NO.1368 · CHRISTMAS TWO 2020
DIGITAL EDITION £2
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CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO 2020 No. 1368
bigissuenorth.com @bigissuenorth bigissuenorth
Selling on the streets again 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
7 VENDOR SPOTLIGHT Ion, Liverpool
Trans Tbilisi; autism mentoring
10 HE HAS ISSUES
Roger Ratcliffe’s duvet day
12 IN THE EVENT
Distanced days and nights Scouse as it’s spoken
18 NICOLA MILLS Opera in the aria
Art director and designer Mark Wheeler
20 WUHAN MARKETS
Almost back to normal
22 PAT SHARP
Claire Lawton firstname.lastname@example.org 0161 831 5561
16 ROY, AKA PJ SMITH
“People deserve enjoyment, somewhere they can go safely, and we wanted to make sure they have that.”
24 XMAS GIFT GUIDE Support your indies
Fundraising and communications Bronte Schiltz email@example.com 07580 878854 To subscribe or buy back issues email firstname.lastname@example.org. or visit our new online shop:
29 CULINARY CALENDAR Another great recipe
30 VENDOR CHAMPIONS Please join the ranks
What’s on near you
We are not responsible for unsolicited
34 WHAT’S ON TELLY?
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.
37 SEE HEAR
38 CENTRE STAGE Showing willing
Big Issue North is part of The Big Life group of social businesses and charities.
40 READING ROOM
Books for young people Cover: Amy Evans of Tiger Tea illustration Printers Acorn Web Offset, Normanton Circulation: 10,989 (Jan-Dec 19)
42 GET ON BOARD
Best games of the year
44 LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF
Talking Heads’ David Byrne
Giant festive crossword
24 CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO BIG ISSUE NORTH
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Please help Cian Langelaan - Co. Donegal, Ireland Cian went missing from Co. Donegal on 27 Sep 2020. He was 27 when he was last seen. Cian, please call Missing People on 116 000 or email email@example.com for advice and support, in confidence, whenever you feel ready.
Sohaib Saleemi - Leystone, London Sohaib was last seen in Leystone on 28 Aug 2020. He was 46 years old when he disappeared.
Sohaib, please call Missing People on 116 000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for advice and support, in confidence, whenever you feel ready.
Iain McLean - Edinburgh, Scotland Iain went missing from Edinburgh on 8 Dec 1995. He was 24 years old when he was last seen. Iain, please call Missing People on 116 000 or email email@example.com for advice and support, in confidence, whenever you feel ready.
Michael Farrell - Rosslare to Pembroke Michael has been missing from Rosslare since 19 Sep 1994. He was 30 years old when he disappeared. Michael, please call Missing People on 116 000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for advice and support whenever you feel ready.
Mark Garvey - Liverpool, Merseyside Mark went missing from Liverpool on the 2 Mar 1987. He was 15 years old when he disappeared. Mark, we are here for you. Call Missing People on 116 000 or email email@example.com for advice and support whenever you feel ready.
Marek Kurka - Thornton Heath, London Marek has been missing from Thornton Heath since 28 June 2014. He was 38 at the time he went missing. Marek, we are here for you when you are ready; we can listen, talk you through what help you need, pass a message on for you and help you to be safe. Please call or text 116 000.
Call or text 116 000 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Missing People would like to thank The Big Issue for publicising vulnerable missing people on this page. To help Missing People bring them back to safety text FIND to 70660* to donate £5. Our free 116 000 number is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Registered charity in England and Wales (1020419) and in Scotland (SC047419)
*Texts cost £5 plus your standard network charge. Missing People receives 100% of your donation. Obtain the bill payer’s permission.
Numbers don’t lie Thanks to readers and supporters, we’ve been able to make thousands of interventions this year to help our vendors, reports Brontë Schiltz
Cristina, a vendor in Liverpool, at the Big Issue North office who, thanks to your donations was able to return safely to work. Photo: Rebecca Lupton
Here at Big Issue North, we have spent the past couple of weeks deep in reflection. Tasked by our parent organisation, the Big Life group, to produce our own take on the Twelve Days of Christmas for a virtual advent calendar, we set about trying to produce a list of things we’ve done this year that we could use for the lyrics. The problem was that we’d just done too much! Despite spending over four months in lockdown, our staff continued to work hard to help our vendors achieve their goals. Last year, we asked our vendors what their aspirations for 2020 were, and received answers as wide-ranging as moving into a new home to returning to education and beating an addiction. These dreams could have been dashed by the spread of Covid-19, yet our staff supported vendors in accomplishing these goals a fantastic 689 times. This figure, of course, is (unfortunately for our creative efforts, but fortunately for our vendors) far too high for the Twelve Days of Christmas! Then there were our Covid-specific statistics, but again, we came up short of anything that could be reduced to
a figure under thirteen. Instead, we found ourselves in the thousands – over 1,000 people donating almost £50,000 to our hardship fund, easydonate.org/ HARDSHIP, resulting in thousands of payments to our vendors, and thousands of items of PPE sent into our offices (though here we allowed ourselves the creative license of including the line “700 face masks”!). Add that to the thousands of purchases of Big Issue North online at issuu.com/bigissuenorth and in supermarkets, plus the thousands of visitors to our online shop, shop. bigissuenorth.com, resulting in over £20,000 of revenue – eight and a half times what we made in our second-most successful year – and you can see the difficulty we found ourselves in. With the help of our colleagues in two fellow services, Big Life Homes and Community Voice, we eventually managed to piece something together. You can watch the video, alongside some incredibly poignant poetry by Sheffield vendor Bruno and the Big Busk at Home, our virtual music festival from June, at youtube.com/c/bigissuenorthmagazine/ videos, but we wanted to give you a
glimpse of the bigger goings-on behind the scenes because without you, none of them would have been possible. Elsewhere in the magazine, you can read about our new Vendor Champions (p30) scheme, which aims to harness the skills and enthusiasm of supporters who want to make their local community a great place to sell Big Issue North. But while we are very grateful to everyone who’s gone the extra mile for our vendors, it doesn’t take a lot to make a huge difference. Just by stopping to buy a magazine or calendar and have a chat with your local vendor, by sharing our social media posts or by mentioning our work to a friend, you have contributed to the successes we’ve enjoyed in what has been a challenging year. When the UK first went into lockdown back in March, we were incredibly concerned about what the impact of the pandemic would be on our vendors. It certainly hasn’t been easy, but thanks to supporters like you, this has been a far better year for Big Issue North than we could ever have then imagined, so please, keep showing your support in any way you can – we couldn’t be more grateful. CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO BIG ISSUE NORTH
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Urgent Christmas Appeal A fresh start after tragedy
When you’re homeless and alone, Christmas can be the hardest time of all. Cold, hungry and scared, there’s often nothing to enjoy, no one to be with, and no hope. Where Christmas should be, there’s just desolation.
A week before Christmas, Phil’s son died. He was only twenty and took his own life. Then Phil was the victim of a hate crime and had to leave his home of ten years and escape to a safe house in another part of the country. Suddenly homeless and without his family, his job and all that was familiar to him Phil felt isolated and alone.
