Stormzys stab-proof vest up for major design award

Stormzy’s stab-proof vest, which he wore whilst headlining Glastonbury Festival last year, has been nominated for a major design award.

The Banksy-design was donned by the grime star to highlight structural racism.

The winner of the Beazley Designs of the Year prize will be announced by London’s Design Museum next month.

Also in the running is a house created for the Oscar-winning South Korean film Parasite.

Lee Ha Jun based the entire scheme for the fictional home of the wealthy Parks family on one simple sketch from the film’s director Bong Joon Ho.

The technology used to take years off Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in Martin Scorsese’s mobster movie The Irishman is in contention too.

“I thought it was really good,” De Niro told the BBC last year. “I always joke I can gain 30 more years in my career.”

In June 2019, Stormzy made history by becoming the first-ever black British solo act to top the bill at the Worthy Farm event.

Wearing the stab-proof Union Jack vest, he used his set to bring attention to inequality in the justice system and the arts.

The eye-catching vest was created by the famously anonymous artist Banksy from a former police issue garment.

The organisers of the new exhibition said it was “a defining cultural moment”.

Several months after his big gig, Stormzy told Q Magazine that technical issues had made it the “most difficult thing” he has done.

“Then after calming down for an hour,” he added, “Some of the people at the festival – Emily Eavis and that – gave us a memory stick to watch it back. And I got about halfway through and I was, like, ‘I think it all went alright’.”

The design prize features 74 nominations across six categories – architecture, digital, fashion, graphics, product and transport.

Also in contention are the sound design for the award-winning TV drama Chernobyl, and a virtual library aimed at evading censorship in the computer game Minecraft.

A Chinese hospital built in 12 days at the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic is recognised on the longlist; as well as the vegan impossible Burger 2.0; and The Renegade – a dance choreographed by the then 14-year-old Jalaiah Harmon, which went viral on TikTok.

The exhibition opens at the Design Museum in London on Wednesday 21 October and runs until 28 March 2021, with an overall winner being announced on November 26.

New Yorkers Jeffrey Toobin exposes himself in Zoom call

A top US legal analyst has been suspended by New Yorker magazine after he exposed himself on a Zoom call.

Jeffrey Toobin, 60, also a prominent CNN commentator, has been in demand as the US election campaign intensifies.

The incident, first reported by Vice News, happened during an election simulation involving the New Yorker and WNYC radio last week.

Mr Toobin, in a statement to Vice, said: “I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera.”

He apologised to his family, friends and colleagues.

“I believed I was not visible on Zoom,” he told Vice. “I thought no-one on the Zoom call could see me. I thought I had muted the Zoom video.”

Vice quotes two anonymous sources who were at the meeting as saying they witnessed the incident. The election simulation involved prominent New York figures playing politicians, such as President Donald Trump and Democratic contender Joe Biden. Mr Toobin was representing the courts.

During a break in proceedings, according to Vice’s sources, Mr Toobin appeared to be on a different Zoom call but was seen moments later on camera touching his penis.

“Jeffrey Toobin has been suspended while we investigate the matter,” the New Yorker said.

He is also CNN’s chief legal analyst. The news network said: “Jeff Toobin has asked for some time off while he deals with a personal issue, which we have granted.”

Mr Toobin is the author of several books. The latest, published in August, is True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump – about the Mueller inquiry into allegations of collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

How will Little Mix fare as hosts of the MTV EMAs?

Little Mix are to follow in the footsteps of Katy Perry, Selena Gomez and Borat by hosting the MTV EMAs.

The group, who have four nominations at the awards show, will also perform their new single Sweet Melody.

Lady Gaga leads the pack with seven nominations, while Justin Bieber and BTS have five apiece.

The ceremony, on 8 November, will feature filmed performances from “multiple locations” around Europe, instead of the usual arena-based show.

Sam Smith, Maluma, Doja Cat, Yungblud and Zara Larsson are all on the bill, with more performers and presenters to be announced.

Little Mix said singing and presenting at the ceremony was an “honour” and a “dream” – but their predecessors have set some interesting precedents for them to live up to.

In 2010, actress Eva Longoria presented part of the ceremony dressed as a ham; while 2008 host Katy Perry sat on a giant prop banana, before revealing: “Girls, it’s not how big the banana is, it’s how you sit on it.”

Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen hosted the show in 2005, making a number of off-colour remarks about the female acts; and offering to sell Madonna a baby.

Ed Sheeran, meanwhile, appeared to have made ample use of the free bar while presiding over the 2015 awards. “I think you’re drunk,” his co-host Ruby Rose commented (Sheeran agreed) before feeding him pasta in an attempt to sober him up.

Hosts also have to deal with the onstage antics of the performers – which isn’t always the easiest task.

In 2003, Beyonce and Sean Paul were hit by a technical issue during their performance of Baby Boy, which caused a single bar of the song to get stuck in a loop. This continued for nearly a minute, until the stars and their dancers walked off stage – leaving Christina Aguilera to pick up the pieces.

And three years later, Kanye West crashed the stage in Copenhagen, in the first of what was to become a regular series of award show protests.

The rapper was incensed that French dance duo Justice had been awarded best video, and interrupted their speech, insisting he was more deserving of the trophy because his Touch The Sky video cost $1 million, starred Pamela Anderson and featured Kanye jumping across a canyon.

“If I don’t win, the award show loses credibility,” he pouted.

Recent ceremonies have been more sedate – with the biggest shock of the 2019 EMAs being Ariana Grande’s failure to win a single prize, after receiving seven nominations.

Whatever happens, MTV’s president of music said he was confident in Little Mix’s ability to handle the pressure.

“Hosting and performing is no small feat, but there is no doubt this powerhouse group will crush it,” he said in a statement.

The EMAs will be broadcast in 180 countries on 8 November; and fans can vote for the winners until 2 November.

Robert Redford: Retired actor mourns the death of his son James aged 58

Hollywood star Robert Redford is “in mourning” following the death of his son James at the age of 58.

Activist and filmmaker James Redford died on Friday after being diagnosed with liver cancer, his wife Kyle confirmed via Twitter.

His famous father’s publicist, Cindi Berger said: “The grief is immeasurable with the loss of a child.”

The 84-year-old retired actor and director starred in movies like Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid.

“Jamie [James] was a loving son, husband and father,” added Berger, who asked for privacy for the Redford family “during this difficult time”.

“His legacy lives on through his children, art, filmmaking and devoted passion to conservation and the environment.”

Redford’s son James made documentary films, including The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia.

He was given the cancer diagnosis last year while awaiting a liver transplant.

His wife of 32 years, Kyle, shared the news of his death online, alongside pictures of the couple and their two children.

“We’re heartbroken. He lived a beautiful, impactful life and was loved by many,” she wrote.

Paying tribute, actor and director Mark Ruffalo wrote: “Damn. This year has cut deep. Another great, sweet, kindly person leaves us.”

Robert Redford has three other children, including the actress Amy Redford.

How The Staves fought grief to find their way back to music

Late last year, The Staves carefully placed a microphone at one end of a barn, walked to the very far corner, and started recording.

The distance was necessary because the sisters – Emily, Camilla and Jessica – were planning to scream one line over and over, until their throats were raw: “I’m a good woman.”

It’s a lyric that gives the band’s third album its title: A statement of confidence and defiance, after a turbulent couple of years that left the trio questioning themselves and their career.

Their lives were turned upside down in summer 2018, when they suddenly and unexpectedly lost their mother, Jean, a former teacher who had encouraged them to follow their dream of making music.

Her death came just two weeks after their grandmother died. Within a month, Camilla had broken up with her long-term boyfriend in Minneapolis, and found herself moving back to the UK.

“It was kind of like a double kick in the stomach,” says the singer.

Devastated and grief-stricken, they took a “big break, and stepped away from everything”, says middle sister Jessica – only for some people to say they were making a mistake.

“We were made to feel like we weren’t good enough as a band,” says Jessica. “Almost like we’d had our moment, and lost our sheen.”

When they started to make music again the sisters were, unsurprisingly, a little shaken up.

“I felt like we’d lost perspective,” says Camilla.

“It’s often that way when you lose momentum,” adds elder sister Emily. “You start questioning everything: ‘Is this any good? What are we doing?’

“What am I?” says Camilla, warming to the theme. “What is my life? What have all my decisions led up to?”

To break the creative impasse, The Staves abandoned their plans to self-produce the record and called in Grammy-winning studio veteran John Congleton.

