INDEPENDENT 2024-05-15 10:04:19


Harry and Meghan issue defiant statement following Nigeria trip

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have praised their “unforgettable” tour of Nigeria amid a furore surrounding their charity’s paperwork.

The couple visited the country for three days to mark the 10th anniversary of the Duke of Sussex’s Invictus Games.

Taking to their website, the couple described the unofficial visit as “unforgettable” and said it will be the “first of many memorable trips”.

The statement came after news of the state of California had declared the couple’s charity “delinquent”.

The Archewell Foundation was given the status after “failing to submit [the] required annual report(s) and/or renewal fees”.

However, on Tuesday evening it emerged that the fees and paperwork had been submitted properly – last year – and so the charity is no longer listed as delinquent.

A spokesperson for the Archewell Foundation said: “We have diligently investigated the situation and can confirm that the Archewell Foundation remains fully compliant and in good standing.”

The news comes after a striking new portrait of King Charles was unveiled, the first commissioned since the coronation.

King Charles hid poignant symbol in new portrait

King Charles requested a subtle, poignant detail to be added to his new portrait when asked to think of a message for future generations.

The new portrait, by British artist Jonathan Yeo, features the King in the uniform of the Welsh Guards against a red backdrop with a single butterfly appearing to land on his shoulder.

This detail was the King’s idea, which he thought of when asked to think of a “clue” to sum up his reign for schoolchildren in the future.

Yeo recalled: “I said: ‘When schoolchildren are looking at this in 200 years and they’re looking at the who’s who of the monarchs, what clues can you give them?’

“He said: ‘What about a butterfly landing on my shoulder?’”

During a conversation with the King, Yeo said they discussed how it would be “nice to have a narrative element which referenced his passion for nature and environment” and he spoke of how Charles “changed jobs halfway through the process” and the butterfly is a “symbol of metamorphosis” so it “tells multiple stories”.

Unveiled on Tuesday afternoon at Buckingham Palace, the red backdrop in the portrait can be seen to reflect Charles’s position within the Welsh Guards, of which he was made Regimental Colonel in 1975.

Explaining why he chose the abstract design, Yeo said he felt like this portrait should have more of a “dynamic and contemporary feel” and this sense of transformation is arguably reflected by the butterfly as well.

The Queen said she “hopes it is going to be seen by lots of people” after the unveiling.

After the unveiling, Yeo said he often says the secret to a good portrait is “having an interesting subject to start with, and you couldn’t ask for a better one than this”, before quickly adding “other than Your Majesty” referring to Camilla who he has previously painted.

He said the King “couldn’t be more lively” and was “very easy company” during their sittings, adding: “He kind of makes you laugh and asks lots of questions, and he’s interested in art as well so there’s always lots to talk about.”

Asked if the King’s accession to the throne had altered his approach, Yeo said “maybe very slightly”, adding “I’d sort of started it but not got very far when he changed jobs, and you can sense his, you know, his face doesn’t change particularly, but I have seen it in politicians, in other sittings before, when people are in office, they do sort of move differently.

“And so I think I was conscious of that. And then when I saw him again, you had this sense of, I don’t know how to explain it, but he seemed very comfortable with himself. And so it’s a sort of subtle thing, but yes, it’s definitely there.”

Yeo said it is “always the person who knows the subject best who gives you the instant visual feedback” and when he could tell Camilla “liked it, or at least recognised it, I knew I was kind of nearly there with it”.

The portrait itself was commissioned in 2020 to celebrate the then Prince of Wales’s 50 years as a member of The Drapers’ Company.

The canvas size – approximately eight-and-a-half by six-and-a-half feet when framed – was carefully considered to fit within the architecture of Drapers’ Hall and the context of the paintings it will eventually hang alongside.

Yeo had four sittings with the King, beginning when Charles was Prince of Wales in June 2021 at Highgrove, and later at Clarence House. The last sitting took place in November 2023 at Clarence House.

