INDEPENDENT 2024-02-24 16:34:35


Graham Norton quits show he’s presented since 2011: ‘I want my weekends back’

Graham Norton has quit Virgin Radio after 13 years, the presenter has announced.

Irish host Norton revealed the news on the latest episode of his series, which was broadcast on Saturday (24 February).

The news comes following numerous radio shake-ups in recent months, involving Claudia Winkleman as well as Jordan North and Roman Kemp.

Norton told his listeners his decision stemmed from wanting to have his “weekends back” after more than a decade of presenting on the station, which he joined after leaving BBC Radio 2.

“Now, the show isn’t quite the normal show today because I have a bit of an announcement to make – I’m leaving weekends here at Virgin Radio,” he said at the start of the broadcast.

Norton reassured listeners he will not be leaving the station altogether, telling them: “I’ll still be kind of popping up on the station from time to time. But my regular Saturday and Sundays, I’m stepping away.”

He continued: “I’ve worked weekends between here and the old place for 13 years and my life has changed a bit, so I just want my weekends back.

“So really, the next two shows – today and tomorrow – are me just saying thank you to you all for listening.”

He confirmed fellow Irish presenter Angela Scanlon, who competed on Strictly Come Dancing last year, will host for the next few weeks before “various announcements” on who will take over the slot permanently.

Norton joined Radio 2 in 2010 on the 10am to 1pm Saturday show, taking over from Jonathan Ross.

He moved to Virgin Radio in 2021, with his BBC slot going to Winkleman. The Strictly Come Dancing and Traitors host is due to leave that show in March after saying she wanted to spend more time with her growing children.

Norton also hosts an eponymous Friday night chat show on BBC One and is central to the broadcaster’s Eurovision coverage.

Virgin Radio Content Director Mike Cass said of Norton’s decision to leave his show: “Graham Norton has delighted Virgin Radio’s weekend listeners for the last three years.

“He steps back from the weekend show with our thanks and with our delight that he remains part of the wider Virgin Radio family. His are big boots to fill, and we’ll be announcing the owner of those feet in the weeks to come.”

Additional reporting by Agencies

Row erupts in St Ives after ‘newcomer’ paints shop ‘hideous Smurf blue’

A row has broken out after a “newcomer” to an idyllic seaside town painted a new shopfront dark blue.

Residents in St Ives in Cornwall are furious at what has been dubbed “the Smurf blue” former camera shop on one of its main shopping streets – and are demanding urgent action is taken.

They say it is totally out of keeping for a town made famous for its white-painted houses and shops that give the area a unique charm, beauty and light.

Some said the new owner should have stuck to magnolia instead of painting the facade a bright cobalt blue – and felt the much-loved tourist destination was “starting to look like Benidorm”.

Local councillors are now calling on St Ives Town Council to take immediate action.

The council confirmed it was in discussions with the property owner Mr Blueberry, who is said to be new to the town and had reportedly wanted to put his “own creative stamp on things” with a view to opening a business.

The local authority also said he did not have the required planning permission to change the colour of buildings in the conservation area.

Speaking on Friday, Nicholas Pearce, 48, who runs surf shop Wind An Sea close to the building, said the strength of feeling among locals was strong.

He said: “It is a terribly dark blue and the way it was painted overnight without permission is wrong – and people in St Ives are angry about it.

“It has made the actual area darker. It used to be white and that gave a lot of light.

“All we know is, it’s basically been leased and taken over and not many people know what is going on – we heard a rumour it was going to be a clothes shop but don’t know for sure.

“The next day, opening up, I had to double look as it is a really loud blue.

“It is a hideous colour. Apparently, they have agreed to change it – which they need to – to tone it down a bit but at the moment it is still there.

“A lot of locals in St Ives do get angry about things that happen in the town. They are very protective of preserving things. There was uproar about the Premier Inn that was planned at the top of town as the architecture was all wrong.

“I do understand that. I am all for change and I do like modernisation but I can see why a lot of locals are annoyed.”

The topic was also discussed on the Real Love St Ives Facebook group, where resident Jamie Law said: “What the hell have they done to the old camera shop? How on earth did this pass planning?”

