Brexit: The city that took EU money but 50% voted to leave – BBC News

  • The EU referendum result in Leeds was one of the closest in the country
  • Remain just edged ahead with 50.3%, while 49.7% voted to leave
  • The area has benefited from EU funding

It’s a week after Brexit and despite the political and economic uncertainty, Selina Hartley is feeling positive. She is discussing a new business venture over coffee in the Victoria Quarter, an upmarket shopping centre that houses Harvey Nichols and Louis Vuitton, among other luxury retailers. Hartley has lived and worked in Europe, but still voted to leave.

“Although I love Europe, I believe that we need to take back some important legislation,” she says.

Can she explain why the vote in Leeds was so close? “I think it is probably divided. We are the financial capital of the North. There are many people who work in banking and insurance, all based in the city centre, so maybe they voted differently to the normal man on the street outside of commerce. South of Leeds is obviously a lot poorer.”

Outside, Frances Harrison-Burton, her husband Richard and grown-up daughter Dawn are heading home after a morning of shopping. Frances voted to remain, Richard voted Leave, and Dawn didn’t vote at all. She says she was too busy.

“When he walked out [of the polling booth] he said, ‘What did you vote?’,” says Frances. “I said I’d voted to stay in. He said ‘Well, you know what I’ve done, don’t you?'”

Richard is happy to be leaving. “We need to hold our own power again in Parliament, not some faceless machine in Brussels that says we can’t report all these criminals that are coming in,” he says.

There are no hard feelings, but Frances is concerned about how leaving the EU will affect young people like her 20-year-old grandson, who has to provide for his baby on a zero-hours contract. “Now we’ve left, is he still going to be in a job?” she wonders. Housing is also an issue – her grandson, girlfriend and baby are living with his parents. He is on the list for a council house, but she fears it may be a long wait.

One of the reasons Frances voted to remain is EU funding for the Burmantofts estate, where she lives. Research, however, shows, grants from Brussels have only covered a couple of small community schemes there.

“So why leave when they’re doing good things?”

It’s a different picture in nearby Harehills. Dawn bought a house there 11 years ago for 74,000. She says it has since dropped to 56,000. She blames the high number of immigrants. “There’s 44 houses on my side of the street – eight English people, the rest are Romanian,” she says. “I live next door to a lovely couple but there’s just too many now.”

Leeds has historically been regarded as “two cities within a city”, owing to the financial inequality that separates affluent, middle-class areas from deprived areas. The centre is prosperous, as are many of its suburbs, but there’s a ring around the city centre that has been called the “doughnut of deprivation”.

The wealth hasn’t spread into these areas, says Sally-Anne Greenfield, from the charity Leeds Community Foundation.

Back in 1999, Leeds applied for EU funding to address this “two-speed economy”.

“If you look at the deprivation indices between 2001 and 2011, many of the most deprived areas in Leeds have remained at the same level, so there’s a sense that the gap is still there,” says Greenfield.

“Leeds is a city of mobility, and people are supported to make economic progression. But the people who benefit from this mobility often move out of deprived areas and into more affluent ones.”

The Burmantofts estate overlooks the headquarters of NHS England, an imposing red building nicknamed the Kremlin. The roads have just been resurfaced and are divided by neat lawns.

In a house opposite the community centre, Sally (not her real name) shuts her two dogs inside the house before coming over to talk to us. She used to work at a local hospital, cleaning the ward and feeding patients, until she retired due to ill health. She is 53. Her grandchildren are playing in the front garden.

Sally voted to leave. She has lived on the estate for more than 20 years, but feels that British-born people are unfairly treated, while immigrants get good council houses. “People that have lived here all their lives can’t get the houses that they need,” she says. “I think there’s only five houses on this side with people from here.”

She says she’s not racist – her children are mixed-race – but blames the fact that there aren’t enough houses for those who need them.

Leeds City Council says priority for social housing is assessed on need, not origin, although some localities are able to prioritise some housing for local residents.

Almost a mile and a half down the road from Burmantofts, on Harehills Lane, businesses have sprung up to service the needs of the immigrant community. Outside St Gemma’s Hospice charity shop, women are combing through a pile of cast-off clothes under the watchful eye of Lee Hiamey.

“It’s a very mixed area,” says Hiamey. “We have problems, but it’s what you would expect from a growing town. We get a lot of crime, fighting, drinking on the street, that kind of problem. We get police sirens going every two seconds, night and day.”

He won’t reveal how he voted, but he wishes nothing had changed. “I have more worries now. We are in limbo. We don’t know how it will pan out.

Next door to the charity shop is the Ritz letting agency, managed by Bobby Sharma. “In this part of Leeds you’ve got a lot of housing benefit-style tenants.”

Many of his tenants are from Eastern Europe and this is part of his motivation for wanting to stay in the EU. “What would be the consequences if we end up losing these Eastern European tenants? That was one of the key business reasons for me voting to remain,” he says.

When the results came in, many of his landlords were worried. “On the way to work the following morning I must have had about four or five phone calls from large investors, saying: ‘Bobby what’s going to happen to our properties now that we’re going to be exiting?'”

Sharma admits there aren’t enough affordable, well-maintained houses available, and that the area is overpopulated, but the rents are good.

Pushing her cheery toddler down Harehills Lane single mum Sophie Whittaker is heading back to her privately-rented property. “It’s horrible,” she says. “I’ve got mice, my son brought me a dead mouse, he’s two. I can’t get re-housed because there’s no houses.” She didn’t vote because she says she just didn’t know much about it.

Her bright red hair is a sign of her profession – hairdresser – but the 21-year-old is unemployed. She didn’t vote in the referendum. She says she didn’t know much about it and was waiting for a leaflet to come through her door.

“If you’d asked me last year I’d have said, ‘Send them all back’ but now I have Romanian neighbours I feel nasty saying that.”

Many of the people the BBC meets on the streets of Harehills and Hovingham did not vote. Some were not eligible, but others say they never bother. “The government will do what they want to do at the end of the day so what’s the point,” says one mother who has just picked up her son from school.

Other mothers on the school run did vote.

Sameena Akhtar, 38, is an assistant pharmacist. She says she voted to stay because of who she is – a British Asian. “Already you can see on the news that people are being racially abused. I think it will affect us, even though we’re British.”

Across town, in upmarket Oakwood, Charlotte Walker, 27, is being treated to high tea by her two aunts. Her son Riley is with them – he should be at school, but they recently moved to be closer to her mother and found there was no school place. “All schools are just bursting. There’s just no room. Classes are just full everywhere,” she says.

Leeds City Council says 10 years of rising birth rates, reflecting the national picture, has put pressure on school places. Some schools have added an extra class to accommodate the new pupils.

“Leeds is a growing city and families arrive from elsewhere in the country as well as from other countries. Families move from one part of the city to another,” it said in a statement.

Walker’s voting registration did not come through in time, but her aunts, Julie Simpson, 57, and Moira Ross, 52, both voted to leave. In the run-up to the referendum Ross organised events for both UKIP and Labour. She says she likes the fact that Leeds has become more cosmopolitan, but it’s gone too far.

“When you see what’s getting handed out to foreigners, and our own pensioners having to scrimp and scrape and be cold in winter, it gets your back up,” says Simpson. “I’ve worked all my life and paid taxes and I don’t mind doing that – as long as my grandchildren are going to benefit.”

It’s been a turbulent week in politics since the vote, but they are still convinced leaving is the right thing to do.

Simpson is looking forward to a holiday in Spain next week. She says that the fact that the pound is weak against the euro because of the vote doesn’t worry her. She is more concerned about the future of the country, than the cost of her holiday.

In an attempt to combat Brexit gloom, Jameson’s cafe and tea rooms in Oakwood have put up a sign that says: “Cake makes you happy.”

But it’s going to take more than tea and cake to make Remain voters Nancy Crang and Joanne Kay happy.

Crang, 49, a civil servant, is very uncomfortable with the Leave campaign’s focus on immigration. “I definitely want to be an inclusive country,” she says “I’m really sad that some people from outside the country don’t feel welcome here. That’s a big thing for me.”

Kay, 51, says although she can understand the resentment, she feels all workers have the same chances. As part of her work for the Environment Agency she has to inspect waste management companies, which rely heavily on European labour.

She asked the owner of the biggest skip company in Leeds why he didn’t employ more locals. He says that he has tried to, but they aren’t as committed. “They come to work for a few days and then they don’t come back. The people come back time and time again are the Eastern Europeans.”

Now Kay is worried about how leaving the EU will affect her own job – the Environment Agency depends on Europe for much of its funding and legislation.

“I can’t remember feeling as devastated after any kind of political vote as I did when I found out about this,” she says. “It’s seismic.

Down the hill in Killingbeck, among the suburban semis one house leaps out as a celebration of British and Irish culture. Liam Lawlor, who immigrated from Wexford in the 1960s, has filled his front garden with an astonishing collection of pub signs and other memorabilia which he uses to raise money for charity.