Yeo also worked from drawings and photographs he took of the King, allowing him to work on the portrait in his London studio between sittings.

Yeo said: “It was a privilege and pleasure to have been commissioned by The Drapers’ Company to paint this portrait of His Majesty The King, the first to be unveiled since his coronation.

“When I started this project, His Majesty The King was still His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, and much like the butterfly I’ve painted hovering over his shoulder, this portrait has evolved as the subject’s role in our public life has transformed.

“I do my best to capture the life experiences etched into any individual sitter’s face. In this case, my aim was also to make reference to the traditions of royal portraiture but in a way that reflects a 21st-century monarchy and, above all else, to communicate the subject’s deep humanity.

“I’m unimaginably grateful for the opportunity to capture such an extraordinary and unique person, especially at the historic moment of becoming King.”

Yeo has also previously produced commissions of Prince Philip, the late Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Camilla, Sir Tony Blair and Lord David Cameron.

At Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, the King and Queen were met by The Master of The Drapers’ Company Tom Harris and Past Master William Charnley.

Guests included other members of The Drapers’ Company, students and staff from the Drapers’ Academy, Welsh Guards and Yeo’s family.

The Drapers’ Company dates back more than 600 years, when a group of merchants came together to promote their trade in woollen cloth in London. As their guild and fellowship grew, they made philanthropy part of the plan.

In 2024, The Drapers’ Company has evolved from a trade association into a grant-giving body.

The portrait will go on public display for a month at the Philip Mould Gallery in London, from May 16 until June 14. Entry is free.

The artwork is expected to be displayed at Drapers’ Hall from the end of August.

Philip Mould said it is the “most progressive formal royal portrait” created for a “very long time”.

He added: “As it’s such an important image, it’s quite exciting that the public has the opportunity to get close.”

Mr Mould said monarchy is about “continuity, a touch of divinity” and modern art is “edgy” and added that it is “difficult to pull off both” but that Yeo has done it.

‘Millions of litres’ of raw sewage pumped into Lake Windermere

Millions of litres of untreated sewage were illegally discharged into one of Britain’s most scenic lakes, Windermere, according to a report that only adds to concerns about levels of pollution in England’s natural waterbodies.

Raw sewage was pumped into the lake for nearly 10 hours in February after a telecommunication failure at a pumping station operated by United Utilities, a major water and wastewater services provider in the North West.

The discharge happened at the company’s pumping station at Bowness-on-Windermere in Cumbria on the night of 28 February and intermittently the following day.

The emergency pumps discharged more than 10 million litres of raw sewage into the lake after the main pumps abruptly stopped due to a telecom fault, insiders at the firm told BBC News, whose report also internal cited documents from the company.

Windermere, a Unesco World Heritage site, is one of the country’s most popular natural attractions.

The incident was not reported to the Environment Agency until around 13 hours later. Failure to promptly notify the agency about such an incident constitutes a criminal offence.

United Utilities said in a statement to The Independent that it took “urgent steps to resolve the issue” and said it informed the Environment Agency within an hour after pollution of the lake was confirmed.

“This incident was caused by an unexpected fault on the third-party telecoms cable network in the area, which United Utilities was not notified about and which affected both the primary system and United Utilities’ backup,” the company said.

“As soon as we discovered this fault was affecting the Glebe Road pumping station, our engineers took urgent steps to resolve the situation and we informed the Environment Agency within an hour of the pollution being confirmed.”

The company told the BBC that the scale of the discharge was not recorded and described the broadcaster’s estimate as “unreliable”.

A similar incident occurred at the pumping station in 2022.

The latest incident comes amid warnings from environmental agencies that swimming and other activities in and around some of the country’s rivers and lakes could be hazardous due to high levels of sewage pollution.

More than 440,000 hours of sewage was released along England’s coastline in 2023, campaign group Friends of the Earth said on Wednesday after analysing Environment Agency data.

It found there were 68,481 incidents of sewage released into England’s seas last year, totalling 440,446 hours.

