14, he was at the gig and he loved the looping, will you come play his 15th birthday?’

“So Ed and his Dad picked me up from the train station and I did a gig to Ed and his teenage buddies.

“Then we stayed up late looking at live looping and the basics of how to use it – and that was the beginning of our friendship. Little did I know he’d become the biggest star in the world.”

Ed Sheeran used the loop pedal for the whole of his Sunday night slot – and Gary says he can’t imagine any other star being that brave.

“I find it interesting that people can watch the gig and criticise the art and not understand the complexity and the vulnerability of what he’s doing.

“If he pushes a button half a second out the whole song can fall out of sync.

“So he’s up there on his own and he’s riding a wave of being in the moment with the music and every time he puts his foot down he’s either recording or looping or reversing or adjusting a track.

“It’s like watching a painter live paint a picture while doing something else at the same time – to a global TV audience. The pressure is insane!”

Ed Sheeran on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury

So has Gary ever slipped up at a gig? “Of course I have,” he laughs, “it was at the biggest gig I’ve ever done!

“When I released my first album it made the top 20 in Ireland, so I landed a gig at a festival, playing between Lamar and Blue.

“I was given a two song set in front of 100 thousand people in Dublin and it all went wrong.

“My craft is similar to Ed’s – stops and starts and sing-a-long bits and my foot went on the pedal at the wrong time and it all went off track.”

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Nur Huda and Fouzia El WahabiImage copyright
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Nur Huda (left) and her mother Fouzia are feared dead in the fire

A character in a new Philip Pullman book is to be named after a teenager feared dead in the Grenfell Tower fire, following an auction bid of £32,400.

Pullman offered the right to name a character in his new book as a lot in the Authors For Grenfell Tower auction, which raised money for victims.

Teacher James Clements had originally bid £1,500 to name the character after his ex-pupil Nur Huda El-Wahab, 15.

Organisers say 448 people eventually added bids to his to secure the lot.

Mr Clements said he used to teach Nur Huda, who lived on the 21st floor of the west London tower block, where 79 people are feared to have died in the fire on 14 June.

Reacting to the news, Mr Clements said he had made a “speculative bid” to win the lot and that “what has happened since has been truly amazing”.

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“A huge thanks to everyone who has championed, shared or contributed to our team total,” he tweeted.

He also praised Pullman for “offering such a wonderful prize and being such a gentleman throughout”.

Pullman – best known for his fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials – said it was “great news”, adding: “I look forward to writing about Nur.”

He said her character would feature in the second novel of Pullman’s Book of Dust series to be published next year.

The first part in the series, La Belle Sauvage, is published in October.

Pullman said he could not guarantee whether the character would be “good, bad, beautiful or otherwise”, but it would be “a speaking role with a part to play in the plot”.

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One of the organisers of the auction, Molly Ker Hawn, praised bidders who won the name for Nur Huda, saying: “I love every one of you.”

Organisers said more than £150,000 had been pledged in total in the auction when bidding closed.

More than 700 lots featured on the charity site, including signed books from authors Malorie Blackman and Caitlin Moran, and afternoon tea and a book reading with TV personality and children’s author David Walliams at Claridges.

Money from the Authors For Grenfell Tower site will go to the British Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund.

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Richard Hammond crashImage copyright
AFP/Drivetribe/Amazon Prime Video

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Pictures showed the car in flames shortly after the crash

Richard Hammond has spoken about how he thought he was going to die when he crashed a car earlier this month.

“What was probably going through my mind was ‘well, this is it,’” the Grand Tour presenter said, recalling the crash on a Swiss hillside.

“In fact that is what was going through my mind. I thought I’d had it.”

The host was on a practice run for a race in an electric car when the vehicle left the road, tumbled down the hill and burst into flames.

He described the experience as “like being in a tumble dryer full of bricks going down a hill”.

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AFP/Drivetribe/Amazon Prime Video

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Hammond later posted a video from hospital showing an X-ray of his knee

In a video posted on Drivetribe, he said: “I was aware that I was up, that I was high, that inevitably the car was going to come down.

“And yes of course there was a moment of dread. ‘Oh God I’m going to die.’ And also I was aware that the car was taking just such a beating.”

  • Hammond vows return after crash surgery
  • Richard Hammond injured in Swiss crash

The crash came 11 years after the presenter was left in a coma by a high-speed crash as he filmed for the BBC’s Top Gear.

