NO.1339 · 25 - 31 MAY 2020
FLOOD DEFENCES Cumbria goes DIY FRUITS AND THEIR LABOUR Crop-pickers needed
DIGITAL EDITION £2
BADLY DRAWN BOY
Close to happiness with new album
SUPPORT YOUR VENDOR THROUGH THE CRISIS BIN1339_01 (cover).indd 2
For the safety of our vendors and their customers, we have temporarily ceased the sale of Big Issue North on the street. This has left many vendors without any form of income at a time when they need it more than ever.
We are spending around £2,500 a week ensuring that our vendors have everything they need. Our staff have been working hard to ensure all our vendors are safely housed. They have also provided gas and electricity payments to over 200 vendors, ensuring that they can heat their homes, cook and clean, and that diabetic vendors can safely store their insulin. We have also been able to fund essential shopping for many of our vendors. From food to medication to baby products, we’re making sure they have everything they need to tide themselves and their families over until they can return to work. In this period of isolation, it is also vital that vendors are able to keep in touch with support services, the NHS and their loved ones, so we’ve been providing mobile phone top-ups and broadband payments to ensure that their means of contacting others are not cut off.
Thank you for your continued support at this difficult time
For vendors with no ID, just £10 can also be lifechanging. We’ve been able to provide birth certificates for vendors who want to apply for key worker roles like fruit picking, shelf stacking or refuse collection. Without your incredible generosity, this would not be possible. If you would like to help, please complete and return the form below, or text HARDSHIP to 70970 to give £5. Thank you. I want to support the Big Issue North Trust to help vendors through the lockdown Please accept my donation of £5 £10 £20 £50
Name: Address Postcode: Telephone no.
I enclose a cheque made out to Big Issue in the North Trust Please contact me about making a standing order Please debit my credit / debit card with the above amount Card Number: Start Date:
Issue no: (Switch)
Security code: (Last three numbers on the back of your card) Please sign here:
Gift Aid - Make Every £1 worth £1.28
If you are a UK taxpayer and would like the Big Issue North Trust to reclaim the tax on all donations you have made as well as future donations, please tick here [ ] You must pay at least as much UK income tax and/or capital gains tax (for the year of the donation) as the amount that will be claimed by us and any other charities and CASCs you donate to. Please remember to notify us if you no longer pay income tax (or capital gains tax).
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How to donate
Post: Please complete this form and return it to: Big Issue North Trust, 463 Stretford Road, Manchester, M16 9AB.
Online: visit www.justgiving.com/ BigIssueNorth. Mobile: Text HARDSHIP to 70970 to give £5 Texts are free and all the money comes to us. Telephone: Call 0161 871 2608 to donate by credit or debit card or to set up a standing order to donate regularly.
Thank you for your donation The Big Issue North Trust is a registered charity (number 1056041) When you donate to Big Issue North Trust, we’d love to keep in touch with you to tell you about the difference you’ve made to our vendors. If you’re happy for us to do this, please tick here.
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25 - 31 MAY 2020 No. 1339
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Editor Kevin Gopal email@example.com 0161 831 5563 Deputy editor Antonia Charlesworth firstname.lastname@example.org 0161 831 5562 Proofreader Fiona Pymont Producer Christian Lisseman email@example.com
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Vendors and coronavirus
“I’d been away for so long I worried people were expecting a masterpiece.”
Community wealth building Fundraising and communications Bronte Schiltz firstname.lastname@example.org 07580 878854 To subscribe or buy back issues email email@example.com. or visit our new online shop:
Saskia Murphy; Who Cares
10 BADLY DRAWN BOY Damon Gough returns
14 FRUIT PICKING
Who will save the crops?
We are not responsible for unsolicited
18 AFTER THE DELUGE
artwork, articles or photos received. Reproduction in whole or part of the magazine prohibited without permission of the editor. Opinions expressed in Big Issue North are not necessarily those held by the magazine or organisation.
Cumbria flood protection
What’s on online
22 SEE HEAR
TV, games, albums, cinema Big Issue North is part of The Big Life group of social businesses and charities.
24 IN THE FRAME The Moon in art
Cover image: Rebecca Lupton Printers Acorn Web Offset, Normanton Circulation: 10,989 (Jan-Dec 19)
26 READING ROOM
Author Q&A; Off The Shelf
28 LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF Food critic Jay Rayner
Crossword and Sudoku 25 - 31 MAY BIG ISSUE NORTH
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Write to us Letters, Big Issue North, Raven House, 113 Fairfield St, Manchester M12 6EL Email us firstname.lastname@example.org Comment on the website bigissuenorth.com Tweet us @bigissuenorth Like us on Facebook /bigissuenorth Please keep letters brief. We reserve the right to edit them for length. Include your full name, town or city and phone number.
How to help your vendors Readers’ support with making PPE will help us ensure vendors’ safety when the time is right for them to return to work, says Brontë Schiltz In the tenth week since Big Issue North was pulled from the streets because of the pandemic, we are reviewing the latest advice to try to determine when it will be safe for our vendors to return to work. At present, we do not feel that would be in the best interests of vendors or customers. When the time is right, though, we want to ensure that vendors and their customers are as safe as possible. To do this, we need you! We want to ensure that all of our vendors have a face shield and reusable face mask before they return to work. If you have a 3D printer or sewing skills, and have the time and resources to make some PPE for our vendors, we would be incredibly grateful. If this is something you can help with, please get in touch by emailing us at email@example.com. To facilitate a safe return to work, we will also have to buy other reusable forms of PPE, such as gloves. As cash can carry germs and exchanging cash requires being in close proximity, we also want to enable cashless payments for all vendors. This means buying contactless card readers, as
Andy from Sheffield says he would like to use contactless but doesn’t have a bank account
well as ID for those who do not have any and do not currently have a bank account. On top of allowing vendors to return to work safely, we hope that these investments will also help them increase their sales in the future as our society
Style and content If you’re looking for a mask for yourself or a loved one, why not buy one from MancMade Clothing? As well as supporting an independent northern business, you’ll also be helping our vendors to survive the pandemic, as £1 from each sale will be donated to our hardship fund. Available in six sizes, custom made with a fabric of your choosing, it’s designed to fit over filtered masks and has pockets for filters for additional safety. They’ll keep you and those around you
safe in style. They’re also environmentally friendly, made from washable cotton. To get yours, go to etsy.com/uk/NattySewandSo/ listing/796040494/fabric-face-mask
becomes increasingly cashless. In the meantime, many vendors continue to rely on our hardship fund to cover their cost of living. For vendors who are vulnerable, or who live with someone who is, this reliance may continue until there is a vaccination. We therefore need your help more than ever. If you would like to make a donation to our hardship fund, you can text HARDSHIP to 70970 to give £5, or go to easydonate.org/HARDSHIP to give as much or as little as you can afford. You can also continue to support the magazine by buying issues or taking out a subscription at shop.bigissuenorth. com, buying digital issues from issuu. com/bigissuenorth, or picking up a copy during your weekly shop at Sainsbury’s, McColl’s, Co-Op, Asda, One Stop, Morrisons, Waitrose or Booths. Thank you so much for your continued support at this time.