In a statement to The Independent, the Environment Agency said an officer “attended the scene to confirm with UU [United Utilities] that the discharge had ceased and to carry out water sampling in areas affected”.

“We are undertaking a thorough investigation into the incident which involves examining further evidence from United Utilities,” it added.

“If we determine a permit breach has taken place, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action. If any water company is found to be in breach of an environmental permit, the Environment Agency will take the appropriate enforcement action up to and including a criminal prosecution.”

Taylor Swift’s UK Eras tour ‘could generate close to £1bn’ for economy

The hugely anticipated UK leg of Taylor Swift’s record-breaking Eras tour could generate close to a £1bn boost for the economy, it has been predicted.

The economic effect of the pop titan’s globe-trotting series of shows, dubbed “Swiftonomics”, has been widely documented, with her “Midas touch” impacting everything from hospitality to the NFL during her North American run.

In what analysts have dubbed the first billion-dollar tour, Swift sold approximately 4.3 million tickets with an average price of $238 (£190) and a further $1,300 in ancillary local spending on travel, hotels, food and shopping.

Live music business publication Pollstar reported last year that each show grossed around $17m (£13.5m), with $200m on top for merchandise.

Meanwhile, a report by the Economic Impact Research Laboratory said that Swift’s four Tokyo shows in February this year, where she played to 220,000 fans, added ¥34.1bn (£183m) to the Japanese economy.

Swifties are now preparing to flock to cities around the UK and Ireland from June, when she will perform career-spanning sets incorporating songs from albums such as Speak Now, Fearless, Folklore, and her latest record, The Tortured Poets Society.

Data released by Barclays predicts that these shows will provide a £997m uplift for the UK, with spending by Swift ticket-holders more than 12 times higher than the average cost of a UK night out (£67).

After splashing out on tickets (around £206 but exceeding £400 for those who purchased VIP ticket packages) fans are estimated to spend an average of £121 on accommodation, £111 on travel and £56 on new outfits for the event, plus £56 on a pre-concert meal and £79 on official merchandise.

Dr Peter Brooks, Chief Behavioural Scientist at Barclays, said in a statement: “Whoever came up with the phrase ‘money can’t buy happiness’ clearly wasn’t a Swiftie. There’s growing evidence that spending on experiences boosts happiness and well-being more so than purchasing physical items, especially if that experience is shared with friends and loved ones.

“When it comes to cultural icons like Taylor Swift – like we saw with Elvis and Beatlemania in the Fifties and Sixties – supporters have such a strong connection to the artist and to the rest of the fandom that the desire to spend becomes even more powerful.”

He added: “For non-fans, £848 may seem like an enormous amount to splash out on a concert – but for Eras Tour ticketholders, every pound they spend is an investment in the memories they’ll create.”

Culture secretary Lucy Frazer told The Independent: “From stadium tours to open mic nights, we know all too well that live music is an essential part of British culture. Swiftie Mania has enchanted a legion of fearless fans across the country who are in for a spectacular show with Taylor’s 15 UK dates this summer.

“They are not only set to generate nearly a billion pounds for the economy but will boost our brilliant tourism sector as we welcome gig-goers from around the world.”

Other experts have offered more moderate takes around the economic impact of Swift’s tour. Si Ying Toh, global economist at financial services group Nomura, suggested that the “total macroeconomic effect” of the Eras tour was “probably overstated”.

Regardless, local businesses are already experiencing the effects of Swiftonomics. The Black Dog in Vauxhall, south London, received a huge surge in footfall from Swifties eager to drink a pint in one of the locations named on her latest album, The Tortured Poets Department.

“We’ve had to turn people away as we’re at max capacity, so that shows the levels that we’re talking about,” the restaurant’s marketing director, Amy Crowley, told People last month.

“What’s been great though is that the fans have been amazing. We’ve had them shifting up to share tables with strangers to let people get in the door which is really cool.”

Management have also been capitalising on the explosion in interest by creating Swift-themed menu items, including the Swift Half, along with T-shirts and pint glasses.