Imagine spending Christmas in a freezing stairwell. It’s cruel. And many people this year will be trapped in crowded and dangerous places, forced into sofa surfing, or sleeping in cars or tents. No one should have to live like this.
“When I was attacked, it was terrifying. I moved into temporary accommodation for safety. I had a small box room to live in, but I couldn’t store anything and sometimes it felt like the walls were closing in.
At Crisis we are committed to ending homelessness, we mobilise a huge volunteer effort to bring vital services, warmth and friendship to people at one of the hardest times of the year. Donate £28.22 to help someone rebuild their life. A Crisis Christmas could provide someone who is homeless with essential food and access to a place to stay, as well as advice on housing and employment so they can take their first steps out of homelessness. To support people facing homelessness we need your help now. A gift of £28.22 could help give one person a Crisis Christmas, £56.44 for two, or £282.20 for ten. For people who are homeless, your kindness could mean a whole new life.
Please donate and help someone who is homeless and alone today.
“When I came to Crisis, I had a really smashing time. The attention given to people is invaluable. It does so much for your self-esteem to feel connected to other people. I’d have been isolated on my own otherwise. The people at Crisis made me feel safe.” With Crisis support, classes, and volunteering, Phil is now building up to going back to work and moving into a permanent home. “Crisis has been a godsend. It’s a process, but now I feel like there’s a future for me.”
This story reflects a real person’s experience, but their name and photo have been changed to protect their identity. Photo: Max Miechowski
A gift of a Crisis Christmas could give someone who is homeless access to: A place to stay
Phone and online information, advice and support
Advice on housing, employment and benefits
Friendship and support from volunteer befrienders
Christmas activity packs including arts and crafts, games and quizzes
Year-round support including training and education
Essential food and festive treats
Health and wellbeing programmes
The chance to leave homelessness behind for good
Please donate £28.22 and help give someone a Crisis Christmas. Please give your gift today.
Yes, I want to change someone’s life this Christmas. £56.44
Call 0800 999 2060 and quote the RM number above
Payment details I enclose a cheque/charity voucher/postal order made payable to Crisis or please debit my card using the details below: Visa
Cardholder’s name Title:
I am a UK taxpayer* I am not a UK taxpayer
Please make every pound you give worth 25% more to Crisis by ticking this Gift Aid declaration.
Date Last name:
As someone who cares about people experiencing homelessness, we’d really like to keep in contact with you in the future. Please tell us how you’d like us to contact you for fundraising, donation, campaigning or volunteering opportunities: Please enter your email address to be contacted via email Please enter your phone number to be contacted via phone Please only use my postal details for the purpose You’ll still hear from us via post unless you tick this box. of claiming Gift Aid You can change your preferences by emailing email@example.com or by calling 08000 38 48 38. You can see our privacy statement at www.crisis.org.uk/privacy
To make your donation crisis.org.uk/merry or search Crisis 0800 999 2060 Room 076, Freepost, Crisis at Christmas
Please tick the appropriate box:
*I am a UK taxpayer and I would like Crisis to treat this donation and any donations I make in the future and have made in the past 4 years as Gift Aid donations, until I notify you otherwise. With this declaration, Crisis can reclaim 25p of tax on every £1 that I give. I understand that if I pay less Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax than the amount of Gift Aid claimed on all my donations in that tax year, it is my responsibility to pay any difference. Please remember to write your full name and home address to allow us to claim Gift Aid.
Crisis UK (trading as Crisis). Registered charity numbers: E&W1082947, SC040094. Company Number: 4024938.
Scan the QR code with your phone camera to donate.
ABOUT US Big Issue North is a business solution to a social problem. Vendors buy this magazine for £1.50 and sell it for £4, keeping the profit they make. Vendors also receive support from our Trust charity (visit justgiving.com/ bigissuenorth to donate). Vendors selling Big Issue North must abide by the code of conduct – a set of rules governing how they work. Visit bigissuenorth.com to find out more. If you have a comment about a vendor, please call your nearest main office: MANCHESTER 0161 831 5550 LIVERPOOL 0151 294 3013 LEEDS 0113 243 9027 SHEFFIELD 0114 263 6064 FROM 10 YEARS AGO
Travelling back in time to 10 years ago this week, Big Issue North’s cover star was Matt Smith, the eleventh Doctor in Doctor Who. Making his mark after the hugely popular David Tennant, the eleventh incarnation was promising the most Christmassy special ever – with a big nod to Dickens’s Christmas Carol. The Roma children attending a school in south Manchester, meanwhile, were among the first in the growing community to go to school in some years. One hundred were welcomed to the school in two years.
‘Merry Christmas. I hope next year will be better for us all’ ION, TESCO, DEYSBROOK LANE, LIVERPOOL How has this year been? It’s been very difficult. Very difficult. I had a part time job in an office at the start of the year but that stopped. I would like to find more work but it is hard to get a new job at the moment. Finding work here in the UK is so difficult. Hundreds of people apply for just one job. I don’t get any benefits. I cannot get Universal Credit. I tried to apply but they said that I do not qualify for it. We get some child support but that is about it. When the Big Issue North office was closed for the pandemic it was so, so difficult. I need money for my family, but we had no money at all when we could not sell the magazine, apart from hardship money from Big Issue North. How old are you and how long have you sold the magazine for? I am 35 years old. I have sold the magazine for nearly four years now. I really enjoy selling it. I like to talk to people. I have some very good, kind customers. What jobs have you done in the past? When I lived in Spain I worked in cafés and restaurants. I can speak very good Spanish because although I was born in Romania, I grew up mainly in Spain. Tell us about your family. We have seven children and my wife is
Read more Q&As in the Vendor Stories section of bigissuenorth.com
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expecting another child, another boy, in a month or so. But that is the last one for sure. Where do you live? I live with my wife and my children in a small house. My children sleep in the two bedrooms and we sleep in the living room. It can be busy, but I don’t mind. Do you still have family in Spain? Yes, my dad lives in Spain. Things have been very, very bad there with Covid-19. I am worried for everyone. Are you looking forward to Christmas? I guess so. My kids are very excited about Santa Claus. They are always asking for things, but it is so difficult because we have no money to spend. I will be out selling the magazine as much as I can. What are your hopes for 2021? I don’t know. Just to survive. Just that things get better. Do you have a message for your customers? I wish my customers a very merry Christmas and I hope that next year will be better for all of us. INTERVIEW: CHRISTIAN LISSEMAN
CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO BIG ISSUE NORTH
An LGBT activist attends a rally against homophobia and transphobia in Tbilisi, Georgia, while police look on. Photo: David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters
AUDIO TOUR FLAGS TRANS STORY Georgian trans people depend on sex work Attacks in conservative nation not investigated Standing on the stairway of Tbilisi’s famous circus, about 20 people listened through headphones on Sunday as a voice explained how a building normally associated with fun and joy was to some a place of misery and sex work. The group was taking part in an audio tour of the Georgian capital organised by a local LGBT+ group to 8
shine a light on the lives of transgender men and women in the socially conservative Caucasian nation.
