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While This Is England director Shane Meadows is best known as one of the most unique voices working in British cinema, he has told Sky News he could easily have made a different name for himself had things been different when he was given a suspended sentence for stealing in his youth.

“I think worst criminal in history may have been on the agenda,” he joked, recalling how court clerks laughed when they heard details of how he’d been caught “stealing a breast pump, some chicken tikka sandwiches and a raspberry crush”.

He just “happened to spot the pump” and grabbed it, knowing a neighbour needed one – but insists he wasn’t being “Robin Hood” and was mostly “just hungry”.

“Who knows, maybe I’d have got better stories?” Meadows muses on what might have happened had he been sent to prison. “Or maybe I’d have ended up being a really pathetic criminal.”

After dropping out of school in his teens, had he not got into making short films on a borrowed camcorder, life could have been radically different.

Thankfully, Meadows was only given a suspended sentence, months before he made Small Time – a short film that was enough to convince investors to fund his first full-length movie.

Now, as he prepares for the cinematic re-release of his 2004 thriller Dead Man’s Shoes, the filmmaker is in a reflective mood. The film was originally released two years before he found fame with This Is England, the critically acclaimed film which would go on to spawn three spin-off TV series.

“It didn’t make a splash at all,” Meadows admits of Dead Man’s Shoes. “And then, I don’t know whether it was mates passing it around on VHS or DVD, it just became one of those films that people wouldn’t let go of and kind of discovered in a different way.”

‘It’s nice to see it through their eyes’

Paddy Considine starred in Shane Meadows' film Dead Man's Shoes. Pic: Warp/Big Arty Prods/Kobal/Shutterstock
Paddy Considine stars in Meadows’ 2004 film Dead Man’s Shoes. Pic: Warp/Big Arty Prods/Kobal/Shutterstock

Starring Meadows’ long-term collaborator Paddy Considine, the thriller sees a soldier return home to take revenge on a group of drug dealers who abused his younger brother.

While you’ll find many of the same faces appear throughout his work, the Nottingham-based film director says casting at least one unknown on each project is essential.

“It makes everyone else stop being mardy. You know, someone comes in and they can’t believe they’ve been picked up in a car, they can’t believe the dinner is free, they can’t believe someone is saying, ‘do you want a tea?’ And then the rest of us kind of go, ‘mine’s freezing!’ You know, it’s like, they kind of bring you back down to earth and it’s nice to see it through their eyes.”

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Meadows is often compared to Mike Leigh or Ken Loach, but in reality remains a unique voice in film. His dramas are generally set and shot in the Midlands and his heavily improvised style has turned many of the unknowns he has cast into stars, such as Line Of Duty’s Vicky McClure and Brassic’s Joe Gilgun.

While he’s covered the impact of the Thatcher era on working-class communities, there’s plenty about the world we live in now that’s also caught Meadows’ focus.

‘Kids don’t feel there’s many options around’

“In the area where I’m in, in Nottingham, since COVID, kids have really changed,” he says. “There’s a saying, an African saying, which is: ‘A child who isn’t embraced by his village will burn the village to feel its warmth.’ And that, I think, is very prevalent at the moment because there’s lots and lots of kids who are spilling on to the street, children coming out of COVID, who’ve been trapped inside, not feeling like there are many options around. I think a phrase like that seems pretty apt.”

Meadows’ ability to read the temperature of the areas of England which don’t often make it on screen is, of course, part of the reason his films have, over the last two decades, come to be appreciated all the more.

Dead Man’s Shoes is out in cinemas from 15 September as well as being screened as part of the BFI’s Acting Hard season, which runs until 2 October

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Music Venue Trust makes plea to Jeremy Hunt amid fears over prospects of UK’s future music stars




Music Venue Trust makes plea to Jeremy Hunt amid fears over prospects of UK's future music stars

The UK’s small music venues are experiencing a “full-blown crisis” – with many forced to close over the last year, a music charity has said.

The Music Venue Trust says the future of “world-beating” artists is under threat and has asked the chancellor for an extension of the 75% business rates relief introduced in April this year. It is due to come to an end in March 2024.

In an open letter to Jeremy Hunt, the charity said: “The grassroots music sector is in the middle of a full-blown crisis.

“One hundred and twenty-five venues have shut their doors for live music in the last 12 months, 15.7% of all such spaces in the UK.

“It represents the loss of 4,000 jobs, 14,250 events, 193,230 performance opportunities, £9 million of income for musicians, and £59 million in lost direct economic activity.”

The Music Venue Trust says small venues are facing permanent closure
The Music Venue Trust says small venues are facing permanent closure

Calling the closures “an immediate economic, social, and cultural blow” to local communities, they said the now dark venues had been “treasured places that bond our communities together, foster pride in the places we live, drive creativity and create aspiration”.

The UK music industry brings billions of pounds into the economy, attracting both domestic and international tourists to live events.

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Earlier this year, Culture secretary Lucy Frazer announced an additional £5m investment into Arts Council England’ Supporting Grassroots Live Music fund, in recognition of the importance of its role to both boost the country’s economy as well as its soft power.