Sara Jane Tomlinson added: “It’s disgusting. It sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s getting to look like Benidorm.”

Mandy Jones posted: “It is hurting our eyes! And if it was done without permission it is other people’s business.”

But other residents said they had no issue with the paint job.

One said: “Honestly? First world problems. So much hate and negativity about the colour of a building. People need to realise there are much bigger issues to worry about than this. Get a grip people.”

Louise Dwelly, clerk of St Ives Town Council, said discussions had taken place this week with the owner.

She added: “In terms of the colour, the general public will always have preferences but it is very difficult for policymakers to take a view on an individual colour because it’s a very subjective matter.

“The shop is within a conservation area which has additional restrictions and means that planning permission would be required which the owner hasn’t done. The conservation area is about celebrating and protecting the distinctive characteristics of the historic town centre.

“Traditionally, this would have been muted tones, white lime wash, blue slates, etc.

“A planning application is a chance for a debate about whether a painted house has a detrimental impact on this. Set against this, of course, is precedent and the fact that there are other strong colours already.”

Pete Doherty shares health update after concerning ‘death’ comment

Pete Doherty has shared an update on his health months after revealing he is “a very sick man”.

The Libertines singer has returned for a new album alongside his bandmate Carl Barat and, in a new interview, the pair reflected on the drug-fuelled public antics he was notorious for in the Noughties and 2010s.

Doherty also addressed concerns surrounding his health after telling interviewer Louis Theroux he feels “death is lurking” after years of drug and alcohol abuse took their toll on his body,

“I’ve battered it, haven’t I? I’ve f***ing caned it,” he told Theroux on BBC series Louis Theroux Interviews…, adding: “[The] heroin and the crack… I surrendered to that, and then it was cocaine and the smoking and the alcohol, and now it’s cheese and the saucisson, and the sugar in the tea.”

Doherty said doctors have told him he needs to change his diet as it would lead to “diabetes and cholesterol problems” – and, while speaking to The Guardian on Saturday (24 February), the musician revealed that he has now been “diagnosed with type two diabetes”.

He told the outlet: “Yeah, I am a bit of a glutton. It’s not a joke. I’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. And at the moment, I’m lacking the discipline to tackle cholesterol.”

Doherty said he is sober and that Barat created a strict no-alcohol rule while making the new Libertines record.

“Carl insisted on there being no alcohol even. He wanted it to be pure. It’s not like I want to get pissed, but I like a glass of cider. And he’s like, no. It was pressure. We’d never done it before. The studio had always been a time of merriment and celebration.”

However, Doherty was “relieved” and “proud” to realise he could make music without drinking.

Doherty previously revealed he currently takes blocker injections to prevent drugs from taking effect, stating: “I like to think I could do without it, but that level of trust has to be earnt, doesn’t it?” In the new interview, he said the blockers have been “transformative”, saying: “With all the will in the world, I don’t think I’m ready to lose it. People around me definitely prefer me to have it.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Barat said he was “not surprised” that Doherty survived his colourful past, stating: “No, he’s too smart to die. He never intended to die.”

Doherty, speaking to Theroux in November, shared what he would tell someone curious about experimenting with drugs.

He said: “My life in using was so chaotic and the consequences of [it]… you’ll be in prison and you’ll f*** your body up, and you’ll be skint, and you’ll lose your family and you’ll lose everything you love. Is it really that good? That’s beyond curiosity, that’s a right mess.

“I still get tingles thinking about it, but I’m able to talk to you rather than running off and scoring.”

The Libertines will release their new record, titled All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade, on 5 April.

If you or someone you know is suffering from drug addiction, you can seek confidential help and support 24-7 from Frank, by calling 0300 123 6600, texting 82111, sending an email or visiting their website here.

In the US, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can be reached at 1-800-662-HELP.

Locals campaign for closure of glamping site after years of annoyance

A luxury glampsite that offers a “romantic escape” for couples in an upmarket country is under threat of closure after neighbours complained they are forced to spend five months of the year listening to parties, rows, sex, and karaoke.