He says he loves Leeds. “It’s friendly and you’ve only got to go a couple of miles outside and it looks like Ireland.”

But he voted to leave the EU.

He thinks the opportunities for his grandchildren aren’t as good as they were for him. “I think there’s too many people – the doctors are full the hospitals are full, the houses are full.” Although he admits he has never suffered any NHS delays himself, and he has nothing but praise for Leeds’ St James hospital, where he had a major operation.

A week on, and doubt is creeping in. “I’m not sure if I’ve done the right thing now,” he says.

Photographs by Paul Kerley. Additional reporting by Camila Ruz and James Stewart

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The problem with ‘being yourself’

Be yourself, were told but thats just another tyranny and theres nothing worse for our self-esteem, says Eva Wiseman

British women feel the same about their bodies as we do about Goebbels, or school dinner. Full of hate. Our arms are made of old ham; our genitals are like the closed-off wells that it is rumoured a child once died in; our bellies are obscene; our faces, bloody hell our faces are exploded mines at best. A handful of wet clay chucked against a wall. Nose like Broken Britain, skin like an umbrella that came free with the Express. Our thighs are a collective nightmare dreamed in a small tent in Wales. Our breasts are useless gym bags, our arses like an apocalypse.

British women have almost the lowest self-esteem in the world, with only 20% feeling confident about their bodies. This according to interviews with 10,500 women and girls across 13 countries for the latest Dove self-esteem in women project. Nearly all British women interviewed (85%) said that when they feel bad about the way they look they opt out of life they dont play sport, see friends, have a proper laugh. Seven in 10 girls with low body-esteem say they wont be assertive in their opinion or stick to their decision if they arent happy with the way they look, while nine out of 10 women will stop themselves from eating.

Though the study is new, the information, of course, is not. None of this is wildly surprising. Chances are you know, or you are, or you have known a woman, and you have stood with her beside a reflective surface, and you will have heard her tut and rearrange her body to make it look smaller from a distance. You will have always known she thinks her hips are evil and that she wanted to abort her hair.

The two new things that this study tells us are: first, that Britains body anxiety is getting worse. And second, that on top of all this anxiety there is an added cherry. While 60% of women say they believe they need to meet certain beauty standards, 77% believe it is also important to be their own person. And yet werent we promised that if we simply be ourselves, the pressure to meet beauty standards would fall away? It seems clear now that the two arent mutually exclusive. Luckily, we have two shoulders for these devils to sit on. What do you do with a tension like that between the pressure on you to be thin and blonde, and the pressure to embrace your curves, love your imperfections, to enjoy that vague candied sense of sorority with every other woman you encounter? To be strong, brave, natural, real, and at the same time look like Jennifer Lawrence when shes just got off a Californian horse.

This obscure requirement for the modern and liberated woman to be herself feels increasingly pernicious. While we should give Dove credit for its mission to inspire confidence in women, however wobbly the premise, I fear the modern panic it helps create. First there was that side-eyed term, real women; now theres the order to be yourself authenticity is currency, especially for women. But only if the authentic you is not insecure, or whimsical, or sad, or has that old worry chewing at her throat that she would be more lovable if she was whiter, thinner, blonde. Only if the authentic you believes not only that your body is beautiful but that beauty really matters.

At least the old pressure was prescriptive. You could see the edges of it, you could walk around it, subvert it, laugh at it, chuck it in the bin. It is possible to work out exactly why we shouldnt all aspire to look like 15-year-old Swedish gymnasts and refer back to the list whenever were feeling uncomfortable on a beach. But its much harder to unpick the problems with the new requirements, especially when they havent even replaced the need to look thin and white, just swaddled it in motivational Instagram quotes. To be yourself, when that means to appear confident, happy, brave and healthy, takes more than Botox it requires, among other things, a denial of all the societal crap that has brought you to a place where you feel the need to cover up those parts of your personality that are deemed unattractive. And that gap-year-style journey is not only far more expensive than a decent concealer but a reminder that it is still the womans responsibility to feel better about herself. The problem with be yourself is the insistence that, rather than the culture, the adverts, the media and the politics, it is still you who needs to change.

Email Eva at or follow her on Twitter @EvaWiseman

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Guidelines urge improved care for terminally-ill children – BBC News

Image copyright ollie young foundation
Image caption Ollie was five years old when he was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour

Sarah Young remembers being told the devastating news that nothing more could be done for her five-year-old son, Ollie.

Days earlier, he had been diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour and now he had been given just weeks to live.

His health deteriorated rapidly, leaving him paralysed down his left side, but a visit to a children’s hospice in Oxford proved to be a turning point for the whole family.

“Ollie perked up immediately when we got there. He was relaxed, he was chatting and he couldn’t wait to get in the water,” Sarah says.

Over the following week, while he was still able, he splashed about in the hospice’s hydrotherapy spa, played in the sensory room and loved making as much noise as possible in the music room.

Image caption Ollie attending his parents’ wedding

By the time of his second visit to Helen House, Ollie was confined to a bed – but the care he received was just as attentive and amazing, according to his mum.

“I felt like we were treated as a special case. Ollie thrived. That’s why he lasted so long. It was down to Helen House. At home or in hospital, he wouldn’t have left us happy.”

But not every family’s experience of end-of-life care is as comforting as that experienced by the Youngs.

Vulnerable children

And that is why NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) has published draft guidance this week which seeks to improve care for the estimated 40,000 children and young people in England living with a life-limiting condition.

These can include cancers, genetic conditions and rare or chronic diseases.

With improvements in neo-natal and intensive care, this population of vulnerable children has been growing over time but experts say there is not enough understanding about what they face, nor enough funding of children’s palliative care.

Image copyright Helen and Douglas House
Image caption Charlotte plays the drums with Pete, the music therapist at Helen House

The guidance recommends that children and their families should be able to choose the type of care they receive and the place where they want to spend their final days.

Often, it notes, there is an assumption that the best place to die is at home but it says there are many other factors to consider – such as how to manage the dying child’s pain and symptoms alongside the daily demands of family life.

Places like Helen House, which specifically cares for children and has eight beds, have the time, staff and resources to provide end-of-life care.

The guidance highlights the importance of using music, art and pictures to help children explore their feelings and questions about what is happening to them.

And it suggests that children, young people and their parents or carers should be offered emotional and psychological support to help them cope with distress.


Dr Emily Harrop, interim chairwoman of the NICE guideline committee and consultant in paediatric palliative care at Helen & Douglas House in Oxford, says care around the country is patchy.

“To lose a child is a tragic, unimaginable, life-changing event. However, the way the death is handled by the professionals around a family, can make an enormous difference.”

She stressed the importance of communicating with children in an age-appropriate way and empowering families by really listening to their wishes.

Dr Harrop recalls a terminally ill boy in her care whose eyes lit up when he was able to have a musical conversation with a music therapist and another child, who could no longer speak, who was able to communicate his pain through pointing at pictures.

Image caption Ollie Young (R) with his brother Alfie

“These techniques can draw out a distressed person, give them a sense of autonomy and make them relax,” she explains.

Zoe Picton-Howell, a lay member of the NICE guideline committee, who lost her son Adam in March 2015, when he was 15, echoes Dr Harrop’s comments.

She says: “The most helpful thing was to have healthcare professionals who took the time to listen to Adam.

“When we worked together, Adam got the best care possible, but if a member of the team thought they knew best and became uninterested in what Adam wanted, his care tended to be bad.”

Listening to the family

The guidance also refers to ways of helping to manage pain without resorting to drugs – which include music, massage and holding patients.

Sarah Young says all these elements played a crucial part in Ollie’s care in the weeks before he died in 2012.

“Massage helped because he had bedsores and had to be turned regularly.

“And there was always someone talking to him, playing music, giving him a drink and listening to him.”

The needs of Ollie’s older brother Alfie, who was eight, were not forgotten either.

In Ollie’s final days, leading up to his sixth birthday, Sarah says she felt very reassured because there was always time for her questions to be answered and her concerns to be heard.

When it came to preserving memories of Ollie – which some people choose to do with handprints, locks of hair or photos – the family set up a foundation in his name which funds paediatric brain tumour research and support.

“I don’t know where we’d be now if it hadn’t been for the support we received at Helen House,” Sarah says.

The consultation for NICE’s draft guidance is open until 12 August 2016. Comments are welcome through the NICE website.

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Could it be magick? The occult returns to the art world

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Tony Oursler have spent many years exploring paranormal phenomena through their artworks. Now, both have major exhibitions in New York and suddenly theyre not alone in their interests

Drugs, blood, caskets, fish and hair all feature in the arsenal of supplies enlisted for art by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. A few more, for varietys sake: bones, a brass hand, dominatrix shoes and the discarded skin of a pet boa constrictor.

Best known as a musical dissident with the proto-industrial band Throbbing Gristle and later Psychic TV, Breyer P-Orridge has made visual art for decades as part of a ritualistic practice in which boundaries tend to blur. The first transmissions of musical noise started in the 1970s, but art has been part of the project from several years before then to the present day. Work of the more recent vintage makes up the bulk of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: Try to Altar Everything, an exhibition on view at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York.