In January 2020, the then Chancellor Rishi Sunak introduced a special 50% business rates relief for grassroots music venues.

This was then extended to 100% during the COVID pandemic, and finally reduced to 75% in the post-pandemic economic climate.

The charity says removing the 75% rate would increase costs to the sector by £15m. They say the sector returned a profit margin amounting to just £1million in cash terms last year.

Warning that the removal of the 75% rate would “plunge the entire grassroots sector into the red,” they warned more venues would close as a result.

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The open letter to Mr Hunt concludes with a heartfelt plea: “Artists will have nowhere to start their careers. The UK risks producing fewer world-beating artists as a direct result of the decision you make on this issue in your Autumn Statement.

“You have said you don’t have the economic conditions to consider tax cuts. Grassroots Music Venues don’t have the economic conditions to allow tax rises.”

The Music Venue Trust – which represents more than 900 grassroots music venues across the UK – has previously voiced concerns that emerging artists with the potential to be the next Ed Sheeran or Adele – both of whom started out playing in grassroots venues – could find their careers cut off at ground level, never realising their full potential.

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Russell Brand: Metropolitan Police investigating sexual offence claims in London and elsewhere




Russell Brand: Metropolitan Police investigating sexual offence claims in London and elsewhere

A number of sexual offence claims relating to London and elsewhere in the UK have been made against Russell Brand.

Metropolitan Police said the allegations were all non-recent.

A statement said: “Following an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches and The Sunday Times, the Met has received a number of allegations of sexual offences in London.

“We have also received a number of allegations of sexual offences committed elsewhere in the country and will investigate these.”

There have been no arrests and enquiries continue.

Last Monday, the Met said it had received one report of alleged sexual assault from 2003 and encouraged other potential victims to come forward.

Brand denies all the allegations against him, says his relationships were consensual, and has not been charged with anything.

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He has admitted being very promiscuous in the past, but called the reports “very serious allegations that I absolutely refute”.

In a video last week on YouTube – which has cut off his advertising revenue – he said it had been a “distressing” time.

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Georgina Baillie speaks about Brand

Brand appeared on video platform Rumble on Monday and criticised an MPs’ committee for asking other social media firms if they intended to demonetise him.

He called it a “bypassing of judicial process” and suggested there was a conspiracy to silence him and “independent media voices”.

Brand told viewers: “What we appear to be looking at here are a set of collaborating institutions that have an agenda, and pursue that agenda, even when in pursuing it they have to bypass, obstruct, or absolutely ignoring existing judicial or regulatory bodies by moving straight to punitive measures.”

Read more:
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Woman claims Brand ‘intimidated’ her

The claims against the 48-year-old include an allegation of rape, and that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl he was seeing.

Another woman told Sky News he made her feel “vulnerable and intimidated” and alleged he refused to call her a taxi until she performed a sex act.

The fallout from the claims has caused Brand to suspend his tour, as well as reigniting a debate about how stars are managed and monitored by the entertainment industry.

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Dr Uchenna Okoye: TV dentist died ‘suddenly’ from bleed on brain




Dr Uchenna Okoye: TV dentist died 'suddenly' from bleed on brain

Celebrity TV dentist Dr Uchenna Okoye died from a bleed on the brain, a coroner’s report has found.

The 53-year-old, who starred on Channel 4 makeover show 10 Years Younger and was a regular contributor on ITV’s This Morning, died on 15 September after falling ill at home.

In a statement based on a coroner’s report, and released by Dr Okoye’s personal assistant, it said her “sudden death” was caused by a subarachnoid haemorrhage.

According to the NHS, this is an uncommon type of stroke caused by bleeding in the space between the brain and thin tissues that surround the brain.

The condition was caused by an aneurysm and “can happen for no apparent reason”, the statement read.

Dr Uchenna Okoye. Pic: Steve Meddle/Shutterstock
Dr Okoye on The Alan Titchmarsh show. Pic: Steve Meddle/Shutterstock

A family spokesperson said: “We are devastated, and our hearts are broken that her beautiful, full life has been cut so short.

“As a family, our priority right now is to take care of her young daughter and continue her legacy and keep her memory alive. A private celebration of her life will be held in the coming weeks.”

Dr Okoye ran two London dental practices and had her own range of dental products.

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According to an online profile of Dr Okoye, she qualified at Guy’s Hospital in London and was an expert in cosmetic dentistry.

She was an honorary clinician at St George’s Hospital in London and clinical director of London Smiling Dental Group.

Dr Hilary Jones and Dr Uchenna Okoye. Pic: Ken McKay/Shutterstock
Dr Hilary Jones and Dr Uchenna Okoye. Pic: Ken McKay/Shutterstock

After the news of her death, tributes flooded in from those who worked closely with her in the industry.

Cherry Healey, a presenter on 10 Years Younger, was among those paying tribute.

“There aren’t really the right words to say how much this absolute force of a human being will be missed and how sad this news is,” she wrote on Instagram.

“I was so fortunate to work with Dr Uchenna on @10yearsyounger for many happy years, and to then got to know her as a beautiful friend.”

This Morning presenter Holly Willoughby said: “Sending my love to her friends and family… so very sorry for your loss.”

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