While previous producers had focused on the sisters’ spell-binding harmonies, Congleton – who has worked with Phoebe Bridgers, St Vincent and Angel Olsen – was more concerned with their state of mind.

“He said, ‘You guys are in a really interesting place in your lives, and I think you’ve got something important to say – so I really want to help you figure out how to say it,'” recalls Emily.

“That really stopped me in my tracks because no-one’s said that to us before. It gave us confidence and faith in the songs.”

That self-assuredness is apparent throughout the album. There’s a new directness to their lyrics, not least because Camilla had a lot to get off her chest.

“A lot of it was my last relationship,” says the 30-year-old. “There was a lot that needed to come out – and when you can’t shout that bile in that person’s face, a microphone is the next best thing.”

The words would just flow out, she says. Sometimes she stopped to ask herself if they were “too catty” – before deciding raw emotion was more honest than self-censorship.

“All the kicks in the ribs / They can really make you weak,” she sings on Careful, Kid – describing how the relationship chipped away at her confidence. “And I’m coming around / From a five-year rebound”.

“When you’re in a relationship, you can end up viewing yourself through the other person’s eyes,” she explains. “And in bad cases, you lose sight of what you actually think about yourself – and you start to let them dictate whether you think you’re a good person or not.

“I think I just got to that stage. There was a feeling of, ‘What does it even mean to be a good woman? Is it just shutting up and being amenable or accommodating?’

“And after a while I think you just need to be like, ‘Well, screw it, I am a good woman. I am enough’.”

Which is how the band came to be screaming that very sentiment in a barn in rural England last year.

And yet, as Camilla points out, most of these songs were written before her break-up actually took place.

“It’s very weird when you listen back and think, ‘Oh my God, I wrote that song when I was still in the relationship,” she says.

“That’s the most depressing thing in the world – that, in hindsight, your song is telling you to run.”

Across the album, song titles like Paralysed and Failure tell a story of doubt and depression and self-criticism. But the first single, Trying, carries the core message – of not giving up, even when it’s a “struggle to be a good person”.

“All we are trying to do is try – and we’re all messing up along the way,” says Jessica, “but hopefully we’re learning, too.”

The band were so enamoured with the song that they wanted it to be the title track. Their label had other ideas.

“They said ‘trying’ doesn’t sell records,” Emily recalls. “We were like, ‘Nothing sells records, mate, just let us do what we want.'”

Eventually, they were dissuaded by the marketing team.

“They thought it might invite negative reviews,” says Camilla, doing a perfect impression of a self-important rock critic: “The Staves were ‘trying’ to be good, but it didn’t work.”

Self-deprecation aside, the album sees The Staves evolve into a bolder, more experimental band than the folk-adjacent trio who emerged from Watford’s open mic scene with 2012’s Dead & Born & Grown.

Good Woman – the title track and new single – opens with a computerised, processed loop of the sister’s vocals and incorporates subliminal snatches of conversation from their mother, grandmother and other influential women.

On Careful, Kid, Camilla feeds her voice through distortion pedals and guitar amps, producing a sound like an angry hornet trapped in a megaphone.

“She played it to me and I was like, ‘This sounds like a Led Zeppelin guitar riff,'” says Jessica.

“We also started using lots of field recordings – ambient noises and bits and bobs we recorded on our phones.”

But The Staves’ magic ingredient has always been the crushing emotive power of their harmonies – and, with everything that’s happened in their personal lives, Good Woman is their most devastating album yet.

Only the most hard-hearted listener could fail to be moved by Sparks, a delicate ballad that’s dedicated to their mother.

There, the sisters sing about those jagged shards of memory that ambush you unexpectedly after someone has gone – the sound of their keys in the door, the way they walked, the filthy joke you know they’d have loved.

“I still have to be careful when I listen to it because it just sneaks up and grabs me by the throat and makes me cry,” says Emily, who became a mother herself for the first time last year.

For Camilla, it was “a breath of relief to write a song that’s just about absolute jubilant love”.

“And that’s the thing I think about grief, is that it’s love,” says Emily. “It hurts exactly in correlation with how much you loved someone.

“When mum died, it was completely out of the blue. I remember being so devastated, but also feeling like I’ve never felt that much love in my life.

