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Highways England is considering imposing the UK’s first pollution-linked speed limits to help reduce smog in Sheffield. But why should electric vehicle drivers have to slow down too?

The speed limit proposal in England

If approved, a mandatory 60 mph speed limit would be put in place on the M1, a motorway that runs north-south between London to Leeds, between junctions 32 and 35a in Sheffield, where the M1 is near schools and homes. The speed limit would be in place between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., seven days a week.

The national motorway speed limit is 70 mph, and it’s already 60 mph for buses, coaches, minibuses, vehicles towing things, and certain goods vehicles.

Why a speed limit?

Highways England is heeding a National Institute for Health and Care Excellence study published in December 2016, which concluded:

Accelerating or decelerating too rapidly leads to inefficient driving and fuel consumption with harmful emissions being released into the environment unnecessarily.

Road traffic causes more than 64% of air pollution in urban areas. Air pollution and its health impact also costs the UK up to £18.6 billion a year.

AutoExpress pointed out in October 2020 that “a study of Welsh roads found that reducing the limit from 70 mph to 50 mph reduced pollution by up to 47%.”

How will this be received by the public?

Probably not enthusiastically. Sheffield was identified by the World Health Organization as having dangerously high levels of pollution, but a spokesperson for the AA said [via the Guardian]:

Car users are always the easy hit when it comes to pollution when actually they are not one of the main contributors. There will be people raising their eyebrows about whether this is just an example of the authorities trying to look like they are doing something.

There will be a section of car users, who will see that this is not safety-related, and that they are being penalized for emissions that are likely to have come from other sources as well. That same section will say they pay billions of pounds in taxes … and if we’re contributing that amount of money, why isn’t it being spent on the road network to deal with the issues?

There is a very good chance that the traffic is already moving at that speed during rush-hour.

The AA spokesperson is right about traffic already being slow during rush hour, but someone needs to tell them about the Welsh study, at the very least. Of course, gas cars are a major source of pollution.

What about electric cars?

To point out the obvious, the UK has banned all new gas cars from 2030 – and that’s only 8.5 years away. So why isn’t Highways England using this opportunity to both incentivize and reward EV drivers?

I hold drivers’ licenses in both the US and the UK. When I drive in the UK, it’s a pleasure (unless I’m sitting in a traffic jam on the M25). Drivers are competent and respectful because the driving test is much more rigorous than, say, the Florida driving test.

(Florida drivers are diabolically bad, as a generalization, but that’s not a surprise, seeing how the driving test is a bit of a joke. And it’s the most expensive state in the US for car insurance for a reason.)

Motorway drivers in the UK, as a whole, respect fast and slow lane rules. They use their signals and move out of the fast lane when another car wants to overtake. So there is no reason, seeing how UK electric cars now have green registration plates and are easily identifiable, why electric car drivers shouldn’t be rewarded with the privilege of driving 70 mph in the fast lane between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. in Sheffield if traffic allows. And surely this would serve as yet another incentive to drive an electric vehicle, which is going to be mandatory anyway.

Local businesses in Sheffield can trial an electric van for two months for free. If the driver finds that it comes with the privilege of driving faster, too, it’s going to increase the desire to switch to electric.

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How to watch all the big films nominated for Oscars and BAFTAs




How to watch all the big films nominated for Oscars and BAFTAs

While the Top Gun, Avatar and Black Panther sequels drew millions to cinemas, there are plenty of this year’s Oscar-nominated films you might not have seen yet – or even have heard of before all the awards season buzz.

Want to know your Everything Everywhere All At Once (Oscars frontrunner, with 11 nominations), from your All Quiet On The Western Front (BAFTAs frontrunner, with 14 nods)? And more importantly, how to watch them?

Here’s our guide to this year’s Oscar and BAFTA nominees – and where you can see them ahead of the ceremonies. Note, some films may be included with streaming packages, others you might have to pay extra to rent, depending on your subscription.


Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Pic: A24
Pic: A24

A word-of-mouth and critically acclaimed hit, Everything Everywhere All At Once leads the Oscars race and is the bookies’ favourite to win best picture; stars Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu are also up for acting gongs, too.

Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as Daniels, the film is billed as “a hilarious and big-hearted sci-fi action adventure about an exhausted Chinese-American woman (Yeoh) who can’t seem to finish her taxes”. Oh, and she also discovers parallel universes and has to prevent a powerful being from destroying the multiverse.

Following its release in cinemas Everything Everywhere All At Once is now available to stream on Paramount+, Apple TV, Google Play and Amazon Prime Video.


All Quiet On The Western Front. Pic: Netflix/ Reiner Bajo
Pic: Netflix/ Reiner Bajo

A German-language film based on the renowned 1929 novel by Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet On The Western Front leads the BAFTA nominations – equalling Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’s record as the most nominated foreign film in the history of the awards – and gained nine nods at the Oscars, too.

It’s a hard watch, telling the story of a young German soldier on the Western Front of the First World War; how the initial euphoria of war turns into desperation and fear as he and his comrades fight for their lives, and each other, in the trenches.

You can watch All Quiet On The Western Front on Netflix.


Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell reunite in The Banshees of Inisherinin. Pic: 20th Century Studios
Pic: 20th Century Studios

Set on a remote imaginary island off the Irish Coast in the 1920s, The Banshees Of Inisherin reunites In Bruges stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson and tells a darkly comic story of a friendship gone wrong; Gleeson’s character decides he’s sick to the teeth of his needy friend and doesn’t want to waste any more time chatting to him – and raises the stakes by threatening to chop off a finger every time his dull pal tries to strike up a conversation.

The film has led to huge Irish success so far this awards season, with Farrell, Gleeson and their co-stars Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan all nominated for Oscars in the acting categories, and Martin McDonagh (also the man behind In Bruges) up for best director.

Following its cinema release in October 2022, The Banshees of Inisherin is now available to stream on Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu.

Read more: Farrell and Gleeson on their reunion


Pic: Paramount Pictures/ Scott Garfield

A box office smash that fans had been waiting for for more than 35 years, the Top Gun sequel was one of a host of blockbusters (more below) that saw the big-hitters returning to the Academy Awards. Nominated for best picture, while it’s unlikely to take the top prize, it’s nice to see a bit more fun injected into awards season.

Of course, the sequel sees Tom Cruise return as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, back to train newbies to be as brilliant in the skies as he is. Treading a delicate balance between old and new, there are plenty of throwbacks to please fans of the original.

No doubt the big Top Gun fans will have seen it already at the cinema, but for those who haven’t, you can catch it on Sky from 5 February, as well as on Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video.

Read our review: Aviators, love interests and oiled-up bodies – get ready for a walk down memory lane


Austin Butler as Elvis Presley in Elvis. Pic: Warner Bros
Pic: Warner Bros

Following Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, it was only a matter of time before we got a new Elvis biopic. The 2022 film stars Austin Butler in the titular role, and tells the music icon’s story from childhood to music and movie star in the 1950s, and his complex relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks).

Written and directed by Baz Luhrmann, it’s in the running for eight Oscars, including best actor and best picture, while Mandy Walker is the only woman nominated for cinematography.

Elvis is available on Sky, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play and Hulu.


Cate Blanchett  as conductor Lydia Tar: Pic: Florian Hoffmeister/Focus Features
Pic: Florian Hoffmeister/Focus Features

Cate Blanchett stars as the fictional renowned conductor Lydia Tar, who is days away from recording the symphony that will elevate her career.

She’s favourite to win best actress – and if Oscars are given out based on hard work, after learning to play piano on screen, speak fluent German and how to lead a live orchestra, she probably deserves it. If she wins, she can add it to the two Oscars she has already – for Blue Jasmine and The Aviator.

Tar is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV.

Read more: Blanchett on her ‘once in a career moment’


Michelle Williams and Paul Dano star in Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans. Pic: Universal Pictures
Pic: Universal Pictures

As arguably the most famous director in the world, Steven Spielberg’s cultural impact is unmatched – from Jaws and ET to war epics Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, his films have imprinted on generation after generation for decades.

However, his latest film, The Fabelmans, is something a little different; a semi-autobiographical story loosely based on his childhood. As well as being a family drama, it portrays the anti-semitic abuse the young Spielberg faced.

The Fabelmans is available to rent or buy on Prime Video and Apple TV.