Shunned by families
“Miracles do not happen here,” says Nata, a trans woman, in the audio recording about the Sovietera hilltop building, whose green surroundings provide shelter to sex workers at night, including trans sex workers. “This is not a place for stories like Pretty Woman. After you come here once, it’s very hard to get away.” Shunned by their families, trans people in Georgia often
rely on sex work to make a living as discrimination and the lack of regulations on legal gender recognition make it difficult find regular jobs, according to LGBT+ campaign groups. Transphobic attacks are rarely properly investigated, said Nattan Guliashvili of the LGBT+ group Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group (WISG), which organised the audio tour. The project is aimed at raising awareness about a community that lives at the margins of society by showing Tbilisi through their eyes, said Mareike Wenzel, a German
artist who conceived the initiative. “We listen to their stories and their perception of places, because cities are often not made for trans people and we forget about them, about their worries and problems,” she said. The tour included stops at a maternity clinic, where attendants heard of a trans woman’s dream to start a family, and a cinema that in 2019 was attacked by a mob protesting against a movie about gay love, which featured some of the trans guides. The 90-minute walk ended at an open-air exhibition
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Job mentoring for people with autism Course also aims to improve wellbeing Autistic adults are sharpening their job prospects with the help of a new online mentoring scheme. The 20-week programme was developed by autism researcher Dr Damian Milton, with significant autistic input. It is designed to support the individual as they improve their employability and wellbeing. The course could make a difference for autistic adults who have felt let down by existing career and workplace support. Just 16 per cent of people with autism are in full-time employment, despite 77 per cent of them wanting to work. This has remained static since 2007, according to the National Autistic Society.
of photographs by Mano Svanidze showing portraits of trans people’s everyday lives. LGBT+ events are rare in Georgia, often attracting violence from far-right groups. The country has witnessed a cultural clash between liberal forces and religious conservatives over the past decade as it has modernised and introduced reforms. “It’s really interesting to see the city from a different perspective,” said tour participant Ninutsa Shatberashvili, 27.“You don’t really get to see these marginalised groups if you don’t know them yourself. It’s nice to just listen to their voices.” UMBERTO BACCHI. COURTESY OF REUTERS/INSP.NGO
Some workplace environments and types of work are unsuitable for people on the autistic spectrum, and this can be a trigger for anxiety and mental ill health. Government initiatives to reduce the disability employment gap have failed to make an impact for autistic people. The Tool Up programme is open to adults who identify as having an autistic spectrum disorder. Participants receive weekly one-to-one mentor sessions over 20 weeks. Tim, a cave tour guide who is a mentee on the course, is one who has benefited. He can feel “easily overwhelmed” at work and have difficulty integrating with others. He has previously used a disability-specific alumni careers service, and tried to access training through the job centre, which he found unhelpful. He said: “My Tool Up mentor is autistic and works in the field I want to be in, so he totally understands
the world I live in and the challenges I face.” Marie Djela, chair of Neurodiverse Self Advocacy, the social enterprise implementing the scheme, said: “The one-to-one mentoring is really key in supporting autistic people into lasting employment. “It works because the autistic adults don’t need to justify themselves. The right mentor acts as a social bridge and interpreter, helping the autistic individual to interpret things in specific context.” The course material covers ways to disclose autism, rights to reasonable adjustments, networking, how to handle indirect questions, personal branding and retaining employment. “We are helping autistic people take positive steps towards their goals, whether that is finding suitable employment, retaining their current employment or progressing in their careers,” said Djela. Milton said this group’s needs are “poorly understood and inconsistently addressed”, and policy is more focused on the “concerns of the nonautistic population”, such as improving social skills without tackling the root cause. Around 70 per cent of autistic people live with at least one mental health condition, and there are fewer resources available for them to develop coping skills, according to the charity Mind. Tool-Up also includes advice on mental health and managing stress and anxiety. Djela said: “It’s really important that this programme is autistic led, informed by personal lived experience. “Getting the right job leads to a sense of wellbeing. One feels included and able to contribute to society, which is a big positive.” LUCINDA HERBERT
NEWS IN BRIEF GRAVE MATTER Copeland Borough Council is launching a service to help residents care for their loved ones’ graves in council-owned cemeteries. People can have maintenance carried out up to four times a year, depending on which plan they choose. The council’s bereavement services team will clean headstones, maintain lettering and then send photos of graves to the client. LIGHT IN THE DARK The Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks have been designated International Dark Sky Reserves and are hoping for a boost in leisure and tourism as they promote large areas of unpolluted night sky where it’s possible to see thousands of stars, the Milky Way, meteors and the Northern Lights. Only 16 other areas worldwide hold the status. LEVEL WITH US Around 657,900 people were claiming unemployment benefits in the north in October, according to IPPR North – a level not seen since 1994. The thinktank’s new State of the North report also finds that 40 per cent of women are paid less than the real living wage, calling into question the government’s plans for levelling up the economy. RARE ACCOLADE Saltend Chemicals Park in the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership has been selected as the proposed site to build the UK’s first rare earth processing facility. Pensansa Rare Earths’ plant will become one of only two major producers outside China of rare earth oxides, used in the manufacture of powerful permanent magnets, critical to the offshore wind and electric vehicle industries. Got an event, campaign or story from your area? Call 0161 831 5563 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Tiny hopes A tiny pygmy possum was found on Australia’s Kangaroo Island after ecologists feared the species had been entirely burnt out in the bushfires last year. The pygmy is the smallest species of possum, weighing only six to eight grams and was already a threatened species before the huge fires that burnt half the 440,500 hectare island. If they can avoid being eaten by feral cats, the species could survive, hope ecologists.
Topping off Mount Everest has reached new heights, literally. The highest mountain in the world sits on the border of Nepal and China, which have jointly announced it has increased by 0.86m in height, now standing at 8,848.86m. The 50-60 million-year-old mountain grows by about half a metre every century.
Samples of an asteroid 300 million km from earth arrived in Japan on Tuesday. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) research centre received the Hayabusa2’s capsule after it was successfully dropped to earth in Australia. The spacecraft was sent up to collect asteroid soil in 2014. Among the oldest bodies in the solar system, asteroid material may offer clues as to how the earth evolved.
No cruise control
Singapore residents waved goodbye to a relaxed “cruise to nowhere” experience on Wednesday as a passenger tested positive for Covid-19, leaving 2,000 passengers shut away in their cabins. The voyage was part of a series of tests and only open to city-state residents, making no stops and only sailing in water nearby, but it still wasn’t immune to the virus. 10
HE HAS ISSUES Brexit continues to give Roger Ratcliffe the needle All I want for Christmas is an anti-Brexit jab. And if I’m really good, Santa, may I have an anti-Covid one too? Sadly, though, it may have taken eight months to develop an effective vaccine against the pandemic that has ruled and ruined so many lives this year, but it will require at least a generation to cure the damage caused by the epidemic of lies about Europe spread by the Johnsons, Farages, Goves and Rees-Moggs, and turn back the clock to those happy days when many of us knew which side our ciabatta was buttered. Actually, I suspect a fair number of those who voted for Brexit now realise it’s going to be the UK’s biggest oven-ready turkey this Christmas. Hey-ho. At least that real vaccine is now being rolled out, and I will peep at the new day from beneath my duvet on 1 January with a little more enthusiasm. That’s despite having a fear of jabs. I put my needle phobia down to my older brother and sister winding me up about the excruciating pain they endured when given the TB vaccine, something I awaited with terror when I started secondary school. To heighten my anxiety about vaccines yet further, prior to setting off on a foreign assignment for the Sunday Times I was sent to see the paper’s in-house nurse, Sister Annie, who stuck a syringe in my bum to stop me getting yellow fever. I promptly passed out. This time I’ll try to be stoical. The only thing that worries me is that I may be given the “wrong” Covid19 vaccine. By that I mean it’s somewhat troubling that the first to be rolled out, developed in Germany by Pfizer-BioNtech, is 95 per cent effective while our homegrown jab from Oxford University and AstraZeneca – the one most of us are likely to receive – is said to have an efficacy of 70 per cent.