The Rubin show focuses on correspondences between global contemporaneity and historic cultures from areas around the Himalayas and India, and the show surveys, in an expansive fashion, Breyer P-Orridges engagement with ideas from Hindu mythology and Nepal. Nepal is a favored haven away from the artists home in New York, but as with most matters in Breyer P-Orridges realm worldly matters turn otherworldly fast.

Reliquary by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Photograph: Invisible Exports

Visitors to the exhibition are greeted by two large illuminated portraits of nude bodies on the surface of caskets standing on end, one belonging to the artist and the other to h/er late partner and muse Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge. The unorthodox pronoun h/er is not a mistake but the preferred way to address the genderless existence of the pandrogyne, a state of male-female fusion the two were seeking to achieve by way of surgical incursions and rituals to combine souls. The undertaking was chronicled intimately in the 2011 documentary The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, released to wide acclaim four years after Lady Jaye fell prey to cancer and died (or left her body, as Genesis tells it). Now, Try to Altar Everything brings some of the couples collaborative artwork into the light.

Blood Bunny, made over 10 years until its completion in 2007, is a sculpture under glass of a wooden rabbit covered in blood. Hanging from its head is a ponytail made from Lady Jayes hair, bright blond in contrast to the dark blood all but black in its desiccated state. The source of it was needle pricks from injections of the powerful drug ketamine, which the couple took and Breyer P-Orridge reveres still for its fabled out-of-body experiences.

Its such a powerful material that we dont waste it we use it. Weve got little vials of blood in our refrigerator at home, Breyer P-Orridge says while staring the bunny down at the museum on a recent sunny afternoon.

Blood Bunny: includes blood infused with ketamine. Photograph: Invisible Exports

Nearby are a small sculptural shrine with dried fish slathered in sparkles over an abstract mandala design (Feeding the Fishes, 2010) and an odd clock remade with fossil teeth, feathers and bits of gold alluding to alchemical forces (Its All a Matter of Time, 2016).

Works of the sort in the show serve as reliquaries or tools for use in rituals rooted in a mixture of familiar religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, voodoo) and inclinations toward the more arcane realms of black magic and the occult.

Weve investigated lots of avenues and that includes occulture of various types, says Breyer P-Orridge, who uses the word we exclusively in reference to a sort of individual and collective self. Early learning from occult figures like Aleister Crowley and mysterious magical sects like the Ordo Templi Orientis led to a lifelong devotion to ritualistic practice that has expanded and evolved.

S/he speaks highly still of sex magic, where the orgasm is the moment when all forms of consciousness in your mind are joined, temporarily, and therefore you can pass a message through. And other ceremonial endeavors involving age-old symbols and codes continue to be part of a method of art-making that is as much about the making as the end result.

Feeding the Fishes: a small sculptural shrine. Photograph: Invisible Exports

An essay in the catalog for the Rubin show refers to Breyer P-Orridges earliest works dedication to the discovery of intention, meaning it created and unearthed its message and relevance through performance, not before, while characterizing h/er ritual-abetted communion with Lady Jaye as a living, experimental work of art in the process.

The exhibition, which continues through 1 August, arrives in the midst of a certain vogue for art attuned to occult practices. Last fall, a survey of demonic and deranged paintings by Marjorie Cameron, an associate of notorious rocket-scientist/occultist Jack Parsons and film-maker Kenneth Anger, showed at the gallery of prominent New York art maven Jeffrey Deitch. A group show titled Language of the Birds: Occult and Art gathered work by the likes of Brion Gysin, Jordan Belson, Anohni, Lionel Ziprin, Carol Bove and many more (including Breyer P-Orridge) in the 80WSE Gallery at New York University. Uptown at the American Folk Art Museum, a show titled Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art drew visitors before closing in May.

Enough interest has been fostered and fanned out to make one wonder about the source of it all. Is it a yearning for art made for purposes other than mere aesthetic enterprise? A desired deferral to forces other than those proffered by markets and asset-class finance deals? A curiosity about creations devised with a mind for matters at play outside internal dialogues within just the art world itself?

A still from Tony Ourslers Imponderable. Photograph: MoMA

Tony Oursler, who has a new exhibition with paranormal proclivities on view at the Museum of Modern Art, says he can see the appeal of looking beyond the artistic pursuit for other forms of reason and rationale.

A lot of people are trying to move into more social practices to find some relevance. Its probably refreshing for people to see a certain kind of agency that can be offered in other practices, the artist says.

Ourslers show is more playful and inclined toward levity and debunking than Breyer P-Orridges. It includes parts of an immense archival collection related to stage magic and historical matters such as spirit photography and telekinetic mediums popular in the early 20th century, when notions of ghosts and transmissions from other worlds were very much part of the cultural conversation. The archive and a fanciful feature-length film, Imponderable, chart a peculiar history involving Ourslers own grandfather Charles Fulton Oursler and his real-life dealings with characters including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Houdini and various spirit-world fixtures who turned out to be hucksters and frauds.

About the magnetism of such a subject, Oursler speaks of an unending interest in magical thinking and how its generated through media and various social means that led me back to these world views.

Bolts from the blue: art gets spooky. Photograph: MoMA

He insists, too, that they are not as anachronistic as many might suspect. Everyone walks around with a matrix of beliefs through which they view the world, Oursler says. Statistically, if you look at America, it turns out roughly 60% of the population believes in ESP. One in three people do not believe in evolution. Forty percent of the public believes in UFOs. The rationalism we assume to be there might not, in fact, be there.

Breyer P-Orridge attributes rising interest in the occult to certain fleeting motivations. Some of it is pure fashion, always, s/he says. But the role of ritual and faith in its own ends can be a guide. After growing weary of the hierarchies and conscriptions of ceremonial magic as practiced early on (see: robes, chants, gestures with strict limitations and rules), We thought: Do you need all the fancy theatrics or is there something at the core that makes things happen? Our experience tells us its just one or two things at the core. One of those is being able to reprogram ones deep consciousness through repetition in ritual.

When a working sense of ritual conjoins with the process of making art, the result might be differently invested. When we walk around to galleries, were nearly always disappointed, Breyer P-Orridge says of art s/he sees around town. Most of it is not about anything. Its decorative at best and looks nice in penthouses. And now its gotten more corrupted because its like the stock market people going around to advise people what to buy as an investment. You cant trust the art world.

To be trusted instead: That strange reverberation that tells me whats fascinating.

  • This article was amended on 1 July 2016; the artist mentioned is Marjorie Cameron, not Carmen

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Samuel L Jackson: I was a drug addict, out of my mind, but I showed up on time and hit my marks

A Hollywood fixture from Tarantino to Pixar movies, the one-time Black Panther is now getting political in The Legend of Tarzan. He talks about how getting sober led to non-stop work and stardom

Everyone thinks Samuel L Jackson is about 15 years younger than he really is. Its the hair, probably, or the absence of it. I think weve all come to accept that Jackson keeps a rotating carousel of different movie wigs somewhere at home, and that none of his movie hair is ever real. No steady progression from dark to grey to white means the ageing process seems almost to have halted itself, and the man before me today, shaven-headed, tall, enviably lean and energetic, talkative and affable, could pass for a fit 45-year-old. Except hes 67.

Jacksons latest role, in The Legend of Tarzan, is a real-life figure inserted into a fictional universe, George Washington Willis, who achieved things in his lifetime that one is shocked and pleased to learn were achieved by any black American in the latter half of the 19th century. For a historically minded man such as Jackson, whose teenage years coincided with the optimistic height of the civil rights struggle, and who was a young Black Panther in the bleak and treacherous COINTELPRO years, the role probes some unfamiliar backwaters of the African-American experience.

At 14 years old he enlists in the civil war, he says, then he enlists in the Mexican revolution against the Emperor Maximilian. I dont know if he was an actual Buffalo Soldier, but I know he fought in the Indian wars too, and he killed a bunch of Indians! He was a Congressman, a preacher, a historian he did a lot of things, he had a whole life, short as it was. I actually visited his memorial, his grave, last year in Blackpool.

Jackson with Alexander Skarsgard in The Legend of Tarzan. Photograph: Jonathan Olley/AP

You heard that right: Blackpool. Lancashire. Willis died in Blackpool in 1891, of tuberculosis, on his way back to the US after making an important intervention in the Belgian-backed proto-holocaust against the people of the Congo. He documented the cruelties of the Belgian rubber-harvesting industry there maimings, executions, atrocities without number, millions dead and on his return pointed fingers at both King Leopold of Belgium (to his face, no less) and his local agent, the explorer/exploiter Henry Stanley, implicating them in what was not yet termed a genocide. It was an important milestone on the long road to ending the horrors of the rubber trade.