Read more: Spielberg says anti-semitism is on the rise


Kate Winslet (L) in Avatar. Pic: 20th Century Studios
Pic: 20th Century Studios

James Cameron’s mega-budget Avatar sequel opened in cinemas in December, 13 years after the original had us all reaching for our 3D glasses.

The film sees Sam Worthington returning to the role of Na’vi leader Jake Sully and is rooted around the family he now has with warrior Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana, and the battles they face to keep each other safe. Sigourney Weaver and Kate Winslet also star.

No date has been given yet, but Avatar: The Way of Water will be available to stream on Disney+ following its cinema release.

Read more: Will the sequel live up to the original?


Charlbi Dean in Triangle Of Sadness. Pic: Lionsgate
Pic: Lionsgate

A Cannes Palme d’Or-winning satire from Swedish director Ruben Ostlund, Triangle Of Sadness scored three big Oscar nominations, for best picture, best director and best original screenplay.

Targeting the filthy rich, it follows a set of luxury cruise passengers with not a redeeming feature between them. However, they soon find their status undermined by unexpected events.

You can watch Triangle Of Sadness on Amazon Prime Video and Google Play.


(L-R): Ben Whishaw stars as August, Rooney Mara as Ona and Claire Foy as Salome in director Sarah Polley's Women Talking. Pic: Orion Pictures/ Michael Gibson
Pic: Orion Pictures/ Michael Gibson

Based on the novel by Miriam Toews, Women Talking tells the story of a group of women in an isolated religious community as they grapple with reconciling their reality with their faith.

Starring Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley and Judith Ivey, with Ben Whishaw and Frances McDormand, it has a strong cast but was an outsider for the Oscars this year.

Nominated for best picture, it is the only film in the category directed by a woman, Sarah Polley – and even she didn’t expect to hear its title called out, tweeting from an unusual location as she found out the good news: “Expectations were low for today. Here I am at a routine doctor’s appointment. I really didn’t plan this day right.”

Women Talking is released in cinemas on 17 February, with previews from 10 February.


Paul Mescal in Aftersun. Pic: MUBI

A coming-of-age drama, Aftersun is set in the 1990s and centres on a father-daughter duo, played by Paul Mescal and newcomer Frankie Corio, as they spend a summer holiday away at an all-inclusive resort in Turkey. Although Mescal’s character Calum is seen laughing with his daughter when swimming in the sea or singing karaoke, in private moments we see his struggles with his mental health.

The film is a directorial debut from Charlotte Wells and is based on her own childhood experiences. While it isn’t up for best picture, Mescal’s heavily praised performance has earned him a nomination for best actor; not bad considering his Normal People breakthrough role came less than three years ago.

Following a cinema release in November, you can now watch Aftersun on the streaming service MUBI, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV.

Read more: Paul Mescal on the ‘potentially toxic’ issue of men not looking after their mental health


Brendan Fraser in The Whale. Pic: A24
Pic: A24

Enjoying a so-called “Brenaissance”, Brendan Fraser – known for leading action films including The Mummy trilogy – is firmly back in the spotlight after a pause in his career, with his performance in The Whale earning him standing ovations at film festivals.

Fraser plays an extremely obese man trying to reconnect with his daughter and struggling with his mental health, and he is now the favourite to win best actor at the Oscars in March.

You can watch The Whale in cinemas from 3 February.

Read more: Brendan Fraser on the ‘Bren-aissance’


(L-R): Florence Kasumba as Ayo, Angela Bassett as Ramonda, Danai Gurira as Okoye in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Pic: Marvel Studios
Pic: Marvel Studios

Despite missing out on joining fellow sequels Avatar and Top Gun with an Oscars nod for best film, Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever did score a nomination for Angela Bassett, who is up for best supporting actress.

The film is a moving tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman, who played T’Challa, the Black Panther in the original film; a story of loss, grief and dealing with bereavement, with lots of action and some surprises along the way.

Not only does Bassett’s nomination mark the cinematic universe’s first acting nod, but she is also favourite to win.

You can watch Black Panther: Wakanda Forever on Disney+ from 1 February.