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Just delivered 500 3D printed face visors to Big Issue North. Wishing them and their vendors all the best during these challenging times Big thanks to @JB29638377 on Twitter for the support
LETTER - LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
Football’s League Two clubs voted on 15 May to end their season because of the Covid-19 crisis. The vote set precedents for the rest of English football. Driven by financial worries, the clubs were facing a massive loss of income with games suspended. With spectators not turning up and no TV income, League Two joined the non-league clubs that have had no income in weeks and had their season suspended without any discussion. While there is considerable controversy about the league clubs – especially the Premiership, with its massive TV income and apparently massive sums owed to the TV companies – non-league has had very little discussion. But the decision of League Two could turn the spotlight on developments below the professional leagues. It is very clear that League Two had come to the end of the financial road. While some clubs wanted to play out the remaining matches, as the Premier League is still committed to do, it was not thought possible. Club employees are furloughed while not playing, but if they start playing it will cost an estimated £100,000 per week – with no spectators paying for tickets and only peanuts from the TV companies. The cost of testing for the virus is estimated at £125,000 to £140,000 per match. If League Two cannot cover the costs, how can non– league, with smaller revenue? My local team Stafford Rangers have raised £50,000 through an appeal. But – bottom of the Bet Victor Northern Premier League as they are – whiprounds will hardly cover the bills. For many of them, unless there is a root and branch change of direction, then they will go out of business. Trevor Fisher, Stafford
‘We’re stranded in Romania with bills to pay in England’ ALEXANDRU AND COSTICA, SOUTHPORT Twenty-seven-year old Alexandru and Costica, 23, have sold Big Issue North for around five years, mainly in Southport. They usually live in Liverpool but have found themselves stranded in Romania during the coronavirus crisis. Where are you at the moment? We are with some family members in a small village in Romania. We came here to visit them just before the lockdown happened and now we cannot get back to England because there are no planes and, even if we could come back, the Big Issue North office is closed so there is no work. We have very little money and it is very difficult. We are staying in one house with some cousins and other family. What’s life like there? There is very little to do. When we first arrived from England we had to stay indoors, in quarantine for two weeks. The rules about what you can do here are similar to those in England. Very little is open but you can go out to buy food. Do you worry about the virus? A lot of people have died from the virus and this worries us of course. This has changed all of our lives. Life is so different to how it was in Liverpool. Things are very difficult now, very hard. We wonder when it will be possible to come back and sell the magazine again but we speak to someone who works in
the Liverpool Big Issue North office once a week. How are you surviving financially? The only money we are getting is from the crisis fund from Big Issue North, £25 a week for each of us. We have bills and rent to pay back in England but we can’t do anything about that. Prices are expensive here and we do not have a lot of money anyway to buy things. How are you keeping entertained? There is very little to do here so it is quite boring. We do some things in the garden. Alexandru, you were once on the Romanian X-Factor. Are you still singing? Yes, I am still singing to my family. It was always my dream to be a professional singer. When do you hope to get back to the UK? When it is possible. When we can get a plane or find a car so that we can get to England again. Then we will come. But now we hear that we will have to be in quarantine again in England for two weeks, which will be very difficult. We miss selling the magazine very much. We miss our customers, the nice ladies who buy from us. Every night, we put our hands together and pray for all the people. We want to come back soon. INTERVIEW: CHRISTIAN LISSEMAN
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COUNCILS PUT PEOPLE OVER PROFIT
Preston Market was built by local construction firm Conlon, a feature of the so-called Preston model that prioritises community wealth building
Think tank urges a new community order Virus highlights opportunity for change Community wealth building should be at the heart of recovery plans as local economies try to rebuild after the pandemic. That’s the view of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), a think tank whose team has spent a decade helping councils design economies that value people and place over extraction of profit. Experts warn many of the areas which will be worst hit by the post-coronavirus downturn are in the north – with economic output expected to halve in Pendle and drop 45 per cent in Rossendale and South Ribble in the second quarter. The 6
Centre for Progressive Policy figures predict Blackpool will suffer a 26 per cent decline in gross value added.
Frances Jones, associate director of Manchesterbased CLES, said: “We’re all speculating about scale of impact at present but it’s clear that what’s happening at the moment will structurally change the nature of local and national economies and the global economy. “We believe the pandemic has thrown into stark relief the economic issues which have been clear to a lot of people for many years. There’s quite a strong consensus that we mustn’t simply go back to how the economy was in January 2020.” Over recent years CLES has worked with local authorities including Preston, Salford and Wigan. The
so called Preston model has seen the city council, county council, hospital and university take part in a procurement initiative that aims to maximise the money spent locally. Salford has started building social housing, increased care workers’ pay and worked to get marginalised residents online. Wigan has overhauled its social care sector. Emerging after 2008 financial crash, community wealth building stands in direct opposition to the prevailing neoliberal model – in which economies are based around extraction of profit for shareholders. At its heart the approach recognises that the financial, physical and social assets of institutions and people can be harnessed for community benefit. Progressive local authorities focus on the
so-called foundational economy – activities that provide essential goods and services for everyday life. These include infrastructure, utilities, food processing, retail, health and education. Local anchor institutions are central to the approach, in which the purchasing power of large organisations, such as universities or hospitals, plays a key role in supporting the local supply chain. Procuring from nearby suppliers as much as possible benefits areas by providing employment, developing workforce skills and boosting the sustainability of business. It is thought that up to 15 per cent of the UK population already live in an area where the local authority is pursing some aspect of community wealth building – a figure that CLES hopes will increase following the pandemic.
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Over recent weeks its sessions have been attended by senior figures at around 20 local authorities, as well as other political figures.
Model of inequality
Jones said: “There are lots of examples of great work over the past 10 years. They have been operating at the margins of a model which creates the inequality and insecurity that we’ve seen thrown into stark relief by the pandemic. Now that needs to be front and centre of the economic recovery.” In the short term, councils must identify parts of the local market that are most valuable to their place and help them weather the storm of lockdown and its aftermath. Lancaster City Council linked with local suppliers that had lost their markets almost overnight and used them to set up its food distribution scheme for residents who are self-isolating. Wigan has distributed £18,000 so far to grassroots organisations, which are able to reach vulnerable residents more effectively. One of those, Ince-based community transport group Driven, was awarded almost £5,000. As well as covering some overheads while the organisation is unable to operate as normal, the money will help it deliver food parcels in the Hindley area. The group is also receiving referrals from the council’s welfare helpline, meaning it can support people to attend medical appointments, or even pick up their click and collect food orders. Salford is drawing on the local voluntary sector via the Spirit of Salford network – for which over 700 people have signed up as volunteers. The group can organise food deliveries and pet walking for people self-isolating, as well as help such as housing and benefits advice. “This is interesting, as many councils haven’t really seen their citizens as collaborators for a long time,” said Jones. “That willingness to be interventionist, the willingness to break free of
the bureaucracy and the new relationship being forged with citizens – if these features can characterise the recovery we’ll be in a completely different place to where we were six months ago.” Once the immediate public health crisis abates and government support tapers off, however, there will be a fragile moment where many companies will find it difficult to survive. At that point some will collapse while others could be snapped up by investors and asset-stripped. “Then there’s a really interesting question about rebuild – namely, how do you not just rebuild the economy but fundamentally reform it after a crisis?” said Jones. “For community wealth building that’s about how do you increase the share of companies owned by their workers, or firms which
generate the kind of local economic and social benefits that you don’t see in the parts of the economy dominated by the big multinationals? “During the rescue phase, local government suddenly became more comfortable being more interventionist and ignoring the normal rules of the market. This is really promising but they need to be transferred into the way we do the rebuilding because in many places, the council, hospital and university or college are now going to become the economic lifeblood of many places. The kinds of decisions they make, therefore, in terms of what they buy, who they employ, what they do with their assets, buildings and land, are going to become really defining questions for a generation.” CIARA LEEMING
Appeal following suspected arson attack Sheffield’s Cathedral Archer Project is appealing for funds after a suspected arson attack threatened to leave it unable to deliver services to homeless people in the city. The Cathedral Archer Project supplies food and drink to homeless people, as well as showering and laundry facilities, health services and signposting to other services. It is also home to Big Issue North’s Sheffield office, where vendors were able to buy magazines until lockdown, and where staff were continuing to support them. A fire following a break-in on 14 May was quickly extinguished but extensive smoke damage has put the centre out of action for the foreseeable future. A man has been arrested in connection with the incident. The project’s staff had been delivering over 180 meals daily to those in need during the crisis, and fundraising has enabled it to continue that work. But it is without its workshops and storage space, and requires additional funds to keep the service going. To donate, go to justgiving.com/campaign/fireappeal2020
NEWS IN BRIEF ROUGH SLEEPING PROGNOSIS Successful efforts to tackle rough sleeping during the pandemic risk being squandered if the government fails to fund a comprehensive exit strategy, a report by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has found. The report calls for the government to dedicate at least £100m per year in long term housing support. CAMPAIGNER’S OBITUARY Manjeet Kaur, the disabled human rights activist from Manchester, has died aged 41. Kaur twice fled persecution – from her homeland in Afghanistan and from India – before arriving in the UK and being dispersed to Manchester. Read about her many campaigning achievements and support for others – despite her own struggles – in an obituary at bigissuenorth.com. AIRPORT EXPANSION PLANS Campaigners have criticised Leeds Bradford Airport’s new plans to increase passenger numbers, involving a new terminal and a longer flying day. Chris Foren, chair of airport campaign group GALBA, said: “Expansion would bring more noise for local communities, increased air pollution, more traffic congestion and pump much more CO2 into the atmosphere, making the climate emergency worse.” ON YOUR BIKE A network of temporary cycle lanes is to be introduced in Liverpool to help kick-start the city’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson last week approved a £2m package to introduce potentially up to 100km of pop-up cycle lanes along key routes into and within Liverpool city centre. Got an event, campaign or Got an event, campaign or story from your area? story from your area? Email Call 0161 831 5563 or email firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
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£450,000 Trainers are getting more and more expensive but a 35-year-old pair netted this ridiculous sum at auction last week. The sneakers are the first pair of Air Jordans worn by the basketball legend in 1985. Like most of Michael Jordan’s shoes the pair are mismatched – size 13 on the left, and 13.5 on the right – but at that price the buyer is unlikely to be attempting to shoot hoops in them.
£106,000 A slightly more conservative sum raised by Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja by auctioning off his screenprinted artwork, but the money will go a long way in helping feed frontline workers and at-risk groups in his hometown via Bristol Food Union.
“We’re ending free movement to open Britain up to the world.” In a baffling display of doublespeak on Twitter Home Secretary Priti Patel triumphantly celebrated stripping the rights of foreign and British citizens alike to live and work abroad. The government’s controversial immigration bill was voted through the commons with a Tory majority of 80.