Thus is the nightmare of colonial Congo grafted on to the fantasy universe of Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan series. The villain of the piece, played by Christoph Waltz, is another real-life figure, colonial administrator and mass killer Captain Lon Rom, likely one of the inspirations for Conrads Mr Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. This is something like the 200th Tarzan movie since 1918, but the first major reboot since the failure of Greystoke in 1984; The Legend of Tarzan seems prepared to situate itself amid some very dark and troubling history.

Hopefully with this movie, we can persuade people to look into George Washington Williss story and, through him, find out about that first holocaust in the Congo, says Jackson. Willis is in the movie trying to convince Tarzan who hasnt been in Africa for 20 years to go home and investigate King Leopold. Hes talked to some soldiers that were there doing bad things and he wants to find a way to stop these things. He wants to prevent the British and American governments from helping Leopold build his railroad. Because Leopold ran out of money though how the fuck he ran out of money I dont know, because he was pulling diamonds and rubber out of there, and rubber was like liquid gold at the time. Anyway, he ran out of money and thats when he enlisted that army to go there. And thats where we come in.

Jackson as hitman Jules in Pulp Fiction (1994), the film that projected him into the mainstream. Photograph: Allstar/MIRAMAX

The Legend of Tarzan reunites Jackson with screenwriter Craig Brewer, who conjured up a magical role for Jackson in the steamy 2007 racial melodrama Black Snake Moan, and who is intent here, as in his movies as a writer-director (Moan, Hustle and Flow), on creating provocative black characters. This, of course, is meat and drink to the near-workaholic Jackson. When he read the script for Django Unchained, in which he was offered the part of Leonardo Dicaprios obsequious house-negro Stephen, the most painstaking evisceration of the Stepin-Fetchit-yass-massa caricature ever, and a role requiring immense delicacy and good judgment, Jackson said to Quentin Tarantino: So you really want me to play the most hateful black character in cinematic history, huh? OK, lets do it!

We often forget that before exploding into the public consciousness in 1994, aged 45, as Pulp Fictions fire-and-brimstone-spewing hitman Jules, that Jackson was a well-regarded New York stage actor. Well-regarded, that is, except for his demons and appetites. He played important roles in the first runs of a couple of August Wilson plays, but was always replaced before they moved to Broadway. He had started boozing, smoking weed and doing LSD at college in the late 60s, and has said that until he got clean in 1991 after a crack-induced meltdown that involved his eight-year-old daughter finding him zonked out in the kitchen among his dimebags and paraphernalia he had never set foot on stage without some kind of substance in his body.

Made it is all relative, he says of his supposedly late start in the movies. I had a very good theatre reputation. Granted, I was a fucking drug addict and I was out of my mind a lot of the time, but I had a good reputation. Showed up on time, knew my lines, hit my marks. I just wasnt making a lot of money, but I was very satisfied artistically. I was doing Pulitzer prize-winning plays. I was working with people who made me better, who challenged me. So I was doing things the right way, it was just that one thing that was in the way – my addiction. And once that was out of the way, it was boom! The door blew wide open.

As Stephen in Django Unchained. Photograph: Allstar/THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY

Getting clean freed up a hitherto closed-off dimension to his performances, he remembers. Ive always had my wife LaTanya, whos my harshest critic. Shed say: Youre so intelligent that the first time you read something, you think you understand it intellectually and emotionally, then you find the vocal inflections, and the facial expressions and you can get there with that. But theres no blood in it. And Im like: Its all fuckin make-believe, what in the hell you talking about? And it wasnt until I got sober that I knew fully what she meant. Before, I used to do stuff on stage and kinda look for the reaction from the audience Aha! I got em good that time! And once I was able to ignore that, and focus on the relationships with the people I was onstage with, I was finally able to blossom into whatever I might think I am now.

Jackson started acting at Moorhouse College, the famous post-civil war institution for sons of the emergent black middle class. But he felt stifled there by the generation gap between a cautious, gradualist college administration and the impatient young students who saw the civil rights struggle unfolding on TV every day. Jackson also had a dauntingly low number in the draft lottery. I pretty much had to stay in school. Either I make good grades in school or Im getting shipped off to Vietnam, which made it very real to me indeed when I was 19.

Moorhouse was breeding politically correct negroes. They were creating the next Martin Luther Kings. They didnt say that because, really, they didnt want you to be that active politically, and they were more proud of the fact that he was a preacher than that he was a civil-rights leader. That was their trip: they was into making docile negroes. We wanted a Black Studies Department, but they wouldnt do it.

With his wife LaTanya, 2016. Photograph: Barry King/Getty Images

But history had come home from the hill. And all of a sudden things kinda went haywire on them. I met guys in my freshman class who had already been to Vietnam they had afros already! Guys that had killed people in a war zone and knew what was goin on, and had discipline and leadership, those guys got hold of us. And suddenly we were talking politics and finding out how the war was getting run, who was getting killed. And what with civil rights going on at the same time, and with us being in the south, there was just no way you could ignore it.

Jackson quit college for a year in 1968 to work with the Black Panthers he was one of Kings many pallbearers at the funeral until the FBI came to his mothers house and told him he risked getting shot. He went back to school and graduated in 1971. That is a lot of history and politics for one 22-year-old, and shaped for ever the way Jackson frames and comprehends the world, and America.

I ask him how he rates the first black president, and what he thinks of Donald Trumps inexorable rise.

Obama got a lot done in seven years, hell yes! Hes done as much as he can do in the face of a morass of people trying to prevent him getting anything done. The fact that he got anything done at all is a miracle. He had to wait a minute until he could gangsta his way into doing all the things he wanted to do, because that was the only way it was gonna happen. He wasnt gonna be able to do it all through the process. Those guys on the other side werent gonna go to work for him they just stopped working, decided theyre not gonna do anything. And even though hes created a lot of jobs, theyre not the kind of jobs that people used to have, and all the factory work is gone abroad. Its created the environment that allows Donald Trump and that Rafael Cruz to thrive.

Much as he despises Trump and his ilk, Jackson has only a limited degree of sympathy for those bedazzled by their race-baiting, scapegoating rhetoric.

With Ruby Dee in Jungle Fever, 1991. Photograph: Everett/REX/Shutterstock

Theres a bunch of disenfranchised people whose anxieties they exploit. And those people are losing their jobs, and are going to be extinct. And theyve convinced them that the cause of their extinction lies in immigration law. And they say, theres a threat to your existence because these people are comin in stealing your jobs. People are getting back in the streets, but it feels like theyre asking for the wrong things. The only people whove figured out what they want, unfortunately, is Isis. And the rest of us are still trying to figure out whyre they doing this? Thats the crowd Trump knows hes got, and he knows how to speak to them and the truest thing hes said all through the campaign, the only true thing, is that he loves the uneducated.

In the 70s and 80s, when there was a thriving theatre world for black actors in New York, Jackson worked with everyone. We worked all the time, and every now and then … like, we were doing A Soldiers Play and Denzel [Washington], he got plucked out to do St Elsewhere. Then Fish [Laurence Fishburne] got plucked out, and Howard Rollins, and then I was doing Mother Courage and all of a sudden Morgan Freeman was gone. He did Street Smart, and boom hes on his way. Every year somebody got plucked out. So I figured, I seem to be in the right place, so the right opportunity is gonna present itself in the end.

Little by little by little, the landscape changed. I played that robber in Coming to America, which caught a lot of attention. But you always had to play the bad guy still, every time. Youd look at the script and go: Lets see, which page do I die on? Page 50? aw yeah!

After a half-decade of playing gang member, hoodlum, robber and Jacksons own favourite (from Sea of Love) black guy, Spike Lees Jungle Fever broke him, well before Pulp Fiction made him a household name. His role as a crackhead son of a minister came literally weeks after his own rehab, and changed everything.

I used to have this sort of ritual I had with my first agent. Id call him up and always say: Hollywood call today? No! So after we went to Cannes with Jungle Fever, I called him up and said: Hollywood call today? Well, as a matter of fact, they did! But even then, that was, I think, my fourth movie with Spike.

And once they had found him, film-makers and screenwriters couldnt get enough of him. And Jackson, who replaced addiction with some vigorous strain of workaholism, has stayed busy for the entire two decades since.

But no Oscar yet?

If I cared about that, I could have made a big fuss and gone all OscarsSoWhite and all that for Stephen in Django, but I dont think an Oscar is gonna validate my career. You ask the average person, you know what theyre probably gonna say? He already has one!

The Legend of Tarzan is out on 8 July.

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Stanford case helps fuel changing perception of sexual assault victims

Activists applaud move away from victim blaming, but shift in the conversation has not yet led to tougher convictions

Public perception of sexual assault victims and those accused of attacking them is changing due to high-profile cases such as that of Brock Turner at Stanford University, but that is not yet translating into tough convictions against perpetrators, say victims advocates.

The former Indiana University student John Enochs agreed to a plea deal last week of a years probation and no jail time after two female students accused him of rape. One rape accusation dated from 2013 and the other from 2015, both while he was a student at IU. Although he pleaded guilty to battery relating to the 2015 incident as a felony prosecutors were unable to provide enough evidence to satisfy the higher charges the court ruled that it should be classified as a misdemeanor and he received one year of probation.