Read more: Black Panther stars on doing Boseman proud


Bill Nighy in Living. Pic: Sony Pictures
Pic: Sony Pictures

Starring British veteran Bill Nighy and Sex Education star Aimee Lou Wood, Living is written by Kazuo Ishiguro and based on a remake of the 1952 Japanese film Ikiru. It tells the story of Mr Williams, an elderly bureaucrat who is diagnosed with an incurable illness, so decides he must start living his life to the fullest.

Nighy, perhaps destined to always be known for his fabulous turn as a washed-up rocker making a comeback in Love Actually, has been praised for his understated performance, which earns him his first Oscar nomination.

Living is available on Sky, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and Google Play.


Brian Tyree Henry and Jennifer Lawrence in Causeway. Pic: Apple TV+
Pic: Apple TV+

Jennifer Lawrence stars as a soldier struggling to adjust back home in New Orleans after suffering a traumatic injury while fighting in Afghanistan. The film follows her character Lynsey as she adapts once again to civilian life, and forges an unexpected bond with local mechanic James, played by Brian Tyree Henry.

It’s one that could have slipped under the radar but has been brought into the limelight thanks to a nod for Henry in the Oscars’ best supporting actor category.

You can watch Causeway on Apple TV+.


The movie juxtaposes Monroe's seemingly glamorous life with a sad reality. Pic: Netflix
Pic: Netflix

Ana de Armas has received nominations for several prizes for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in Blonde, including best actress at the Oscars and BAFTAs.

The film itself, however, hasn’t been so well received; it leads the nominations at this year’s Razzies, or Golden Raspberry Awards, which celebrate cinematic under-achievements and are billed as the “ugly cousin” of the Academy Awards. And despite praise for her performance, the film has polarised critics.

Watch Blonde on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.


Andrea Riseborough stars in To Leslie. Pic: Momentum Pictures
Pic: Momentum Pictures

British actress Andrea Riseborough caused a bit of a stir with her first Academy Award nomination; she is in the running for best actress thanks to her performance in To Leslie, an independent drama inspired by true events. The film sees the Made In Dagenham actress playing a single mother who turns to alcoholism after winning the lottery, before turning her life around when a motel owner offers her a job.

In the run-up to the Oscar nominations, the film had received no nods at the Golden Globes, the Critics’ Choice awards or the BAFTAs – but broke through with the Academy seemingly in no small part thanks to a campaign by some of the most prominent names in Hollywood.

Indeed, fellow nominee Blanchett used the opening minute of her Critics’ Choice speech to single out Riseborough, describing her performance as overlooked, while fellow Hollywood stars including (deep breath) Kate Winslet, Amy Adams, Gwyneth Paltrow, Edward Norton, Charlize Theron, Jennifer Aniston, Zooey Deschanel and Helen Hunt have also raved about it.

To Leslie is available on Amazon Prime Video and Google Play.


Olivia Colman in Empire Of Light. Pic: Parisa Taghizadeh/Searchlight Pictures/20th Century Studios
Pic: Parisa Taghizadeh/Searchlight Pictures/20th Century Studios

Set around a cinema in the 1980s, Sam Mendes’s Empire Of Light is a celebration of the big screen and also one of the most personal films the director has ever made. The film sees former Oscar winner Olivia Colman playing a woman struggling with mental health issues, a character based on the celebrated filmmaker’s own mother.

The drama is a love letter to cinema itself, and a timely reminder of the beauty of the big screen experience following the COVID pandemic.

The film is nominated for best cinematography at the Oscars, while at the BAFTAs it is up for outstanding British film and best supporting actor for Micheal Ward, as well as cinematography.

Following its run in cinemas, Empire Of Light is expected to be available on Disney+ some time in February.

Read more: Olivia Colman, Colin Firth, Micheal Ward and Toby Jones on making Empire Of Light


Margot Robbie in Babylon. Pic: Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures
Pic: Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures

Oscar-winning La La Land filmmaker Damien Chazelle takes both recollection and rumour as his inspiration for Babylon, and the outrageous excess and rampant debauchery that supposedly went on behind the scenes in Hollywood in the 1920s.