The interest rate on government bonds sold with a negative yield for the first time last week, paving the way for negative interest rates and signifying concerns about the impact of lockdown on the economy. The negative rates mean the buyers will get less money back when their bonds mature in three years and are effectively paying to fund the government’s Covid response. 8
WHO CARES An anonymous headteacher says an unexpected end is in sight – for her career To read recent accusations that we are lazy and work-shy, and that our reticence to reopen schools shows we don’t care about disadvantaged children, is beyond insulting. My school, along with hundreds of others, did not close due to coronavirus. We opened the Monday after the announcement for our key worker children and our vulnerable children and we have remained open since – including during the Easter holidays and bank holidays and even, on one day, when there was only one child who needed a place. My school is in one of the most deprived areas in the UK. Far from not caring about our disadvantaged children, I have invited children who are vulnerable but not officially vulnerable to attend, such is our commitment to our children and families. I will never forget that first Monday morning. The school that I serve was transformed from being a vibrant, energetic hub of learning where children thrived – a safe haven – to an empty, anxiety-inducing, hazardous shell. It was crushing. None of us knew what we were going to encounter. Would our latex gloves be enough? Even the NHS do not have enough PPE was one response I received when seeking support. We were effectively abandoned. Like most schools, our numbers did not reach the anticipated amount of children attending but we had our core group and working rota and a false sense of security set in. My new routine included difficult daily conversations with parents who wanted their children to come into school despite them not satisfying key worker criteria, and calming and reassuring the team who were understandably anxious. We prepared and delivered home learning for all the children. We shopped for, put together and delivered food parcels for many. We began organising the food vouchers for families – some of which are still not receiving them successfully. In between all of this I was following the data, updates and endless speculation. It was an emotional time while battling pressing feelings of isolation from the rest of the world but all of these acts of support made sense – they benefited our families and children. That’s why the latest government announcement is so hard to swallow – it just doesn’t make sense.
When other restrictions are being eased gently, when the death rate still shows a tragically high number of daily deaths, when the science is still conflicting, why would you cram up to 15 children into a small space and prioritise our youngest children into the bargain? Why? It is in no way accurate that our profession is at loggerheads with unions. They, like us, are passionate about opening our schools – but, for the love of god, only when it is as safe as possible to do so. The reality is though, that unless you are unfortunate enough to be in a school in a huge multi-academy trust headed up by a remote CEO, all decisions will come down to the headteacher. I welcome any advice that will enable us to open safely but I can rely on my own judgement and the commitment of my wonderful team. We are best placed to know what is right for our setting. Leave it to the experts – the ones in school, not sat behind a desk in an office nowhere near one. What arrogance that we as headteachers were not consulted on something so life changing. The blatant disregard for my life and the lives of my colleagues has really unsettled me and prompted me to reevaluate. I can cope with all of the above and more, but to be told that your life isn’t really worth that much, that the government don’t mind experimenting with it – that’s a different matter. I had thought that I would have to be forcibly removed from the premises to make me retire. Now I have a much earlier and definite end date in mind. Good luck with recruitment and retention after this one, Mr Johnson. n
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SHE HAS ISSUES Don’t bank on holidays this year, says Saskia Murphy, unless you’re lucky enough to be a New Zealander Under normal circumstances, budget airlines would be signalling the start of summer by herding tens of thousands of sun-hungry Brits onto planes destined for Europe and beyond. But these aren’t normal circumstances, and far-off memories of people queuing up to get through airport security already feel like they belong to another world. For now, we’re being asked to sit at least part of the summer out. It’s not just foreign travel that’s on the back burner. Council bosses in popular UK holiday destinations such as Blackpool and the Lake District are begging people not to visit, conscious of the threat of a second wave and therefore not quite feeling ready to invite masses of people to laze on beaches or stand huddled together at beauty spots holding selfie sticks. For now, we’re being asked to stay alert, whatever that means. Our sunny leisure time should take place closer to home, maybe in the garden for those who are lucky enough to have one, or in nearby parks and woodlands, and always at a safe distance from others. Theme parks, funfairs, museums, galleries, cinemas and other attractions remain closed, and the cost to the economy is massive. Official tourist agency VisitBritain estimates there will be a £15 billion drop in income from visitors coming to Britain from overseas, combined with £22 billion from lost domestic tourism. For towns that rely on tourism to sustain livelihoods, the impact is devastating. Thousands of seasonal workers have been left without work, hotels remain eerily empty. Financial help from the government for those who have been lucky enough to have been furloughed doesn’t cover tips or overtime, which can make up a large portion of income for seasonal workers on minimum wage. We’re going to have some making up to do, once it’s safe to do so. I’d be happy for a holiday to the restaurant down the road, that’s how domestic my travel plans are at the moment. Instead of keeping an eye on Skyscanner and awaiting the announcement of airline seat sales, I’ve resigned myself to spending a year on home soil.
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VisitBritain is currently lobbying the government to grant an extra bank holiday in October in an effort to try and recoup some of the money from two lost May bank holidays and a silent Easter weekend, but Downing Street is dragging its feet, saying an extra bank holiday comes with “economic costs”. Meanwhile, in another flawless demonstration of how to lead a country, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has touted the idea of introducing a four day working week to help get the country back on its feet. While our government mulls over giving workers an extra day off, Ardern is considering offering an extra 52 “holiday” days every year to help boost domestic tourism and encourage a healthy work-life balance. Of course if summer does get postponed, our only issue is the weather. Ice cream doesn’t quite have the same appeal on a rainy UK summer day as it does in a sweltering Italian piazza, but the coronavirus crisis is forcing us all out of our comfort zone, and maybe our holiday habits will have to change too. Fish and chips on a cold October day? Count me in. n
“While our government drags its feet over one extra day off Jacinda Ardern is considering offering an extra 52.”
Saskia Murphy is a Manchester-based freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter @SaskiaMurphy
Heart on his album sle Damon Gough has channelled what might seem like clichés – the value of therapy, giving up drinking, meeting a new partner – into an inventive, upbeat album, his first in eight years. He just can’t wait to talk to Richard Smirke Most musicians require a fair amount of gentle coaxing before an interviewer can dive into the juicy personal stuff. In Damon Gough’s case, all it takes is “hello” and he’s off, voluntarily spilling his innermost thoughts and anxieties. “I’m pretty used to Zoom. I do my therapy this way,” he says, settling into a seat in front of a computer in his South Manchester home. For the next seven minutes, the singer-songwriter better known as Badly Drawn Boy doesn’t pause for breath as he discusses love, heartbreak, overcoming depression, finding happiness, the merits of speaking to therapists (and journalists) via video conferencing, Brexit, the EU referendum, collective amnesia and the election of Boris Johnson. “We’re straight into it here, aren’t we?” he says upon realising a question has yet to be asked. “Is that all right with you?” The reason for our chat is the release of Banana Skin Shoes, Gough’s brilliant new album, which marks his return after almost a decade away. During that time, there’s been plenty of live shows, including a well-received tour to mark the 15th anniversary of his celebrated debut album, The Hour of Bewilderbeast, but no new music since 2012’s Being Flynn, the soundtrack to a largely unseen Robert De Niro film. The reasons behind Gough’s prolonged absence are many and varied, but a key one is his split from the mother of his two grown up children, Clare, who inspired most of Bewilderbeast. After their relationship ended in 2011, Gough spent several years struggling to get his life back on track. He credits the help of his therapist, “giving up the booze” and meeting his new partner, Leanne, with giving him the desire to once again start writing and recording new songs. 10
“It’s a cliché but true that stuff you learn most in life comes out of hard times,” he reflects from his home studio, decorated with pictures of The Beatles, stage props, photos and an array of musical instruments. “When things are coasting along and going well you don’t tend to learn as much. As much as the last several years have been tough, I feel like I’ve got a lot more out of them. I know what I want and don’t want from life. I just want to be happy, for a start. I don’t want to conquer the world anymore with music. I just want to be appreciated on a level that’s appropriate and fulfilling.” Rewind back 20 years and Gough wasn’t just coasting along – he was flying high as one of Britain’s brightest new music stars. The roots of his career date back to a chance encounter with DJ Andy Votel in a Manchester bar. Together, they
Grant romantic comedy About A Boy, brought further commercial success. Ditto 2002’s Have You Fed The Fish? Sadly, his golden period was not to last and despite occasional flashes of brilliance subsequent records were met with a more lukewarm reception. The fact that Being Flynn failed to get a theatrical release in the UK symbolises Gough’s fading fortunes around the time he stepped back from making music. Next thing he knew, five years had passed and he was still no closer to starting a new LP. “The pressure was building to do something. I started to think people are going to expect an amazing record because I’d been away so long that I must be making some masterpiece.” He worried about how he was ever going to fulfil people’s expectations. “The past three years of making this record have felt close to how it did making the debut. I genuinely felt like I had something to prove again.” Banana Skin Shoes funnels that pent-up ambition into 14 songs that recapture the magical charm and warmth of his best work. It’s also the most colourful and upbeat album he’s made, marrying vaulting pop melodies with
“I just want to be happy, for a start. I don’t want to conquer the world anymore with music.” started a record label, which they named Twisted Nerve, and released the first in a succession of critically acclaimed Badly Drawn Boy EPs in 1997. “We got the first EP made in America and shipped over. Taking the 7in vinyl out of the box for the first time was a moment I’ll never forget,” the Boltonraised singer excitedly recalls. The Hour of Bewilderbeast, a shimmering blend of tender folk songs, romantic piano ballads and luminescent lo-fi pop, followed in the summer of 2000 and beat Coldplay, Leftfield and Doves to that year’s Mercury Prize, elevating Gough and his trademark woolly hat to national fame. His next album, a soundtrack to the hit Hugh
shuffling lo-fi beats, pastoral strings and triumphant horns, while making respectful nods to everyone from Beck to Chicago to his lifelong hero Bruce Springsteen. Dig beneath the Technicolor surface, however, and glimpses of Gough’s darker, melancholy side emerge. “The subjects I’m dealing with are often quite depressing,” he admits, pointing to I’m Not Sure What It Is as a deceptively upbeat song inspired by his own mental health struggles. “I realised I had depression going back years, but I hadn’t acknowledged it or labelled it. It wasn’t denial. I just didn’t know.” Gough, who turned 50 in October and became a father for the third time in 2017, says his joke working title for the album
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14:41 12/03/2020 11:17
Badly’s Best The Shining (2000) From its sombre opening bars of cello and French horn to its sun-dappled chorus, the opening track of Badly Drawn Boy’s debut album remains one of the most touching songs he’s written. Like much of The Hour of Bewilderbeast, it was inspired by his then partner and perfectly captures the longing and giddiness of a blossoming love affair in its first stages. “I’ve fallen in deep,” he sings over a gently strummed acoustic guitar. “It’s killing me, I’m dying.”