Then there’s the vaccine from US biotech company Moderna (95 per cent), the somewhat sniffily-received Russian Sputnik V jab (efficacy unknown), and at least another 50 currently undergoing human trials. There are unknowns about all of them, such as how long protection lasts and whether they will prevent those who’ve been vaccinated from still picking up the virus and passing it on. We won’t be able to choose which one we get, and it would be ironic if, like those blind tastings of mince pies that always seem to rate Aldi’s much higher than posh offerings by Betty’s of Harrogate or Fortum & Mason of Piccadilly, Putin’s vaccine is the only one that gets five stars. Still, it was a great day when the first Covid-19 jab was administered last week, and in the You Couldn’t Make It Up department it was amazing that the second injection was given to someone named William Shakespeare. Not to be outdone, I suppose Nicola Sturgeon will order the length and breadth of Scotland to be scoured for an octogenarian called Robert Burns. Apparently, even with 40 million of us receiving the vaccine by next autumn we will continue to require face masks until herd immunity kicks in. That seems a long way off, and the only herd immunity of interest right now is for Santa’s reindeers. Merry Christmas and a Covid-free New Year. n
Roger Ratcliffe has worked as an investigative journalist with the Sunday Times Insight team and is the author of guidebooks to Leeds and Bradford. Follow him onTwitter @Ratcliffe
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“I left home at 13. I’ve looked after myself ever since. My mum and dad had split up and my step-dad was abusive. I was on the street for five years then. It messed my head up. It’s taken me all these years to get where I am.
I thought my life had changed when I met my first partner. I had four kids with her. But then everything went wrong and we split up and I lost my home, I lost my job, I lost everything. After that I was on the streets again and became addicted to heroin. I ended up six and a half stone and I got very ill. That’s when I realised I couldn’t deal with this anymore. I ended up smashed and I got arrested and sent to jail on purpose so that I could get into detox. I’ve been clean for two years now.” Over two thirds of our vendors who currently struggle with substance abuse began using over 10 years ago. The majority started using after traumatic experiences, and desperately want to stop. We can help.
This Christmas, give vendors like Paul the gift of hope for 2021.
Last year, our staff provided vendors with health and wellbeing support 188 times. Please give today and help us to support vendors like Paul to change their lives for good in 2021.
How to donate
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p into Christmas From writing Covid guidelines into scripts to bringing installation experts over from China, event organisers have been ever more innovative this year as they try to offer some Xmas cheer. Susan Griffin pulls on her thermals and gets out there There’s always an element of pressure to enjoy Christmas but after such a shambolic year, there’s an even greater determination to make this one count. It will be no mean feat given Covid restrictions but, just as families are eager to embrace the festive season following the challenges of lockdown, event organisers are keen to provide the experiences, and recoup at least some of the financial loss they’ve suffered. But in order to tackle the Covid rules head-on, they’ve had to get ever more creative and resourceful, evaluating all angles, from social distancing and cleaning procedures to travel constraints, while attempting to retain the familiar magic of Christmas. It’s why we’ve seen the arrival of “Covid-safe and contactless” activities, such as drive-in cinemas, where people can park up in household bubbles and watch Christmas classics from the comfort of their car, and festive safaris with drive-through grottos and theatre shows. Virtual events are proving popular, too, including carol services and Christmas concerts that require nothing more than the laptop and sofa, as well as festive productions created especially for the Covid climate. When we reflect on 2020, we’ll no doubt associate it with FaceTiming friends and family and taking part in countless video calls with colleagues, so it’s no surprise we can also speak directly to Santa online thanks to sites such as santascallingyou.co.uk and zoomsanta.co.uk. That’s not to say we can’t visit the big man in person this year. It just takes a little more foresight than queueing at the local shopping or garden centre. Santa at Castle Howard. Photo: Little Sixpence
One of the places he’ll be making an appearance is Castle Howard near York (castlehoward.co.uk), where the team’s been busy adapting its festivities to comply with Covid restrictions. “We normally do a spectacular installation throughout the house and last year welcomed 67,000 visitors across the Christmas period, but with social distancing we needed to rethink this year’s events and discussed how we could still make magical events happen within the guidelines,” says Abbigail Ollive, head of marketing, sales and programming. The only people who’ll be allowed inside the house this year are those
requires thermals and a can-do approach to freezing conditions, so it makes sense there are lots of outdoor events. One of the largest is Lightopia (lightopiafestival.com), inspired by the Chinese lantern festivals, which is back for a second year at Manchester’s Heaton Park, and making its debut at Yorkshire Wildlife Park. The opening date was pushed back due to the second lockdown, but Ian Xiang, director of Lightopia Festival, is relieved it’s happening at all. “It’s been a very tough year with the decision-making process. We finished in London in March and immediately started prepping this festival, and then
People can park up in household bubbles and watch Christmas classics from their car who prebook tickets for An Enchanted Audience with Father Christmas, a theatre experience where “Covid-safe guidelines are weaved into the narrative, so it doesn’t sound like a list of rules, and the audience is encouraged to clap along rather than sing or shout”, she explains. “Visitors will then follow a one-way system in their bubble to meet Father Christmas, and there is also Stories With Santa in the Courtyard Grotto, a smaller, more intimate experience for two household bubbles at a time.” It’s Christmas but not quite as we know it, and it’s a sign of the times that both events initially sold out. “But then the tiers were announced and 41 per cent of customers were from Tier 3 [York was placed in Tier 2] so couldn’t travel. Between that and people needing to self-isolate, we’re doing a lot of resales, so it’s been admin heavy,” adds Ollive. As has been the case for much of the year, if we want to socialise with anyone outside our household this Christmas, it
lockdown happened. A few times we thought it was too risky and we wouldn’t be able to do it, and there have been so many uncertainties. Shipments were delayed and then there was the logistics of getting people over from China to do the installations, but we pushed through.” To allow for social distancing, there are staggered arrival times, extra entrances and a wider 2.5km one-way route through the themed zones that culminates in a light show on the lake. “People deserve enjoyment, somewhere they can go safely, and we wanted to make sure the people of Manchester have that,” notes Xiang. Visitors have also been flooding to National Trust properties as soon as the gates to the houses, gardens and parks have reopened to the public. “As the year’s progressed, we’ve looked at each site and made a plan for each one’s reopening in line with government guidelines. It’s posed some unique CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO BIG ISSUE NORTH
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Festive events to enjoy in 2020
Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire (pictured) plays host to Music and Lights, and there’s a Christmas country house experience at Lyme in Cheshire (nationaltrust.org.uk). Lightopia in Manchester, inspired by Chinese lantern festivals. Below: Jason Manford in panto
