Cinderella not going to the ball as Lloyd Webber withdraws musical from live events COVID pilot
Andrew Lloyd Webber has pulled his latest musical out of a government pilot scheme for live events because theatre had been treated as “an afterthought and undervalued”.
The composer’s decision to withdraw his production of Cinderella was “baffling” and left ministers “bemused,” a Whitehall source said on Friday.
The pandemic has had a catastrophic financial impact on the theatre industry and many have remained closed despite the ease in COVID-19 restrictions as it is not financially viable for them to open with reduced capacities.
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The peer, 73, had previously provisionally registered to take part in the plan and earlier this week Boris Johnson said they were having talks and would “do whatever we can to be helpful”.
Earlier on Friday, the prime minister said he was “very confident” lockdown easing could go ahead on 19 July, after the original 21 June date was delayed.
Lord Lloyd Webber said in a statement: “I have made it crystal clear that I would only be able to participate if others were involved and the rest of the industry – theatre and music – were treated equally. This has not been confirmed to me.
“It has become clear that, while sporting events like Wimbledon had obviously been working with the government for some time on this pilot, and were even able to start selling tickets yesterday, the theatre industry and its audiences is, once again, an afterthought and undervalued.”
He said the production, which is being staged at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, would open on 25 June with the venue up to half-full.
The composer, who quit as a Conservative peer in 2017, previously warned he may have to sell his six West End venues if the government does not relax its restrictions as set out in its roadmap for England.
In addition, he said he would be prepared to be arrested in order to fully reopen his theatres on 21 June if the easing of lockdown restrictions was delayed.
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But on Friday he admitted such a move could leave cast, crew, orchestra, front and backstage staff, and even the audience facing fines of hundreds of pounds each which, he said “I couldn’t possibly risk”.
“If it were just me, I would happily risk arrest and fines to make a stand and lead the live music and theatre industry back to the full capacities we so desperately need.”
He said he would personally bear the losses until he can fully reopen the theatre at maximum capacity.
Cinderella “is the product of hundreds of people’s tireless effort for years”, he said, adding: “Win, lose or draw, we have to continue.”
A government source said: “We are bemused that Andrew Lloyd Webber has decided not to take part in the ERP (Events Research Programme).
“This would have given him the opportunity to have audiences at 100% for Cinderella and at the same time play a crucial part for his sector in the fuller reopening.
“It’s baffling that he’s pulled out and is instead opening his theatre at 50% given all the noise he’s been making about opening fully and threatening to sue.
“It’s completely false that the arts and culture sector hasn’t been part of the ERP programme.
“We tested an array of settings including festivals, club nights, the Brits and the Crucible Theatre and are now in discussions with other theatres as part of the next phase of the programme.”
Gwyneth Paltrow wins high-profile civil court case against man who claimed she crashed into him while skiing
Gwyneth Paltrow has won a high-profile civil court case against a man who claimed she crashed into him while skiing.
She was awarded $1 in damages after the jury found retired optometrist Terry Sanderson was “100%” at fault for the skiing accident.
The jurors deliberated for two hours on Thursday after hearing eight days of evidence.
Paltrow, dressed in a navy blazer jacket and striped shirt, did not react when the verdict was announced.
In a statement released after the verdict, she said she was “pleased” with the outcome.
“I felt that acquiescing to a false claim comprised my integrity,” she said.
“I am pleased with the outcome and I appreciate all of the hard work of Judge Holmberg and the jury, and thank them for their thoughtfulness in handling this case.”
Mr Sanderson, 76, sued the Hollywood actress for $300,000 (£242,000), saying the 2016 collision on the slopes of Utah left him with several broken ribs and severe brain injuries.
Paltrow, who is also a lifestyle influencer, denied the claims, alleging Mr Sanderson crashed into her at the Deer Valley resort, and caused her to lose “half a day of skiing”.
She counter-sued him for the awarded amount of $1 and her legal fees.
During the court case in Park City, jurors heard evidence from a variety of medical experts, ski instructors, and members of both Mr Sanderson and Paltrow’s family, including the actress’ children Apple and Moses Martin.