The film stars Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt and newcomer Diego Calva in a three-hour story about filmmaking. It earned three Oscar nominations – for costume, original score and production design – but hopes were perhaps a bit higher given it’s a lavish, big-budget affair (although it hasn’t done particularly well at the box office, either).

If you want to see it on the big screen, Babylon is in cinemas now.

Read more: Margot Robbie says ‘liberating’ Hollywood of the 1920s ‘had no rules’


Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022). Daniel Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix .. 2022.
Pic: Netflix

Such was the success of the 2019 whodunnit hit Knives Out that Netflix picked up the franchise, reportedly paying £375m for Glass Onion and one more sequel. This time round, the ensemble cast is even more starry – featuring Kate Hudson, Edward Norton and Janelle Monae joining Daniel Craig for his return as Detective Benoit Blanc.

This time, it’s celebrities and influencers who are under suspicion, with the film taking a satirical look at the decadence of the very modern rich and famous.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is nominated for best adapted screenplay at the Oscars, and you can watch it – and the first film – on Netflix.

Read more: Daniel Craig on investigating influencers


Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle and Robert Pattinson as Batman in The Batman. Pic: Jonathan Olley/DC Comics/Warner Bros
Pic: Jonathan Olley/DC Comics/Warner Bros

Following a long wait for The Batman to launch in cinemas, its release date pushed back twice because of COVID production delays, it finally arrived in 2022; Robert Pattinson following in the footsteps of stars including Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, Michael Keaton and George Clooney to play the Caped Crusader on the big screen.

Another box office hit drawing people back to cinemas, it is now Oscar-nominated for best sound, best make-up and hairstyling, and best visual effects.

You can watch The Batman on Sky, Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video.

Read more: Robert Pattinson on the ‘split personality moment’ of playing the Caped Crusader


Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack in Good Luck To You, Leo Grande. Pic: Lionsgate/ Nick Wall
Pic: Lionsgate/ Nick Wall

Not an Oscars contender but a hit with the BAFTA panel, Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is up for the awards for outstanding British film and outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer at the BAFTAs, as well as acting gongs for stars Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack.

McCormack, who plays a male sex worker hired by Thompson’s retired teacher, is also in the running for the rising star trophy.

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is available on Sky and Amazon Prime Video in the UK.

Read more: BAFTA nomination is ‘best birthday gift’


Viola Davis. Pic: Sony Pictures
Pic: Sony Pictures

Snubbed by the Oscars, The Woman King has at least been recognised at the BAFTAs, with star Viola Davis earning a best actress nomination, and Gina Prince-Bythewood in the running for best director.

The film tells the true story of a fierce group of female warriors who protected a West African Kingdom in the 1800s, with Davis starring. She has referred to The Woman King as her magnum opus, aiming to prove to the industry that films about black women can attract cinema audiences.

You can pre-order The Woman King on Sky and watch on Amazon Prime Video from 30 January.

Read more: Viola Davis on her ‘magnum opus’


Jalyn Hall and Danielle Deadwyler (L-R) in Till. Pic: Lynsey Weatherspoon/Orion Pictures
Pic: Lynsey Weatherspoon/Orion Pictures

Till is biographical film based on the true story of Mamie Till-Bradley, who pursued justice after the racist murder of her 14-year-old son Emmett Till in 1955 – for which star Danielle Deadwyler has been universally praised for her performance.

Despite this, it didn’t receive any Oscar nominations, but Deadwyler is recognised in the leading actress category at the BAFTAs.

You can watch Till in cinemas now.

Watch the Oscars exclusively on Sky Showcase on Sunday 12 March from midnight. Sky News will be live on the red carpet at the ceremony in Hollywood on Sunday 12 and live with the winners at the Vanity Fair party on Breakfast with Kay Burley, on Monday 13 March

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Raye on the fight to release debut album My 21st Century Blues: ‘It’s been a real wild journey’




Raye on the fight to release debut album My 21st Century Blues: 'It's been a real wild journey'

Raye is gaining her power back. Not just from the industry that made her feel “mediocre” for so many years, but over past traumas she kept bottled up for a long time.

“Some of my closest friends didn’t even know some of the stuff I’m discussing on my album,” she tells Sky News. “It’s probably the most honest I’ve been. It’s deep and it’s real.”