challenges in terms of implementing social distancing and one-way routes, but the safety of everyone is our priority and we wanted to welcome visitors back somewhere that is safe but also a fun day out,” remarks Eleanor Underhill, assistant director of operations for the National Trust in the North West (nationaltrust.org.uk). “It’s this approach we’ve kept in place for Christmas. We know things will be a little different for everyone this year but, where possible, we’ve tried to stay open and run some of our regular festive favourites alongside a few new activities. We’re looking forward to seeing people coming out for some fresh air and keeping up their Christmas traditions.” For many, these traditions include the annual pilgrimage to a pantomime, although the majority have been cancelled or postponed this year. “A pantomime’s about bringing people together, whether it’s the ones making the show or those
coming with friends and family to have a great time, so it’s ill-suited to a pandemic that doesn’t let people mix,” says Sheena Wrigley, theatre director of Manchester Palace and Opera House. As most staff were either furloughed or laid off during the first lockdown, she was one of only a handful of people to access the theatres since March. “You go in and look at 2,000 empty seats. It’s still magical and slightly sparkly but that almost makes it sadder because there are no people. These buildings aren’t built to be cold and dark,” observes Wrigley, who’s understandably thrilled the Opera House is back to some semblance of normality, temporarily at least, this Christmas. Following a quick turnaround, the theatre’s playing host to the pantomime Sleeping Beauty, starring Jason Manford and Jodie Prenger until 10 January (atgtickets.com/manchester). “We’re a commercial theatre and don’t get any government grants, so we’ve always said that for us to open we’d need to without social distancing in our auditorium. But then Qdos Entertainment, who produce our pantomimes, applied for National Lottery funding to organise 10 pantomimes across the UK.” It was a glimmer of hope in a miserable year for the arts and entertainment industry, but Wrigley had the painstaking task of measuring all the seats to see whether a socially distanced audience would actually be viable. The pantomime was ultimately given the go-ahead at the beginning of November, with the assumption Manchester would emerge out of the second lockdown in Tier 3. At
The Christmas Experience at Lotherton Hall in Leeds includes the interactive 12 Days of Christmas Woodland Walk, Elf Village and Santa’s Cabin (thechristmasexperience.co.uk). There will be two mini Manchester Christmas markets at St Ann’s Square and Piccadilly Gardens with tasty treats on offer, but no alcoholic tipples. Meet St Nicholas and Lady Winter and enjoy storytelling by lantern light and a fairy trail at Northwood Trail in York (northwoodtrail.co.uk). In Mold, North Wales, there’s a drivethrough Santa’s Grotto and theatre show at Reindeer Lodge (reindeerlodge.co.uk), and a car-based Christmas adventure at Thornton Hall Country Park in Skipton (christmasadventures.co.uk).
the time of publication, that remains to be seen. Tickets for the new 900-strong audience are sold in household bubbles, from one to six, with a designated entrance and arrival time to avoid crowds congregating in the foyer. “There’s a temperature check on entry and masks are compulsory unless you’re eating or drinking in your seat. The show is also shorter, with no interval and it’s less interactive,” explains Wrigley. On paper, it might sound a little soulless, but she notes: “It’s a cast stuffed with comedians, so it’s very funny. There are lovely songs, there’s colour, magic and pyrotechnics. I think the staff, cast and audience feel like we’re there to try and make something fun happen. There’s been so little joyous communal celebration this year, it’s important to bring just a sliver of festive normality.” n CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO BIG ISSUE NORTH
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The adventures of working-class Liverpool characters, memorably brought to life by a spoken word artist. PJ Smith, otherwise known as Roy, tells Neil Tague how he began as a reluctant writer
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Press to Release sees familiar-from-somewhere Melissa spinning her empty day away in a seedy boozer
PJ Smith is a stalwart of Liverpool’s recovery community who has popped up in Big Issue North before. Photo: Gary Lambert
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Book hunters aren’t short of options in December, but anyone looking for some diverting, weird and wonderful tales of Scouse life could do a lot worse than to hunt out Algorithm Party, the first collection from local spoken word artist Roy. To lift some words from publisher Rough Trade’s blurb, Roy’s stories “bring to you the people and personalities that comprise his native city, from struggling parents to small-time criminals, pent-up white-collar workers to drinkers long lost to the ale”. Roy is the alter ego of PJ Smith, a stalwart of Liverpool’s recovery community who has popped up in Big Issue North before: he formerly worked at Tom Harrison House, the recovery centre for addicted military veterans, featured in December 2018. He helps puts together the La Violette Societa events for upcoming poets, bands and performers, featured in June 2019. Before that, he played a part in setting up the country’s first dry pub, the Brink. In the day job, he’s now working at Damien John Kelly House, a recovery living centre for adult males that helps residents to put together lives they want to live. As a former addict, he’s “seen how not to do it”. Basically, he’s a fella who gets things done, and has a knack of bringing people with him. In downtime, he writes. He writes a lot, and has done for years now. Short stories rooted in working-class Liverpool life, specifically the Kirkdale and Walton streets he grew up in and around, with some surreal twists. Paintball’s Coming Home has middle-aged company boss Graham wrestling with his safe life choices, with temptations dangled by his streetwise young labourer. Press to Release sees familiar-from-somewhere Melissa spinning her empty day away in a seedy boozer. Everywhere, people who need to find a way to escape some prison of their own mind. Themes include the fragility of the male ego and the self-defeating cycles of one-upmanship in places “where everyone’s wellbeing is
based on what other people think of them”. There are regular cameos from Brian Scanlon, minor gangland figure – letting the kids sit in his sports car, letting it be known what constitutes an appropriate sum for a family’s males to put behind the bar at a wake. Brian’s fictional, but he’s 100 per cent real. Everywhere’s got a Brian. The stories are tragic and comic in turn. When performed live, their writer still gets surprised when audiences crack up at the “wrong” times. And, he says, people never spot themselves, which is probably a blessing. Smith only had his first go at writing to get out of something. “It was to get out of a group therapy session in 2007 – I just wanted to get away and someone said: ‘There’s a writing class on.’ I went along for a few weeks, then the woman running it said: ‘You do know you have to actually write something here, don’t you?’” He stuck with it, and had a piece published in a collection. That was read by La Violette Societa’s Matt Lockett, who years down the line asked: “You write stories, don’t you? You’re on the next bill.” Protests batted aside, Smith did it, and has been performing these locallyrooted but universal tales across the country ever since. It’s been a steady rise, with highlights including a week-long slot on Shaun Keaveny’s BBC 6Music show, supporting the Beta Band’s Steve Mason live and appearing on Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott’s latest album. Further music collaborations may be in the pipeline. “I like supporting bands, rather than doing purely literary things,” he says. He’s also keen to develop plays, but words for the stage will always drive him – being in print was never the intention. “It wasn’t the plan, but then there’s never really been a plan,” he says. “I’d do a gig, then someone at that gig would ask me to do another, and that kept happening. I still really enjoy doing gigs. Let’s hope 2021’s got more of them.” n Algorithm Party is out now on Rough Trade Books. Roy is on Twitter as @badwool9