One nearby resident wrote to the local authority protesting that they had had to listen to “deluded: renditions of 1980s hit Islands in the Stream by ‘over and over’.

Another said she has had to “awkwardly” hear people having “sex in the thin tents” pitched in the back garden of a house in Lymington, in the Hampshire New Forest.

The posh ‘Secret Garden Glamping’ site consists of two five metre tents that have been set up behind a three bed semi-detached house in a residential area of the town.

According to its website, it has been running for four years and provides spaces for guests’ to ‘rest, relax and play in’.

But following complaints from neighbours – some of whom have made recordings of loud dance music coming from the garden – council officials started to investigate.

The owner of the site, Liz Feay, sought official planning permission for the “use of part of garden as a glamping site for five months a year”. But, following a planning meeting held earlier this month – described by one neighbour to show “local democracy in action” – her application was recommended for refusal and the site is now at risk of closure.

Secret Garden Glamping claims to provide glampers with a “taste of life’s simple pleasures” and a “home-away-from-home during your holiday in the New Forest”.

But nearby residents are less than seduced by the experience.

Mel Sims’ lives directly behind the garden of the £405,000 property and when the 51 year old bought her three bed semi-detached house in December 2022 – she “had no idea” of the “glampsite” operating behind her house.

The ADHD coach said: “I probably should have been warned.

“I didn’t think anything of it in December but as summer started I heard noises out there.

“This shed here backs onto the yurt so ultimately when it’s the summertime, if you are sat here then you can hear all the conversations – you can hear sex in the tent.”

Ms Sims said when she and her 13 year old daughter are sat outside they can hear ‘private conversations’ and noise but said there is no way of complaining because ‘how do you contact someone over there’.

The mother added: “We don’t need any more campsites in the New Forest.

“We are thick with campsites – I don’t need one in my garden.

“There’s rows when they are all a bit drunk.”

Ms Sims’ said the website advertised the glampsite as ‘exclusive’ but said it is not – as she can ‘hear all of their conversations’.

Last month, Ms Feay applied to the New Forest District Council (NFDC) for full planning permission of the glamping business.

In a covering letter to NFDC, her planning agent said the application was submitted after ‘enforcement enquiries’ were made about the business last year.

After the initial application was made, residents’ took to the online planning portal to voice their objections to the site.In her objection, Ms Sims wrote: “I live directly behind this garden and see the tent top from my windows. I bought this house last year, thinking it was in a quiet cul de sac.

“That is until people come to stay there……The noise from this garden/field in the summer is too much often past midnight. There is music, loud chat, sex in the thin tents we all awkwardly hear and swearing. I do not want to back onto a clamping or campsite.”

One neighbour, Daniel Wells, said: “As this is a glamp site specifically targeted at holidaying guests, socialising continues through the working week, disturbing sleep for myself, my wife and our son whose bedroom is at the back of the house.

“Most upsetting perhaps is that on several occasions we have had to close the window to block out the sound of a couple engaging in acts of a sexual nature, which the fabric walls of a tent clearly did not, and do not contain.

“There was a karaoke machine there for a time and on one notable sunny afternoon whilst trying to enjoy our garden with friends, we had to instead listen to a couple blaring out ‘Islands in the Stream’ over and over, deluded in thinking they were Dolly and Kenny.

“This same karaoke machine was used top volume at 6am by a child yelling into the microphone.”

Another neighbour, Stephanie Glasspool, said she is also forced to listen to ‘people having sexual intercourse’ which is ‘far beyond what one would expect in a residential family neighbourhood’.

Andy and Gillian Doel spoke of their frustration and said during the summer they even get ‘ash’ in their garden from the campfires.

Mr Doel, 58, said: “We camp. Most campsites have rules about noise. But, they are people from London that have never camped.“To me, it’s just an unreasonable, unneighbourly thing to do.”

Mr Doel said he fears if the planning approval is accepted, other houses with big gardens will also do the same.

He said: “Where does it stop with Lymington. Look at all the gardens that could have glampsites – it’s madness.

“How many houses in Lymington are going to do the same?”