Badly Drawn Boy plays with his signature beanie and acoustic guitar. Photo: Rob Ball/Redferns
was A Pocket Guide To A Midlife Crisis and hopes that listeners will take comfort from his heart-on-sleeve outpourings. “I wanted [the songs] to not feel like they’re morbid or defeatist, but be like: ‘This is all right. I can deal with this.’ There’s so many people struggling in the last several years. I didn’t want to be another casualty. I want to laugh at these problems, if I can, and I’m getting to a place where I can.” The title Banana Skin Shoes is a playful admission of both his personal failures and the failures of wider society in recent years, he explains, describing
creation of a new idea. The rest of it – the finishing of ideas, trying to produce songs to be the best they can be, promoting, even the touring sometimes – is tough. But any time I sit at the piano or pick up my guitar, that little spark is the most enjoyable bit. It doesn’t last very long, but that’s what keeps you going.” As our conversation nears its close, talk returns to coronavirus and the impact lockdown is having on daily life. “I fear for people’s livelihoods and their mental health,” says Gough, who admits to feeling torn about promoting an album at a time when people are suffering. “My
“I’m hopeful that the world has got some goodness left in it that we can squeeze out.” lead single Is This A Dream? as a mildly political “comical take on the craziness of the world”. “The songs are meant to send positive messages to help people through these tricky times we’re living in,” he says, nervously fiddling with the long grey locks of hair that peek out from beneath his ever-present headgear (yes, he wears a woolly hat in interviews too. He even wore it on his wedding day). Gough never sits down and sets out to write a song about a given subject. “I have to allow it to come through my system and somehow find its way out… it comes through the music.” He recalls hearing an interview with Don McLean where the American Pie singer described being a songwriter as a constant nightmare, plagued by endless nagging ideas. “That’s the burden you learn to live with,” agrees Gough. “I love writing songs. The best part of my job is the
therapist has, again, helped me with these mental tussles. I just want to do what’s right and if people want to hear the music, I want them to be able to hear it. As long as your intentions are good, then nobody can pull you up about what you’re doing.” Looking ahead, he’s optimistic that something positive can ultimately come out of the pandemic. “There is a new world around the corner. I’m hopeful that the world has got some goodness left in it that we can squeeze out. The opportunity is there for a lot of us that have been frustrated that our efforts haven’t really amounted to much to make proper changes. Grasp the opportunity that this quiet time is giving us, properly rise up and do something, and not keep listening to the crap that politicians come out with.” Whatever happens next, Gough takes comfort from the fact that no
Promises (2006) Although he’s predominantly known as a guitarist, many of Gough’s finest compositions take the form of romantic piano ballads, including this under-rated gem from fifth album, Born in the UK. Beginning with a lilting lullaby melody, Promises tenderly explores “the dying embers” of a relationship, culminating with the bittersweet instruction “sometimes you just have to walk away”. Its gently rocking second half transforms the mood from tearful to resolute. Tony Wilson Said (2020) A joyful highlight from Banana Skin Shoes, Tony Wilson Said sails a funky percussive groove as Gough celebrates the late Factory Records founder. Taking the listener on a musical tour of Manchester, the song doubles as a love letter to the singer’s adopted home and is packed full of references to famous local institutions like the Hacienda and Boardwalk. Its title is a play on Van Morrison’s Jackie Wilson Said, which Dexy’s Midnight Runners turned into a top five hit in 1982.
problem or challenge, regardless of how insurmountable they appear at the time, is too large to overcome. Reflecting on how his experiences over the past 10 years, good as well as bad, have changed him, he says that he’s become a better person as a result. “I feel mentally stronger than ever and my outlook is brighter is than ever. Even before coronavirus, I had reached a point in life where I understand that happiness is paramount. For all the things I’ve been through – the knockbacks, the break-up with Clare, giving up the booze, other things along the way – you learn from them. You’re lucky in life if you’ve not experienced crap to deal with. Now I just want to achieve happiness, and I’m pretty close to it.” n Banana Skin Shoes is out now 25 - 31 MAY BIG ISSUE NORTH
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Dig for Victory was one of the great slogans of World War Two, and now the coronavirus crisis has produced Pick for Britain. Roger Ratcliffe talks to farmers desperately searching for workers to bring in the crops
How hard can it be to pick a strawberry? “Unless you want to give a load of mushy ones to mum for making jam it’s quite difficult work,” says Janet Oldroyd, one of Yorkshire’s biggest soft fruit growers. This has caused her a huge headache. The polytunnels on her farm at Rothwell between Leeds and Wakefield, where this most English of summer fruit grows, would normally employ a skilled labour force of around 70 seasonal workers from Eastern Europe. But the lockdown has left her scratching around for help with the strawberry harvest when it begins in the next few weeks. “We’re desperately worried we’re not going to get our fruit picked. There’s training involved and it takes maybe a couple of weeks to learn the skill and build up a head of steam, but you can either do it or you can’t. Some folks are a bit ham-fisted and I’ve found it’s younger people who tend to make the best pickers.” Oldroyd is just one of many farmers struggling to fill a total of 70,000 agricultural jobs in the UK this year because of the coronavirus crisis. The big challenge comes now the strawberry and raspberry crops are nearly ready for picking. Although much of this takes place in Kent, Hampshire and the Tayside region of Scotland there are some large growers in Yorkshire and Lancashire. Oldroyd’s other main crop, forced rhubarb, was being picked just as the lockdown was announced and hotels and restaurants, which make up the main custom for the product, were closing their doors. This had a “disastrous” effect on her business, she says, and the last thing she needs now is unpicked strawberries.
A plea in local media for workers brought an avalanche of 500 applicants, but most were unsuitable. A high percentage had been furloughed from their jobs and she felt she couldn’t make the regulations on them taking a second job work for her. Others were from 16 year olds but employment law means they can work only a 35-hour week, which at the height of the picking season would be exceeded. Also, applicants were from as far apart as York and Halifax, posing an insurmountable problem of getting them to and from the farm. Rachael Gillbanks of the local National Farmers Union (NFU) tells of another strawberry grower encountering the problem of not having the workforce resident on or near the farm, as is usually the case with migrant pickers. In warmer weather they work very early in the morning because it’s not good for the berries to be picked in the heat of the day or for the pickers to be inside polytunnels in hot conditions. “Later they pick again in the evening when things cool down, so that requires a workforce living on the spot or nearby. It’s a real challenge to growers.” Up at Thirsk in North Yorkshire, farmer Tom Spilman managed to find workers to bring in his asparagus and strawberries only after putting out a post on Facebook. He had no alternative, he says. “We either get the English workers or we don’t pick the crops. They would just go to waste and there’d be empty shelves in the shops. We usually get only one or two Brits who venture into the fields, but they never last long.” Once, though, agriculture was among Britain’s biggest industries. In 1841 over 25 - 31 MAY BIG ISSUE NORTH
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Janet Oldroyd picks her crop of rhubarb. But during lockdown, demand from restaurants has come to a halt. Photo: Tim Scrivener/Shutterstock
20 per cent of jobs were on farms. By the end of the Second World farming still employed 1 million people but the proportion of jobs had dropped to just 5 per cent. Now less than 1 per cent of full-time jobs are on the land. Most British people are reluctant to graft in fields, and certainly not for the minimum wage, which has left the agricultural industry almost wholly reliant on workers from countries like Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech
She points out that the main difficulty is the level of training involved, both for the skilled job of picking and for health and safety requirements. It is not possible for farmers to train up part-timers who then go back to their day jobs when the lockdown is eased. Jack Ward of the British Growers Association is not too despondent about the slow start to the search for crop pickers. “It’s important to keep in mind that this will be a marathon, not a sprint,”
“We either get the English workers or we don’t pick the crops. They would just go to waste.” Republic and Romania, who usually live in caravans or chalets next to the farms. Tom Spilman would normally have 80 or 90 migrant workers at the height of the picking season but this year the majority of those who have picked his asparagus spears are university and school students left with free time after their exams were cancelled. The NFU in Lancashire has been trying to find workers for local farmers through the government’s Pick for Britain website. Liz Berry, the NFU’s county adviser, says the main crops requiring workers are leeks, lettuce, cabbages and cauliflowers. “The season doesn’t really kick off until June. Some growers are already having people get in touch with them to say they can come and work, but sadly they are not people who can do it full time.”