Such is the economic sway of the Eras tour that it managed to spark a diplomatic row in March, after Singapore guaranteed a six-night residency at the expense of its neighbours in Thailand and the Philippines.

Swift signed an exclusivity clause negotiated by Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong that was branded “unfriendly” by critics, as it prevented her from performing anywhere else in southeast Asia.

Speaking from the Australian city of Melbourne, where he is attending an Asean leaders’ summit, Lee confirmed that Swift was provided with “certain incentives” from a government fund established to rebuild Singapore’s tourist industry after the Covid pandemic.

While he declined to say how much the deal was worth, Lee said he didn’t regard it as unfriendly towards his neighbours.

“It has turned out to be a very successful arrangement. I don’t see that as being unfriendly,” he said. “Sometimes one country makes a deal, sometimes another country does. I don’t explicitly say ‘you will come here only on condition that you’ll not go to other places.’”

The UK leg of Swift’s Eras tour begins in the UK on 7 June at the Scottish Gas Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, where she will play three consecutive nights before travelling to Liverpool, Cardiff and London.

New airport announced as European country celebrates record tourism

Portugal will build a new international airport as the country celebrates a tourism boom.

The airport will be built in the municipality of Alcochete, across the River Tagus from Lisbon, Prime Minister Luis Montenegro announced on Tuesday after decades of back-and-forth over the location.

The new airport will be built at the site of a military airfield in Alcochete, about 40 km (25 miles) east of Lisbon, and should the ready by 2034. This location has been favoured by an independent technical commission, which had studied several possible sites.

Infrastructure Minister Miguel Pinto Luz said the project would cost up to 9 billion euros ($9.74 billion), adding it would be built using EU funds, public-private partnerships and airport tariffs and not through the state budget.

The new airport will replace Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado airport, just near the city centre, but the current airport will be expanded while the new airport is being built.

The government has also said it would build the long-delayed high-speed train connection between Lisbon and the Spanish capital of Madrid by 2034.

Portugal is going through a tourism boom, which attracted record numbers of visitors. Foreigners staying in Portuguese hotels also made the first quarter of 2024 the best on record.

“The government sees having one single airport as a solution more suited to the country’s strategic interests,” Montenegro told a news conference.

The government said it would initiate talks with airport operator ANA, owned by French construction firm Vinci. ANA already has a concession for a new airport in the Lisbon region.

To make it faster for passengers to get to Lisbon city centre from the Alcochete airport, the government said it would build a third bridge crossing the Tagus river. Pinto Luz said it was still not decided if the bridge would be just for trains or also for vehicles.

The announcement by the new centre-right minority government, which won a general election just two months ago, comes after several studies and decades of indecision.

The tourism industry has grown increasingly frustrated in the past few years as Lisbon’s main airport is operating at full capacity.

“I just hope this is a definitive decision and it won’t be called into question by other governments, something we have unfortunately seen in recent years,” said Francisco Calheiros, head of the Portuguese Tourism Confederation.

Off the beaten track in Costa Dorada

Blessed with swathes of golden sandy beaches between sea and mountains, Costa Dorada has an abundance of landscape to explore.

Jet2holidays makes it even easier to land your perfect active trip to Costa Dorada. Flying from 10 UK airports in 2024 and 11 in 2025, they provide package holidays you can trust and look after you every step of the way, with hotel, flights, free return transfers, 22kg baggage and 10kg hand luggage included – giving plenty of space to pack in the hiking boots and water shoes.

Here, we round up some of the best ways to immerse yourself in the region’s grand nature.

With roads being smooth and often car-free, Costa Dorada is an ideal destination for biking. There’s the Serra del Montsant mountain range for pushing those uphill challenges or coastal paths for smooth-sailing along the rugged cliff edges and golden sand beaches. The route from Falset can take in the lush wineries and rolling vineyards the area is known for. Start from this mountainous village and follow the road to the village of Margalef near the mountain edge before heading back to Falset. Or to take in the sea and mountains, start in the coastal resort of Salou before winding up the steep hairpin bends of La Mussara mountain. Make your way back to the sea at the coastal resort of Cambrils – known as the gastronomic hub of this region – for some well-deserved tapas.

