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A live rock festival seems at odds with the government’s decision to delay lifting restrictions, but that’s exactly what’s happening from today as Download Pilot takes place in Donington Park.

It is the latest test aimed at gathering data on how live events impact the spread of coronavirus.

But for some it will be too late – figures from the Association of Independent Festivals show a third of the UK’s festivals have already been cancelled this year.

Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic
Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic

More are considering their position after the proposed date for the lifting of restrictions was pushed back to 19 July.

Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic – which also runs other events including Reading and Leeds and Latitude – said this weekend’s event is an important step in keeping the season alive.

He added: “I think it’ll reinforce and build on the data that we’ve already got from the Liverpool events in particular.

“I know the data from that was really terrific, really strong.

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“We wouldn’t have been going ahead this weekend if the data hadn’t have been strong. They would have stopped us, instead they gave us permission.

“The data that we get from here [Download Pilot] I think will just build and build so that everything from 19 July can genuinely be open without restriction.”

Download Pilot is one of the test events given the green light by the government
Around 10,000 people are expected at the Donington Park event

Some 10,000 people will be at Donington Park to see bands including Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, and Bullet For My Valentine.

Ticketholders are being asked to provide evidence that they have tested negative for the virus before they are allowed on site.

For most of the bands on the line-up, it is the first time they will have played in front of a live audience in more than a year.

“Not being able to do the touring side of things has felt like half of our life has just disappeared,” said Chris Batten, the bassist of Saturday night’s headliners Enter Shikari.

“This big thing that we did on a daily basis had just been taken from us.

“So I think just being out there, being up on stage and feeling that adrenaline again is going to be really good.”

Singer Rou Reynolds added: “It’s the human connection aspects as well.

“Just like, you know, sort of singing as one and feeling that kind of cyclical flow of energy, there’s nothing like it.”

Enter Shikari are Saturday night's headliners
Enter Shikari are Saturday night’s headliners

With the clock ticking on this summer’s festival season, there are calls for the government to give more support to the live music and theatre industries by backing an insurance scheme.

“There’s every chance that we’re going to see a lot of festivals go under and not come back,” Naomi Pohl, deputy general secretary at the Musicians Union said.

“They’re all crying out for extended government support.”

“So another four-week delay, another cancellation, potentially looking at carrying tickets over to next year is completely disastrous for the sector, and we’re really worried that a lot of festivals just won’t recover.”

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Rod Stewart labels Vladimir Putin an ‘a******e’ and urges support for Ukraine ‘right to the end’




Rod Stewart labels Vladimir Putin an 'a******e' and urges support for Ukraine 'right to the end'

Sir Rod Stewart has lashed out at Vladimir Putin on the eve of the second anniversary of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The music veteran branded the Russian president an “arsehole” in an interview with Sky News on Friday night.

And he said revealed his fears about the consequences of the US “pulling money away from Ukraine” as the conflict enters its third year.

Ukraine-Russia war latest

Sir Rod told Sky News’s Friday Night With Niall Patterson: “You let that arsehole into Ukraine, he’ll get into every NATO country.”

“And we’ll have to join the army,” he added.

“We have to support Ukraine right to the end,” he continued, adding: “Peace in the Middle East as well.”

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Sir Rod appeared on Sky News alongside friend and fellow musician, Jools Holland to discuss their new album, Swing Fever.

“We need joy, we live in very dark times,” he told Sky News.

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‘Music brought us together’

Sir Rod described how the album “brought them together”, while pianist and composer Holland revealed how, when Sir Rod first called him to discuss the project, he believed it was a crank call.

Read more on Sky News:
What we know about Putin and his motives
Putin on invading Poland, the war in Ukraine, American ‘spies’

Sir Rod is no stranger to speaking his mind.

In January last year, he called into Sky News to donate for medical scans after hearing NHS crisis stories.

He said it was ridiculous people had to wait long periods for essential treatment and called for a change in government.

Sir Rod said: “I personally have been a Tory for a long time but I think this government should stand down now and give the Labour Party a go, this is heartbreaking.

“In all my years in this country I’ve never seen it so bad… change the bloody government.”

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Jessica Chastain on ‘hiding’ from her co-stars and allowing herself ‘not to be liked’




Jessica Chastain on 'hiding' from her co-stars and allowing herself 'not to be liked'

Jessica Chastain says she “hid” from her co-stars during her latest project, going out of her way to distance herself and allow herself “not to be liked”.

The 46-year-old Oscar winner, who stars in Michel Franco drama Memory, told Sky News: “Sometimes I play characters who know everything. They’re the smartest person in the room, and they know what’s going to happen.

“It was interesting to play something and to work in a way where you just didn’t know, and you were free to discover.”

She plays Sylvia, a recovering alcoholic, whose past trauma is reawakened when Saul, played by Peter Sarsgaard, follows her home from their high school reunion.

Dopesick star Sarsgaard, chips in: “I don’t mind the smartest person in the room as they also listen.”

Happily married to Oscar-nominated actress Maggie Gyllenhaal for 15 years, he tells Sky News: “I remember when my wife was younger, some arsehole telling her, ‘Oh, you always have to be the smartest person in the room, don’t you?’

“And I think that’s something that’s levelled on people, certain women, especially, and those same people, if they’re really good at what they do, also really listen”.