Mills town Nicola Mills dispels the notion that opera is for posh people – and nowhere more so than in Todmorden, where she’s performing street concerts, as well as Xmas songs and carols. Christian Lisseman finds she does take requests “I’ve put my sparkly dress on today because it’s Christmas but I’m usually in my jeans,” says Nicola Mills before she launches into Away in a Manger. The residents of Waterside Lodge, a care home in the centre of Todmorden, sway and clap in the lounge, while outside the open double doors Mills sings to them in a crystal-clear soprano voice against a backing track of music playing through a large speaker. She has indeed got a sparkly dress on, though she keeps her thick pink coat on over the top of it, to keep warm as the temperature plummets on this December afternoon. This is something like the eightieth outdoor gig that Mills has undertaken in and around the Calder Valley this year, singing, among other things, operatic arias and songs from musicals. Today it’s mainly Christmas songs and carols, although there’s a request for some opera. Mills happily, and beautifully, delivers Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro. But none of this was what she’d originally planned for 2020. “I’d written a tribute to Julie Andrews called A Spoonful of Julie and I’d managed to get the show into venues around the UK,” says the 44-year-old professionally trained opera singer. There was also some work for Disney, a return visit to New York, where she’s lived and worked in the past, and a trip to LA in the diary. “I’ve only ever got to a certain point in my profession and have always been scrabbling around for work. I really felt this year was my moment. And then everything just got cancelled.” Still, if there was an upside to this hiatus to her plans, it was that Mills ended up singing in the cul-de-sacs, town squares and marketplaces of Calderdale, where she chose to settle this year. If there is such a thing as a typical opera singer, then Mills isn’t it. Born in 18
Oldham, she retains her broad accent. “I’ve got five brothers,” she says. “My mum was pregnant when she was 15 and my dad was 17. They struggled. My childhood was quite traumatic. My dad was an alcoholic and my mum was just busy trying to look after us all.” There was no classical music at home but her introduction to music, and then to opera, came via school. She had free trombone lessons, and then started singing in the choir before taking up free singing lessons at a local music centre. After that she went to college and into music school, washing up in restaurant kitchens to pay her way. “Music became my medicine. It was my ticket out. There was so much drama
in the house, my brothers kicking the shit out of each other, and me, all day.” There was little in the way of support from her family. They couldn’t afford to pay for her to go to singing lessons, let alone go to music school, but there was no understanding or appreciation of her talent either. “My dad came to see me once and just laughed. He said: ‘Who do you think you are?’” Did she feel out of place as a workingclass girl in her profession? Not really. “One thing about working in the music world is you meet really nice people. I know people like me and people who had been to twenty-five grand a year schools who have rich parents. I know people from Blackburn who sing at Glyndebourne.” But she does get annoyed by the pretensions and poshness that surrounds her profession. “I meet people all the time who say I’d love to go to the opera but I’m scared,” she says. “Put your jeans on and rock up. No one gives a shit. You don’t have to be posh. You’re allowed to think what you think – every opinion is valid. “Sometimes I go and see stuff and I haven’t got a clue what’s going on, but I just listen to the music and ask: ‘Does it touch me? Does it go to my heart?’” It was during her time singing as part of a chorus in the Antwerp Opera house that Mills developed the idea for
Nicola Mills sings outside the Waterside Lodge care home in Todmorden. Photos: Rebecca Lupton
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Opera for the People, the banner under which she now works. Her decision to take her voice and her love of the music onto the streets was born of fear, she says. “I was tired of shitting my pants about singing in front of people. I had got so anxious about it. The profession does that to you. You just end up thinking ‘I’m shit, me’ and it’s like you’re never good enough. “It didn’t just happen overnight – it took months and months to pluck up the courage to do it. The first time I put that box out to stand and sing on I’d never been so scared, but things just started to change for me after that.” Mills gave up the opera house job and took her street performance around Europe, then to London and then over to New York, where she had a regular spot in Central Park and near a subway on 72nd Street. Offers of work started flowing in after that, but Mills has always resisted returning to a full-time job singing in an opera house setting. “Singing for the chorus was a cushy number, and you don’t get many full-time jobs like that. But it was like no brain required, just being told what to do all the time. You’re just a cog in the machine. You get told to do things in a certain way – get your ball gown on and sing a certain repertoire in the right way. And fair enough, there’s a place for that. “I’ve worked with really posh people in really posh places with great orchestras and I loved it, but I also know how to connect with people just like me – people who live in terraced houses and who watch Coronation Street.” What really excites Mills is “connecting with people, chatting to them and being honest about it and telling stories”. And she’s had ample chance to do that this year. “Seventy per cent of the job is working out how to connect with people,” she says, and it’s that connection that has been so well received this year. “We need community. Doing this – you can really change someone’s day and it’s win-win because it helps me too.” Still, she hopes 2021 won’t be a repeat performance. There’s the tour of her Julie Andrews show to restart, and she plans to eventually return to America. Right now though, that feels like a distant hope. “I feel further away from my dreams than I have ever felt. But my life has changed this year and there’s no going back. I’m coming from my heart now – for the people – for everyone. People have helped me and now I can help other people and I’m not going to stop.” n CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO BIG ISSUE NORTH
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STALL AND RESU
Nearly a year since the first reported cases of Covid-19 in the sprawling Chinese city of Wuhan, things are almost back to normal, reports Cate Cadell Hundreds of shoppers pack a wet market on a December weekday morning in the city of Wuhan, jostling to buy fresh vegetables. live fish, frogs and turtles. Almost a year since the city reported the world’s first cases of Covid-19 in one of its handful of vast wet markets, and even as several other countries remain firmly in the grip of the subsequent pandemic, life in Wuhan has largely returned to normal. “I’m not afraid. What is there to be afraid of?” said Nie Guangzhen, a fish and vegetable vendor. Nie and other shop owners along a narrow street, part of the larger wet 20
market, were busily gutting fish for streams of buyers – some not wearing masks – as city cleaners sprayed down the pavements. Few hints remain of Wuhan’s early role in the coronavirus pandemic, which has since infected more than 67 million people globally, killing around 1.5 million people. China first alerted the World Health Organisation to 27 cases of “viral pneumonia” in Wuhan on 31 December. Authorities shut down a wet market in the city the next day, after discovering some patients were vendors or dealers.
That marked the start of a dark period for the city of 11 million in central China. Infections spiralled quickly to 50,000 cases, including almost 4,000 deaths. Officials responded by swiftly imposing a tough 76-day lockdown, erecting kilometres of thick yellow barricades through the city’s deserted streets to keep people at home and businesses closed. The measures paid off. Wuhan has not recorded a new locally transmitted case in several months and is now indistinguishable from other Chinese cities with crowded shopping streets, traffic jams and tightly packed restaurants. “I really missed these more fun and exciting times, like going out shopping and eating with my friends,” said 27-year-old shopper Hu Hang on a Monday evening at a packed Wuhan night market selling Christmas sweaters among other goods.