Mr Sanderson said he had become a “self-imposed recluse” after the incident and had been advised never to ski again in case of further injury.
But Paltrow’s lawyers showed photos of him enjoying multiple holidays after the accident.
Oscar-winning actress Paltrow, 50, said she felt “very sorry” for Mr Sanderson but reiterated that she was not “at fault” for the crash.
Mr Sanderson said he had been told by medical experts that travelling would be “healing” for him and that he had struggled during his trips.
Stephen Lawrence’s mother Doreen was effectively ‘gaslit’ by Daily Mail, court told – as Harry makes appearance
The mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence was effectively “gaslit” by the Daily Mail, the High Court has been told – as Prince Harry made a brief appearance for the end of the privacy hearing.
Baroness Doreen Lawrence is one of a number of high-profile individuals, including the Duke of Sussex, accusing the newspaper’s publishers Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) of concealing “wrongdoing” over the alleged unlawful gathering of their private information.
ANL vehemently denies the claims and has argued for the case to be dismissed. A four-day preliminary hearing has now concluded, with the judge to deliver a decision on whether the case should go to trial in writing at a later date.
During Thursday’s session, barrister David Sherborne, representing the claimant group – which also includes Sir Elton John, Liz Hurley, Sadie Frost and former Liberal Democrat MP Sir Simon Hughes – said they had a “compelling case”.
It is alleged ANL commissioned 19 different private investigators to carry out a series of unlawful acts from 1993 to 2011 and beyond, which in some instances informed articles, Mr Sherborne said.
The group was “thrown off the scent by the way in which the articles were written”, the court heard.
Mr Sherborne later read out extracts from Baroness Lawrence’s witness statement, in which she said she felt “played for a fool” by the Daily Mail, believing the newspaper “really cared” about the injustice of the murder of her son Stephen.
“They were supposed to be our allies and friends, the good people, not the bad,” she said. Baroness Lawrence said she had believed information in articles about her had come from the police.
Mr Sherborne told the court: “That is nothing short of gaslighting Baroness Lawrence, that’s the form of concealment we are talking about.”
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The term gaslighting means to manipulate someone into questioning their own sanity or powers of reasoning.
Known as a campaigner and reformer, Baroness Lawrence has devoted herself to seeking justice for her 18-year-old son, an aspiring architect who was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack in southeast London in 1993.
The Daily Mail, under then editor Paul Dacre, campaigned to bring Mr Lawrence’s killers to justice, running a front page in 1997 that saw the newspaper brand five suspects “Murderers” – challenging them to sue if the headline was incorrect.
Baroness Lawrence was present in court for part of Thursday’s session, as were Harry and Sir Elton’s husband David Furnish, following appearances earlier in the week from Sir Elton and Frost.
Trial could be ‘substantial’ if it does go ahead
Adrian Beltrami KC, representing the publisher, previously told the court that all the claims “are rejected by the defendant in their entirety as are the unfounded allegations that are repeatedly made that the defendant either misled the Leveson Inquiry or concealed evidence from the Leveson Inquiry”.
The lawyer said the legal action against ANL has “no real prospects of succeeding” and is “barred” under a legal period of limitation.
After hearing the final arguments in the preliminary hearing, Mr Justice Nicklin told the court he would hand down his judgment on whether the case should go to trial as soon as he can.
He indicated earlier in the session that if the case does go to trial, it could be one that lasts for a “substantial period of time”.
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After hearing Baroness Lawrence’s claims during the first day of the preliminary hearing, an ANL spokesperson said: “While the Mail’s admiration for Baroness Lawrence remains undimmed, we are profoundly saddened that she has been persuaded to bring this case.
“The Mail remains hugely proud of its pivotal role in campaigning for justice for Stephen Lawrence. Its famous “Murderers” front page triggered the Macpherson report [an inquiry into Mr Lawrence’s death].
“Associated Newspapers, which owns the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, vigorously denies all the claims against it.”
