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2 May 2018

ABBA return – in the UK

Forty years ago, ABBA were probably the world's biggest pop band, with songs like Mamma Mia and Dancing Queen. They were hugely popular in the UK, where they won the Eurovision Song Contest, which made them famous outside their home country of Sweden.

Since then the band's songs have been used in the film and musical Mamma Mia, and have continued to be popular – but unlike most other popular bands, they have refused to get back together again.

So there was a lot of surprise when they announced that they had recorded a new song, I Still Have Faith In You, and that it would be performed by them on the UK's public service TV network in December. It turns out that the band have been working with a UK-based pop manager on creating a virtual reality ABBA, who will be performing the song and may then go on a virtual world tour.

New project to remember Bronte sisters

Three of the UK's most famous novelists were sisters living 200 years ago. Emily, Charlotte and Anne Bronte lived in a remote part of Yorkshire, and published novels under false names, pretending to be men. Their most famous novels were Jane Eyre (Charlotte), Wuthering Heights (Emily) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne).

The novels are still read and loved in the UK, made into films and TV shows. Wuthering Heights was also the first hit song for singer Kate Bush.

This summer the sisters will be remembered in a project involving four well-known UK artists. Singer Kate Bush, UK official poets Carol Ann Duffy and Jackie Kay, and novelist Jeanette Winterson are writing poems or short pieces which will be engraved on stones marking the route from where they were born to their family home.

Women's rights campaigner remembered

Millicent Fawcett campaigned for more than 60 years for women to get the vote. Now, a century after some women were allowed to vote and 89 years after her death, Fawcett is being remembered with a statue close to the Houses of Parliament.

The statue is there because on International Women's Day in 2016, an equality campaigner was on a run through Parliament Square and realised all of the statues there were of men. She also found out that less than three per cent of all the statues in the UK are of women not in the Royal Family.

So the campaigner,  Caroline Criado Perez, started a campaign to get a statue of Fawcett in the square, and last week it went on show. The statue shows Fawcett at the age of 50, and the base has the images of 55 other women on it who joined her fight for women to vote. That means there are now more faces of women than men in the square.

Bank account chaos

The TSB is one of the UK's biggest banks. It also has some of the UK's unhappiest customers since computer problems began last weekend. The bank was trying to shift five million customers on to a new computer system but things went wrong. Customers could not get into their bank accounts at all to start with, and since then many have complained that their cards don't work or that they are seeing other people's bank details instead of theirs. Days after the problems began, only half of the bank's online customers could use their accounts.

Bank of England uses Spotify playlists to understand the country's mood

The Bank of England is an important part of the UK's economic policy, setting interest rates and monitoring how the economy is doing.

Now its chief economist says its staff are trying to find out more about consumer behaviour and the public mood by looking at the songs which people are streaming most. The researchers are also studying song lyrics to try to understand how people feel.

Andy Haldane says this research seems to be as good at tracking consumer spending as a research done this way seems to work as well as established surveys, and thinks that looking at popular TV, radio and books might also be useful.

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