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30th May 1999

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Backstreet's back!

Some of them have got girlfriends. [Boo!] But they're back with a fab new album, Millennium.

It's not every day the Back- street Boys invite you out to Orlando to interview them, so when they did, we literally jumped at the chance especially when we heard that they would be bringing their puppies! The interview took place in what could possible be the swankiest hotel suite in the cosmiverse - well, it would have been if the puppies hadn't been doing their business all over the floor! Nice.

AJ was the first to enter the huge room, while Kevin sloped in sneakly just behind him. Howie arrived looking a tad tired. "I was out at a place called Zuma's Beach Bar last night, and l've only had five hours' sleep!" he explained. Brian walked in just behind him, wearing a friendly grin, while Nick was last to enter, bounding in clutching his dog Mickey. They looked relaxed and happy, and immediately started pumping us for gossip. "What's Louise up to ?" "What new bands are out in Britain ?" "what's Geri's solo single like?" Hold on we were supposed to be interviewing you.....

What have been the best and worst things about the past year?

Kevin: The best thing is that we've achieved incredible success in the US. I think it's exceeded all of our expectations. We're going to be getting a diamond award, which is a new award that Billboard has created for artists that have sold over ten times platinum - that's over ten million album. That's a pretty incredible achievement. The worst things are - (looks at Brian) B-Rok?

Brian: I had my heart surgery ten months ago, and it was a trying time. We were out on tour and I had to kind of hold on to things a bit. We're dealt with a lot of stuff, not just physical, but mental as well, dealing with all the business side of things. We've become more focused, and we feel a lot happier internally as opposed to externally. We've realised that it's not about possessions and everything; it's about being happy on the inside and staying positive. The past year has been a real learning time. It's been our most successful year, but we've been through a lot.

How has it changed you?

Howie: I think it's made us stronger. We get on better now than we've ever done. We've grown up a lot and we've learnt to accept each other more.

AJ: We've supported each other and that's brought us closer. We've changed the way we do things and we're more conscious of things around us.

Kevin: Certainly, we've all learnt a lot and grown up. We look at things more carefully.

AJ: We've taken on a lot more responsibility as well, because with success comes responsibility.

AJ, is it true that your mum is now your manager?

AJ: No! Maybe for me in my own time, but that's just a rumour. We have a new management team called The Firm.

Kevin: That really took a lot off our shoulders, business-wise.

Howie: For about eight months we were basically managing ourselves with the help of AJ's mum Denise. We had to handle the day-to-day schedule and the phone calls and stuff like that. But now, since we're out on the road and recording that album, we've got people to take care of that and we're really happy with them.

Nick: We have more guidance and a more positive team behind us. Now we can do what we're supposed to do, which is get up on stage and perform.

Do you get mobbed every time you go out in America?

Howie: It depends. It's starting. It's not as crazy as it is in the UK.

Nick: It really depends on where you go. If you go to the theme parks, of course you get mobbed, but if you go to a quiet restaurant to have dinner, then you don't.

Kevin: It depends on how you dress and if you want to be recognised or not.

AJ:I don't mind the attention. I'll go out with no sleeves on and, as my tattoos are the most obvious thing about me, and I'm probably the most recognisable member of the band, people do tend to notice me. Sometimes it can get a little out of hand if you don't have any security with you - you can't really enjoy a peaceful day out with friends. But it all comes with the business and that's fine.

Do you miss Britain?

Howie: Yes!

Kevin: We wanna get over there.

Nick: But we'll be over soon.

Howie: Our aim is to do Wembley stadium. That'd be a dream.

Brian: I miss the fish and chips in England!

Nick: I kinda miss the weather! I like the land, the countryside.......

Kevin: The green rolling hills.......

AJ: I miss the fans

Kevin: We've got some brilliant fans in England.

Do you think you would ever move to Britain ?

Brian: I really don't know if I'd want to live over there, but I'd like a pad there.

Nick: A nice place in the country.

AJ: I like Manchester, it's got lots of cool places to go. I like London too, but it's a lot more touristy and there's a real club scene. I'd like to live a bit out of London.

Nick: I remember talking to EYC (old muscly pop trio) when they were living over there for a while, and they had their own place and they loved it. They had some kind of courtyard place and it was cool; it'd be a great holiday spot.

What do you think of the new British bands?

Brian: Well, we only just heard about Steps, but we haven't heard any of their music or anything.