“I felt it from everywhere: The love that you’re capable of for the person that’s just died; the love that we felt for each other as sisters; and the outpouring of love from all around us, for our mum.

“It was really so powerful and incredible. I was like, ‘Holy crap, I didn’t know there was this much love in the world. This is magic.'”

The Staves’ new single, Good Woman, is out now. Their album will be released on 5 February, 2021.

Coronavirus: NI Libraries see 24,000 new online users during pandemic

Almost 24,000 people in Northern Ireland have joined the library since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lockdown and restrictions have meant most new members since the start of March have used the Libraries NI website to sign up.

Libraries NI saw its online membership rise by 23,569 between March and the end of September.

In March, there were 7,590 new library members – 10 times as many as the same month in 2019.

Prior to the pandemic, most people signing up to use library services would have done so in a library building.

However, during lockdown Libraries NI encouraged people to use their website to become a member.

People flocked to the library’s digital offering of e-books and audiobooks – with more than a million downloads since the start of March.

Many of those were for children and young people.

Of the 30 most popular digital books, about half of them are now junior books. In 2019 this figure was just two.

Jim O’Hagan, chief executive of Libraries NI, said the increase in membership was “fantastic”.

“In a strange way the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been very challenging for Libraries NI, as indeed it has been for many businesses and organisations,” he said.

“But we were fortunate in that we already had in place an established suite of online programmes and resources, and we were able to use them to continue providing library services to the public throughout.

“It’s really from that we have seen this fantastic increase in our numbers of members.”

The BBC’s Book Week NI, in conjunction with Libraries NI, runs from Monday 19 October to Sunday 26 October.

You can find out more here.

Jeff Bridges: Oscar-winning US actor reveals he has lymphoma

Oscar-winning American actor Jeff Bridges has revealed he has lymphoma but says his “prognosis is good”.

In a tweet echoing his “Dude” character in The Big Lebowski, Bridges said he was starting treatment, acknowledging it was a “serious disease”.

Lymphoma is a form of cancer that affects the lymph system, which is part of the body’s germ-fighting network.

Bridges, 70, won Academy Award for Best Actor in 2010 for playing an alcoholic singer in the film Crazy Heart.

He is also known for his roles in The Last Picture Show, The Contender and Starman, as well as cult film The Big Lebowski in 1998, where he plays The Dude, a Los Angeles slacker.

In a BBC interview in 2016, Bridges said: “I really try my best not to do movies. I try not to act because I have so many other things I like to do, like playing guitar. Once you commit you are busy so I really try not to engage.”

How The Staves found their way back to music after grief, doubt and bereavement

Late last year, The Staves carefully placed a microphone at one end of a barn, walked to the very far corner, and started recording.

The distance was necessary because the sisters – Emily, Camilla and Jessica – were planning to scream one line over and over, until their throats were raw: “I’m a good woman.”

It’s a lyric that gives the band’s third album its title: A statement of confidence and defiance, after a turbulent couple of years that left the trio questioning themselves and their career.

Their lives were turned upside down in summer 2018, when they suddenly and unexpectedly lost their mother, Jean, a former teacher who had encouraged them to follow their dream of making music.

Her death came just two weeks after their grandmother died. Within a month, Camilla had broken up with her long-term boyfriend in Minneapolis, and found herself moving back to the UK.

“It was kind of like a double kick in the stomach,” says the singer.

Devastated and grief-stricken, they took a “big break, and stepped away from everything”, says middle sister Jessica – only for some people to say they were making a mistake.

“We were made to feel like we weren’t good enough as a band,” says Jessica. “Like we’d almost had our moment, and lost our sheen.”

When they started to make music again the sisters were, unsurprisingly, a little shaken up.

“I felt like we’d lost perspective,” says Camilla.

“It’s often that way when you lose momentum,” adds elder sister Emily. “You start questioning everything: ‘Is this any good? What are we doing?’

“What am I?” says Camilla, warming to the theme. “What is my life? What have all my decisions led up to?”

To break the creative impasse, The Staves abandoned their plans to self-produce the record and called in Grammy-winning studio veteran John Congleton.

While previous producers had focused on the sisters’ spell-binding harmonies, Congleton – who has worked with Phoebe Bridgers, St Vincent and Angel Olsen – was more concerned with their state of mind.