This time, he said he was conscious throughout. “I was thinking, ‘Yeah, I can’t make this.’

“You’re aware of tumbling – sky, ground, sky, ground, sky, ground, sky, ground.”

When the car finally came to a rest more than 100m from the road – and having narrowly missed a house – he dragged himself out of the vehicle before the first people came to his aid.

“I do remember saying to them, ‘Drag me by my arms not my legs because I think I’ve broken that leg.’”

Daughter’s reaction

It transpired that he had fractured his knee. He described how the accident had “collapsed the knee joint on the top of the bottom bone”.

But he recounted how, when he showed his youngest daughter the dressing on his knee, she was not entirely sympathetic. She told him: “Daddy you look like you’ve fallen over in the playground.”

He also said it hadn’t had a major impact on the filming schedule of the Amazon Prime programme.

The incident on 10 June took place as Hammond completed a hill climb in the Hemberg area. He had been driving a Rimac Concept One, an electric supercar built in Croatia, during filming for the show’s second season.

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HalseyImage copyright

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Halsey played The Other Stage at Glastonbury over the weekend

Pop singer Halsey gave more established names like Katy Perry and Lorde a run for their money at Glastonbury this weekend.

The US singer first gained attention as a social media queen, posting videos on YouTube under her real name Ashley Nicolette Frangipane.

But it’s as Halsey (an anagram of her first name) that she’s found fame, with a knack for writing gutsy pop songs that explore her flaws and failings.

Her first album, Badlands, went platinum in the US, thanks to its so-called “millennial anthem” New Americana (“We are the new Americana / High on legal marijuana / Raised on Biggie and Nirvana / We know very well / who we are”).

Last year, her career received an unexpected shot in the arm thanks to her contribution to The Chainsmokers’ ubiquitous hit single, Closer.

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Halsey teamed up with Chainsmokers for Closer

A masterclass in pop writing, the song wistfully tells the story of a boy and girl bumping into each other in a hotel bar four years after they broke up.

The lyrics, which Halsey co-wrote, bore all the hallmarks of her best work – especially in its vivid depictions of place and time (“so baby pull me closer in the back seat of your Rover”).

With one megahit under her belt, she set to work on her new album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, which has sold 500,000 copies in its first two weeks on sale in the US.

Ahead of her Glastonbury set, the star sat down with BBC News to talk about the record, and how it helped her rediscover her sense of self.

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You must have heard of Glastonbury before – but what’s it like to see it for the first time?

I mean, I grew up in the middle of a small town in the US and as a kid I knew about Glastonbury. It’s like Woodstock. It’s massive.

I always dreamed one day I’d get to go, but I never dreamed one day I’d get to play. And I certainly didn’t think it would be so soon.

It seems like it’s a very kind place, and people are making friends.

You said you didn’t think you’d be here so soon – but your album is selling by the bucketload! Has the speed of your success been a surprise?

It was definitely really rapid. The thing about my second album was I kept thinking, “Do people still like me or was the first time an accident?”

But I’ve met so many amazing fans in the couple of weeks since the release, and everyone keeps telling me they feel so connected to the record. I think as an artist, all you really want out of your album is to feel like you’re not alone.

Because you wrote it for a reason. You wrote it because you’re feeling some kind of emotion that you had to get out in the world. And if fans say, “that makes me feel like I’m not alone”, then you get to say back to them, “Well, you telling me that makes me feel like I’m not alone either”.

So it’s very mutual. It’s a language of love.

The album came from a place of pain and loneliness. To get that result must feel, I guess, both rewarding and strange.

Yeah. The record is really about me going through this prolonged break-up. I’d been in a relationship so long it almost felt like I forgot who I was, when I was alone. And writing this album helped me rediscover that.

Going through that pain and having it turn into something positive that helps other people – you’re kind of making lemonade out of lemons.

There’s been another recent album about that, hasn’t there?

Haha! It’s a pretty universal concept in music. It’s like, “hey, make me feel less bad about my pain!”

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Do you ever worry that, if you get happy, you won’t have anything to write about?

I’ve talked about something similar in interviews recently. It can be difficult going through a period of time where you feel depressed because it can become your identifier. In the sense that you wake up, you’re depressed; you talk to your friends, you’re complaining that you’re depressed; you talk to your parents, you’re unmotivated.