Kevin: One of the girls used to be in TSD, didn't she ? Claire? That's it!

Howie: There are three girls and a couple of guys, right?

AJ: Every time I go to England there are more groups!

Nick: But it's really good to go to England and see all the new ones.

Have you got any plans to do a film, a la Spice Girls?

Nick: Who knows?

Kevin: We've had offers, but for now we're concentrating on the world tour.

You've managed to fit in a bit of modelling though, Kevin?

Kevin: Yeah, it was while we had some time off. Me and Howie went to Milan to check out the fashion shows, and Donatella (Versace sweetie) asked me if I would model for her, so I did! it's not like a new career, though.

Are any of you planning to get married and have kids yet?

Brian: Not yet, but a bit further down the road.

Nick: Actually, a couple of us have been married for fifteen years, but the press haven't found out yet.

Howie: Yeah, Nick was married when he was four.

Nick: And I've got four kids!

Who do you think will be the first to walk up the aisle?

Kevin: (Pointing at AJ.) Gosh, I really don't know! (Everyone starts pointing at AJ, while Nick hums Here Comes The Bride.)

AJ: (Shocked.) Y'all pointing at me? Ah hell!

Are the rest of you single and looking?

Nick: No, I've got a girl friend; we all see people.

Blimey, so kids could be on the cards, then?

Brian: Nah. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes babies.

Kevin: Not if you're a Spice Girl! (All laugh.)

Brian: We all have puppies, and that's enough for now. Having a puppy is good training for having kids. You have to feed them and clean up after them - everything.

AJ: All mine do is pee and poo! They're real young, though - they were only born on Christmas Day.

Howie: I haven't got a dog or a girlfriend - I'm totally available!

Do you ever see the Backstreet Boys ending ?

Brian: We've got a lot to accomplish yet.

Kevin: We've still got things to do as a group.

AJ: Even if we do solo stuff, it doesn't mean we're breaking up.

Nick: Maybe after the world tour we'll take six months or a year off to do our thing, but we'll come back together.

Howie: We're definitely not going to take a ten-year gap or anything like that, but we'll see that happens. We don't know what will happen in the future.

Nick: But we'll always be together. It's never going to be the end of the Backstreet Boys.

Sound of music in London

By Liz Clark

The historic City of London, the commercial heart of the United Kingdom is conventionally a place of serious business.

But during three summer weeks, it is transformed by an international celebration of the arts, where music, colour and movement preside.

In what has now become a tradition, the 1999 City of London Festival will begin with the ringing of the Great Bell of Bow on June 22. From then on every day until its closure on July 15, there will be dozens of events featuring music of all kinds.

Highlights include five concerts and recitals in the much-visited St Paul's Cathedral, including: Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem on June 23, Mozart's Requiem on June 30 and a celebrity organ recital with David Liddle on July 1. An important world premiere of John Tavener's work, Hypakoe, with the international pianist Elena Riu as soloist, takes place on July 5 at Ironmongers Hall.

On July 6 there is a Grand Viennese Ball when diners will be able to participate in waltzes and polkas played by the Vienna Opera Ball Orchestra, and acclaimed sitar player Ravi Shankar will give a recital with his daughter Anousha Shankar on July 9.

Music from around the world will be featured in a series of free lunch time concerts. This will include Katajak throat-singing from Quebec, Chittagong drummers from Bangladesh, Theatre Perpetuum Mobile from Bulgaria, and Stree Shakti, the first women's percussion ensemble from India.

One unusual concert on July 5, will feature the meeting of medieval plain chant with African harmony when a voice ensemble from Oxford and the Sdasa Chorale, one of Soweto's most esteemed and versatile gospel choirs, join in a unique collaboration.

Lovers of poetry and prose will be catered for by a literary series called Off The Page, at the Bridewell Theatre, a converted Victorian bath-house. Authors to be featured include broadcaster and Times columnist of the year Libby Purves, who will read from her latest novel; witty writer Kathy Lette, and former leader of the Social Democratic Party, Roy Jenkins.

London's Old Spitalfields Market, fast becoming a trendy area populated by designers and artists, is another festival location. Performers at events there include folk and roots singer June Tabor, and a Bengali dinner will be followed by a demonstration of the beautiful art of painting scrolls. (LPS)

On tot of the world! Nicole has baby No. 20

Supermum Nicola Pridham certainly knows the score when it comes to having babies.

