A three-year-old boy is to switch on a town’s Christmas lights after Love Island’s Kady McDermott was ditched from the role.
Noah Bruce won a competition to turn on the lights in Welwyn Garden City alongside Father Christmas.
Ms McDermott, 22, was dropped after residents launched a petition demanding she be removed and that organisers “set a better example to our kids”.
Noah won the role when his letter to Santa was judged the best.
McDermott, 22, who grew up in the town, had been chosen by the Welwyn Garden City Business Improvement District (BID) after it found her through the Brain Tumour Research charity, which she supports.
But the petition gained more than 1,000 signatures within two days of being set up and the reality TV personality, from nearby Stevenage, said she was bombarded with “vile comments” after she was booked to appear.
Welwyn Garden City BID said it had not expected “such a strong reaction” to the decision and after jointly reviewing with Ms McDermott the comments about her on its Facebook page, “both parties made a decision that her attendance wasn’t fitting for the audience” and her appearance was cancelled.
It decided to launch a competition to find a replacement, where entrants had to write a letter to Father Christmas.
In his winning entry, Noah said: “I’ve been really good helping mummy tidy my toys, eating my dinner and practising my reading and writing.
“I would like to turn on the Christmas lights with you this year as I would really love to meet you. My mummy and all my aunties will be bringing me to see the lights turned on and I really hope I can see you there.
“Have a nice day Santa.”
A Welwyn Garden City BID spokesman said: “We are delighted to have a little boy called Noah Bruce, along with the real Father Christmas, switching on our lights in Welwyn Garden City [on Thursday].”
A hard-hitting picture of a 16-year old migrant has won a prestigious photography prize.
The photograph of Amadou Sumaila was taken moments after his rescue while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea in August 2016.
Cesar Dezfuli was named winner of the Taylor Wessing prize for the image – taken 20 miles from the Libyan coast.
The Spanish photographer received the prize and awarded £15,000 in a ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery.
The judges said: “Against the balance and precision of Dezfuli’s composition, the directness of Sumaila’s gaze is striking and unsettling. The portrait powerfully conveys his loss, solitude and determination.”
Sumaila has since found temporary accommodation in a reception centre for migrants in Italy.
The second prize went to British photographer Abbie Trayler-Smith for her image of a girl on a bus in the Iraqi city of Mosul, as she was fleeing from the so-called Islamic State.
The shot of the young woman was taken as a convoy of buses arrived bringing people to the safety of the Hasan Sham camp in northern Iraq.
Trayler-Smith said: “I just remember seeing her face looking out at the camp, and the shock and the bewilderment in her’s and other’s faces and it made me shudder to imagine what living under Isis had been like.”
Third prize went to Finnish artist Maija Tammi, who photographed an android, as part of her One Of Them Is A Human #1 series.
The project presents androids alongside one human and asks questions about what it means to be alive.
The judges said the ambiguity over whether or not the subject was human made the portrait “particularly compelling”, adding that the portrait “offers a provocative comment on human evolution”.
The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize has been running since 1993. This year it attracted 5,717 entries by 2,423 photographers from 66 countries.
The winning portraits will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery from November 16 to February 8 2018.
Scotland’s Loopallu music festival is to be held next year after organisers’ earlier concerns that this year’s event would be the last one.
They had thought an increased demand for visitor accommodation in Ullapool had made it harder for festival-goers to attend the event.
But many Loopallu’s regular festival-goers have been calling for the event to continue on.
The organisers said Loopallu will be held so long as there was an audience.
Preparations have begun for the staging of the festival on 28 and 29 September next year.
Loopallu’s Robert Hicks said: “During this year’s event festival goers told me that regardless of whether Loopallu continued or not, their accommodation for 2018 was booked so they would be making their annual journey to Ullapool.
“The levels of affection for Loopallu were highlighted this year as everyone shared stories of the number of years they have attended, the friends, future husbands and wives and festival family they have met.
“We are genuinely humbled, and indeed overwhelmed by what our, no, your event means to you.
“So as long as you want to keep coming, we will try and keep putting it on.”
This year’s acts included The View, Glasvegas, The Pigeon Detectives and Hunter and the Bear.
Crime writer Ian Rankin also gave a talk during the festival, which this year was being held for the 13th time.
