Paloma Faith: I'm willing to jeopardise my career to speak out about Gaza

As her new album comes out, pop star Paloma Faith says she will continue to speak out about the war in Gaza even if doing so causes damage to her music career. Chris Burn speaks to the singer.

Promotional celebrity interviews can often be somewhat predictable affairs in which the interviewed star will stay on safe ground as they plug their latest film, book or album. But Paloma Faith is not one for sticking to the script.

Faith is speaking to The Yorkshire Post about her new album The Glorification of Sadness and associated tour which includes dates in Sheffield, Hull, York and Leeds in the coming months.

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When asked a fairly softball question at the start of our chat about her three years in Yorkshire when she studied at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD) over 20 years ago, Faith gives an unexpectedly direct answer.

Paloma Faith is releasing her sixth albumPaloma Faith is releasing her sixth album
Paloma Faith is releasing her sixth album

“I loved Leeds but the college itself was very damaging to me,” she says. “They were very obsessed with our weight, our appearance. There was no embracing my creativity, I think they found my creativity irritating.

“I was 18 to 21 and it was quite a difficult time but I actually had a brilliant time when I wasn’t at college.

“I love Yorkshire and feel like I am an honorary Northerner. I’ve always said culturally I feel more affinity with the North, I’m a bit more like a Northerner in personality. I talk to anyone and get to the nitty-gritty quite quickly.”

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Faith proves that point when asked later in the interview about her views on the war in Gaza following several posts in recent months to her hundreds of thousands of social media followers about the situation.

In December when a United Nations vote on a ceasefire saw the UK abstain and the US vote against the motion, Faith wrote a post to her 750,000 Instagram followers which read: “I’m so embarrassed and ashamed. Where is humanity? Lost in a sea of calculation and desensitisation? These children deserve so much better. Every child is equal. Let the tears roll... What a time to be alive.”

A previous post in mid-October read: “I am heartbroken. I am ashamed to be human. Nothing can justify this harrowing moment in history. Muslim or Jewish Palestinian or Israeli we are all human and this is genocide. These children starving, brutalised, killed and suffering unimaginable things are my children. They are your children. Our poor poor babies.

"We must not remain silent for fear of upset. This is humanitarian. This is senseless. There is no justification for this and nothing can convince me otherwise. I can barely see for tears, my heart goes out to all the victims of the week’s sadness on all sides and on no sides, just trying to exist.”

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More than 28,000 Palestinians, at least 10,000 of them children, have been killed in less than four months, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

In January, the International Court of Justice stopped short of ordering a ceasefire in Gaza in a genocide case filed by South Africa in a preliminary ruling. But it said there was a plausible case on some issues and demanded that Israel try to contain death and damage in its military offensive against Hamas, which it is conducting in the wake of the latter’s attacks on October 7. It could take years for a full verdict on the genocide allegation, which Israel strongly denies, to be delivered.

Faith, whose full name is Paloma Faith Blomfield, says: “I’ve been speaking about it since October 7 and before because I have always been quite aware of it as an issue.

“It has been going on for 75 years but I did feel very compelled [to speak] in this moment in time. It is the biggest genocide our generation has witnessed.

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“The sensitivity around it is very, very disheartening. A lot of people’s opinions are governed by selfish motivations.

“For me, it is very clear and obvious it is an atrocity. I feel very black and white about it. I’m ashamed at the British Government and I’m devastated there is no opposition. I’ve been a Labour voter my whole life and I just cannot believe the irresponsibility the Opposition has provided with its position.

“On a personal level as well, to paint the picture my surname is Jewish and my children’s father is Arab, North African and Muslim. To me, we are the kind of definition of what is possible.

“It seems very clear to me this is a humanitarian issue, not a political issue.”

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She says her decision to comment on the issue has already had consequences.

“I have been ignored by some people who are high-powered in the music industry, I feel I have lost a few friends. There are a lot of people in the music industry who are pro-Israel who find what I say and post, which I think as of humanitarian-led, as combative.

“I am willing, and always have been, to jeopardise my career to be on the right side of history and express opinions I think are really important.

“I understand why people in my position have remained silent because it is scary when you feel you have built something and your income relies on what you do. I don’t condemn those people. I’m in a position in my life where if my career ended tomorrow, I would be ok, I would survive.”

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Faith’s new album, the sixth she has released, may be focused on the personal rather than the political but has undoubted power of its own.

It focuses on her split with her long-term partner and father of her two children Leyman Lahcine and is ordered around coming through the grieving process for the end of a relationship.

She says she hopes listeners take away “a sense of empowerment in your vulnerability”.

"It is ok to feel multiple things during grief. There is so much pressure on people to define themselves and know what they want and know who they are. But we are all in flux all the time.”

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This is exemplified on the album where a spoken word interlude called The Big Bang Ending musing on the gradual and often-imperceptible way a relationship can slowly fall apart is immediately followed by the rather more direct Eat S*** and Die.

The penultimate song on the album is called I Am Enough but Faith says the truth behind the track is more complex. "That song is about getting to the point of believing I might have to accept myself and not constantly wallow in self-blame and feelings of pain. Have I matched the reality of I Am Enough? No. I’m certainly trying to convince myself. I think that is part of the human condition for everyone.

"We are all quite inadequate and aware of our failings and you have to learn to accept your fallibility.”

Following the interview, the Northern School of Contemporary Dance responded to Faith’s remarks about her time there.

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A spokesperson said: “We are big fans of Paloma and are delighted that she’ll be performing in Leeds in July.

"Whilst it’s disappointing to hear this, the dance education landscape has evolved much over the past 20 years, and continues to evolve. Our current approach at NSCD is inclusive and aspires to harness and nurture both creative and technical excellence. Innovation, self-expression and curiosity sit at the heart of all that we do and through all the support and care we provide. We’d love to welcome Paloma back when she’s in town to meet some of our current students and see what they’re up to.”

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