Artist News Awards Business News

Mercury Prize eligibility rule changes being considered, says Rina Sawayama

By | Published on Monday 3 August 2020

Rina Sawayama

Rina Sawayama has said that Mercury Prize organiser the BPI has told her that it is looking into updating the awards’ eligibility rules. This follows uproar last week after it was revealed that she could not enter the prize for best British or Irish album of the year – despite her living here for 25 years – because she does not hold a UK passport.

Now the musician has told BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat that the BPI has been in touch with her to say that it is looking to make changes, though it has not made any public statement to that effect as of yet.

“I’m really, really happy,” she says. “I just want all the little Rinas around the world who immigrate to the UK as children, for whatever reason, to feel as though they can achieve greatness through just hard work and also be awarded for it”.

Sawayama moved to the UK from Japan as a young child and holds ‘indefinite leave to remain’ status here. Although she would be eligible to hold dual citizenship status under UK rules, Japan’s government does not allow this. She could give up her Japanese citizenship to gain a British passport, but there are various issues with that – not least that it seems like a bit of a drastic move in order to become eligible for a music award.

“I’ve literally lived here for 25 years, all I know is living in London”, she says. “This record is in English. I released it through a UK label. My team is UK-based and I don’t just want my work to be considered, I also want the so-many people who worked on this record to be considered”.

“It’s not that I was annoyed I didn’t get nominated”, she adds. “I could just take that on the chin and just move on. But this is that I wouldn’t even be eligible. It was really heartbreaking. Immigrants contribute a lot to UK music and culture and in a measurable way. So we just need to make sure that the award ceremonies reflect the diversity and the modern idea of Britishness that encompasses all different types of visas and situations”.

Asked for comment about Sawayama’s new interview with the BBC, the BPI emphasised its previous statement that “both the BRIT Awards [also BPI organised] and the Hyundai Mercury Prize aim to be as inclusive as possible within their parameters, and their processes and eligibility criteria are constantly reviewed”.