Ian portrays Sherlock in Mr Holmes

LONDON: Sherlock Holmes hits British cinemas this week but not quite as many might imagine the legendary sleuth.

‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘X-Men’ star Ian McKellen portrays him as an elderly beekeeper, who at 93 has long retired from solving cases. Living in an isolated Sussex farmhouse with his housekeeper Mrs Munro (Laura Linney) and her young son Roger (Milo Parker), he is unable to let go of his past as he tries to solve the case that ultimately led to his retirement. McKellan, 76, said audiences would enjoy his Holmes more than the many others in recent years, including younger versions played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr, in television and film.–Reuters

‘This Holmes is 93 years old when we first meet him at the end of a long life, of retirement and he's trying to solve his last mystery, the one that he didn't quite complete when he was in his heyday,’ he said at the film's premiere on Wednesday.

‘So I get to play Holmes young and middle-aged so that makes it slightly superior to other versions.’ Joining him on the mock-up Baker Street setting for the premiere was McKellan's ‘X-Men’ co-star Patrick Stewart. The two friends hugged and kissed on the cobblestone-effect carpet.

McKellen confirmed he would not be returning as Magneto in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ due in 2016. The British actor said that he could imagine retirement but would not be ‘giving up’. ‘I'm not retiring and shutting the door, but doing less,’ he said. ‘Mr Holmes’ is due for release in Britain on June 19.

Sheeran to headline anti-poverty concert

NEW YORK: The English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran will headline the Global Citizen Festival, a free concert in New York aimed at rallying support to fight global poverty.

Sheeran - whose album ‘x’ was last year's top-seller in Britain and the most streamed worldwide on Spotify - said in a short video Wednesday that he would perform at the concert on September 26 in Central Park. The festival is free, with fans earning tickets not through money but through activities aimed at eradicating extreme poverty in the world. The youth-oriented event has been held annually since 2012 when world leaders are in New York for the UN General Assembly.–AFP

Last year's festival was headlined by rap giant Jay Z with surprise appearances not only by his wife Beyonce but by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who pledged to work to improve water, sanitation and housing for his nation's poorest.

Coldplay singer Chris Martin signed on earlier this year as the permanent curator of the festival. The festival also held a spinoff event in Washington for Earth Day in April, with No Doubt, Usher and Mary J. Blige among artists at the concert aimed at raising pressure to fight both poverty and climate change.

Florence tops Billboard for first time

LOS ANGELES: Florence and the Machine's first album in four years, ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,’ debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart on Wednesday, marking the best performance ever for the indie pop band formed in 2007.

Following its June 2 release, ‘How Big’ sold 128,000 albums, 58,000 songs and was streamed 4.9 million times, totaling 137,000 units, according to figures from Nielsen SoundScan. The third album from 28-year-old British singer Florence Welch, known for her melodramatic, multi-instrumental songs, is a follow-up to ‘Ceremonials,’ which climbed to No. 6 on the Billboard 200 chart.–Reuters

Taylor Swift's pop album ‘1989,’ out since October, kept its hold at No. 2, selling 66,000 units for the week ending June 7. Hip-hop record ‘At.Long.Last.A$AP’ from A$AP Rocky fell from the top slot, selling 50,000 units for third place on the chart. The Billboard 200 chart tallies album sales, song sales (10 songs equal one album) and streaming activity (1,500 streams equal one album).

R&B singer Jason Derulo debuted his fourth album, ‘Everything is 4,’ at No 4. Country crooners Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard launched a new album into the top 10, with ‘Django and Jimmie’ claiming the No 7 slot. On the Digital Songs chart, which measures online sales, Taylor Swift's recent single with rapper Kendrick Lamar, ‘Bad Blood,’ remained at No. 1 for the third week, with 213,000 downloads.

Footwear fashion at London show

LONDON: For centuries, women and sometimes men have squeezed their feet into tiny shoes or balanced on towering heels to feel sexy, empowered and to show their wealth and status.

Now their sacrifice is being celebrated in a new exhibition, 'Shoes: Pleasure and Pain', which opens at the V&A museum in London on Saturday. From a 2,000-year-old pair of Egyptian gold sandals to child-like Chinese slippers for bound feet, to Christian Louboutin's red-soled stilettoes, the 250 exhibits reveal how fashionable shoes have always been more than footwear.–Reuters

‘The exhibition is about the obsession of shoes. It's looking at the power of shoes, how they can tell about status and privilege,’ curator Helen Persson told AFP. Luxury shoes have long been the preserve of the rich and idle. Regardless of the cost, high heels, sumptuous fabrics and delicate designs have no place in the field or factory, or indeed in running for a bus.

Where women today have Manolo Blahnik or Jimmy Choo, 19th-century Egyptians had 28.5-centimetre wooden bath clogs and 17th-century Venetian ladies had to balance on their maids to walk in towering ‘chopine’ platforms. Advances in engineering have made many shoes more comfortable but also enabled designers to make them higher and more outlandish, exemplified by Noritaka Tatehana's gravity-defying heel-less shoes.

‘Even though they seem so extreme and not wearable, they were designed to be worn,’ said Persson of the exhibits, which are taken from the V&A's archives as well as loans from other museums and private collectors. ‘It's this intriguing thing - we accept that shoes are pleasure, but also have a bit of pain. And we seem to have accepted that for 2,000 years.’

The exhibition starts with the most iconic shoe of all, Cinderella's slipper. Made by Swarovski for the recent Disney movie, it is a testament to the power of footwear to change the wearer's life. Alongside it is a shoe owned by former England football captain David Beckham, a working-class boy turned global superstar, personalised with the name of his son Brooklyn. Shoes are also about fantasy. One section of the exhibition is dedicated to their role in seduction, from fluffy, kick-off mules to black leather lace-ups worn during the ‘porn-chic’ trend in London in the 1890s.

Many of the exhibits were worn by celebrities, from Queen Victoria to Marilyn Monroe, or made by top designers, emphasising the role of shoes as an aspirational item. There are the golden ‘Angel wings’ by Alexander McQueen worn by Lady Gaga, Vivienne Westwood's blue platforms from which Naomi Campbell toppled onto a Paris catwalk, and a version of the Duchess of Cambridge's nude courts.

‘The shoes here are saying, I am important, I belong to the highest societies, I have no concern for the normality of life,’ Persson said. There are shoes embellished with fur, feathers, gold plate and lavish embroidery, epitomising how footwear is often seen as ‘jewels for the feet’. One 19th-century pair from India have a ruby, diamond, emerald and sapphire trim.

Despite the title, the exhibition does not explore the pain or damage of wearing towering, tight heels - instead, it offers a sumptuous display of craftmanship and an insight into a passion shared by the curator. ‘I do love the way they make me feel,’ said Persson, wearing a pretty pair of red heels. ‘Putting on a pair of high-heeled shoes, I do feel more confident - my body changes, I do like that. Although I do really like it when I take them off as well.’