Non-British citizens now eligible for Brit awards and Mercury prize

Artists who have been permanently resident in the UK for five years will qualify for British categories

The Brit awards and the Mercury prize, the two biggest awards ceremonies in British music, have changed their eligibility criteria to allow non-British citizens who live in the UK to be nominated.

To be eligible for British artist categories at the Brit awards artists must meet a minimum of one of the following criteria:

  • they were born in the UK

  • they are a UK passport holder (this includes those that hold more than one passport)

  • they have been permanently resident in the UK for more than five years

A representative for the BPI, organisers of the Mercury prize, said it would adopt the same criteria.

The changes come in the wake of controversy surrounding the 2020 Mercury prize, for which the Japanese-British artist Rina Sawayama was deemed ineligible. Sawayama has lived in the UK for more than 25 years and has indefinite leave to remain but was ineligible because she didn’t hold a British passport or dual citizenship. The rule was also criticised by the ineligible musician Sarathy Korwar, who has lived in the UK for 10 years.

As the changes were announced, Sawayama said she was “over the moon … I’m so proud 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.”

She had described her ineligibility at the time as “very upsetting … you get to a level when you don’t have to worry about your nationality and your status and whether you fit into this country. Things like that bring into sharp focus, like, whether I am even British.”

This year’s Brit awards ceremony is scheduled for 11 May, having been postponed from its usual February date due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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