he says. “The fresh produce harvest in the UK is just getting going and it will run pretty much through to Christmas and beyond. What we want to do is manage a sustained level of interest over that entire period of harvesting.” There is a danger that publicity given to the need for more jobs on the land will mean that growers are inundated with offers of help this spring, but as soon as the lockdown is relaxed many of those people will start returning to their more usual kind of work. “We could then find ourselves in a situation during, let’s say, August, when we’re still at the height of the picking season but we need 30,000 workers. I don’t want to see a lot of the people who take up offers of work now and are trained by growers then going back to their original jobs.”
The level of interest in crop picking work has been monitored by the employment website Totaljobs. “Fruit picker” has become its most frequentlyoccurring search term, used almost 53,000 times in one week – an increase of 78 per cent on the previous week. “To put that in context,” says Steve Farnham of Totaljobs, “searches for fruit picking work in the whole of 2019 amounted to just 1,200”. Use of other search terms like “farm” and “farm workers” has doubled. “But we’re seeing that people aren’t just searching but are applying for the jobs as well,” adds Farnham. “Last week there was a 27 per cent increase in applications for jobs in the agricultural industry.” Some workers from Eastern Europe are now returning. There has been at least one flight from Romania to Stansted Airport chartered by an unnamed food company to bring in 180 fruit and vegetable pickers. They were bussed to large farms in Lincolnshire and Essex. More flights are said to be planned although these may be cancelled in view of tough new quarantine rules imposed on people flying into the UK. Meanwhile, the government's immigration bill for a post-Brexit world, given initial approval by MPs last week, could make it harder for growers to recruit from overseas. n Jobs on fruit and veg farms can be found at pickforbritain.org.uk 25 - 31 MAY BIG ISSUE NORTH
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In self defence Lack of funding as well as coronavirus is delaying much needed flood defence work in Cumbria, forcing residents to take matters into their own hands, reports Giles Brown
With the combination of coronavirus and the onset of spring, for some of us the rain-sodden days of early February may seem like a distant memory. However, for those whose homes and livelihoods were affected by the flooding that accompanied Storm Ciara on the weekend of 8-9 February it is an issue that is never far from their minds. This is especially true in a county like Cumbria, which has experienced major flooding in 2005, 2009 and 2015 and where residents live in the knowledge that climate change is only going to increase the frequency of extreme weather events. During Storm Ciara residents watched in trepidation as river levels rose in a 18
way that was all too reminiscent of Storm Desmond in December 2015, which caused widespread damage across the county. Train services were cancelled or reduced, flights from Carlisle Lake District Airport were grounded and more than 25,000 properties lost power. Since 2009, more than £55 million has been spent on building flood defences across Cumbria. The Environment Agency says investment since 2015 has significantly reduced flood risk to more than 9,000 properties. However, many in the county are still asking why, after so much work, sandbags, flood alerts, insurance claims
and clean-up operations are becoming such grimly familiar features of living in Cumbria in winter. Probably the worst hit community in February was Appleby-in-Westmorland. Patrick Leach, 63, has lived in the town for 46 years and runs Capstick Carpets – just a few metres from the River Eden. Since the shop was flooded during Storm Desmond he has invested thousands in protecting the business. “I have built my own flood barriers because the Environment Agency don’t have any funds to do anything in Appleby,” he says. “Since Storm Desmond they haven’t made any improvements or alterations to any of the flood defences.” He says flood defences had been built in the past, but these are on the opposite side of the river to his property. “That has just made our side worse,” says Leach. He has spent much of the last five years putting in place his own flood defence
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system to protect his shop and three adjoining properties, costing a total of around £40,000. “All the building work took about six weeks and the planning permission took two years,” he says. “I came up with the concept and we got a couple of local companies to come on board and they did the structural engineering.” This, combined with pumping the water away with petrol-driven pumps, allowed him to avoid serious damage and re-open the day after the worst of the floodwater hit in February. The Environment Agency says there is a “scheme in development” to reduce the effects of flooding in Appleby. The main objective of this is to reduce the risk of flooding from Doomgate Beck, one of the main tributaries of the River Eden. This is likely to involve installing a pumping station to allow it to discharge water into the River Eden even when it is high and reduce the flooding risk to nearby areas. Work is also planned to carry out culvert improvement works upstream to increase the amount of water that can be discharged and reduce the risk in that area.
An Environment Agency spokesperson says: “Unfortunately, other elements of the scheme which were being appraised, for example, the proposed raising of the existing town centre defences and construction of flood defences on the Sands, are no longer affordable options and cannot be progressed further without significant additional funding. “The Environment Agency is supporting communities that do not have completed or permanent flood defences and remain at risk of flooding. We are doing this in many ways, from forecasting potential flood risk and warning communities to utilising mobile high-volume pumps. In Appleby, our operational teams have been very active within the area removing both debris and blockages on a consistent maintenance schedule.” At the same time as worrying about future flooding, some in Cumbria are still living with the very real effects of Storm Desmond five years ago. In Pooley Bridge, at the northern tip of Ullswater, a permanent replacement is being built for the original 18th century bridge, which was washed away during the storm. Estimated to have a final cost of £5 million, the new bridge over the River Eamont was tipped to open to traffic this spring but is currently only open to foot traffic. The five year wait for people and businesses in the village is only being added to after contractors were forced to down tools by the coronavirus outbreak. Andrew Kaye, who owns the shop Chestnut House, which sells a range of
Left: Appleby in February. Above: Andrew Kaye
be completed by the end of June. It is likely the work could begin again as long as contractors maintain social distancing rules and wear protective equipment to guard against infection, he says. Work to develop flood mitigation for towns and villages across the county is still underway. The size of the county, combined with the time and resources required to do the work, means it’s a time-consuming process, says Little. Another issue was that as rivers ran into the sea, the risk of flooding was exacerbated by the state of the tide and the silt which built up annually due to coastal erosion.
“Since Storm Desmond the Environment Agency hasn’t made any improvements to flood defences.” local produce in Pooley Bridge, says the closure has definitely had an effect on business. The business is running a delivery service during the coronavirus lockdown, but has been forced to take barrowloads of deliveries across the river by hand as it is quicker than driving. “It’s going to be fantastic when it’s done and it will be a real feature. We are very positive and hopeful,” says Kaye. Following the damage caused by Storm Desmond, Cumbria received approximately £120 million from the government for repairs. Keith Little, Cumbria County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, says it has been spending the money at a rate of roughly £30 million a year and expects to have used it all by the end of this year. Although the Pooley Bridge project had been delayed, Little hopes it could
Much of the work to reduce the risk to built-up areas is focused on directing water to flow off the land via rivers that avoid communities, or on allowing land upstream to flood so the water can then dissipate more slowly. “If you are asking me if we get a serious winter in 2020-21 are we going to be safe I can’t guarantee nobody will be flooded again,” says Little. Unfortunately, these words are only echoed by the Environment Agency. “It is not always possible to build defences big enough to protect every home or business, and even with new flood defences in place, people cannot ever be fully protected from flooding,” says its spokesperson. “We know a long term view is needed as climate change will lead to more frequent bouts of extreme weather, including heavy rainfall which causes flooding.” n 25 - 31 MAY BIG ISSUE NORTH
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The world premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s 84th play also marks the playwright’s return to acting at 81 years old. Ayckbourn has teamed up with his wife Heather Stoney (pictured together on stage in 1964) for Anno Domino. An exclusive recording is available on the Stephen Joseph Theatre website between 25 May and 25 June. (sjt.uk.com) Award-winning Hull comedian Jack Gleadow hosts his weekly comedy show from his mind and his bedroom during lockdown. Jack’s Night In features special guests and is broadcast every Friday at 7pm. (youtube.com/user/jackgleadow)
Culture at Home brings together the best of Liverpool’s historical, creative and academic talent for a series of concerts, shows, readings, lectures, tours and activities. (liverpool.ac.uk/coronavirus/culture)
Antiques Roadshow regular and expert Marc Allum presents the Anatomy of Antiques from his home, in the latest lecture from the Arts Society Connected programme. (connected.theartssociety.org)
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THINGS TO DO ONLINE THIS WEEK Scarborough
London The Imperial War Museum has opened up many of its collections online and is hosting a range of digital events. Adventures in History is broadcast every Wednesday and covers the National Curriculum, on Fridays there’s a Family Mission based on a historical theme, Collections Spotlight highlights an interesting artefact from the museum’s collection, there’s films to watch and behind the scenes virtual tours. (iwm.org.uk)
Artist Jane Poulton’s From Stardust to Stardust is part of a series of digital commissions by Scarborough Museums Trust. The exhibition explores how personal objects can bring to mind moments of deep emotion from our own private histories. The online gallery of photographic and text-based images will include image descriptions and audio files, for those who might find them helpful. (scarboroughmuseumstrust.com)
Witness the Northern Lights from home as every night Polar Bears International and Explore.org stream the night sky from the Churchill Northern Studies Centre in Manitoba, Canada. (explore.org)
The People’s History Museum is offering a series of online half-term activities to inspire creative campaigning, playful protest, democratic discovery and vital voters. Doodle Den presents a series of drawing challenges to completed in homemade dens. On 4 June My First Protest Song is a session led by singer-songwriter Matt Hill, and Vital Voters provides inspiration for political young film makers. (phm.org.uk)
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TELEVISION BRITAIN’S BEST PARENT?
