Pop diva Paloma Faith is using her platform for progress, promoting charity and change as she performs her new album, The Architect, at the Edinburgh Summer Sessions
Paloma Faith is remembering the first time she saw activism in action. She was on a childhood trip to Paris, where she was bewitched by a silent street protest.
“I was ten and I couldn’t understand why all these people were laying in the street and blocking the traffic, and my mum said ‘they’re protesting’. That’s all they did and they’d made an impact. It was beautiful.”
Paloma Faith is big on beauty. In fact, her debut album, released nine years ago, was titled Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?, full of songs about the romance of illusion. These days, as one of the UK’s most successful and recognisable pop stars, she prefers to confront truth with beauty, using her celebrity to promote causes close to her heart, from child refugee charity War Child to women’s rights organisation Womankind.“I was ten and I couldn’t understand why all these people were laying in the street and blocking the traffic, and my mum said ‘they’re protesting’. That’s all they did and they’d made an impact. It was beautiful.”Click To Tweet
For all her star quality, Paloma Faith remains a refreshing, relatable character. In recent weeks, she has been paying online tribute to those activists who have gone before, hailing the likes of Annie Lennox and Erykah Badu as #PalomasInspirations. “I’m so happy because Annie Lennox commented on hers – I love her!” she gushes.
In person, Faith is chatty and a bit batty, but with a quirky, unapologetic presence which has made her something of a beacon for the outsider. That’s hardly unusual –
pop music in all its flamboyance, from David Bowie to Lady Gaga, has long been a refuge for the weirdo. What was arguably much weirder was her decision to take left-wing political commentator Owen Jones on tour with her as her opening act in 2015.
“It went as expected,” says Faith of Jones’s warm-up pep talk. “People found it challenging, some found it annoying. But it made a statement by default and what was being said was not controversial, it was actually really kind; it was about responsibility to vote and it was about hope. I’m glad I did it and I won’t back down – I think he’s amazing!”
On a day-to-day basis you can live more charitably as a personClick To Tweet
Jones also appears as a guest on Faith’s current album, The Architect, on a track entitled ‘Politics of Hope’, which gives some indication of how she intends to use her burgeoning fame. Over the past decade, she has evolved into our most colourful home-grown pop diva, complete with a big voice, out-there outfits and a naturally eccentric stage presence.
With a number of chart-topping hits around the world and a Brit Award for Best Female Artist under her belt, Faith was keenly aware that more eyes and ears than ever were trained on her and has responded with a resolutely non-preachy album of commercial pop songs inspired by issues including Brexit, climate change and the refugee crisis. “I was three albums in and I thought it was time to use my platform,” she says.
But there was also a far more personal imperative behind making the most of her privileged position. Faith became a mum in 2016 and has been disarmingly candid about how motherhood has changed her life, challenged her career and impacted on her worldview. She has been deliberately less forthcoming on her child’s name and gender, wanting to preserve their privacy and raise them in a gender-neutral environment. But her child was front and centre in her mind when she was making The Architect.
“I was scared because I was bringing a new person into the world and I knew when they got older they might say to me, ‘what did you do when you were pregnant with me?’ So I wanted to put a message in [the album] about the human qualities that I think are the most valuable – compassion, kindness and empathy. I feel the way the world is at the moment, there is a lack of all those things.
“We live in an age when people are very quick to jump from calm to completely enraged in a second, where it’s socially acceptable to escalate without any kind of diplomacy or measuredness. I do think that rage and anger only fuels the problem.”
Faith says she never did find out what those peaceful Parisians were protesting about, but would love to see something similar on the streets of her native London. “If you had every single Londoner go out on a march, that would create a massive impact and London would stop functioning because everyone would take the day off work to do it. That’s a gentle protest and it’s so dignified to do those things, like the American football players who bowed the knee when the National Anthem was played [to highlight issues of racial inequality and police brutality in the US].”“We live in an age when people are very quick to jump from calm to completely enraged in a second, where it’s socially acceptable to escalate without any kind of diplomacy or measuredness.”Click To Tweet
So Faith has proposed her own gentle protest, which she is calling Epidemic of Kindness, effectively a digital age rebranding of the old Random Acts of Kindness initiative where she encourages her fans to affect small changes in their immediate environment. “Some people have been proud to announce very simple things, young kids in particular saying ‘I told my friend “you look nice today” and I don’t normally do that’. Even just the fact that they’re thinking about it is really important.
“I feel like on a day-to-day basis you can live more charitably as a person and I just wanted to provoke that and maybe get people’s thoughts going. It’s not good enough just to give £1 to a homeless person, it’s about changing your view of the way you exist and [the way that] you consider and empathise with other people all the time,” she says. “It’s like a modern idea of charity.”“I feel like on a day-to-day basis you can live more charitably as a person and I just wanted to provoke that and maybe get people’s thoughts going. Click To Tweet
Really, what Paloma Faith is proposing is an older idea of charity, closer to its original meaning of sacrificial love. Her skill is in promoting her passions so persistently without the ego or bombast often associated with artists backing worthy causes. So while fans can certainly expect more engaging chat in this vein among the tunes at her Edinburgh Summer Sessions show in Princes Street Gardens this August, there will be no political support acts and no lectures, just a petite woman with a big heart offering Faith, hope and charity.
PALOMA FAITH – WHERE & WHEN
Paloma Faith, Princes Street Gardens, 17 August, 6pm, from £49.50