Paul O’Grady: Royal Vauxhall Tavern cabaret club where Lily Savage rose to fame pays raucous tribute to star
Paul O’Grady has been remembered as “one of the greatest drag artists the UK has ever seen” at the LGBTQ+ cabaret club that helped him rise to fame as Lily Savage.
Instead of the typical minute’s silence, there was a minute of raucous applause from the audience at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT) in south London on Wednesday evening – a moment to cheer in memory of the “trailblazer and legend”.
O’Grady died “unexpectedly but peacefully” at the age of 67 on Tuesday evening.
His close friend Linda Thorson, an actress known for starring in The Avengers and Emmerdale, said in an interview with Good Morning Britain that he died in bed with his husband, Andre Portasio, beside him.
Stars and royalty including Sir Elton John and the Queen Consort led the thousands of tributes following his death.
The TV presenter and comedian rose to fame on the nightclub circuit in the 1980s as the acerbic, platinum wig-wearing Lily Savage – a name believed to have been inspired by his late mother.
After touring the north of England, he settled into a solo residency at the RVT before the character went on to become a household name.
‘Silence is polite – but this is a moment to applaud’
On Wednesday evening, RVT host Michael Twaits described O’Grady as “an absolute legend of the community” to a full-house audience paying tribute.
“Today we lost one of the greatest drag artists the UK has ever seen, and it is this building, this building was where it happened,” he said.
“Eight years of doing solo shows… and also doing shows like tonight, introducing new talent to the LGBT+ scene. Paul O’Grady was an absolute legend of the community.”
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Twaits said O’Grady had always stayed true to his roots, despite his rise to TV fame.
“It was around raising up the community, and when you move from a stage like this into the mainstream, when you move into breakfast f****** television… and still stay true to yourself, stay true to your queer self, and stay true to your working class roots.”
Telling the audience that “a trailblazer and a legend has left us”, he then led the crowd in a round of applause.
“Obviously a moment of silence is polite… but I don’t think a moment of silence is right. I think this is a moment to applaud, a moment to love, a moment to cheer,” he said.
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MPs also highlighted O’Grady’s time at the RVT in the House of Commons earlier on Wednesday.
Addressing Dominic Raab, Sir Chris Bryant said: “I don’t know whether the deputy prime minister ever met Lily Savage or has ever spent a night out at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, but… I can take him some time if he wants to go?”
As laughter broke out, the Labour MP added: “Her alter ego, Paul O’Grady, campaigned acerbically and hilariously for elderly people, for care workers, against oppression of every kind.
“Isn’t it time we in this country celebrated our naughty, hilarious drag queens and comics of every kind who inspire us to be a better and more generous nation?”
Mr Raab, who was filling in for Rishi Sunak during Prime Minister’s Questions, accidently referred to O’Grady as “Paul Grayson”, before correcting himself and describing the star as an “incredible comic”.
‘A true animal lover in every bone in his body’
Among the many paying tribute to O’Grady was the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, the charity for which the star had been an ambassador since 2012.
He filmed 11 series of his beloved show For The Love Of Dogs at the centre, and during the first series he rehomed Eddie, a Chihuahua Jack Russell-cross puppy.
Eddie was followed by shih-tzu Boycie in 2014, Conchita, a Maltese, in 2015, Arfur, a mongrel puppy, in 2017, Nancy, another mongrel puppy, in 2020, and Sausage, a wire-haired dachshund, in 2021.
Battersea chief executive Peter Laurie said O’Grady would have taken all of the charity’s dogs home “if he had his way”.
Mr Laurie said: “It’s hard to overstate Paul’s impact at Battersea over the last decade. He really helped put Battersea on the map.”
O’Grady’s “real legacy” is how he showed both the British public and an international audience how “lovable and incredible” rescue dogs are, Mr Laurie added.
“He could walk into a kennel with a dog he had never met before, sit on the floor and play with that dog and bond with that dog within minutes.
“He would fall in love with that dog and the dog would fall in love with him too and you can’t pretend, that was so authentic, that really was Paul – a true animal lover in every bone in his body.”
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