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In the busy street, hawkers sell flowers and balloons and street performers, including dancers and a clown, perform while music blares from shops lining the road.
“The ideology of foreign countries is not as good as that of China.” China has taken steps, including mass testing millions of residents following small-scale outbreaks, to
The measures paid off. Wuhan has not recorded a new locally transmitted case in several months The city’s recovery is a sharp contrast to other major economies heading into the Christmas and New Year holiday season. China’s relative success in controlling the virus has become a key talking point in Chinese state media. “I haven’t been overseas, so I don’t understand it well, but looking at the TV it seems like foreign countries don’t put human life first,” said Mr Li, a 54-year old Wuhan street food vendor, who reopened his shop in June.
prevent a second wave of infections seen in many other cities and countries. At the gates of residential compounds, staff in blue tents monitor residents’ smartphone health codes. In a public park, slogans on red propaganda banners urge people to remain vigilant. Wearing face masks is not mandatory, but most people do so in public. Although shoppers have returned to Wuhan’s streets, Li and others say business is yet to return fully to normal.
People visit a Wuhan street market almost a year after the global outbreak of coronavirus in the city. Photo: Reuters/Aly Song
“The whole situation is not great. It’s still a lot worse compared to the last few years,” Li said, referring to a slump in sales during the time after lockdown when people were too afraid to return to the streets. Still, for many residents, lockdown memories have been superseded by the city’s swift reopening – alongside new precautions. “I don’t worry, because I’m doing a good job of protection,” said wet market vendor Nie, who said she will continue to disinfect and boil her clothes. “Even if there is a second wave, I will just stick to it.” n Courtesy of Reuters/INSP.ngo CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO BIG ISSUE NORTH
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WOULD PAT MU David Jensen, Chris Tarrant, Kara Noble, Pat Sharp and John Sachs, Capital Radio, c1995. Photo: Shutterstock
His new autobiography puts Pat Sharp at the centre of some of the biggest cultural events of the 1980s and 199Os. Whatever the truth of his exploits, he wouldn’t have done it any differently, the DJ and presenter tells Gary Ryan Some things you may already know about Pat Sharp: he hosted Fun House, the 1990s children’s TV show that whizzed by in a garish haze of slime, go-karting, and pom-pom wielding twins, with a showstopping denouement that looked like a Wacky Warehouse on steroids. He’s currently a DJ on Greatest Hits Radio, appeared on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! in 2011, and pre-Tiger King’s Joe Exotic, he had the most recognisable mullet in pop culture. But according to the revelations in his new book, Re-Run The Fun: My Life As Pat Sharp, there are eyebrow-raising aspects of the 59-year-old’s life that may surprise you. Like a more elaboratelycoiffured Forrest Gump, he’s been present at some defining moments in history. He convinced Spice Girl Geri Horner (nee Halliwell) to don her iconic Union Jack dress at the 1997 Brit Awards; a year earlier at the same ceremony, he’d dared Jarvis Cocker to invade the stage during Michael Jackson’s messianic performance. He suffered a coughing fit during the taping of an episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, and once remarked to the 22
late Princess Diana that his distinctive hairstyle received so much attention, “it felt like there were three of us in this marriage so it was a bit crowded” – only to be surprised when the Princess of Wales used the exact same immortal line in her Panorama interview. Oh, and he spent the 1990s snorting so much cocaine, it’s a wonder the Colombian National Anthem didn’t play every time he sneezed. Of course, none of this is technically true but hey, let’s not split (lustrous blond mullet) hairs. Speaking down the phone from his home in Herefordshire, Sharp cheerfully describes his autobiography as a “sort of biography – based on an untrue story”. And referencing Fun House’s memorable theme tune: “It’s a whole lot of fun – without too many prizes to be won, but it’s very much a spoof for people who remember Fun House from their youth.” Sadly, this means that, despite what is stated in the book, he didn’t break up a fight between Oasis and Blur, and Fun House didn’t experiment with guest directors such as kitchen-sink auteur Mike Leigh. So how did Sharp end up
channeling his inner Alan Partridge and concocting the most WTF? pseudoautobiography of 2020? Sharp used to drive his children and their friends to school. One of his kids’ mates, Darren Richman – a hardcore Fun House fan – got in touch with Sharp decades later asking to write his autobiography. Instead, they alighted on the notion of a spoof history. “I didn’t want it to be a straightforward autobiography – which most footballers’ have written three of by the time they’re 21,” he says. “This is a more interesting way of doing it. Everything I told Darren, and his co-writer [Luke Catterson], they said: ‘Wouldn’t it have been more fun if you’d done it this way?’ And we went with it.” It’s a veritable Pun House! He throws wild parties in his “Patchelor pad” and beetles around in his “Patmobile”. But if you want any insight into the real Pat Sharp, you won’t find it here. Even simple details, like his parents’ occupations, are changed for comic effect. Born Patrick Sharpin, he was educated at the public school Merchants Taylors’ in Northwood, but always wanted to be a DJ. He would pretend to be ill and bunk off school to listen to the radio all day. “I had a cassette radio and the best thing about it was it was made by Sharp – so it felt like it had my name on it. You could fade it down by turning a button, so I’d listen to the radio and do the intros
to songs myself. That’s what I’d do with my schooldays – not great for someone who had a private education.” At 18 he travelled to America, and imported that style of radio back to the UK, first as one of the youngest presenters on Radio 1, and at Capital FM in London. But it’s his 10-year stint as presenter of Fun House that he’s still best known for, and while it’s been 21 years since it departed from the TV schedules, vague
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MULLET OVER ? plans are still afoot for its return as a live Crystal Maze-style interactive experience. “But the irony is, although it’s the thing I’m synonymous with, I only ever spent one week a year doing Fun House,” says Sharp. “I took a week off Capital instead of a holiday, and we did 14 shows a series – recording one in the morning, one in the afternoon.” Even so, it’s capable of evoking a Proustian rush among those who were Pogs-collecting kids in the 1990s, says Sharp. “People see kids TV presenters from that time and remember what they were like when they didn’t have a mortgage or rent to pay – they were just happy to watch a brightly-coloured show while they had a bag of crisps and a Nesquik.”
