Rina Sawayama Got The BRIT Awards And Mercury Prize To Expand Eligibility Rules
Last summer, the rising nu-metal-adjacent pop star Rina Sawayama raised concerns about rules that excluded her from the BRIT Awards and Mercury Prize, Great Britain’s two most prominent musical honors. Sawayama was born in Japan but has lived in London since age five, yet because she is not a British citizen and instead has indefinite leave to remain (ILR) visa status, her fantastic debut album SAWAYAMA was not eligible for the Mercury Prize, and none of her music could be considered for BRIT Awards. “All I remember is living here,” Sawayama told Vice at the time. “I’ve just lived here all my life. I went to summer school in Japan, and that’s literally it. But I feel like I’ve contributed to the UK in a way that I think is worthy of being celebrated, or at least being eligible to be celebrated.”
Now, largely due to the efforts of Sawayama and her fans, the British Phonographic Industry is changing its rules. The BRITs and the Mercury Prize will now consider music from artists who have lived in the UK for at least five years. Sawayama announced the change in an Instagram post captioned “REDEFINING BRITISHNESS !!!!!! shoutout @bpi_music !!!!!” Her message reads as follows:
I’m over the moon to share the news that following a number of conversations the BPI has decided to change the rules of eligibility for all nominees for the BRIT awards and Mercury Prize. Starting this year, artists (like me) will be eligible for nomination even without British citizenship. The rules have broadened to include those who have been a resident of the UK for 5 years.
I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for sharing the #SAWAYAMAISBRITISH campaign worldwide and igniting this important conversation about Britishness.
This has some cool implications with regard to the way Britons understand their cultural makeup, particularly in the wake of a Brexit decision that was driven in part by anti-immigrant sentiment. See Sawayama’s post below.