Many online immediately linked Enochs to Turner, the Stanford University student who was sentenced to six months jail time after being found guilty on three counts of sexual assault in which he penetrated an unconscious woman. The judge ruled that a longer sentence would have a severe impact on him, comments that set off a firestorm of media outrage. A letter written by the victim outlining the impact of the assault and the ensuing court case was widely publicized.

There are certain similarities in the cases which addressed accusations of rape or sexual assault after fraternity parties on campus, with both of those accused claiming the women involved consented but there are also key differences, particularly relating to the evidence provided by prosecutors. Turner was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault after a trial; Enochs pleaded guilty to one count of battery pretrial. But advocates for sexual assault victims say the coverage of the Enochs and Turner cases reflects a changing attitude from the public about rape and sexual assault.

We are seeing a shift in the conversation, because people are becoming outraged by this, said Kristen Pulice, director of programs at the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault. Its changed over the last few months. Rape was the hush-hush thing, you didnt talk about the perpetrators it was always about the woman, and blaming the victim. The conversation has shifted, and now its the perpetrators not being held accountable.

Scott Berkowitz, president of Rainn (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the countrys largest organization working against sexual violence, has also noticed the change. Seeing how outraged people were in the Stanford case, and based on the calls and emails weve gotten this week about the Indiana case, I think theres been an evolution in public attitudes about this crime, he said. And the public sympathies are with the victims and not the perpetrator. Its very unfortunate that it took cases like this to mobilize the public into outrage, but we are glad to see the way the public is reacting to these cases.

Advocates say they are noticing mainstream media organizations covering sexual assault cases more closely and note that the Turner case became a water cooler topic for the public.

These conversations are happening where they werent before; on ESPN theres discussions about the notion of rape culture, said Angela Rose, founder of Pave (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment), a charity that focuses on prevention of sexual violence.

However, Rose said, that conversation isnt always translating into prosecutions and harsh punishments for offenders: The public prosecutors, district attorneys and the criminal justice system still have a long way to go.

In the case of Enochs, the prosecutors spoke publicly about their anger at being unable to get charges of sexual violence to stick.

This turn of events was frustrating for us as prosecutors, due to the fact that there were two complaints against the defendant. That fact is the reason we continued to pursue accountability on his part, which led to this plea agreement, said Robert Miller, the chief deputy prosecuting attorney, in a statement.

Like the public, prosecutors are becoming more knowledgeable about sexual assault cases and focusing their attention on rapists, not victims, experts say.

Traditionally some prosecutors have shied away from [sexual assault and rape] cases because they are more difficult to prosecute, to prove, said Berkowitz, noting that he had seen an increase in prosecutors fighting hard to get a conviction. I hope that other prosectors wont take the wrong lesson from this, that theyll be willing to pursue these cases when they come through the door if the evidence is there.

Jennifer Long, the CEO of Aequitas, an organization of former prosecutors who push for justice in cases of violence against women, gives advice on how prosecutors in sexual violence cases can be most effective. She suggests learning how to put the focus on the offender, what the offender did, constantly keeping the attention on them which is where it belongs. Looking at how the perpetrator identified the victim and exploited something. Was the victim ill? Did the perpetrator lie to the victim? Did the victim trust them? Were they intoxicated? Pointing to all those purposeful actions to really be able to demonstrate the culpability and the dangerousness of the individual.

Many have noted that Turner and Enochs are both middle class white students, one a champion swimmer, the other a member of a campus fraternity, and Long acknowledges these factors can influence courts. If you see a rapist and hes not matching your view of what a rapist looks like because outwardly he doesnt look dangerous, you forget the person in the picture is capable of penetrating a lifeless body, in the case of Brock Turner, she said.

She also notes as did all the advocates the Guardian spoke with that focusing on victims being unable to remember certain details or recall ignores the fact that scientific research shows trauma affects memory so that recollections can be scattered. Long said questions asked by police or lawyers why didnt you call the police? why didnt you fight back? can have a victim-blaming effect that traumatizes victims, and therefore more open-ended questions how did you feel? what made you call police? often result in better answers.

The defence and the juries want to see the thing you see on TV: bloody, blackened eye, distraught victim, crying and dishevelled, said Pulice. Often, at times, thats not how a rape victim will look like; were not messed up after having sex. They want to see the Brock Turner victim, behind the dumpster with weeds in her hair, but thats not [always] what a victim looks like.

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Vanessa Hudgens accused of cultural appropriation | Fox News


Vanessa Hudgens has been accused of appropriating Native American culture after wearing a dreamcatcher in her hair.

The “High School Musical” star came under fire after posting a series of fashion snaps on Instagram, some of which showed her long curly locks adorned with a purple dreamcatcher.

Chin up, Princess… Or the crown slips #monday@riawnacapri @beautycoach_com, the 27-year-old captioned the photo.

EXCLUSIVE: Vanessa Hudgens Has High Hopes for High School Musical 4

While many fans commented on how gorgeous their queen looked, a number of followers lashed out at the actress.

“Why are you like this???” one user commented. “You constantly go out of your way to disrespect cultures to look ~boho. It’s rude as f*ck. Don’t put dreamcatchers in your hair! That you have to constantly be told not to do this and dragged means you are not listening and it’s frustrating af!!”

WATCH: Vanessa Hudgens Reportedly Pays $1,000 for Defacing Red Rocks in Sedona

This is not the first time she has done this either, the backlash continued. Even though she is part Native American using a dreamcatcher as hair jewelry is not done. If someone can tell me a tribe who does it I will take it back. But until then she is constantly pulling this type of stuff with multiple cultures and I don’t like it.

Hudgens has previously been slammed for Hindu cultural appropriation after wearing a bindi.

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Beyonc’s star formation: from Destiny’s Child to Queen Bey

Beyoncs new tour finds her at the height of her artistic powers. What makes her sound, her dance moves, her image and her feminism so distinctive?

The sound: It sounds like a push to dominate all of pop

Of late, some music writers have got into the habit of referring to Beyonc as Queen Bey. It doesnt exactly imply a great deal of critical distance, but you can see why the nickname has stuck. It is hard to think of a recent album that feels more commanding and imperious than Lemonade, not just in its lyrics where defiant woman-scorned wrath meets righteous social anger but in its music. It sounds not like an R&B record, but a push to dominate all of pop. Country, alt-rock, left-field electronics, hoary Jack White blues-rock? I can do the lot. That seems to be one of its messages.

So pervasive is the Queen Bey persona that it is easy to forget that there was a time when Beyonc didnt seem to know what she wanted to be, at least musically. Her solo career never faltered commercially she continued the run of peerless pop hits that had begun with Destiny Childs No No No as if the groups dissolution were a mere formality, as if she had been the only thing that mattered about them all along but she also gave the impression of being torn between a career as an R&B diva and the desire to be an MOR entertainer.

Many of the best tracks on her first two solo albums tended to point up her voices similarity to R&B singers of the 60s and 70s the raw drums and see-sawing organ of Freakum Dress, the funk-rock of Suga Mama, Crazy in Loves blaring Chi-Lites horns but they were surrounded by stuff that erred on the sickly side of perfect, as if she were quietly investing in a future that might have more to do with cabaret than clubs.

Beyonc at the BET awards in Los Angeles. Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for BET

The sense of an artist being pulled uncomfortably in two opposing directions reached its peak with 2008s wildly uneven I Am Sasha Fierce: one disc full of self-help-motto power ballads and tracks that sounded as if they were following trends (Halo was audibly made in the image of Rihannas Umbrella), and another that suggested, for the first time, a willingness to experiment the percussion battery and oddly doomy minor chords of Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), Video Phones minimal fusion of crunk rhythms, sampled groans, and needling synthesisers.

I Am Sasha Fierce sold 8m copies, but its follow-up suggested a rethink or at least a focusing of her approach. Made after she had severed ties with her manager and executive producer father, 4 built on its predecessors more experimental aspects, and introduced the I-can-do-anything musical expansiveness that you hear on Lemonade. There were influences drawn from Afrobeat, dancehall and alt-rock; thrown together with Kanye West collaborator Jeff Bhasker, the Sleepy Jacksons Luke Steele contributed the psychedelicised Philly soul of Rather Die Young.

Destinys Child had largelyshied away from the kind of ultra-futuristic R&B sound big in the late 90s and early noughties their singles were always about the chorus rather than the novelty of the production but, just at the point when the charts were awash with R&B stars making tinny pop-house tracks, Beyonce released Run the World (Girls), based on Major Lazers Pon De Floor, a battery of drums, dancehall rhythms and squealing noise. It was refined on Beyonc, the album on which she finally abandoned the last vestiges of conservatism. The sound was rooted in hip-hop, but dragged everything from chillwave to the Aphex Twins abstract electronica to doo-wop into its orbit. It was filled with tracks that stopped abruptly, as though she was impatient to move on to the next idea. There were songs that sounded like suites (Haunted, Partition), even, on No Angel, an audibly off-key vocal allowed out into the world.