The retired chemical engineer said in the summer he hears ‘thunka, thunka, thunka’, from the ‘bass’ of the music played by guests.

“If a neighbour was making noise, I wouldn’t think anything of it,” he said.

“After a week, of that, you would say something to your neighbour and expect them to do something about it. If they do it for a year… it’s just not heard of.

“We’re not just trying to be nimby. Next door has been sold to a developer and we need more houses. I’m not against things being built but you do need to be neighbourly and considerate.”

His wife, also a former chemical engineer, said: “It looks great, if it was a glampsite in the middle of nowhere then that would be great.“But, we have five months of it.”

The 58 year old added: “Last summer was the tipping point because there was a lot more [guests] and a lot more antisocial behaviour.”

According to the website, guests can book to stay in one of the two tents named ‘Flora’ and ‘Belle’ from May to September.

On Booking.Com, a two night stay in one of the ‘luxury’ tents is priced at £206 and previous guests have described it as a ‘little gem in the heart of Lymington‘, ‘exceptional’ and a ‘perfect gateway weekend’.

Members of the Lymington and Pennington Town Council planning committee have now voted against Ms Feay’s application and recommended that NFDC reject it.

NFDC is expected to make a decision on the application before 6th March.

Ms Feay – who says she is a ‘born and bred New Forest girl’ with a ‘genuine love for the area, and the people who live here’ declined to comment.

Fox News cuts off Trump rally speech to issue multiple fact-checks – live

Donald Trump said Black voters like him because of his mug shot at the Black Conservative Federation Gala in South Carolina.

“A lot of people said that’s why the Black people liked me, because they had been hurt so badly and discriminated against,” Mr Trump said.

“The mug shot, we’ve all seen the mug shot, and you know who embraced it more than anybody else? The Black population,” he continued.

During another speech on Friday, Fox News had to cut coverage of a rally to issue multiple fact-checks to Mr Trump’s speech.

“Even though he’s entitled to his opinion, he’s not entitled to his own set of facts,” anchor Neil Cavuto said as a preface to the corrections list for topics including the stock market and 2020 election.

Earlier, the former president issued a demand that Alabama lawmakers “act quickly to find an immediate solution” to protect IVF in the wake of a shock state supreme court ruling that halted treatments in the state.

Republican officials scrambled to respond to the ruling with a cohesive message, while Democrats linked it to a years-long campaign to undermine reproductive health care and restrict abortion rights.

Uncovering the human cost of Russia’s war on Ukraine

Iryna’s body told her it was time to leave. “I started to have panic attacks,” she says. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, she remained in Kyiv for the first year of the war to support her family financially. But the terror of Russian bombs and air raid sirens pushed her to breaking point. “My mental health was struggling and my parents advised me to leave.”

During her journey to the UK, she was overwhelmed with feelings of fear and guilt. Her elderly parents were reliant on a small pension to survive and Iryna also left behind her friends and a successful career as an accountant. “Before the war, my life in Ukraine was really good, I had so many opportunities,” she says. She arrived at the doorstep of a host family in Petersfield, Hampshire, and knocked on the front door. It opened and her new life in England began.

Iryna’s story isn’t an isolated one. Europe is now home to six million refugees from Ukraine, who have fled their homes since Russia first annexed Crimea in 2014. Many may never return home. A survey by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a charity that helps people’s lives that have been shattered by conflict, revealed that 87% of respondents had to leave their homes at least once since 2014, with 20% experiencing displacement multiple times. Over 36% of people also reported having to forgo basic necessities due to financial difficulties; and, worst of all, 74% said they’d been separated from a close family member.

It’s a heartbreak Svitlana knows all too well. She was an English tutor in her hometown of Chernihiv, where she lived a happy life with her husband and their two children. That was until war broke out. Svitlana evacuated to a small village in western Ukraine, taking her children and 70-year-old mother with her. Eight months later, they moved to the UK to give their children the best chance of living a peaceful life.

