Pop star Rina Sawayama welcomes Brit Awards and Mercury Prize rule changes
Non-British artists who live in the UK will now be eligible for two of the country’s biggest music awards, it has been announced.
The British Phonographic Industry (BPI), which organises the Mercury Prize and the Brit Awards, revealed its new rules following last year’s controversy over the Japan-born singer Rina Sawayama.
She has lived in the UK for 26 years but was told she could not compete for the country’s most prestigious music awards because she was not a British passport holder.
The BPI’s new rules state that to be eligible artists must meet one of three criteria – being born in the UK, holding a British passport or having been a permanent resident for more than five years.
Sawayama, 30, said she was “over the moon” at the news.
She said: “I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for sharing the #SAWAYAMAISBRITISH campaign worldwide and igniting this important conversation about Britishness.”
The singer, whose debut album – titled Sawayama – was a critical success last year, added: “Without your collective voice this wouldn’t have happened. In my 26th year of living in the UK I’m so proud that I can help make this systemic change for future generations, so that in years to come we can see a more diverse definition of British musical excellence.
“The idea that my music can be part of that is unbelievably exciting.”
Sawayama holds indefinite leave to remain status, which grants her the right to live and work in the UK.
Japan does not allow dual nationality and Sawayama previously said while she had considered the move, she was reluctant to cut ties with the country of her birth.
Speaking to Vice about the eligibility rules last year, she said: “I fundamentally don’t agree with this definition of Britishness. I think I’m really British, and I don’t like just sorting out a symptom of something and leaving the cause to someone else to deal with.”