LONDON – British singer Dua Lipa called for a “fair” pay raise for U.K. health workers as she was named a double winner at the Brit Awards in London on Tuesday night.
An audience of 4,000 witnessed the glitz of Britain’s leading music prize ceremony at the O2 Arena as part of a test return to mass attendance events in the age of the coronavirus.
Among them were 2,500 key health workers and their guests who had received tickets in recognition of their efforts during the pandemic.
Lipa, who took home the British female solo artist and album of the year titles, highlighted the words of nurse and academic Elizabeth Anionwu to say there was a “massive disparity between gratitude and respect” for those on the health front line.
“I think what we should do is we should all give a massive, massive round of applause and give (British Prime Minister) Boris (Johnson) a message that we all support a fair pay rise for our front line,” she said.
In her acceptance speeches, the “Levitating” singer also paid tribute to Anionwu, who has campaigned against racial injustice for decades, as well as Folajimi Olubunmi-Adewole and Joaquin Garcia, who jumped into the River Thames near London Bridge to try to save a woman last month.
Olubunmi-Adewole, 20, did not survive the rescue attempt.
Taylor Swift said it was an “incredible honor” to receive the global icon title, which has previously been awarded to superstars such as Elton John and David Bowie.
“I’m really proud to be part of this musical community especially in a year where we needed music so much,” Swift said. “And what we needed even more was the help and support of the NHS and the key workers that are here for us tonight.”
Little Mix became the first all-female band to win best British group, and called attention to “sexism and a lack of diversity” within the music industry.
Harry Styles took best British single for his song “Watermelon Sugar,” while J Hus received best British male solo artist.
Female singer-songwriters Arlo Parks and Griff took home the British breakthrough artist and rising star awards respectively.
Former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama sent a video message as she presented The Weeknd with the international male solo artist prize.
Billie Eilish was named international female solo artist winner, while Haim were dubbed best international group.
Live performers at the ceremony, which was hosted by comedian Jack Whitehall, included Lipa, Coldplay and a collaboration between Rag’n’Bone Man, P!nk and National Health Service choirs.
It was the largest audience for a live music event in the U.K. since March 2020, when pandemic restrictions were first introduced.
The event is part of the government’s Events Research Program, which has recently seen crowds return to soccer matches, an outdoor concert and a nightclub.
Attendees were not socially distanced or wearing face masks, but had to provide a negative coronavirus test ahead of the show.
“It’s the first event we’ve been to since the pandemic, there’s a great buzz,” said police nurse Brian George, who brought his 18-year-old daughter to the ceremony.
“I’m hoping that with a few more events like this it’ll be like, by the autumn, let’s open up everything again,” he said. “That would be fantastic.”
Those who attended also will be tested and monitored after the event as part of the research.
Britain has recorded more than 127,500 coronavirus deaths, but deaths have dropped to single digits after a lockdown at the start of 2021 and the rapid vaccination rollout.
Lockdown is slowly being lifted and measures are set to be further eased in England on Monday with the reopening of indoor hospitality venues and outdoor gatherings of up to 30 people. Social distancing guidance will remain in place.
All restrictions have been set out to be lifted by June 21 under the government’s current roadmap, with gigs and music festivals due to return for the first time since early 2020.