Svitlana now lives with a host family in Preston. “It was one of the hardest decisions of my life,” she recalls. “We had to choose either to stay in the city which was shelled and bombed and hope that it would come to an end or to pack our essentials and take a risk of moving.” It’s a decision that she is now at peace with. “When we arrived at Preston, we gave a sigh of relief. Finally, we got to a place with no air raid alerts. It was great to fall asleep without fear for the lives of your kids.”

For Iryna and Svitlana, the help of the IRC has been vital as both have embarked on a new and difficult chapter in their lives. Shortly after arriving in Hampshire, Iryna took part in the IRC’s orientation for newcomers and leadership training. The programmes are designed to help refugees from various different countries to navigate local services in the UK such as healthcare and education, and to support them to find employment and gain the skills that will allow them to prosper in the UK.

Iryna’s mental health is gradually healing and the training provided by the IRC has helped to rebuild her confidence. She volunteers as an interpreter for the local council and various other organisations. She is also part of a Ukrainian female choir, where she helps to translate and works part-time for the New Theatre Royal as a duty manager. Iryna’s long-term goal is to become an English teacher. She is soon to finish her CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) course at Portsmouth City College.

Svitlana also enrolled on the same orientation course with the IRC. It was the perfect way to begin her assimilation to life in the UK and share her experiences with other Ukrainians. “I can’t express my grati Svitlana’s tude in words,” she says. “The sessions were online, but it gave me the chance to socialise with other Ukrainians and learn about healthcare, education, emergency cases, rights and opportunities in the UK.” It’s also helping her with her career. “It helped me to understand how to write a CV and cover letter and navigate interviews. Thanks to this guidance, I’ve gained employment and self-employment as well.”

Two years on from the start of full-scale war in Ukraine and the future looks brighter for Iryna and Svitlana. “Looking back I’ve come so far from my New Year’s wish last year, which was just to survive,” says Iryna. “Now I can desire weekends by the sea and find a full-time job to become fully independent and help my family.” Svitlana is also feeling positive: “We’ve been surprised by the hospitality of our sponsor and his family,” she says. “I knew that British people are polite, tolerant and supportive, but I couldn’t imagine to what degree.”

Follow the link to donate to the International Rescue Committee and find out more about the crucial work they’re doing in Ukraine

With the right tools, Ukraine can still finish this job

After two years of merciless destruction that has left cities flattened, millions dead, wounded or displaced, plus an unknown number of children kidnapped and war crimes committed, it takes an effort to recall just how almost casually it started.

A column of unprotected Russian tanks trundled south from the border on the comparatively short, 236-mile journey to the Ukrainian capital, as if they were driving to the shops. Long before they reached Kyiv, they had been stopped and, shortly after, they retreated.

Whatever gains Russia made in the east were purely temporary, and most have been won back by the Ukrainians, particularly in the earlier phases of the war. The Russian invaders were not, as perhaps some in the Kremlin dreamt they might, welcomed with flowers and the traditional gifts of bread and salt as they “liberated” Ukraine from its supposed Nazi masters.

Will Shamima Begum ever be allowed to return to the UK?

Shamima Begum, the “Isis bride”, now 24 years of age, has lost her attempt at the Court of Appeal to overturn the government’s decision to strip her of British citizenship. Begum travelled with friends to Syria at the age of 15 without the knowledge of her parents, school or police, married an Isis fighter (a Dutch national), and became involved herself in supporting Isis as a law enforcer. She claims to have been trafficked and that she is the victim of abuse.

In February 2019, soon after Isis retreated from its “capital” in Syria, she was found in a refugee camp, and her UK citizenship was revoked shortly after. Since then she has conducted a legal and media campaign to have it restored and to return to Britain, where she was born. She has had three children, all now deceased. Thus far she’s enjoyed little success, or indeed sympathy.

Her solicitor Gareth Peirce states: “Shamima Begum is held unlawfully in indefinite arbitrary detention, which is banned by every international treaty. She and others, other women and children, are in what is not a refugee camp but a prison camp, and that is conceded by the United Kingdom, which has stated to the UN that it agrees that Geneva Convention articles apply. Unlawful as that is, there is no exit. There is no way that she can escape from unlawful imprisonment.”