A gushing profile in Vogue found her joking that she might take on jazz or even country next time. As it turned out, she wasnt joking.
Alexis Petridis

The dance icon: She and her troupe move as one unit a drill team, an army

Beyonc performs at the Super Bowl in 2016. Photograph: Thearon W Henderson/Getty Images

Beyoncs music, style and message make her an untouchable ruler at the top of the pop-culture pyramid. Her dancing, however, is what makes her feel reachable.

We have watched Beyonc grow from seductive showpiece to sexually empowered woman. She has graduated from the male-gaze booty-shaking of Crazy in Love to the unapologetic, hard-hitting struts of Formation. Sure, all the action still happens in her pelvis and chest, but the execution is different, with a sway back, upturned chin and heavier step. Something about it says: This dancing is for me and no one else. Not for your eyes; not for Jay Zs.

Notice that Beyonc is rarely without her all-female squad of dancers, and that she doesnt usually deviate from their choreography. That is completely deliberate, because Beyonc can certainly carry a stage alone. Instead, she and her troupe move as one unit a drill team, an army in the name of black pride and girl power. Allow your eyes to blur and it is as if Beyonc is multiplying, until 50 of her are swarming the stage.

More from the Super Bowl show. Photograph: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Refocus your vision and she is just one woman among meticulously organised rows of dancers. She might be the point of a pyramid or centre of an X, but she is always standing with them. It helps convey the idea that Beyonc is your spokeswoman; that she is in this with you, fighting the same fight. That no matter how rich and powerful she is, she is a girls girl, the Everywoman. That she walks, spins, and grinds like each dancer behind her. Because what anchors Beyonces persona once a shiny display, and now a little more vulnerable isnt the dancing itself, but the staging. She does not underestimate the simple and persuasive power of movement in unison.

That is not to say that the actual movement that Beyonc and her team puts out is particularly inventive (though they have certainly come up with some great hairography). While Beyonc has become more radical in message, she has actually toned down the creativity of her dancing since the days of the Bob Fosse-inspired Single Ladies video. Formations punchy isolations, booty-bouncing and chest-popping are evenly set with the beat and the melody, with knees twisting in and out. At its most basic, its a heightened, polished version of something you would do in the privacy of your own living room, music blasting, two glasses of wine in a feel-good romp. Its another way to connect with her fans. For modern-day Bey, dance is no longer a main event; its there to serve her highness. And sometimes, that is all dance is supposed to do.
Kristin Schwab

The brand: She doesnt release albums; she creates cultural events

Beyonc and Jay Z at the Met Gala in New York. Photograph: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Theres the A-list, and then theres Queen Bey. Beyonc has risen to a rare level of fame where she has surpassed mere celebrity and become an archetype of achievement. When she dropped Lemonade, the world dropped everything to listen Beyonc doesnt release albums; she creates cultural events.

Beyonc has been famous for almost 20 years, but, it is only in the last eight that she has gone from phenomenal to phenomenon. This is no accident, but the result of strategic brand-building learned from Madonna and Apple.

Her metamorphosis into a brand can be seen in three key milestones. First, she married Jay Z. Then she killed Sasha Fierce. Finally, she fired her father. Strategic partnerships can be a highly effective way to build a brand and, leaving romance aside, Beyoncs 2007 marriage to Jay-Z was as strategic as you can get. Both benefited from the merger I mean marriage, gaining new fans and elevating their respective statuses.

When Beyonc married Jay Z, she was going through a period of transition. You can see this play out in the character of Sasha Fierce, an alter-ego that let Beyonc experiment with a more risqu sexual persona while maintaining her traditionally wholesome image. The 2008 album I Am Sasha Fierce reflected this tension. One side had more mainstream songs for new fans, the other was aimed more at old fans.

The I Am Sasha Fierce album cover

In 2010, she announced she didnt need to separate her persona from that of Sasha Fierce any more. Killing off Fierce signalled a Beyonc newly confident in what she stood for. This was reinforced shortly after, when Beyonc made arguably her most important move ever: she dropped her father as manager and seized control of her brand. When I decided to manage myself, it was important to me not to sign to some big company, she said. I wanted to follow in Madonnas footsteps and be a powerhouse.

Part of becoming and staying a powerhouse was exerting painstaking, Apple-like control over her brand. Its a mistake to call Beyoncs notorious attention to her image diva behaviour; its businesswoman behaviour. Beyonc understood that she couldnt let Beyonc-the-person encroach on Beyonc-the-brand. So she stopped saying much, and rarely gave interviews. In 2013, she made waves by appearing on the cover of the September issue of Vogue without deigning to give the customary interview that went with it. Her silence made her voice even more powerful, and reinforced the mythology she was creating.

A couple of months later, Beyonc really dropped the mic when she launched her fifth album, eponymously titled Beyonc, unexpectedly on iTunes. The launch broke all the conventions of music marketing and announced to the world that she only played by her own rules. The next year, she was on the cover of Time for their most influential people issue.

Today, Beyonc is more influential than ever. She has become a voice for feminism and civil rights. While this move to the left may seem to run the risk of being polarising, remember that her timing has always been flawless. She understands exactly when she can activate activism for her own benefit. Further, the sign of a strong brand is that it can evolve with culture, and weather the occasional controversy. The strength of Beyoncs brand is such that, at the moment, it seeems she can do no wrong. After all, to err is human but Beyonc is divine.
Arwa Mahdawi

The feminist: She calls out to the masses to rise up

The Lemonade album cover

Its all Maya Angelou in those now iconic first 15 seconds of Beyoncs visual album masterpiece Lemonade. As the most famous pop star on the planet, golden cornrow coiffed, and supine on the back of a sports utility vehicle, comes up off the back of her ride in haunting slow motion, the spirit of legend Angelous classic 1978 poem And Still I Rise pulsates like an undercurrent: You may write me down in history/With your bitter, twisted lies/You may trod me in the very dirt/But still, like dust, Ill rise. Our heroine has taken Angelous words (that many a black girl has memorised) to heart, turning the wisdom of her lyric anthem into a long-form visual and sonic meditation. The result is a feminist breakthrough in the world of stadium pop. It is 18 million cracks in pop music cultures glass ceiling delivered by a sister wielding a baseball bat in a marigold sundress.

One of the biggest pop-culture events of the year so far, Lemonade has nonetheless weathered some high-profile handwringing from feminist scholars such as bell hooks, a notorious Beyonc hater, who conceded that the albums visual imagery shifts the gaze of white mainstream culture challeng[ing] us all to look anew, to radically revision how we see the black female body while nevertheless continuing to warn of her oppressive ties to capitalism and patriarchy. These sorts of concerns about Beyoncs brand of feminism are nothing new.

Beyonc at the Super Bowl in 2013. Photograph: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

If you are a woman whose independence depends on making money, as Yonc and her fellow children of destiny would sing about in the year 2000, can you ever really be free of the systems that have historically oppressed women and people of colour? If, in your celebration of the single life, you are still chastising your ex for not having sealed a commitment with a rock, are you more of a material girl than empowered woman warrior?

The ambivalences in Beyoncs pre-Lemonade musical repertoire have led some, such as critic Andi Zeisler in her razor-sharp new book We Were Feminists Once, to characterise the superstars relationship to the F-word as a form of marketplace feminism, a mainstream, celebrity, consumer embrace of feminism that positions it as a cool, fun, accessible identity that anyone can adopt But Zeisler is also quick to point out that we need not hate the player, but rather the game in which our reigning queen of pop is ensnared.

The difference that Lemonade makes in Beyoncs career-long, increasingly sophisticated engagement with feminist politics is that it is an album that ambitiously aims to address the game of large-scale, deeply entwined racial and gender oppression, even as it foregrounds a tale of intimate deception and duplicity. True, this is still the Bey weve come to know who extols the virtues of revenge by way of paper, when many a feminist longs to hear her say instead that best revenge is dismantling patriarchy in all facets of modern life. But Lemonade is ultimately an album that moves well beyond a focus on being black Bill Gates in the making.

Just when a series of pop starlets from Taylor Swift to Emma Watson and Chlo Grace Moretz were willing to embrace a kind of feminism that oversimplifies its meaning, that thinks in limited and sometimes twisted ways about girl squads, making womens equality welcoming for men, and gender neutrality, along comes Bey with a new album that demands that we think about feminism as a sophisticated and multilayered practice rather than a slogan. The album encourages black women, in particular, to examine the wholeness of their beings and the complexities of their identities.

Beyonc and her team of artistic collaborators turned what had been an initial embrace of feminism into an epic sonic event. It demands that mainstream popular culture reckon with the conditions of being a modern black woman in ways never before seen and felt.

Beyonc and Coldplays Chris Martin at the 2016 Super Bowl show. Photograph: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

For the first time, a superstar black female musician aligned herself with intersecting racial and gender freedom struggles by way of a concept album, as well as the Super Bowl halftime routine watched the world over.