“He said, ‘You guys are in a really interesting place in your lives, and I think you’ve got something important to say – so I really want to help you figure out how to say it,'” recalls Emily.

“That really stopped me in my tracks because no-one’s said that to us before. It gave us confidence and faith in the songs.”

That self-assuredness is apparent throughout the album. There’s a new directness to their lyrics, not least because Camilla had a lot to get off her chest.

“A lot of it was my last relationship,” says the 30-year-old. “There was a lot that needed to come out – and when you can’t shout that bile in that person’s face, a microphone is the next best thing.”

The words would just flow out, she says. Sometimes she stopped to ask herself if they were “too catty” – before deciding raw emotion was more honest than self-censorship.

“All the kicks in the ribs / They can really make you weak,” she sings on Careful, Kid – describing how the relationship chipped away at her confidence. “And I’m coming around / From a five-year rebound”.

“When you’re in a relationship, you can end up viewing yourself through the other person’s eyes,” she explains. “And in bad cases, you lose sight of what you actually think about yourself – and you start to let them dictate whether you think you’re a good person or not.

“I think I just got to that stage. There was a feeling of, ‘What does it even mean to be a good woman? Is it just shutting up and being amenable or accommodating?’

“And after a while I think you just need to be like, ‘Well, screw it, I am a good woman. I am enough’.”

Which is how the band came to be screaming that very sentiment in a barn in rural England last year.

And yet, as Camilla points out, most of these songs were written before her break-up actually took place.

“It’s very weird when you listen back and think, ‘Oh my God, I wrote that song when I was still in the relationship,” she says.

“That’s the most depressing thing in the world – that, in hindsight, your song is telling you to run.”

Across the album, song titles like Paralysed and Failure tell a story of doubt and depression and self-criticism. But the first single, Trying, carries the core message – of not giving up, even when it’s a “struggle to be a good person”.

“All we are trying to do is try – and we’re all messing up along the way,” says Jessica, “but hopefully we’re learning, too.”

The band were so enamoured with the song that they wanted it to be the title track. Their label had other ideas.

“They said ‘trying’ doesn’t sell records,” Emily recalls. “We were like, ‘Nothing sells records, mate, just let us do what we want.'”

Eventually, they were dissuaded by the marketing team.

“They thought it might invite negative reviews,” says Camilla, doing a perfect impression of a self-important rock critic: “The Staves were ‘trying’ to be good, but it didn’t work.”

Self-deprecation aside, the album sees The Staves evolve into a bolder, more experimental band than the folk-adjacent trio who emerged from Watford’s open mic scene with 2012’s Dead & Born & Grown.

Good Woman – the title track and new single – opens with a computerised, processed loop of the sister’s vocals and incorporates subliminal snatches of conversation from their mother, grandmother and other influential women.

On Careful, Kid, Camilla feeds her voice through distortion pedals and guitar amps, producing a sound like an angry hornet trapped in a megaphone.

“She played it to me and I was like, ‘This sounds like a Led Zeppelin guitar riff,'” says Jessica.

“We also started using lots of field recordings – ambient noises and bits and bobs we recorded on our phones.”

But The Staves’ magic ingredient has always been the crushing emotive power of their harmonies – and, with everything that’s happened in their personal lives, Good Woman is their most devastating album yet.

Only the most hard-hearted listener could fail to be moved by Sparks, a delicate ballad that’s dedicated to their mother.

There, the sisters sing about those jagged shards of memory that ambush you unexpectedly after someone has gone – the sound of their keys in the door, the way they walked, the filthy joke you know they’d have loved.

“I still have to be careful when I listen to it because it just sneaks up and grabs me by the throat and makes me cry,” says Emily, who became a mother herself for the first time last year.

For Camilla, it was “a breath of relief to write a song that’s just about absolute jubilant love”.

“And that’s the thing I think about grief, is that it’s love,” says Emily. “It hurts exactly in correlation with how much you loved someone.

“When mum died, it was completely out of the blue. I remember being so devastated, but also feeling like I’ve never felt that much love in my life.

“I felt it from everywhere: The love that you’re capable of for the person that’s just died; the love that we felt for each other as sisters; and the outpouring of love from all around us, for our mum.

“It was really so powerful and incredible. I was like, ‘Holy crap, I didn’t know there was this much love in the world. This is magic.'”