MANEATER (PS4, Xbox One, PC) MINECRAFT DUNGEONS (PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch)
Is nothing sacred? Based on this new reality contest from Channel 4, the answer is sadly an emphatic no. This really is a series in which parents compete to see who is best at a process that literally everybody is making up as they go along, where the stakes are the lives and wellbeing of actual human beings. It is, without doubt, one of the most unpleasant and judgmental hours of television I’ve seen in 15 years writing about telly for Big Issue North. Here’s the pitch: three sets of parents, each convinced they’ve nailed the perfect style of child-rearing, swap kids for a series of eight-hour playdates, all of which are filmed. This footage is then played back to those parents in a studio, where an audience looms over them, weighing up their worthiness. Debates are had about the expected topics raised, almost all concerning discipline and that tired old modern bogeyman “screentime”. At the end, the audience gets to ask a few questions, and then vote en masse for the parents they prefer. There’s a grand final to look forward to, you see. In this episode, we meet Kevin and Kerry, who describe their style as “lazy parenting”. Their two boys, aged eight and 11, are essentially left to do whatever they want, whenever they want. There are no set mealtimes and snacks are always available. Joanna, meanwhile, is raising her son Willow according to a feminist gender-neutral model. Willow is free to identify however they want, and the house is conspicuously free of traditional boy toys such as guns and action figures. Then there’s Rin and Robin, who adhere to parenting with an Eastern philosophy. In their interpretation this means father knows best, strict rules and mandatory martial arts training. Obviously, anyone who volunteers for a show like this clearly thinks they’ve got it all sussed out, so what you end up with is a group of people of varying levels of smugness, making passive-aggressive snipes at each other for deviating from what they think is normal. There are no screaming arguments, just a constant simmer of sniffy self-righteous one-upmanship. Do we learn anything of value about modern parenting? Of course not. This is all about picking the people with the most extreme and oppositional viewpoints and pitting them against each other. Everything, in other words, that the world has had more than enough of.
Looking for a game to sink your teeth into? If so, hopefully you’ll forgive that awful pun as a way of introducing Maneater, a game in which you play a vengeful bull shark wreaking havoc along a US coastal resort. This is no mere arcade distraction – it’s a fully fledged aquatic roleplaying game in which you’re free to roam seven different interlinked areas, from murky bayou to pristine beaches, evolving your “character” by munching on smaller fish, battling apex predators like alligator and squid, and fending off hunting parties. There’s even a story, building to a showdown between you and Scaly Pete, a cartoonishly Cajun shark hunter who murdered your mother and mutilated you as a young pup. Along the way you can choose to grow such unlikely flourishes as external bone armour and electrified spikes. Look, nobody said this was a documentary, OK? It’s all good ghoulish fun, and there’s an undeniably transgressive thrill to recreating your favourite Jaws scenes from the shark’s POV. It does, inevitably, become somewhat repetitive though as for all the new abilities you unlock, you’re still mostly just swimming around, chomping and thrashing things to death over and over. Amusing but, ironically, shallow. Genre norms are also being shaken up in Minecraft Dungeons, the first entirely new game based on the block-bashing sensation since 2015’s narrative Story Mode. There’s no mining or crafting in this one – making the title confusing for anyone who is still somehow unfamiliar with Mojang’s massively successful original. Instead this is what’s called a “dungeon crawl” role-playing game – you, and up to three friends, plunge into a series of levels, viewed from an elevated position in the expected chunky cube style. Battling monsters and hoovering up precious loot is the aim, increasing your statistics and weaponry in order to better survive whatever the next stage throws at you and an eventual confrontation with powerful boss baddies. It’s a style of play that is relentlessly satisfying and quickly becomes very moreish, as anyone who lost hours to the classic Diablo series can attest. Most surprisingly, it all maps very nicely onto Minecraft’s world, so while the gameplay is different it still feels familiar. It’s lacking the freeform creativity that makes Minecraft special, but as a change of pace for fans both young and old, it’s more than welcome.
Channel 4, Thursday 28 May, 8pm
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STATE OF INDEPENDENTS
MUSIC THE 1975
Notes On A Conditional Form (Dirty Hit/Polydor)
Of all the criticisms levelled at The 1975 over the years one thing the Manchester-formed band can never be accused of is lacking ambition. Notes On A Conditional Form is the group’s long-delayed fourth LP in seven years and was originally envisioned as the second part of a two-album cycle that began with 2018’s A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. Whereas that record was a sprawling 58-minute opus fusing multiple genres, this one is somehow even bigger, its 22 tracks recorded in 16 different studios across three continents. The album’s disjointed gestation is reflected in the music, which ramps up the restless skipping between styles, but lacks the focus and cohesion of their previous works.
It’s a shame because when The 1975 are at their best few modern acts come close and there are multiple instances here of a band firing on all cylinders. Standout moments include a sparkling Me & You Together Song, the catchy 1980s synth rock of If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know), a furious Fugazi-like People and Frail State of Mind’s shimmering glitchy electronica. Sadly, there’s also an abundance of halfbaked songs and skippable orchestral/ambient interludes that reinforce negative perceptions of Matty Healy and company as self-indulgent poseurs. RICHARD SMIRKE
THE COOL GREENHOUSE
“The mission was to make long, repetitive pop music that wasn’t boring,” says Tom Greenhouse about his Norwich group’s debut. Recorded over a week in a converted potato factory with Sleaford Mods engineer Phil Booth, the resulting 11 songs are certainly long and monotonous, but there’s scant evidence of anything interesting going on. The band’s default mode consists of Greenhouse narrating droll social commentary over a basic drumbeat, plodding guitar and occasional synthesizer. Echoes of The Fall, Half Man Half Biscuit and Art Brut break through the tedium, although they and countless others do this kind of thing better.
Currently riding high with his popular Twitter listening parties, Tim Burgess returns to his day job (of sorts) with his fifth solo release. Its ebullient title reflects the giddy enthusiasm with which the Charlatans singer tries his hand at different styles and genres, ranging from sun-kissed chamber pop to West Coast folk to gospel to rockabilly. Comme D’Habitude is a swooning highlight that nods to Sparks in its breezy bridge section. I Got This rides a nagging organ-powered cosmic groove. Best of all on the album is Warhol Me, an effervescent psychedelic rock gem in the vein of Velvet Underground’s All Tomorrow’s Parties.
The first major pop record written and recorded in lockdown, Charlotte Aitchison (Charli XCX) made How I’m Feeling Now in just a few weeks, documenting her progress on social media. Its speedy genesis grants songs like Forever and a synthdrenched Enemy a directness and candour without skimping on production values. The dominant sound is one of thumping bass, glitchy electronics, club beats and autotuned vocals, with the latter acting as a distracting mask for Aitchison’s vulnerable lyrics. “So long, been scared to show off my feelings,” she sings on 7 Years, a heartfelt paean to her longterm partner.