In previous years, The Wonder Stuff, Twin Atlantic and Mark Radcliffe’s band Galleon Blast have played at Loopallu – which is Ullapool backwards.
UK actor Keith Barron, who starred in sitcom Duty Free, has died aged 83 after a short illness.
Barron, who was from South Yorkshire, rose to fame in the 1960s as Detective Sergeant Swift in The Odd Man.
He also appeared in Coronation Street, Doctor Who, Benidorm and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).
Barron is best-remembered for his role in Yorkshire Television sitcom, Duty Free, where he played David Pearce.
A statement from his agent said Barron enjoyed “a long and varied career, of which he was immensely proud.
“He is survived by his wife Mary to whom he was married for 58 years and his son, Jamie, also an actor.”
Set in Spain, Duty Free ran for three series from 1984 until 1986 with Barron starring as a lead character.
The show was about two couples – David and Amy Pearce and Robert and Linda Cochran, who meet on holiday in the same hotel in Marbella.
Much of the show’s humour came from David and Linda’s attempts to conceal their affair.
Barron learnt his craft at the former Sheffield Playhouse, where he also met his wife, stage designer Mary Pickard.
In a long career, he starred in Hollywood film The Land That Time Forgot and had a number of appearances in landmark British shows including Doctors, A Touch of Frost and Casualty.
The Weakest Link is returning for a one-off special this Friday. The BBC’s Lauren Turner went to the dress rehearsal to speak to Anne Robinson (and have a go at being a contestant herself).
Anne Robinson has a problem with being back on The Weakest Link set.
It’s not that she’s unhappy about hosting a one-off special for Children in Need this Friday – nor that a new series is being considered for next year.
“The problem is,” she explains in that no-nonsense, clipped tone. “We’ve borrowed the French set.
“It’s incredibly high. Much higher than ours was. I’ve got six-inch heels on so it’s bit of a climbing job getting on and off.
“I’ve got to get the floor manager to hold me because I’m so terrified, in high heels, of slipping. I think the French presenter always wore flat shoes.”
So why has she said “yes” to a celebrity special, starring the likes of Cannonball host Maya Jama, Cold Feet’s John Thomson, presenter and writer Giles Coren, This Morning presenter Rylan Clarke-Neal and Love Island’s Kem Cetinay?
“Because they asked me,” she smiles.
“We’ve all got a great nostalgia for this show. Almost everyone working on it was working on it through the years. I think everyone was really keen to come back and give it another go.”
Everything she says seems slightly tongue-in-cheek, and with a glint in her eye. The whole pantomime villain persona is definitely an act – but it’s done with humour and wit, rather than genuine meanness.
“You don’t want to drown kittens,” she explains. “What you’re always looking for is someone you can play with. You want someone who comes back to you.
“So it’s not really a question of being mean, it’s a question of having a laugh.
What’s it like to be a contestant?
Watching The Weakest Link from the comfort of your sofa, you might think it’s all a bit, well… easy.
The questions aren’t exactly University Challenge-level and that whole Anne Robinson “queen of mean” persona is just an act, right?
Just try telling yourself that when you’re standing at a podium under the blazing studio lights on the receiving end of a withering glare. Your mouth goes dry, your palms get sweaty, and it really doesn’t help matters if you’re wearing a pair of flashing Pudsey ears.
Luckily, the special edition of the show I was part of wasn’t going to be televised. Instead, it was me against four fellow journalists – “just for fun” – ahead of the celeb special for Children in Need this Friday.
Once stationed at our podiums, we practice our introductions (I really should have paid attention at this point) and are introduced to Brian, whose job, wonderfully, includes making sure our boards are the right way up when we flip them to reveal who we think should be voted off as the weakest link.
Before we know it, Anne walks up to us and filming begins.
She chides us for being on a “jolly” and squeezes in a few journalism jokes (yes they exist, honest) before getting down to business. I’m glad not to be first up but even so, when my question is asked, I start to panic – before realising it’s easier than I thought.
‘It’s a conspiracy!’
“In musical terms, a low note is known as what…?” she starts, as my mind goes blank. “Deep or shallow?”
Okay phew, I can do that one. My next question is about which show Paul O’Grady hosts, and I’m about to butt in with Blankety Blank before she adds “formerly presented by Cilla Black” and I answer Blind Date, relieved – as I can see there’s not much time left this round.