Most would be hard-pressed to recall the last time a black female pop star had enough cultural capital and sheer recording industry power to boldly weave together critiques of racial and gender inequality into a full-length recording. The go-to reference for many is still Atlantic Records-era Aretha, crowned the iconic foremother of the feminist pop anthem. Others might cite the audacity of Lauryn Hills ferociously introspective narratives of self-discovery and personal redemption, the biting lyricism and sophisticated instrumentation of Meshell Ndegeocellos or Erykah Badus finest releases, or the recent Afrofuturist liberation odysseys of Janelle Mone. But none of these artists, not even the Queen of Soul, have commanded the kind of multimedia global platform that fourth-wave Bey has been able to seize upon in this rapidly changing digital age.

And so enter Yonc with her Run-the-World army of women: an all-female dance troupe, backup singers, her celebrated Suga Mama band, and her pathbreaking alliances with diasporic black feminist intellectuals such as Warsan Shire and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. At the height of her artistic powers and political vision, she calls out to the masses to rise up, Angelou-style, and ride with her as she sits behind the wheel of a Hold Up video demolition monster truck, driving pop culture forwards and into the future with no turning back.
Daphne Brooks

The celebrity: Even sneezing on stage gets her coverage

Beyonc on tour in Houston, Texas. Photograph: Larry Busacca/PW/WireImage

Pop superstars fall into two camps: the boy or girl next door, or the character who would buy the house next door, evict the family and erect a neon and diamant castle in their own honour. Britney, Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift would have you believe they would pop round for a cup of sugar; Kanye, Gaga and Madonna appeal because you know they would send in the JCBs. Fans engage with all those artists with a similar intensity, but we attach ourselves to the humanity of some and the audacity of others.

Most artists stay in one lane, but during her two-decade career, Beyonc has deftly segued from sugar (early interviews show an artist with little to say maybe, we might now speculate, she simply wasnt being asked the right questions) to steamrollers: Aprils Lemonade addressed, owned and even exacerbated rumours surrounding her marriage to Jay Z in the pop equivalent of a controlled explosion, by an artist now able to unleash, control and manipulate her own celebrity on her own terms.

Tech companies pivot when their original proposition goes wrong: Beyonc did it when things were going right or, at least, before diminishing returns set in. And she did so while achieving critical and commercial success.

The shift in Beyoncs celebrity status didnt happen overnight. Her relationship with Jay Z created a celebrity whole far exceeding the sum of its parts, while the aggressive sound and styling around Run the World (Girls) put a hard edge on the broad-stroke feminism of early Destinys Child tracks. But 2013s surprise album really saw Beyonc take control. The power of instant releases shouldnt be underestimated: by stripping critics of any meaningful role in an albums release, Beyonc and others have allowed for a frictionless exchange of celebrity energy between fan and artist.

Jay Z and Beyonc in San Francisco in 2014. Photograph: Mason Poole/Invision for Parkwood Entertainment

Six months later, Beyonc topped the Forbes celebrity power list, based on mentions in print, radio, TV and online, for the first time since her initial appearance on the list a decade earlier. This reflects shifting, click-driven priorities of the global news agenda, but Google Trends echoed Beyoncs role in that shift: before 2013 there were clumps of interest around album campaigns, but in December 2013 Beyonc began prompting huge peaks in interest that wildly outstripped any that came before.

As her politically charged Super Bowl performance earlier this year showed us, Beyonc understands tentpole moments, but she also understands the smaller details, the pegs without which tentpoles wouldnt hold up. She knew this early on. Consider Question! in Independent Women, Pt 1 or I aint gonna diss you on the internet when the world was still on dial-up lyrical proto-memes that now seem like Beyonc staking her claim on the modern world of social-driven celebrity culture.

Fast-forward to 2016 and Becky With the Good Hair the woman rumoured to have been a third party in the Beyonc-Jay Z marriage is a celebrity in her own right, while restaurant chain Red Lobster reported a 33% boost in sales after being namechecked in Formation as the ideal location for a crustacean-themed post-coital lap of honour. If that is interesting in itself, interesting, too, is how widely that news was reported. But this is an era when Beyonc sneezing on stage can guarantee coverage from Time, Vanity Fair, Mail Online and the Hereford Times. That, as much as anything else, defines the meaning of celebrity in 2016.
Peter Robinson

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Kenyan, 94, testifies about killings by British soldiers

Court in central London hears witness recall being beaten and seeing companions shot dead during Mau Mau insurgency

Nelson Njao Munyaka witnessed two companions being shot dead by British soldiers; he carried their corpses to a white settlers farm in Kenyas Rift Valley. Both victims had taken the Mau Mau oath and been trying to escape.

More than 60 years later, speaking over a crackly videolink, Munyaka, sat in a Nairobi lawyers office explaining his testimony about the independence struggle to Foreign Office-instructed lawyers in London who probed its credibility.

Wearing a turquoise jacket, the 94-year-old farmer, with close-cropped white hair, sank deep into an armchair. He rested a long index finger on his temple as he recalled traumatic events from early 1950s colonial British rule.

Munyaka is one of 40,000 Kenyans who are suing the UK government for compensation over the injuries and losses suffered during official repression of the Mau Mau insurgency. Despite paying out 19.9m to 5,228 Kenyans who suffered abuse in and torture in a settlement in 2013, the government has refused to recompense this larger claim.

Speaking through a translator on Thursday, Munyaka explained how, on another occasion, he had been beaten and had his leg badly cut by home guard soldiers.

Were the men carrying sharpened sticks as his written evidence stated, he was asked, or was it, as he now seemed to imply, from a club that had splintered? The club had broken, he insisted.

For three weeks, counsel for the FCO, sitting in an artificially-lit basement court at the Royal Courts of Justice, have been cross-examining 27 claimants in a sample of cases intended to assess the reliability of their accounts.

Unable to strike out the claims on the grounds that UK courts have no jurisdiction to decide the issue or that too much time has expired a previous case ruled out both objections the government is questioning the legitimacy of individual test complaints. But how do you challenge a man of 94 without inflicting too much personal indignity? Cross-examinations have been delicate but laborious, conducted at a distance of more than 4,000 miles and through translators.

Next month, a separate group of survivors, represented by Tandem Law, a Manchester-based firm of solicitors, will fly to London to appear in court to give evidence about their claims.

In his written statement to the court, Munyaka said he had been cutting timber at a white settlers farm in 1952 when he took the Mau Mau oath to oppose the British. Shortly afterwards, he recalled: Two British soldiers who wore trousers and berets and three Kenyan police shot dead two of my workmates named Kabiru and Kahiga.

I witnessed the shooting at around 6pm. They were told to stand up, because they had taken an oath, they resisted, and once they resisted they tried to escape and thats when the British shot them.

After they were shot, six of us were chosen to carry their corpses to a house on the settlers farm. We slept outside in the farm compound and we were threatened by the British soldiers that if we tried to escape we would be shot.

Munyaka was later detained in Githunguri Camp for nearly a year. The camp was surrounded by a big trench which had spikes, he said. The houses were for the people who had been forcibly removed. In my room there were five people. I used to cook for myself, and then in the morning I would be taken to dig terraces. I was not paid for any of the work that I did.

Soldiers guard suspected Mau Mau fighters in the Kikuyu reserve at the time of the uprising against British colonial rule in Kenya in a picture taken in October 1952. Photograph: AFP/Getty

He was later moved to other camps and on another occasion hospitalised following beatings. I suffer flashbacks and always recall how I was physically assaulted during the state of emergency, Munyaka concluded.

I was also verbally abused by the home guards. They called me names such as dog and donkey in presence of others. It was really shameful at my age being called such names by younger men who were home guards.

Guy Mansfield QC, representing the Foreign Office, acknowledged last month that those alleged to have inflicted the violence were now dead or untraceable. Litigation on such a scale should not be a historical inquiry into the events that occurred in Kenya at the end of the colonial era, he stressed, but required each of the claimants [to] prove their claims to the satisfaction of the court.

All of the senior politicians and civil servants who worked in the colonial office in the UK or the colonial government in Kenya are now dead. The British army generals who advised and assisted the colonial government are all dead. None of them can explain what happened during the emergency. They too cannot now answer the grave allegations made against them.

Without their testimony, Mansfield said, there is no safe foundation for judgment, adding: These cases have simply been brought too late and it is now impossible for them to be determined fairly.

Peter Skelton QC, also for the Foreign Office, told the court: As this litigation has progressed, the [government] has become more and more troubled by the way the claimants evidence has been produced. Theres a risk that the test case evidence has been irremediably tainted by the way they were [questioned]. He said there were also doubts over the translation process.