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Despite their good working relationship, Chastain explains how she used a method approach to bringing her character’s conflicted emotions towards Saul to the screen.

Memory. Pic: Ketchup Entertainment/Bohemia Media
(L-R) Peter Sarsgaard and Jessica Chastain. Pic: Ketchup Entertainment/Bohemia Media

‘I didn’t know if the sound of my voice annoyed him’

“Peter and I didn’t really talk on set. We would say good morning to each other, but I kind of hid from everyone. And then we got to know each other as the characters in chronological order.

“So, every time we would get to set and speak, I was looking at him, not knowing how he felt about me, not knowing if he liked me, not knowing if the sound of my voice annoyed him.

“Just these normal things that we think about someone else, I was experiencing as Sylvia because I was allowing myself to not be liked.

“Sometimes you feel like you need to woo someone when the cameras aren’t rolling, so they’ll like you. And I was willing to be ok if he didn’t like me, to find out how the characters would interact.”

Chastain used the same approach with her onscreen daughter, Anna, played by Brooke Timber.

“I hung out with her, I had a lunch with her, but at the same time I kept her this little bit at arm’s length because Sylvia would have acted like that. And I allowed that to create a little bit of an unknowing and a tension between us.”

She goes on: “Sylvia never had an example of what good mothering would be. So, she doesn’t really know how to communicate, and to solve a problem she buys an iPhone for her daughter… I really was discovering a whole new way of mother daughter dynamic in this film.”

Memory. Pic: Ketchup Entertainment/Bohemia Media
Pic: Ketchup Entertainment/Bohemia Media

‘The goal was Jessica Chastain’

Meanwhile, Sarsgaard’s character Saul faces a different challenge – he is suffering from early onset dementia.

Sarsgaard says he’d never seen this aspect of dementia bought to the screen before, “the period where families are adjusting, people are adjusting to new conditions and trying to figure out how to live their lives”.

Gleaning insight from real-life dementia sufferers, including his own uncle who had the disease, he pieced together a way to faithfully portray the condition in the film.

“For me, the condition in the end was just the obstacle. The goal was Jessica Chastain… He’s just a guy who wants something incredibly beautiful. You know, he wants something that we all want in our lives. And so, it was very easy to play on some level.

“I was playing someone who had nothing to lose and didn’t mind being rejected or partially rejected – I mean I minded it – but my reaction to rejection was always to put my heart out a little bit more, show a little bit more of myself, show up, try to connect.”

Michel Franco’s next feature

Both Chastain and Sarsgaard speak incredibly highly of the man leading the film, Mexican director Michel Franco.

Chastain says the 44-year-old filmmaker whose movies often depict dysfunctional families, kept his cast on their toes.

“He did surprise me from day one when he said during rehearsals: ‘Go to the Target [a big US discount superstore] and find some clothes for Silvia’. I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve never worked like this before, except in drama school where I’m getting my costumes together for scene study class’.”

It’s a process she clearly enjoyed, reuniting with Franco over the summer on his follow-up feature Dreams, which is currently in post-production.

Memory is in UK and Irish cinemas now.

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Amy Dowden: Strictly Come Dancing star says ‘no evidence of disease’ after cancer treatment




Amy Dowden: Strictly Come Dancing star says 'no evidence of disease' after cancer treatment

Strictly Come Dancing star Amy Dowden has revealed her latest health check showed “no evidence of disease” after undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Dowden shared the development with her 656,000 Instagram followers on Friday, describing the news from doctors as “words I dreamed of” and her “biggest accomplishment yet”.

The 33-year-old – a professional on Strictly Come Dancing since 2017 – explained that she won’t get the all-clear for five years, during which she will need monthly injections as well as regular check-ups.

But she added: “Words I never thought I’d hear at one point”, as she thanked her husband, Ben Jones, family, friends and fans for their support.

Dowden, from Caerphilly, South Wales, revealed she had been diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in May last year and underwent a mastectomy.

In July, she told fans she had a second diagnosis for “another type of cancer“, before beginning chemotherapy in August last year.

Describing the impact of the disease, she wrote on Friday: “Chemo and this past year has certainly took its toll on my body both physically and mentally, so I’ll be taking the next few months to heal and recover.

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“I have so much to strive and live for, and [I’m] so grateful for another chance at life! Something I know not all get.

“I certainly see life differently and my life has changed forever!”

The dancer also vowed to raise awareness of the disease and encourage as many people as possible to check themselves for the signs of breast cancer.

Amy Dowden arriving at the red carpet launch of Strictly Come Dancing 2019, held at BBC TV Centre in London, UK.
The professional dancer arriving at the red carpet launch of Strictly Come Dancing 2019. Pic: PA

Dowden, who describes herself as a “breast cancer warrior” on her Instagram profile, has partnered with stars including EastEnders actor James Bye, comedian Brian Conley and McFly singer Tom Fletcher.

In her post, she added: “Dance floor, I’m coming for you!”.

Read more entertainment news:
Coronation Street actor John Savident dies aged 86
Wiley stripped of MBE after antisemitic social media posts
Olivia Coleman on reading negative reviews

Fellow Strictly stars including Dianne Buswell, Anton Du Beke, Giovanni Pernice, Oti Mabuse and Gorka Marquez were among an array of colleagues who congratulated Dowden.

The post was liked more than 132,000 times with hundreds of fans also sending their best wishes.

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