The Staves’ new single, Good Woman, is out now. Their album will be released on 5 February, 2021.

Manic Street Preachers help disabled singer Ali Hirsz pay for surgery

A singer from Cambridge will be able to have vital surgery, thanks to the Manic Street Preachers.

Ali Hirsz needs the trapezius muscle that runs from her neck to her shoulder rebuilt, in an operation that isn’t available on the NHS.

After Covid-19 robbed her of income from live music, she had to ask fans to help raise the money for the operation.

Her initial crowd-funding goal was £1,000 – but once she reached £500, the Manics stepped in and paid the rest.

When the donation arrived, “I was in tears,” she tells the BBC.

“I love them anyway, they’re such a great band, but £500 is so unbelievably generous. I thought, ‘I can’t believe they’ve done that.’

“It’s such a relief.”

Representatives for the Manic Street Preachers confirmed to the BBC that the donation had come from the band.

Hirsz, who sings with an indie band called Idealistics, has an incurable connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

The condition means “my skin is like tissue paper, it tears really easy,” says the 20-year-old. A vascular compression on her small intestine also requires her to be fed via a tube.

She needs corrective surgery on her shoulder after a previous operation severed the nerve to her trapezius muscle, causing it to waste away. As a result, her shoulder blade dropped, affecting the blood supply to her arm.

The condition has already forced her to stop playing bass, as she has little feeling in her left hand.

She says she has “never asked for money before” and was “sweating with nerves” before posting her crowd-funding request last week.

But the campaign became necessary after coronavirus wiped out her band’s concert diary; and Hirsz had to leave her day job as a horse trainer because she was shielding.

In the the meantime, she says, she received no financial support from the government’s furlough or self-employment support schemes.

“It is very, very stressful, particularly in times where you don’t have money lying around anyway,” she says.

The response to her campaign has been “overwhelming”, however. Hirsz hit the £1,000 goal within 24 hours, and has since increased her target to £5,000.

“Because the surgery’s not been done before, we don’t know exactly how much it’s going to cost,” she explains.

“I know it’s a hard time for everyone,” she adds, “so all these donations mean everything.”

Hirsz says her story is typical of disabled musicians, who have found themselves left high and dry by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Singer-songwriter Chloe Mogg, who has both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, agrees the last six months have been “really, really tough”.

“The NHS is doing an amazing job at the moment but, especially with chronic fatigue syndrome, it seems like all the invisible illnesses have been pushed to the side,” she says.

“We’re walking on a tightrope and we don’t know if we’re going to fall off at any stage.”

But Mogg, like Hirsz, has approached the pandemic with imagination and resilience, channelling her energies into organising an online music and arts festival.

Called The 7 Arts Still Exist, it highlights the work created by artists, designers, sculptors, writers, musicians, dancers and photographers during the pandemic. Mogg is already lining up its third event with her childhood friend Amy Crouch.

The musician says the pandemic has taught her to “live more in the present moment”, even when “it felt like I’ve been put on pause”.

“It’s been tough for me and it’s been tough for a lot of musician friends who have anxiety problems,” she says.

“It’s something we’re learning to adapt to – but I don’t feel like we should be needing to adapt. It’s really, really tough.”

For visually-impaired sitar player Baluji Shrivastav, adaptability has been the watchword for the last six months.

The 70-year-old, who has played with Oasis, Stevie Wonder, Massive Attack, Kylie Minogue and Coldplay, cannot travel during the pandemic, making it “very difficult to perform anywhere”.

“But we still meet sometimes,” he says. “We are allowed to meet six people in one place, and we have a garden so we rehearse there sometimes – but it will be difficult in the winter.”

Shrivastav was appointed an OBE in 2016 for his services to music, after founding the Inner Vision Orchestra, whose players are all blind or partially-sighted.

He says live-streamed concerts are harder for blind musicians, because communication between players is reliant on physical proximity. Meeting up for socially-distanced concerts poses other problems.

“Even if we can reach the venue without help, we need help within the venue itself,” he says. “It’s a constant difficulty for visually-impaired people.

“And, of course, financially, we are not earning at all.”

According to the UK Disability Arts Alliance #WeShallNotBeRemoved, the pandemic has had a particularly negative impact on disabled people working in the creative industries.