The Cool Greenhouse
I Love The New Sky
How I’m Feeling Now
Exploring themes of loneliness and isolation, Only The Animals (from 29 May, Curzon Home Cinema) feels like a pertinent movie for our times. This French drama starts with the disappearance of a woman whose car is found abandoned by the side of the road following a snowstorm. What happened to her is pieced together through five different viewpoints, detailing how a series of crossed paths and misunderstandings leads to tragic consequences. Primarily set in a snowbound, remote village populated by disconnected, damaged people, the film has a familiar Scandinoir feel to begin with, but there’s a twist in the tale that takes it into some surprising territory, both geographically and narratively. It depends a little too much on coincidence, but it’s an engaging tale nonetheless. Also released on Curzon is a collection of Merchant Ivory films that had been scheduled for cinema re-release. These include Maurice, the 1987 film based on the EM Forster novel about an affair between two Cambridge students when homosexuality was punishable by imprisonment. CHRISTIAN LISSEMAN
GET ON BOARD Fancy playing a game that lasts all day long but doesn’t hinder you going about your day? Big Potato Games has got you covered – as long as you can deal with creeping paranoia and suspicion of everyone you’re playing against. There’s just one aim of this game of trickery and deception: Don’t Get Got! Don’t Get Got! is a game in which players must keep quiet and make tactical manoeuvres to win. Up to eight players can take part. Each person gets given a plastic wallet, which they can fold up and keep in their pocket. Six unique mission cards are handed out to each person and inserted into their wallet. A player must complete three out of six missions first to win the game. You can be as creative or as dirty as you like in completing missions, which are an interesting mix of easy, like “Get a player to give you a hug” to the downright difficult: “Claim you saw someone famous the other day who is dead and get a player to call you out on it.”
Read Ricky Stack’s full review in the See Hear section of bigissuenorth.com 25 - 31 MAY BIG ISSUE NORTH
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IN THE FRAME
The moon From Galileo’s watercolours to Luke Jerram’s giant balloon sculpture, Antonia Charlesworth looks at the influence of the Moon on artists through the ages Across ages and continents humans have been fascinated by the Moon and it’s been a preoccupation of scientists and artists alike. At 200,000 miles away the Moon is our closest celestial neighbour and its only natural satellite. It’s a symbol of femininity, of humanity’s scientific ability, of nature, magic and mythology. Omnipresent and yet unknowable, it rules our calendar and our tides – and though it means something different in every culture it connects us all, even in times of separation. 24
Moon Drawing Galileo Galelei (1609) The celebrated Italian astronomer and philosopher was also a trained painter and produced this famous set of six watercolours. They show the Moon in its various phases as he observed it through a telescope in the autumn of 1609. These little paintings are the first realistic depiction of the Moon in history, although the oldest image of it ever discovered predates it by a few thousand years – the Bronze Age Nebra Sky Disc (1600 BC).
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Clockwise from left: Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon; John Russell’s The Moon; Jade Rabbit; I Want! I Want!; and Galileo’s Moon Drawing
The Moon John Russell (1787) Russell was the most famous pastel portrait artist of his time but although by day he would intricately portray the features of high society, by night he turned his attentions to the Moon. Russell reportedly spent about six hours a night for 20 years depicting his muse. This picture shows the Moon on the second night after the first quarter – the night he loved it best because of the contrast between shadow and light. I Want! I Want! William Blake (1793) This little engraving is smaller than a playing card and shows a child’s wish to visit the Moon. It would be nearly two centuries before anyone figured out how to get there and it wasn’t on a ladder. The fantasy of living on the Moon isn’t one that abated with the Moon landing, though the meaning may have evolved over time. An illustration by children’s author Oliver Jeffers in 2019 showed an identical concept but in that case it was a man “wary of the world” who wished to move to the Moon. Jade Rabbit: Sun Wukong, the Monkey King from one Hundred Aspects of the Moon Taiso Yoshitoshi (1889) This is one of 100 prints featuring the Moon made by this Japanese artist Yoshitoshi. The woodblock prints often show stories from Chinese and Japanese folklore and include elements of the supernatural. This one refers to a Chinese story of an immortal monkey
king, shown dancing with a jewelled hare that, according to legend, lives on the Moon. In the same year in southern France, Van Gogh painted his famous Starry Night, observed from his window from a lunatic asylum where he stayed for a year after notoriously cutting off his own ear. The word “lunatic” derives from the word “lunar”, and a full moon has long been associated with strange human as well as supernatural behaviour. Van Gogh paints a waning crescent moon however. Museum of the Moon Luke Jerram (2016) This touring light and audio installation looks so realistic that one little girl asked the artist if he was going to put the Moon back afterwards. Internally lit and accompanied by a sound composition, the sculpture is actually a giant balloon, printed with detailed Nasa imagery at a scale of 1:500,000 and made in a hot air balloon factory. 25 -31 MAY BIG ISSUE NORTH
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READING ROOM Author Q&A: Andrzej Tichy WRETCHEDNESS (And Other Stories, £9.99 paperback, £6.99 ebook)
A cellist in Malmö, Sweden, meets a junkie. “That could have been me.” His mind starts to glitch between his memories and the avant-garde music he loves, and he descends into his past, hearing a more chaotic soundtrack, of Europe’s housing projects, underground clubs and squat parties. Tichy was born in Prague but has lived in Sweden since 1981 and is the author of five novels, short stories, non-fiction and criticism. Wretchedness is about the victims of poverty and how its survivors have stayed vividly alive. How was the idea for the novel born? It was like it usually is when I write: a drawn-out process rather than an epiphany. I started writing the book during a period of my life when both I and many people around me were struggling to cope with various issues, which in many cases were connected to where we come from (our underclass/lower working class upbringing). Somehow that forced me to return to the themes in my first book. That was about socially excluded kids, about violence and loneliness – but also about friendship and the power of language and the imagination. Now I wanted to show these kids as young adults, how they lived with death constantly breathing down their necks. The book’s structured on flashbacks and has a swirling, hallucinatory style. Did you set out to aim for an unconventional structure or was it driven by the characters and the story you wanted to tell? I’m increasingly striving to get to something more conventional, more “easily comprehended”. But at the same time I’m firmly rooted in a narrative tradition predicated on the idea that conventional realism is one stylistic choice among many, rather than a neutral default position. While I was writing I just knew that this style and this structure was necessary to do justice to the story. Cody and the other characters endured a grim, poverty-stricken existence in Sweden. Are you surprised it is still widely seen elsewhere as something of a social democratic haven? This is a complicated question that really deserves a long answer, but simplifying slightly I’d say there are two dominant, diametrically opposed images of Sweden – one is what you’re referring to: an image, circulated for most of the 20th century, of Sweden’s then-dominant social democracy. The other image, in many ways a reaction to the first, has spread in recent decades – mainly in reactionary and populist circles – and portrays Sweden as a former paradise that’s been destroyed by immigration. Both of these images are false and manipulative. But it’s not surprising that they’ve gained the purchase they have. Swedish society is unique in many ways (200 years of peace, for instance), and so it’s easy for people to project their own ideas onto it. Violence is an everyday part of the characters’ lives. It even seems to strengthen their bonds in their youth. Did you grow up so close to violence? Yes, I did. Though then it was far from as serious as it is today. Guns were a real rarity, and drug dealing was on nowhere near the same scale as now. But it was absolutely part of everyday life, on many levels. There were many people around us living really difficult lives, many neglected children. Cody recalls hanging round with a half-Polish guy and a Polish Gypsy “playing gangsta”. Has rap culture, so important in your book, supplied an international language of youth? Yes, I think so. For me personally it wasn’t really like that. I think my generation was the last to not automatically associate the post-war 26
suburbs with hip-hop – in the late 1980s and early 1990s there was a lot of other stuff – reggae, punk, metal and so on – but gradually hip-hop took over. With good consequences and bad, I’d say. With such international language, were you involved in a detailed way in the translation of the book into English? I guess I was in some ways. Some of the characters in the book use slang that can seem cryptic to outsiders. That’s the whole point. I think many Swedish readers would struggle to understand some of the expressions. That’s why slang exists – to define membership in, and exclusion from, a community – that was what I wanted to portray. But it’s not easy to translate that kind of thing. As far as I can tell Nichola Smalley, my translator, did a brilliant job and the whole process was really informative for me, because I was forced to read my own text in a new way. How are you adapting as a writer to coronavirus, both in terms of your working day and in your thoughts about future writing? For me the situation has mostly meant cancelled trips and events, and the resulting lost income. At times I’ve also been at home with my kids who’ve not been able to go to school, but otherwise it hasn’t had such an impact so far. I mostly just sit and read, write and listen to music alone in my office anyway – a kind of elective social distancing, I guess you could say. It’s hard to say what it will mean in the long run. Hopefully it will be a step on the way towards much-needed radical changes to our society, even though there’s little sign of that so far. KEVIN GOPAL