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Why Fox Sports, not ESPN, is winning America’s summer of soccer

ESPNs Euro 2016 coverage has been mixed, while Fox has been sharper, funnier, and truer to an authentically American culture of the sport

Who has won Americas summer of soccer ESPN or Fox Sports? To frame the question in this binary is to ignore, of course, the claim of another channel perhaps more familiar to the occasional American football fan. For long stretches of the winter, while MLS is in hibernation, the summer international tournaments are either long forgotten or far in the future, and the people of this country turn their attention to the double thrill of dressing in weather-flexible layers and making jokes about coffee flavored with pumpkin spice, footballs cultural airtime is occupied almost entirely by NBCs coverage of the English Premier League.

NBC, it must be said, does a pretty decent job. Rebecca Lowe is a sharp and good-humored host who understands that the best anchors are those who direct the conversation while having the humility not to dominate it. As former players, the two Robbies Earle and Mustoe bring the required spritz of experience and tactical insight to proceedings; and its perhaps helpful that their own playing careers were successful, but not spectacularly so, since this means they avoid getting into the matey-matey, Remember when we won the Premiership? self-congratulation many of the former players covering English football across the Atlantic Ocean exhibit.

Finally Kyle Martino brings the most important ingredient of all: hair thats so perfect, thick and still, it appears resistant to nuclear attack. Its a tough gig being thrust into the role of token network American, but Martino performs it well he sounds intelligent about the game in a way that makes his lack of Englishness appear irrelevant.

Overall, NBC keeps it snappy but plays it straight there are quips, but not too many, and the panel segments are kept mercifully short and direct. This is why the coverage provided by Fox Sports (of the Copa America) and ESPN (of the Euros) over the last few weeks might strike the casual American consumer of football content as a bit of a shock. (Were in the era of content now, not of live sport or TV; its important to get with the lingo.)

Where NBC serves up the Premier League as the TV equivalent of a quick morning snack, Fox and ESPN have covered their respective tournaments as if they were sprawling, extended family dinners where everyone gets drunk, you go hard on the carbs early and get bread sweats by the 15-minute mark, and things end hours later in a shouting match about the supreme court and the apathy of checkout workers at Walgreens with your aunt Janine. Both networks, faced with the challenge of filling hours of airtime, have responded with a strategy that says the only thing better than discussion of live football is more discussion of live football.

ESPN has worked hard to convince us of its Euro creds throughout the tournament in France. For a start, theres that set. A blue neon cube suspended over the banks of the Seine, ESPNs Euros HQ looks like it could have a second career once the tournament is over as an overpriced seafood restaurant called Le Blue Lagoon. It is, shall we say, very mid-80s Luc Besson. Michael Ballack, Craig Burley and Roberto Martinez have reinforced the Europeanness of the whole exercise chiefly by being, well, European while Steve McManaman, Ian Darke and all the other Englishmen on set have provided the critical non-EU member state perspective (sorry, too early?).

These good efforts valiant efforts have done nothing to stop ESPNs coverage from being relentlessly, gratingly parochial. Slovakia, Darke told us the other day as the match against England got under way, is a country of just 5 million people around the same size as Minnesota! Gareth Bale v Russia, meanwhile, began with the insight that Wales is a tiny country no bigger than New Jersey! America so big! Its as if ESPN doesnt trust viewers to know there are countries beyond the borders of these United States, and that some of them shock! might not be that large.

It hasnt helped that the network, already reeling from an exodus of on-screen talent over the past year, decided to hand anchoring duties to two of its most underwhelming performers. Mike Tirico and Bob Ley dress as if theyre getting ready for a night of gimlets and mutton at the Westchester country club pleated khakis for Tirico, pocket square for Ley and their level of football knowledge seems roughly equivalent to what youd expect from an American clubhouse regular.

To be fair, its not as if they pretend to know anything; Tiricos performance can best be summed up by the invitation he offered Martinez to comment following the Portugal-Austria game: Roberto, tell us what youre seeing and that will prompt a reaction from Michael. Um, thanks man. Glad youre here. The disorientation of Tirico and Ley in this alien universe of non-US sports has lent a certain aimlessness to on-air discussion. At times Ballack and co have been left to fend for themselves, and the result has been a meandering crush of cliches and statements of the obvious.

The parochialism of ESPNs approach has extended to blanketing its commentary teams, the occasional American aside, with Englishmen the effect, perhaps, of the irritating inferiority complex that still bedevils football in this country. Who says the English, as the inventors of the sport, know it best? They dont, of course; the simple fact of having a sophisticated English accent doesnt somehow, miraculously, confer on its owner the reality of a superior understanding of football.

As it happens, this point has been proven smartly if accidentally by Julie Foudy and Kasey Keller. ESPNs two American experts have provided far sharper insights and analysis than their more storied European peers. Foudy has been especially good, operating the tactics screen with aplomb and offering that most precious sports TV commodity a perspective supported by more than naive banalities.

Kellers emergence as an on-air talent, meanwhile, is all the more notable for having been achieved in trying circumstances. For long stretches of this tournament, while Ballack and Martinez have hogged the seats over at the main desk, the former Tottenham goalkeeper has been exiled to the fruit table off to the side of ESPNs set, a solitary and slightly mournful presence left to offer his earnest nuggets of wisdom on, say, the midfield promptings of Marek Hamsik or the mis-positioning of David Alaba with little more than bananas and a basket of pastries for company. I feel sorry for the guy; someone should give him a hug, or at the very least a fresh croissant. The grace and humility Keller has displayed through this long, televised humiliation deserves our eternal respect.

Fox, in contrast to ESPN, has taken a much more American-centric approach to its coverage of the Copa. This is obviously understandable, given the different nature of the tournaments but its also yielded better results as a televisual experience.

True, there have been weak spots. Alexi Lalas is Alexi Lalas down on the US mens national team until game day, at which point its Hoo-hah, lets go USA! If NBCs Lowe is the Xabi Alonso of football anchors, pulling the strings from deep with an intelligent but subtle unobtrusiveness, Rob Stone is more like Michael Bradley a cut-price American knockoff whos eager and willing, yes, but a little meh into the bargain. You cant fault the guy for enthusiasm, but you can fault him for being forgettable.

Other contributors have carried the team. Brad Friedel has dropped the occasional clanger (comparing John Brooks to Eddie Pope wasnt an analogy likely to inspire much beyond a light rain of derisive tweets) but overall, the (mostly American) match commentators have been as good as, if not better, than their (mostly English) peers calling the Euros. Aly Wagner, like Foudy over in the ESPN seafood restaurant, has made herself a valuable contributor by sticking to the facts and getting into the tactical details of each match. If the past month proves anything, its that having only one woman on set, for both ESPN and Fox, is not just tokenism its also, and most importantly, an opportunity missed for better on-air discussion.

Herculez Gomez, meanwhile, has moped through his appearances, hunch-shouldered and stubbled, with all the joy of an alcoholic Finnish poet. I must make it clear that I mean this as a compliment: sports TV, especially in this country, often seems like a competition to see who can shout loudest. The Gomez weve come to know through the Copa offers a haven from so much noise. Like David Byrne, hes been tense and nervous and he hasnt relaxed and its been a joy to watch.

Finally, of course, we come to the matter of Fernando. Among a certain corner of the internet, ESPNs resident Copa clown ranks as perhaps the most divisive figure in America after Donald Trump. For one camp, Fernando Fiore is a braying, ignorant buffoon hiding behind the figleaf of a credibility-conferring accent and mustache: remove the facial hair, these detractors say, wielding their at-replies and their hate, and Fiore will be revealed as nothing more than a jangly sack of filler quotes and fixed ideas. In the other corner, Fiores defenders claim hes brought fun, unpredictability and a certain sense of mischief to an otherwise starchy, unadventurous, whitebread studio panel. (OK, Gomez isnt white, but this is no place for facts.)

Everyone whos wasted their early summer watching too much football will have an opinion, but Im firmly in the latter camp if only because a diversity of voices makes live sport more interesting. By turns chatty, angry, pompous and silly, Fiore is the lovable blowhard Argentinian uncle American football TV has been waiting for. We need to see more of this man.

Coverage of the tournaments on both networks has been bloated, but Fox has managed the bloat better, mixing quick crosses to reporters on the ground and regular updates from the (ill-fated) Mexican campaign with the more talky stuff in the studio. At times throughout ESPNs coverage its seemed as if the only tactic to fill in the space between match commentary and panel pontification is to let Mike Tirico editorialize on French labor law reform. This is not something any member of free society should have to listen to. All this is to say that Fox has been comfortably the better network over the last few weeks: sharper, funnier, more varied, and more true to an authentically American culture of the sport.

Perhaps the comparison is unfair ESPN is covering a European event, Fox an American one. Perhaps I was too harsh on Tirico and Ley; after all, they seem like such kind and decent gentlemen. Ultimately, it doesnt really matter, because the lessons of each networks experience covering this sumptuous banquet of sport are best shared. If weve learned anything over 2016s summer of soccer, its that network TVs coverage of the sport in this country needs fewer Englishmen, less parochialism, more zany Argentine uncles, more alcoholic Finnish poets and more women. Above all, more women.

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