In an open letter to the secretary of state for culture, Oliver Dowden MP, the alliance warned that “many disabled artists are facing long term shielding, a total loss of income, compromised independent living and the risk of invisibility in wider society”.

Separately, the Audience Access Alliance – which represents 12 disability charities in the UK – says it is “deeply concerned” that disabled people will miss out on access to gigs, theatre and sport when venues reopen because of extra Covid-related precautions and restrictions.

“If we want to ‘build back better’, it’s vital that we build back for all,” the organisation wrote in an open letter to the live music industry earlier this month.

The fear for both organisations is that the progress made since the UK’s equality act came into force 10 years ago will be lost.

Hirsz and Mogg both have horror stories about the discrimination they faced before Covid.

One promoter refused to work with Idealistics because of Hirsz’s condition. “They said, ‘You’ve got all these [feeding] tubes and nobody wants to see that. You’re just going to deter a crowd,'” she recalls.

Mogg was also berated by a promoter last year, after a flare-up of fibromyalgia forced her to pull out of a show.

“He was like, ‘You’re a massive disappointment,'” she says. “It was so embarrassing. I felt really ridiculed and ashamed of my illness, even though it’s part of me.”

Despite the challenges like those, Hirsz, Mogg and Shrivastav are determined to stay active throughout the pandemic.

The Idealistics have just released their new single Memory River (inspired, naturally, by the Manic Street Preachers), while Hirsz is working as an advocate for disability charity Attitude is Everything.

On Monday, Shrivastav’s Inner Vision Orchestra launched their first studio album, Indian Classical Interactions – one of three records the musician recorded in the space of a week before lockdown earlier this year. A documentary about his life will also be screened at the Bloomsbury festival this weekend.

And Mogg is busy finalising the third edition of The 7 Arts Still Exist, which will feature country artists Katy Hurt and Roisin O’Hagan.

In the meantime, she says its crucial that everyone looks out for the people around them, and asks for help when they need it.

“Just be kind, be bold and, especially if you’re suffering, talk to someone and tell them how you’re feeling. Because they would rather hear it now than listen to your story at a funeral.”

Military Wives Choirs and The Hepworth Wakefield get share of £76m fund

Venues and organisations including the Military Wives Choirs, The Hepworth Wakefield and Night and Day in Manchester are to receive a share of £76m government arts funding.

Whitby’s Gothic Festival, London’s Somerset House and Kneehigh Theatre in Cornwall are also set to benefit.

The latest raft of grants, for 588 organisations, will come out of the wider £1.57bn Cultural Recovery Fund.

It follows Monday’s £257m injection, which helped The Cavern Club and LSO.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said that Saturday’s new round of “vital funding” would go to “protect cultural gems across the country, save jobs and prepare the arts to bounce back”.

It will cover comedy clubs, circuses, festivals, regional theatres and local museums, across England.

“These awards build on our commitment to be here for culture in every part of the country,” he added.

While July’s announcement of the wider support package was welcomed by the arts and entertainment industries, Mr Dowden did admit that it would not be enough to save every job or cultural establishment.

The Military Wives Choir rose to fame through the BBC documentary series with Gareth Malone and was recently the subject of a film starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan.

Director Melanie Nightingale said they were “incredibly grateful” for the “much-needed support,” at a time when many arts organisations have been struggling due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are thrilled that this funding enables our 73 choirs to sing, share and support one another and feel stronger together through music,” she said.

The grants of under £1m have also been awarded to the West End’s longest running play, The Mousetrap; the Shangri-La stage at Glastonbury Festival; and grassroots music venues, including Night & Day Cafe.

Jennifer Smithson, director of the latter Manchester venue, explained that the financial help “enables us to plan for the future when we look forward to having live music back at the venue once again”.

Joe Wright, who directed films including Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, is also a Kneehigh associate. He said he was delighted the Cornwall theatre had been successful in round two, and will now be able to reopen in December with the aim of providing safe, socially distanced outdoor artistic experiences.

“Kneehigh remain an inspiration for many throughout the sector, they’ve never got ‘stuck’ and have always been quick to adapt to new challenges,” he said.

“Their mission to remain local whilst telling stories that reflect all our lives is vital in helping us all through these unprecedented times.”

Further round of funding from the Cultural Recovery Fund pot are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Organisations that will be receiving funding part of the £76m include:

For a full list, visit the Arts Council England website.