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OFF THE SHELF FEMALE FRIENDSHIP IN DOMESTIC NOIR ADELE PARKS The mercurial terrain of female friendship is often explored in domestic noir and psychological thrillers. At its best, that friendship is enlightening, supportive and affirming – the high is second only to falling in love. However, when things turn sour, the results can be catastrophic – betrayal and revenge. My novel, Just My Luck, investigates what is due between friends who once loved each other but are capable of devastating deceit. In Liane Moriarty’s novel Big Little Lies (Penguin) a seemingly perfect community is scrutinised as readers are plunged into a pit of deceit, scandal and dangerous lies. However, as the quagmire of endless challenges is negotiated – teenage rebellion, blended families, single motherhood, affairs and domestic violence – one thing shines through: a tremendously intense and supportive friendship between three women. If Moriarty’s threesome is too good to be true, the antidote is Rebecca Reid’s trio in Perfect Liars (Corgi), a dark and cruel debut novel. Sixteen years ago, best friends Nancy, Georgina and Lila did something unspeakable at boarding school. Their crime forged an bond based on silence. Now, one of them wants to talk. The protagonists are despicable, the victim no better. The novel simmers with intelligence and tension. Zoë Heller’s Notes on a Scandal (Penguin) is a tremendous look at the forceful and uneven friendship between two schoolteachers, Barbara and Sheba. Barbara is a repressed middle-aged lesbian, with a pitiful life that entirely centres around her school. She has no emotional connections with anyone so it’s intriguing when she strikes up an unlikely friendship with glamorous, intoxicating new teacher Sheba. But Barbara is bitterly disappointed and betrayed – when Sheba embarks on an illicit affair with a pupil. Chaos ensues. Just My Luck is published by HQ HarperCollins
OFF THE SHELF NOWHERE TO RUN, NOWHERE TO HIDE SHARON BOLTON Crime writers adore islands – the sense of being trapped within a community apart, where normal codes of behaviour can be allowed to slip. We love the physical difficulties (small populations, isolated roads – where can one hide?) and the psychological trauma that comes with a sense of no escape. Anything can happen. In a crime novel, it usually does. In The Split I take readers to the Antarctic island of South Georgia, a lonely and treacherous place, where life can end in the blink of an eye. Research scientist Felicity Lloyd waits for the last ship of the season to dock, terrified that her estranged and dangerous husband, recently released from prison, might be on board. Well, spoiler alert, he is. Here are some books that, for me, perfectly capture the claustrophobic feel of islands. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (Bantam) is a stark, forbidding island cut off from the US mainland by a hurricane. We question everything we are being told. Who is lying to us? Quite possibly, everyone. This is Gothic psychological horror writing at its best. In Raven Black by Ann Cleeves (Pan) dawn breaks on New Year’s Day in the Shetland Isles to reveal the body of a young girl on the frozen sand. Pied piper, soul stealer, serial killer. Who is the titular Mr Clarinet in Nick Stone’s novel (Penguin)? In Haiti, still reeling from the corrupt rule of Papa Doc Duvalier, children are being stolen amid rumours of voodoo. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (Vintage) is not an island story – it merely has scenes set on an island. But what scenes! And what an island! When the tide comes in there is no escape for poor Arthur, or for us. The Split by Sharon Bolton is out now and published by Trapeze
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LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF JAY RAYNER Restaurant critic, aged 53 At the age of 16 I was the youngest child of an extremely successful and famous person [journalist and TV agony aunt Claire Rayner], and I was trying to find my own way in the world. My 16th was the most dramatic year of my adolescence, for a bunch of reasons. It was the year that I lost a lot of weight, and weight had been a preoccupation throughout my young life. It was the year I was thrown out of school for four months and plastered all over the national press. And it was the year that my closest friend was killed in a mountaineering accident. So it was a very, very dramatic year for me. Losing my friend David when I was 16 was a terrible thing. We were very, very close friends. He went to a different school in Hampstead, which was populated by the children of the liberal intelligentsia. They were all very hip. They went on a mountaineering trip to Snowdonia and I was woken on the Saturday morning by my mum knocking on the door saying there’s been an accident involving kids from David’s school. She went to call the emergency number, and they told her David had been killed, and she told me. I burst into tears. It was absolutely shocking. And then, the funeral. Many religions have a tradition of picking up a handful of earth and throwing it on the coffin. But the Jewish tradition is that the men pick up the shovel and they bury the coffin themselves. It’s proper work. I’d never done it before and I found myself being pushed to the front to do it. And it was shocking, helping to bury my friend. I still think regularly about him, and what he might be doing now. One very positive thing did happen after David’s death. David was Jewish and there’s a thing called shiva [a week-long mourning period following a death] when [family and close friends] gather for prayers. I went every night and I came to understand the importance of it. And a bunch of his friends from school came to me and said, we know who you are, we know you were a very close friend, and you’re our friend now. I’m actually getting emotional just thinking about it. It was just a beautiful, beautiful thing. And that’s exactly what they did, this beautiful, cosmopolitan lot – they immediately started phoning me and inviting me to parties. They just looked after me. And some of those boys and girls became my oldest friends. I started smoking dope when I was about 13 or 14 – I was an early starter. I was invited to an all-night party after a school play and a group of us got stoned. The next day somebody grassed us all up to the school, and a massive inquest started. I attempted to fib my way out of it but eventually I crumbled under interrogation. And because the rest of them had ’fessed up very quickly but I’d held out for a couple of weeks, I was thrown out of school from early May and told they would decide later whether I would ever return. I felt very hard done by. One piece of advice I would give my younger self now would be, don’t crumble. Hold out. They could never have proved it. Instead, a couple of guys sold the story to the Daily Mail and from there it was on to the front page of the London Evening Standard. And my mum was ridden with guilt. She felt that because of her profile, what should have been a dramatic but private incident became a public one. She felt that I’d been pilloried in public because of who she was, and she was absolutely right. But it didn’t affect my relationship with my parents. We rode it out together. Being suspended from school and then plastered across the press was traumatic. But by god it made me interesting. I had a very long, sociable summer that year. I remember it being one of the best summers of my young life. A lot of partying. But I still remember the feeling of being told by the school, as all of us who were thrown out were, that we would amount to nothing. I despised the school for that. It was a destructive and 28
Being suspended from school and plastered across the press made me interesting.
evil thing to have done. And it was also bollocks. We became journalists, senior barristers, psychotherapists, playwrights – we were all very, very successful in what we chose to do. A little while later the school got in touch to say they were writing a history and they wanted two pages on me and I thought, fuck off. Ours was a close-knit family. But I think it’s fair to say that as the youngest child, my mother and I were very close. I got on very well with my dad but he dealt with depression through many of my teenage years, which made it complicated. There was a very interesting moment when I got my A levels and I was preparing to go to uni and my mum said: “I am so jealous of you.” I think it was that sense of, you’ve got it all to play for. She was that sort of person – she swept up everything that came her way. With her it was, give me experiences, give me more, more, more, more. She was ambitious and liked excitement and I think she totally understood what I was about to go off and do. My family have always been large people. Anybody who looks at me now and thinks it’s because I’m a restaurant critic – no, we’ve always been like this. It’s always been a part of me. I have had periods of losing weight. I recently posted a picture of myself at 20 on Twitter, when I had shifted a few pounds and I had closely cropped hair and an earring. And I got quite a positive response. Some people said I looked like a stock member of Depeche Mode. I’d like to go back to my younger self and tell him, hey, you weren’t ugly. Do I have any teenage regrets? I tell a story in My Last Supper about when I was about 19. I was on a Turkish bus, and a much older, very attractive woman tried to get her hands inside my clothes. When she invited me to come away with her that night I said no. And I’ve asked myself, did I regret that? And I concluded no. Because if I had, I might have returned to university very much more literally cocksure. And then when I met the woman who would later go on to become my wife, it wouldn’t have worked. I was socially confident by then, but when it
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came to relationships I was a bundle of insecurities. If I had responded to her not with gratitude but with a “Right, there’s a conquest sorted, now on to the next” it wouldn’t have worked. The thing that would surprise the 16-year-old Jay the most would be that he became a restaurant critic. It had never been my intention – having been editor of the Leeds Uni newspaper I wanted to be a news reporter. He might be disappointed by that. I think he would have thought being a restaurant critic was a rather light and fluffy and unserious job for a person with loftier ambition. But he’d be wrong, because one of the brilliant things about food is it feeds into every element of life. It’s not just about how things taste. It’s about emotion and memory and sex and politics – it’s about everything. The thing people get wrong about me the most is the idea that I just eat for a living. No, I make my living by writing. People call me pompous but it’s impossible to refute that, because you can’t do it without sounding pompous. The other misconception is that I’m only interested in highfalutin, “faine” dining, and I’m not. One thing lockdown has made me very aware of though is that I’m a very privileged man. I’m in a very good position and I feel it keenly at the moment. If I could re-live one time in my life I think it would be my 18th birthday party. My parents had a tradition, which was that they would throw a lunch party. We invited 50 of their friends and 50 of mine. It was a beautiful early autumn day. All my friends came and they were a beautiful lot. I remember that afternoon at that great party house very, very well. And I’d like another turn around that garden please.
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Reproduced from The Big Issue UK (@bigissue) INTERVIEW: JANE GRAHAM
Out To Lunch with Jay Rayner is available on all podcast providers. Season Three is out now
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Across the UK, The Salvation Army is helping the people hit the hardest by the pandemic. We’re delivering food, medicine and hot meals. Our homeless centres are still open. We are providing essential employment and debt advice by phone. You can trust us to do all we can, but we need your help. Please donate today to help us help the hardest hit.
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could help keep our food banks replenished from wholesalers and local sources.
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Damon Gough, otherwise known as Badly Drawn Boy, has channelled what might seem like clichés – the value of therapy, giving up drinking, mee...
Published on May 22, 2020
Damon Gough, otherwise known as Badly Drawn Boy, has channelled what might seem like clichés – the value of therapy, giving up drinking, mee...