For a score is exactly how many children she now has after giving birth to number Twenty, a bouncing baby boy last month.

And as amazing Nicola cuddled 101b 10 oz Lewis surrounded by her brood she said "It's so exciting to be a mum again."

"Every time is like the first time. I haven't been able to sleep since Lewis was born. I look into the cot and can't help picking him up and cuddling him.

"He has a lovely little smile and hardly cries at all."

But after being almost constantly pregnant since 1989, the record -breaking mum reveals she is ready to pack way the disposables for good.

And she's told husband Kevin: Twenty's plenty.

"I'm getting on a bit now," said 41 year old Nicola. "But I hated not having a baby around the house, so we decided to have another.

"I was very tired when I was pregnant with Lewis and you realise you can't have babies every year for the rest of your life! Now I'm going to stick to being a grandma."

Lewis was due to be delivered by Caesarean section but caring mum Nicola put the delivery back a day because it was her two year old son William's birthday.

"I wanted William to have a day all of his own," said Nicola. "They are all individuals. Each one is different and they are treated like that."

So while Nicola prayed her contractions wouldn't start, William celebrated with his brothers and sisters Anthony, 20, Alexander, 19, Sara, 18, Victoria, 17, Charlotte 16, James 15, Damien, 14, Adam, 13, Katie, 12, Emma, 11, Daniel, 10, Alistair, 9, Louise, 8, Rebecca, 7, Oliver, 6, Elliot, 5, Ashley 4 and three year old Aidan.

The next day Lewis came along at Lincoln County Hospital.

"I packed the kids off to school. They asked if I was going into hospital but I didn't tell them because they get too excited," said Nicola.

Proud Kevin was thrilled to bits as he held his new son afterwards

"Lewis is gorgeous. People think that you are not going to be just as happy but I am over the moon," he said.

When it was revealed in February that Nicola was expecting her 20th child it caused a national sensation.

The couple were swamped with interview requests from newspapers.

Nicola says Lewis will be brought up like all his brothers and sisters - without any help from state handouts.

The family gets the usual child benefit which adds up to £141 a week but half of that goes on their school dinners. Kevin prides himself on working hard as a carpenter to provide for his children. But he joked: "Lewis has cost me more so far than any of the others at this age."

The Lincoln family live in two converted council houses which have been knocked together. It can be bedlam at times, but Nicola and Kevin who also have a nine month old grandson called Joshua love it.

"One more baby now doesn't really make any difference," said Nicola. "The older ones help me out now so my life has become easier!"

Difficult to believe from a woman who does three loads of washing a day, gets up at 5.30 a.m. to organise breakfast in three sittings and even cooks three different menus for the evening meals.

But Nicola said: "Being a mum is all about that. I wouldn't swap it for the world."

"Every child is a special gift, a new life, and I am just so pleased that Lewis is happy and healthy.

"I am the luckiest woman alive to have had so many healthy babies."

Dear DaughterDoes happiness have a price?

My darling daughter,

Often I think that we today tend to calculate everything in terms of finances. Even happiness seems to have a price. Without the material things that money can provide it appears that even children cannot find anything of joy.

I hear continuously the little boy next door asking his parents for some gadgetry or other to feed to his computer and then he spends his time playing games perhaps similar to those of long years ago Tarzan, Robin Hood or cops and robbers.

The difference is that today the heroes and villains carry guns and a whole range of modern arms, missiles and what nots, and instead of the voice of children raised in laughter, comment and argument, there is one lonely little boy playing all by himself. The noise of childhood seems to be stilled as we adults continue giving sophisticated equipment to the young to play by themselves. The various programmes for play cost a lot of money and parents sacrifice to give the children what they think is necessary in this world of hi-tech development. To my mind daughter, I think, what is needed is to teach the child to play with others, develop interpersonal relationships where the child will learn to give and take, be a winner or a loser. Playing by himself the child will never learn how to lose with good grace, all the values one learns in play will not be known.

Isn't it sad, daughter, that in a way by parents striving to give their children what is deemed modern and needed, they deny the little ones the fun of togetherness and friendship. No machine made game can compare to the happiness of children playing together, feeling the rush of the wind on their face, the gritty feel of the earth, and the pliable softness of mud. I wish with nostalgic longing that the little ones who are spending hours glued to a computer playing games will have the opportunity to discover a real world, a world that is truly theirs.


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