The clock stops and we’ve done amazingly well, with 12 answers correct in a row – but as someone banked early, twice, we actually haven’t reached the jackpot.
It’s harder than you think to choose someone to eliminate when no one has got a question wrong. I literally go for the first name I can see from where I’m standing (having also been advised it’s bad form to vote for the person next to you, as it doesn’t do much for neighbourly relationships!).
I realise I’ve made a mistake when I sneak a glimpse at the board next to me. Of course, I should have voted for the person who banked prematurely. Whoops!
Brian comes to check our boards are the right way up so the names don’t appear upside down when we reveal them, and then Anne returns. I’m more relieved than I should probably admit to see no one’s put my name down.
The person who, earlier, affixed my microphone pack is the first out, having garnered two votes for no apparent reason other than we had to choose someone.
We’re brought new boards (I totally thought they were wiped clean each round) and we’re back in action.
In the next round, we manage to bank precisely zero pounds, which Anne isn’t very happy about. Good job we’re not playing for real money.
The person I’d chosen in the first round actually gets two questions wrong this time so, even though I feel bad, I write her name down again. I’m actually horrified to see my name written down by my podium neighbour and try reminding myself that it’s just a game.
It’s not long before I find myself in her shoes, however, as I turn out to be the third person to leave – despite not getting a question wrong (it’s a conspiracy!).
I have a rather baffling conversation with Anne in which she quizzes me about Twitter etiquette, of all things, before I’m given those famous words – “Lauren, you are the weakest link, goodbye.”
Asked how she would react to people crying on The Weakest Link, Anne says: “I’d get very irritated I think. I don’t want anyone crying. When I was on Fleet Street girls never cried. It’s not that sort of game.
“I always think crying is very suspect. Particularly among girls. Because some of them learn very young that if you cry, when you’re criticised, everyone says: ‘Don’t cry!’ and they forget what they were about to criticise them for.
“I think some people cry very easily and some don’t cry easily. So I’m not much taken with tears – they waste time.”
That said, who would she most like to appear on the show, if it does return?
“I’d quite like the Duke of Edinburgh, Donald Trump, the Prime Minister. Anyone funny really.”
(And unlikely to burst into tears, she might have added.)
After just four days, Taylor Swift has sold more albums in the US than any other artist this year.
The star’s sixth album, Reputation, has sold 1.04 million copies in the US since Friday, says Billboard magazine.
That puts her ahead of 2017’s previous biggest-seller, Ed Sheeran’s ÷, which has shifted 919,000 copies to date.
Reputation also becomes Swift’s fourth album to sell a million copies in the space of a week, following 1989, Red and Speak Now.
In fact, only she and Adele have sold a million copies of any album in a seven-day frame since 2012.
Notably, both artists withheld their records from streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music – a move which drives committed fans to buy or download the album.
It has been rumoured that Reputation will be made available on those services later this week.
Reputation, which sees the star delve deeper than ever before into the realms of pop and hip-hop, has received largely positive reviews from critics.
The Telegraph called it “a big, brash, all-guns-blazing blast of weaponised pop that grapples with the vulnerability of the human heart as it is pummelled by 21st-century fame.
NPR’s critic Ann Powers noted that Swift’s lyrics had matured, describing the stand-out track Getaway Car as: “A sure-footed step forward into the vagaries of grown up life.”
BBC Music’s Mark Savage said it was “her most sonically adventurous album yet”, while noting that moments where she lashes out at her detractors “don’t really lend themselves to big, singalong choruses”.
However, the New York Times’ writer Jon Caramanica questioned whether Swift had diluted her appeal by borrowing so heavily from other genres.
“In making her most modern album – one in which she steadily visits hostile territory and comes out largely unscathed – Ms Swift has actually delivered a brainteaser: If you’re using other people’s parts, can you ever really recreate your self?”
Reputation is set to debut at number one in the UK, after selling 65,437 copies over the weekend. However, she is unlikely to beat Sheeran in his home territory.
Divide sold 672,000 copies in its first week this March – making it the third-fastest seller in chart history, behind Adele’s 25 (800,000 sales) and Oasis’ Be Here Now (696,000).
Sheeran’s album, of course, was available on streaming services – which accounted for 12% of its sales.