There’s an abundance of coastal paths that navigate around the more secluded parts of the shores here. Camino de Ronda in Salou stretches for 6.5 km, curving in a U-shape along rocky coast and over golden sand beaches. The route can be stretched out to around 9km to cover the coastal path of Salou by starting in Vila-seca, La Pineda. The route runs between sea and mountains, with 23 viewpoints dotted along the way. It passes by plenty of places to stop for a spot of lunch with views over the Mediterranean Sea, too. If you want active pit stops along your walk, there are places along the route that offer up water sports.

Take a day trip out to the coastal city of Tarragona to explore its Roman ruins. The city was once a popular destination for Roman emperors, with the Amphitheatre dating back almost 2,000 years. There are other ruins along the coast to explore, with Roman, Spanish, Arabic and Moorish history weaved into the architecture. While in the port city, check out the Roman tombs and walled Medieval Old Town, before strolling along the harbour with its small fishing boats and pastel-hued houses.

Costa Dorada has an impressive total of 26 Blue Flag beaches, recognised for their calm, safe waters, cleanliness and environmental management. They’re particularly family-friendly, with resorts Salou, Cambrils and La Pineda being ‘Certified Family Destinations’ with dedicated facilities for families during the summer. Yet there are still many beaches that remain quiet and more secluded. Playa de la Pineda Platja is the main beach in the coastal resort of Vila-seca, La Pineda, yet remains fairly quiet. It also benefits from being close to Aquopolis Water Park with its giant slides and pools. While not being Blue Flag-accredited, Playa Llarga in Salou is outside of the city centre (but close enough to attractions like PortAventura amusement park), surrounded by a small pine forest that immerses you in nature.

The towering peaks of Montserrat National Park are one of the greatest symbols of Catalonia. The mountainous landscape is peppered with grottos and caves, while birds of prey soar above in the sky. While offering untouched nature, it overlooks one of the best wine regions in the area, with vineyards and wine cellars to visit. Head here for a full day hike or visit one of the four mountain villages in the area for a gentle walk. Elsewhere closer to ground level, Parc Sama Botanical Gardens in the coastal resort of Cambrils has an abundance of forest and foliage, with 1,500 species of flora and fauna. There’s also a lake with a canal and waterfall to stroll around.

It’s time we gave Ukraine the tools it needs to finish the job

The presence in Kyiv of the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, at what is becoming a critical juncture in Ukraine’s war of survival against Russia, is, of course, extremely welcome.

Were they being undiplomatically honest, however, the Ukrainians would admit that they would far rather have received a bumper consignment of Patriot missile defence systems, F-16 fighters and Abrams armoured vehicles than the distinguished statesman. That way, they might have a better chance of preventing the Russians from destroying their second city, Kharkiv. Such a denouement is unlikely – but the possibility of it cannot be dismissed.

Like Mr Blinken, Joe Biden has obviously been preoccupied with the Middle East in recent months – and, while a superpower has more than sufficient political and diplomatic “bandwidth” to cope with multiple crises, the decision to send America’s most senior diplomat to Ukraine is an important visible signal that the West is not entirely distracted by the war in Gaza.

Can Labour’s new deal for workers satisfy the unions and business?

For a movement literally founded to promote the interests of working people, the Labour Party has found itself troubled by the question of workers’ rights and the power of trade unions to a remarkable degree. Today, as they will doubtless continue to do over the coming months in the run-up to the general election, the party’s leaders in parliament are negotiating with the Labour Trade Union Organisation (LTUO) in an effort to decide what Labour’s next manifesto should say about employment and industrial relations law.

The LTUO is the umbrella body that represents the 11 trade unions that are affiliated with the party and fund much of its activities. It is led by Mick Whelan, the general secretary of the train drivers’ union, Aslef.