Raye, real name Rachel Keen, is only 25 but already a music industry veteran; a platinum-selling performer and a songwriter with credits for everyone from Charli XCX and Little Mix to John Legend and Beyonce.

She was just 15 when she released her first song and 17 when all her dreams came true, in the form of a four-album contract with record label Polydor. But after years of what seemed to be a successful career as a vocalist collaborating mainly on other artists’ dance hits, in 2021 she posted a string of tweets claiming the label was holding her back from releasing her own album.

“I’m done being a polite pop star,” she wrote, her frustration and anger palpable. The singer says after years of “trying to make it work”, she had reached the point where she had nothing to lose. “You get to that breaking point, really.”

Shortly after her tweets, it was announced she and Polydor were parting ways, with the label saying the decision had been “amicable and mutual” and wishing her “all the very best for the future”.

Raye has claimed her first number one with Escapism. Pic: Official Charts
Raye claimed her first number one with Escapism at the beginning of 2023. Pic: Official Charts

Fast-forward 18 months or so and Raye is in a very different place; now an independent artist, earlier in January she topped the UK charts for the first time with viral hit Escapism. In February, the debut album she fought so hard to make, My 21st Century Blues, will finally be released. No longer pigeonholed or stifled, this is the real Raye, she says, and it’s been a long time coming.

“The album is discussing a lot of different topics… the deepest depths of really ugly stories about assaults and body dysmorphia and environmental anxiety. I think there’s no limit on what I’ve really spoken on in terms of my perspective on my blues as a woman in the 21st Century.”

‘It’s things I’ve been silent about for so long’

Always outspoken, Raye is not an artist who sticks to trotting out lines of approved PR-speak when she’s being interviewed, and this candidness is evident throughout her music. “Being real and transparent is really important to me, to skip out metaphors and similes and cut straight to the point of what I’m talking about,” she says. “Some of these things I haven’t also entirely healed from.

“It’s definitely going to be a rollercoaster for sure, but one that I’m making the decision to go on. That’s kind of the artist I like to be, transparent, honest. I think that’s what I’m like in real life.”

One song, Ice Cream Man, deals with sexual assault. “It’s things I’ve been silent about for so long and swallowed for so long and self-managed for so long in non-constructive ways,” she says.

“I’ve written pretty transparently about sexual violence… multiple things that occur in a life that you just bury, bury down, hide in a box, don’t tell anyone. And it just festers and manipulates itself into something quite ugly.”

As with Escapism, a dark electro banger about using alcohol, drugs and casual sex as coping mechanisms for dealing with emotional pain, the album is a contrast of often melancholy or dark lyrics, with beats that will fill a dance floor, as well as a range of genres.

“You’ve got songs with a contrasting sonic landscape,” she says. “I find it really exciting to tell a story and then the music feel the opposite so I think there’s a lot of juxtaposition there.”

Irony in its ‘most hilarious and ridiculous form’

Escapism’s success feels ironic to Raye. “With the previous music, not in a bad way, but it was more about the song than about the artist. The big dance songs or whatever, they don’t necessarily say anything about me as a person. I never necessarily wanted to be someone who did huge, huge hits, but without depth and substance or discussing things I’m passionate about, or breaking a couple of rules.

“Escapism is such a personal story. It’s kind of dark. It’s extremely explicit and honest and raw… I really told myself on the beginning of this next chapter, I’m not creating music with the intent or purpose to sell loads of copies, it’s about integrity and telling these uncomfortable stories that I think are really important.

“I had all the preparation in the world for building a small, steady fanbase bit by bit, and to not expect anything in terms of mainstream reflection. So this is like irony in its most hilarious and ridiculous form, that this is the biggest song of my entire career.”

Read more on Raye:
‘I was right to back myself’: Raye rises to first number one
Raye speaks out after leaving record label

Despite it not necessarily being the plan, she admits topping the charts does feel like vindication.

“[I feel] like anything is possible and I was right to back myself,” she says. “Never give up on your dreams. For someone who [felt] so, like, mediocre and… such a disappointment, actually, for so long, to just receive all the affirmation in the world that I was right to back my music is just…”

She doesn’t need to finish the sentence. “For someone who puts words together for a living, I don’t necessarily really have the best words to describe how crazy this is.”

