Rina Sawayama says BPI are reviewing the Mercury Prize’s eligibility rules

Nominees are currently required to demonstrate British or Irish citizenship

Rina Sawayama has been in contact with the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the organisation behind the BRIT Awards and Mercury Prize, who have indicated that they are reconsidering their eligibility criteria.

Earlier this week (July 29), Sawayama revealed that she wasn’t able to enter the Mercury Prize this year as she isn’t eligible to enter as a British artist under the current rules. Solo artists must hold either British or Irish nationality and provide official documentation of their citizenship, such as a passport.

In a new interview with Radio 1’s Newsbeat, the singer says the BPI have told her they’re now looking into making changes.


“I’m really, really happy,” she said. “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.”

Rina Sawayama. CREDIT: Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Cartier

Although Sawayama has indefinite leave to remain in the UK, citizenship has been the issue blocking her Mercury Prize nomination – and current rules set by Japan mean that she cannot claim dual citizenship.

“I’ve literally lived here for 25 years, all I know is living in London,” she continued. “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.”

Yesterday (July 30) the artist responded to the volume of support from her fans using the #SAWAYAMAISBRITISH hashtag on Twitter, saying she wanted to “change things for the better for all British artists.”


As well as many of the artist’s own fans, Elton John expressed his surprise that ‘SAWAYAMA’ missed out, writing on Instagram: “Unfortunately, not everyone gets to make that list. So I want to shamelessly plug two artists that were overlooked,” before praising Sawayama’s self-titled record as one of his “favourite albums of 2020”.

In response to Sawayama’s case, the BPI told Vice: “Both The BRIT Awards and the Hyundai Mercury Prize aim to be as inclusive as possible within their parameters, and their processes and eligibility criteria are constantly reviewed.”

Meanwhile, Sawayama recently teased a new documentary about the making of her acclaimed debut album.


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