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How to host the Brits and survive

As Dermot O'Leary and Emma Willis get set to present this year's awards, Jeananne Craig reveals the pitfalls they face

By Jeananne Craig

It's one of the biggest events in the music industry calendar, with this year's nominees including Adele, Beyonce and Coldplay. Dermot O'Leary and Emma Willis will assume hosting duties at London's O2, following Michael Buble's decision to stand down so he could focus on his unwell son.

"The Brits is an iconic show that I've watched and attended many times," O'Leary has said. "It's a holy grail for a broadcaster and I'm really looking forward to working with Emma, who I'm a big fan of, and celebrating a brilliant year of British music."

The pair are no strangers to live TV, with O'Leary working on The X Factor and Willis on Big Brother, so they should be a safe pair of hands.

But even the most seasoned of pros can get flummoxed when confronted with an arena full of nervous nominees and three-sheets-to-the-wind rock stars.

Here's what they can learn from previous Brit awards presenters - and how they can avoid a Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood-style meltdown ...

  • Don't cut a star off in their prime: James Corden learned this in 2012, when he had to cut off Adele's Album of the Year acceptance speech so Blur could start their set. The chart-topping singer responded by flicking her middle finger in the air. Corden later admitted he felt "horrible" about the incident. "I think there's a long tradition with the Brits and news stories the next day. She was incredibly sweet and understanding. It's a hard call to make."
  • Do come prepared: When model Sam Fox and rocker Mick Fleetwood teamed up to host the 1989 Brits live, it was car-crash TV personified. The autocue was broken, they announced the wrong acts, and the whole thing was excruciatingly painful to watch. Poor Fox has since revealed she's still trying to get over that night. Up until then, the Page 3 girl had enjoyed positive coverage in the red tops: "I was just waiting for that time to come when the love affair with the British Press ended, and it was the Brits," she has admitted. Fleetwood, meanwhile, has said: "We were left out to dry, really, and to this day we carry the burden. But I'll tell you this: we were perfect in rehearsal."
  • Do beware of a stage invasion: Can you remember which star hosted the 1996 Brits? Us neither. But we bet you can remember Jarvis Cocker wiggling his backside during Michael Jackson's over-the-top performance of Earth Song. The Pulp frontman later revealed he took exception to the pop superstar's messianic performance. "Rock stars have big enough egos without pretending to be Jesus," he said. (Oh, and for the record, the host that year was Chris Evans.) Meanwhile, DJ Brandon Block caused havoc in 2000, when he leapt onto the stage in the middle of the show. A fracas followed, with Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood throwing a glass of water on the star.
  • Don't cause too much offence: When Russell Brand was booked to host the 2007 awards, organisers could probably have predicted that the cheeky comic was likely to ruffle some feathers. Indeed, Brand decided to use the ceremony to indulge in some innuendo about the Queen, and to make a gag about Robbie Williams' drug problem at the time. He also poked fun at West Country soul singer Joss Stone's transatlantic twang after she presented an award. His jokes led to ITV receiving hundreds of complaints from unimpressed viewers.
  • Don't accuse someone of being drunk: When the Osbournes hosted the ceremony in 2008, matriarch Sharon managed to upset comedian Vic Reeves, who was presenting an award to the Arctic Monkeys. Sharon called the funnyman a "p***** b******" and took over from him on stage. Reeves was reportedly left hurt by the star's behaviour, and blamed things on a faulty autocue.
  • Do keep your cool: Ant and Dec are widely recognised as a safe bet when it comes to presenting, but even this pair were - almost - lost for words in 2016, when model Sadie Pinn joined them while they were presenting a performance. Sadie, who accompanied risque designer Pam Hogg to the event, was wearing a black mesh bodysuit and little PVC patches to protect her modesty. They held it together long enough to present singer Jess Glynne to the stage.
  • Don't incur the wrath of Liam Gallagher: As we are quickly discovering, celebrities really don't appreciate being ribbed at the Brits. After Liam Gallagher hurled both an award and microphone into the audience and swaggered off the stage in 2010, host Peter Kay received what was probably the biggest laugh of the evening, when he branded the Oasis frontman a "d*******". Gallagher retaliated on Twitter with an expletive-ridden rant.

The Brit Awards 2017, ITV, Wednesday, 7.30pm

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