You know what you could do to try to overcome it – although obviously there’s no cure – but you start to feel like, ‘what will happen to me if I feel better? Who am I when I’m happy. I’m so used to feeling like this.’

And that was something that I was really going through at the time. And the turnaround is really positive. Who I am is different now, but who I am is better – and I think that’s a really good thing.

And of course, there are good songs that come from a place of contentment or positivity. Have you any favourites?

I love ’80s happy music. I love Cyndi Lauper and Madonna, and the idea of making music that’s about people celebrating fun.

I spent my late adolescence in New York and I used to go to a lot of gay clubs. The music there was always just about love and connection and celebrating life.

I think, for people going through something really hard, to go to a place where you can let loose and listen to music as a distraction, that’s about a better place, a better way of life – that’s where all the attraction lies.

Like Madonna says: “Only when I’m dancing can I feel this free.”

Exactly! Exactly!

For me, I made Closer and that was my first happy record.

Really? That’s supposed to be a happy song? I thought it was about a break-up you couldn’t get over.

I think it’s celebrating a moment in time. The idea of “we’re not ever getting older” it’s like… at the beginning of the song, you tell the audience we’re not together any more. But in the chorus you tell them, ‘we’ll always be together in that moment. We can always look back on that moment and remember it’.

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Your new album is called Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. What does that mean?

Hopeless Fountain Kingdom was this phrase that I learned from some people I used to hang out with when I was a teenager. HFK was like a tag, that would get graffittied on malls and things. And when it came to make this record, it just seemed like the perfect name. It just encompassed the feeling I was trying to express.

It’s hopeless. There’s a sense of eternity – this youthfulness, this fountain, this everflowing chase. And it’s a kingdom because I write about places a lot.

The word ‘kingdom’ occurs a lot in your music

Yeah, the first song on my first record is called Castle and it says, “they’ve got the kingdom locked up”. It’s cool to go back and reference that. It’s like all the songs and all the albums exist in one Halsey universe.

Speaking of which, I heard you were a big Marvel Nerd. Which comics from the Marvel Universe did you read?

I was a big Spider-Man kid. Big, big on Spider-man and actually, when I first signed my record deal the first thing I wanted to do was track down really rare really expensive comic. I looked everywhere in New York for it and I couldn’t find it. I’m still looking for it now. One day I’ll get my hands on it.

But I love Deadpool, I love X-Men, I loved Silver Sable, Black Cat – female mercenaries were really cool for me to look up to me growing up.

So the idea of a consistent universe, where the timelines cross and different characters pop into different things, I’d really like to apply that to music, in a way. I’m sure a couple of things from Badlands will pop up in a few HFK music videos down the line. Little Easter Eggs.

I can’t think of many other musicians that do that. Maybe the Chili Peppers – they have a character called Dani California that crops up across different songs.

I think that sometimes people fear continuity because it can turn into repetition – and there’s a lot of artists who are really good at creating something new all the time. But for me it’s about the consistency in my story. Because after all, I’m the protagonist in everything. All the songs are about my life so naturally there will be some connection because I’m still the same person I’ve always been.

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

I want the power of diagnosis. I want to be able to tell what’s wrong with anyone around so I can give them what they need.

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Scarlett Moffat and Steps on Host the WeekImage copyright
Channel 4

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Steps appeared on the first episode of Host the Week alongside Scarlett Moffatt

Channel 4 has decided to scrap its latest entertainment show Host the Week.

Initially commissioned as a two-episode series, the unscripted and unrehearsed show debuted last week with Gogglebox’s Scarlett Moffatt presenting.

A second episode fronted by comedian Jack Whitehall will now not go ahead.

“We’re brave enough to take risks with innovative programme ideas but also to acknowledge they don’t all work and move on,” a spokeswoman said.

Thursday’s episode saw Moffatt front the show, with no idea what was going to happen.

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Channel 4

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Scarlett also had the opportunity to meet her childhood crush, Duncan James from boy band Blue

She took part in a number of sketches, including one as a Channel 4 news presenter, and guests included Blue singer Duncan James and Steps.

However only an average of 400,000 viewers tuned in to watch the programme live – a third fewer than usual in the 21:00 timeslot for the channel.

Viewers were generally left unimpressed, with one tweeting it was “unwatchable”.

Another commented: “Absolutely awful TV. Won’t be watching that again!”

Channel 4 initially announced it had commissioned three episodes, but the broadcaster told the BBC it had only ever scheduled two.

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