Earlier this week, Spotify’s Troy Carter criticised Swift’s decision to hold her album back, saying it would encourage piracy.
“It kind of sets the industry back a little bit,” he said, while adding: “Taylor is super smart. We are not mad at her for the decision she made.”
Peter Turner, whose book about his relationship with Hollywood actress Gloria Grahame has been made into a movie, describes their love story.
James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, has made this film by director Paul McGuigan and starring Annette Bening as Gloria and Jamie Bell as Peter.
Produced and edited by Phoebe Frieze, filmed by Alex Stanger.
Annette Bening is delighted about her latest film – and a big reason for that is because she gets to showcase a real-life story of role reversal not often featured on the big screen.
Bening plays fading Hollywood starlet Gloria Grahame, who embarks on a romance with a much younger British actor, played by Jamie Bell, in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.
Grahame was a big name in her heyday, starring in films such as Oklahoma!, It’s a Wonderful Life and winning an Oscar for The Bad and the Beautiful in 1953.
The film is based on the memoir of Peter Turner (Bell) and has been brought to life with the help of Bond producer, Barbara Broccoli, who knew Peter and Gloria when they were together.
Bening says playing an older woman in a relationship with a younger man was refreshing.
“It was wonderful. When I started (acting) when I was 30-something, I was always playing alongside men who were much older than I was – Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, my husband (Warren Beatty). Wonderful actors, I’m not complaining, I loved it – but that is the norm and so to have it turned the other way, in a way that’s loving and sophisticated [was great].”
The film, directed by Paul McGuigan, looks back on the pair’s relationship as Gloria, now suffering from cancer, turns up at Peter’s family home in Liverpool years after the couple split up.
Bening says she and Broccoli, who are friends, had been “percolating” the idea of making the film for about 20 years.
The actress kept being drawn back to Peter’s book: “It’s a great read, the way he writes is the way the film’s composed, where you go in between the past and present in a seamless way”.
Bening says she’s hopeful there “will be more stories about people who aren’t just young and in love, about people who are older and sophisticated – what the sex is about, what the reality is, especially for women getting older. Not just this cliche. The reality is a lot more subtle”.
But while better storylines for older women in front of the camera are to be applauded, what about roles behind the scenes?
“We had a woman cinematographer which was really cool, very infrequent. It’s a man’s world (on) those sets and I don’t think it was always easy for her, although she was heroic and fantastic.
“I think it is going to change and it is going to get better.
“I know my (female) friends’ lives are so interesting and their lives often aren’t reflected in the way that we see women on screen. But now things are changing, we get to tell those stories and have those stories told to us.”
Bening isn’t the only actress over 50 to feature in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool – there’s a treasure trove of female British legends including Vanessa Redgrave, Frances Barber and Dame Julie Walters.
In one scene, tension bubbles over as Barber – playing Gloria’s sister – snipes at her successful sister.
It’s the only scene Barber appears in.
“Frances is amazing, she totally steals the scene – I’m a huge admirer, that’s so hard to do. It’s like jumping on a moving train,” says Bening.
“Vanessa was doing Richard III on stage at the time that we were shooting the film so we got her on a Sunday, her day off.
“She shows up at dawn, she had a long day and she was marvellous. I definitely had that moment – ‘I’m acting with Vanessa Redgrave, this is really happening!'”
And Dame Julie?
“She is everything – I love her, she’s brilliant and she is one of those people – she completely lives up to every expectation you might have, she’s lovely and such fun.”
Inevitably, the conversation turns to a Hollywood hot topic – Harvey Weinstein and the claims against him of sexual harassment or assault from a large number of women – allegations he has denied.
Like many others, Bening said she didn’t realise the extent of his behaviour.
“Harvey was known as being a bit boorish but I certainly didn’t know this was going on to the degree that it was and it’s great that these women have come forward, I really respect them.
“Maybe culturally this means things will change.”
She adds: “It was fascinating when I was at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year. I saw 21 films, many of them… had to do with sexual violence towards women, physical violence towards women, emotional violence towards women. We just showed up to watch movies!
“It wasn’t always the subject of the film – in many cases it was – but then there were other films in which it was peripheral to the story.
“It’s a constant, so now our awareness is so much greater.”
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is out in the UK on Thursday 16 November.