‘Fear is the driving factor of secrets’

Emboldened, Raye says artists need to speak out more about the inner workings of the industry. And despite moves to improve diversity and equality making headlines in recent years, she says misogyny is still rife.

“We do need to be telling these stories more,” she says. “I think things that happen in the darkness have so much more power than they do when they’re brought out to the light, you know? Fear is the driving factor of secrets, and truths and stories being withheld. But there is still that very sad view that women need to be guided and controlled and taught and given instructions to follow and meet these requirements.”

She sighs. “I don’t know… I think it’s probably the same for all artists but especially for women, especially for everything I’ve witnessed in 10 years in the industry. I think a lot needs to change, but I don’t think anything will truly be equal and fair until we’ve got the same amount of female CEOs as we do male CEOs, we’ve got the same amount of female staff working a video shoot as male staff, the same amount of female A&Rs, and the same amount of, you know, different ethnicities in these same roles.

“Balance overall is so important, and until we have that, there’s always going to be issues and problems when you have men deciding what they think is best for women.”

Read more from Sky News Entertainment:

Self Esteem on not being cool, not having her bum pinched, and not being completely skint
‘We cannot let Faye’s life end here’: Campaign to save young star fighting rare brain tumour
How deafness helped artist James Vickery find his musical sound

Raye is releasing her debut album, My 21st Century Blues
‘Seven years old, wide-eyed with a dream’: The album cover for My 21st Century Blues

Raye is looking to the future. She says she has had little communication with her former label bosses since she left, but wants to make it clear it wasn’t all bad. There were “some great people there who really believed in me… but obviously it came down to the big people making big decisions”, she says.

I ask her about the artwork for My 21st Century Blues; it features a little girl, dressed for the workplace but teetering in red stilettos hanging off her heels, standing atop a pile of instruments and recording equipment bearing the names of her songs, grabbing hands reaching out from inside. It feels poignant.

“That’s actually my baby sister on top of that big structure we built,” says Raye. “But that little girl up there is me, you know, seven years old, wide-eyed with a dream, not realising what the next 10 or 15 years of my life would be like.

“All the different life – in the industry and out of the industry – that I’ve had to navigate, process, understand, learn in my transition to being a woman, to being an artist, to being an independent artist. It’s been a real wild journey.”

Raye’s debut album, My 21st Century Blues, is out from 3 February

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Alan Cumming gives back OBE over links to ‘toxic’ British Empire




Alan Cumming gives back OBE over links to 'toxic' British Empire

Alan Cumming has given back his OBE, expressing concern over its links to what he describes as the “toxicity” of the British Empire.

The actor said he had made the decision to return the award after listening to conversations about the future of the Royal Family after the Queen’s death.

Cumming was made an OBE in 2009 as part of the Queen’s birthday honours, being recognised for acting, as well as the work he does to campaign for LGBTQ+ rights in the US.

He said at the time that he was “shocked and delighted” to be given the honour.

Writing on Instagram on his 58th birthday, he said: “The Queen’s death and the ensuing conversations about the role of monarchy and especially the way the British Empire profited at the expense (and death) of indigenous peoples across the world really opened my eyes.

“Fourteen years ago, I was incredibly grateful to receive it in the 2009 Queen’s birthday honours list, for it was awarded not just for my job as an actor but ‘for activism for equal rights for the gay and lesbian community, USA’.

“Back then the Defence of Marriage Act ensured that same-sex couples couldn’t get married or enjoy the same basic legal rights as straight people, and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell ensured that openly gay, lesbian or bisexual people were barred from serving in the military.”

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He added: “Thankfully, times and laws in the US have changed, and the great good the award brought to the LGBTQ+ cause back in 2009 is now less potent than the misgivings I have being associated with the toxicity of empire (OBE stands for Officer of the British Empire).

“So, I returned my award, explained my reasons and reiterated my great gratitude for being given it in the first place. I’m now back to being plain old Alan Cumming again. Happy birthday to me!”

Cumming is best known for his roles in Goldeneye and the Spy Kids trilogy, as well as for his stage work, with his credits including Cabaret, for which he won a Tony Award, and Endgame.

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