In Depth

Brit Awards turns 40: the most memorable moments

From Madonna’s fall to Geri Halliwell’s dress, the Brits have always been spicy

The 40th Brit Awards ceremony is live on ITV this evening, with organisers promising more music and fewer speeches.

Lewis Capaldi and Dave are leading the nominations for this year’s ceremony, in which the number of awards have been cut to make time for more performances.

Comedian Jack Whitehall will host the event, which was first held in 1977 but didn’t become an annual event until 1982.

Plenty of music’s most memorable moments have happened at the Brit Awards - here are some of the nights to remember.

Geri’s Union Jack dress

The Spice Girls’ 1997 Brit Awards performance has gone down in history for the famous Union Jack dress worn by Ginger Spice Geri Halliwell.

The band’s stylist Emma Poole told The Telegraph: “Two nights before, Geri said, ‘You know what, Emma, I’m really not comfortable with the dress I’m wearing, I’ve got a much better idea.

“I’m going around to my sister’s, she’s got these Union Jack tea-towels, I’m going to make a dress.’”

Halliwell appeared on the cover of every newspaper the following morning, and the dress went down in history. Harper’s Bazaar called the outfit one of the top ten most impactful dresses of all time.

Most people have forgotten that the Union Jack covered only the front of Halliwell’s dress – the back was black, with a large CND logo daubed on it.

Madonna’s trip

Madonna’s performance of her new single, Living For Love, was supposed to be a spectacular end to the 2015 Brit Awards.

And it was spectacular, though for the wrong reasons. The singer’s cape was meant to be swept away, but did not detach as it had in rehearsals. The result was Madonna being swept off her feet and down a flight of stairs, landing with an almighty thud.

“I had a little bit of whiplash, I smacked the back of my head,” she later told The Jonathan Ross Show. “And I had a man standing over me with a flashlight until about 3am to make sure I was compos mentis.”

Stormzy on Grenfell

Stormzy closed the 2018 Brits ceremony with a powerful performance evoking the June 2017 Grenfell Tower fire that killed 72 people.

In a furious rap, he demanded: “Theresa May, where’s the money for Grenfell?”

He went on to accuse the government of hoping the public would forget about the disaster, adding: “You’re criminals, and you got the cheek to call us savages. You should do some jail time, you should pay some damages. We should burn your house down and see if you can manage this.”

The government responded by saying it had pledged £58.9m for Grenfell, of which £30m had been spent, says the BBC.

Prescott ice bucket challenge

The then deputy prime minister John Prescott was watching Fleetwood Mac at the 1998 Brits when Danbert Nobacon, from anarchist pop band Chumbawamba, leapt on to his table.

Nobacon then emptied a bucket of iced water over Prescott and his wife, in protest over New Labour’s inaction over a strike in Merseyside, The Mirror reports.

“That’s for the Liverpool dockers!” he shouted.

Chumbawamba had opened the ceremony with a performance, changing a section of the lyrics to their hit single Tubthumping to: “New Labour sold out the dockers just like they sold out the rest of us”.

Prescott called the incident an “utterly contemptible” and “cowardly” publicity stunt, but declined to make a formal complaint.

Fourteen years later, Prescott mocked Chumbawamba on Twitter following the band’s split.

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––For a round-up of the most important stories from around the world - and a concise, refreshing and balanced take on the week’s news agenda - try The Week magazine. Start your trial subscription today –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Michael Jackson, son of God

In 1996, Michael Jackson performed Earth Song, portraying himself as Jesus Christ and surrounding himself with pleading children.

Jarvis Cocker apparently found the whole thing a bit over the top. When Jackson stepped on to a crane to soar above the audience, the Pulp frontman jumped on stage, turned his back on the audience and shook his bum.

He was shoved off stage by security guards, who later alleged that he knocked over three children who were on stage with Jackson. Comedian Bob Mortimer, a former solicitor, offered to represent him.

Cocker said in an interview: “I was just sitting there and watching it and feeling a bit ill, because he’s there doing his Jesus act.

“I just thought: ‘The stage is there, I’m here and you can actually just do something about it and say this is a load of rubbish if you wanted’.”

Musician Brian Eno said the protest was completely justified: “I think he did it because the show was so awful. The whole sentiment of the show was so self-inflating.”


Recipe of the week: Butterscotch apple crumble
Butterscotch apple crumble recipe taken from Poppy Cooks: The Food You Need by Poppy O’Toole
On the menu

Recipe of the week: Butterscotch apple crumble

11 British craft beers you must try
Korev Cornish Lager by St Austell Brewery
In Review

11 British craft beers you must try

Tried and tasted: best wines to drink in 2021
Expert’s view

Tried and tasted: best wines to drink in 2021

Best properties: stylish flats
Flats for sale
The wish list

Best properties: stylish flats

Popular articles

Doctor says we should not sleep naked because of flatulent spraying
The feet of a person sleeping in a bed
Tall Tales

Doctor says we should not sleep naked because of flatulent spraying

World’s most extreme weather events in 2021
Wildfire in Greece
In pictures

World’s most extreme weather events in 2021

The man tasked with putting a price on 9/11’s lost lives
Kenneth Feinberg at a Congressional hearing

The man tasked with putting a price on 9/11’s lost lives

The Week Footer Banner