Even former World Cup captains were transported back to being 10 years old when they met him, he recalls in a clearly well-worn anecdote. “I was at a charity luncheon and I was beckoned over by Victoria Beckham, who said she enjoyed listening to me on the radio. Throughout the whole time, David Beckham was looking over her shoulder with a great big beaming smile on his face, and he just went: ‘Fun House. Loved it.’” His popularity on Capital FM in the late 1980s led to an unexpected pop career, teaming up with fellow DJ Mick Brown as the duo Pat and Mick and releasing of charity singles – and one album – masterminded by production powerhouse Stock, Aitken, Waterman. “It was strange to suddenly go to the studio and having fellow S/A/W acts like Kylie Minogue and Rick Astley passing by and probably doing the odd backing vocal for you. It was odd going on Top of the Pops pretending to be pop stars alongside Cliff Richard because I couldn’t sing. They used a lot of Autotune!” But in 1989 Smash Hits magazine readers voted him number eight in a most very horrible thing poll –
sandwiched between Aids at number seven and racism at nine – and his hair was a frequent target – not that Sharp minds. “It was great publicity,” he laughs. “I remember being given the worst haircut award at the Smash Hits poll winners party multiple years running, but at the same time, I was also winning best DJ and most fanciable male.” His barnet features prominently in the book. It jokes that the first record he played was by new wave group Haircut 100 and he once checked into rehab for an addiction to haircare products. In truth, his “business at the front, party at the back” style came from a visit to Norway when he was a VJ for the panEuropean Sky Channel. “All the guys there had ‘hockey hair’ – what they call a mullet because their ice hockey players wore it, so I started growing it into that Viking look. It was a successful trip – I picked up my hairstyle and met my wife of 34 years. I must have done
“The irony is, although it’s the thing I’m synonymous with, I only ever spent one week a year doing Fun House.” something right because I’m still talking about it all these years later.” Indeed, as the go-to presenter for all things retro (although Covid-19 has scuppered his live gigs this year), people flock to his live DJ appearances in nylon fright wigs. “If you type mullet wig into Google, the first thing that comes up is a Pat Sharp wig. I don’t get any money from it! All these years on, I’m grateful people are nothing but nice to me, whereas back in the 1980s and 1990s, there would be the odd guy shouting obscenities at you as you drove along with your personal numberplate, with your hair blowing in the wind, thinking you were pretty cool.” n Re-Run The Fun: My Life As Pat Sharp is published by Constable CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO BIG ISSUE NORTH
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Put a sock in it – for a good cause Despite the hustle and bustle around Xmas shopping, it can still be ethical. The global pandemic has put a strain on sole traders, charities and the arts, with events being cancelled and shops and businesses closed for long periods of time. Katie Collier gives us a gift guide to inspire good choices
number of ethical florists such as Blackrod’s Wild and Wondrous Flowers (wildandwondrousflowers.co.uk) and North Yorkshire-based Ginger and Flynn (gingerandflynn.co.uk), which prides itself on using British-grown flowers wherever possible, as well as using UK produced biodegradable packaging.
Galleries and museums Buy One Give One
The Buy One Give One concept is simple – for every purchase made the seller will also make a donation. Manchester’s Stand4Socks (stand4socks.com) sells that most Christmassy of gifts – luxury socks for men and women – and with every pair sold, another is donated to homeless shelters. For the outdoorsy people in your life, Dark Peak (darkpeakgear. com) take outdoor clothing quality seriously and recognise the challenges it poses – especially for those who live in it. For every coat it sells, it donates another to someone who is affected by homelessness. Encourage your loved ones to use less plastic by swapping to bamboo toothbrushes. The Good Brush Company (goodbrush.co.uk) donates one to foodbanks, schools and charities for every purchase made. 24
For under £10 you can plant a tree in a woods near your gift recipient via the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity, the Woodland Trust. To find your nearest wood, enter the name of the town or city they live in on the Woodland Trust website (woodlandtrust. org.uk). Across the north there’s Chafer Wood of North Yorkshire, Moss Leach Wood in Preston, and Rabbit Wood in Merseyside, to name a few. If you’d prefer to bring nature directly to their door, there are a growing
The impact of coronavirus on the arts has been huge since a lot of organisations rely on their communities to keep their venues open. Many of them support local artists and makers too, who have been equally hard hit. Museums Sheffield (museumssheffield.org.uk) has opened the Millennium Gallery Christmas shop, which offers makers of everything from jewellery to stationery the chance to sell their wares at a time when most other craft fairs and markets have been cancelled. Throughout December, the Barefoot Gallery
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(thebarefootgallery.com) in West Yorkshire is offering a 15 per cent discount on all of its original paintings and prints, while the People’s History Museum (phm.org.uk) in Manchester sells a range of stocking fillers – from radical colouring books to suffragette pencil sets, books and Manchesterthemed gifts.
Our new working from home lifestyles have meant realising puppy dreams for many of us but the demand for puppies has led to inflated prices and sadly many new dogs being given up as people realise what a huge responsibility they are. If you are looking for a dog for a prepared and loving home this Christmas the Dog’s Trust (dogstrust.org.uk) currently has 12 dogs in need of rehoming in Leeds, another 12 in Manchester and 20 in Merseyside. There are lots of breeds to choose from including bulldogs, alsatians and dobermans. You can also grab some pawfect gifts on the website for dogs and owners alike.
The kilo of cockles got steamed with butter, garlic and wine. The fillets of dover sole and dabs – from either end of the flat fish hierarchy – had a light dusting of flour before a couple of minutes in the frying pan. My first delivery from Pesky (peskyfish.co.uk) was a success. Pesky is an online market connecting inshore fishermen with domestic customers and chefs. The fish goes on an evening online market as it’s landed and is quickly despatched – filleted if you want. Mine arrived at the 40-hour mark after ordering – not as speedy as the quayside boat-toplate lunch you’ll have on holiday in Portugal or Spain, but quicker nonetheless than the usual UK supply chain, which can mean a surprisingly long time before it hits the fishmonger’s slab. The cockles were sweet, and the fish very fresh, with that thin coating of slime that proves it. Each came with a slip naming the boat that landed it. Postage is £5, and free for orders over £35. Pesky claims that cutting out middlemen means the fishermen earn on average 30 per cent more than they’d receive at their local market – and up to five times more for abundant, sustainable species. There is a lot of packaging, though, and, if you’re lucky, a local fishmonger in just as much need of support Review by Kevin Gopal
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A GREAT WAY TO FIGHT POVERTY
CARE/Peter Caton 2019
THE CHRISTMAS GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
At CARE International, we know that sometimes, all people need is a little investment to change their lives forever.
That’s why we’ve set up this revolutionary way to help some of the world’s poorest people work their own way out of poverty with dignity. It’s called lendwithcare.org – instead of a donation lendwithcare.org allows you to lend as little as £15 to fund a small business overseas. And this Christmas, if you buy a lendwithcare.org gift voucher, you can give your friends or family the chance to choose which business they want to fund, and then when their loan is paid back they can either withdraw the £15 or re-lend it again and again to other hard working entrepreneurs.
How does it work?
Buy a gift voucher at www.lendwithcare.org/gift_vouchers Vouchers can be printed or emailed.
The voucher recipient chooses who to lend their £15 to.
The entrepreneur’s business begins to grow.
The loan is paid back to your friend or relative and they choose what to do next.
You have helped someone in a developing country improve the lives of their whole family and both you and your friend get a nice warm feeling.
Visit www.lendwithcare.org today and give the gift of opportunity this Christmas.
Microloans from CARE International CARE International UK. Registered charity no 292506. CARE, 89 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TP
BROUGHT TO YOU BY CARE INTERNATIONAL UK CIUK Lendwithcare A4 Christmas ad.indd 1 BIN1367_02 27
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Seeing our local theatre doors locked this year has been painful for everyone. If you would normally buy a loved one tickets to the ballet, or take your family to the panto, why not put the money towards supporting the theatres to help ensure they are there for us next year. Check your local theatre to see what sort of support they are asking for. The Octagon Theatre in Bolton (octagonbolton.co.uk) is launching a 12 days of Christmas campaign to help support its Octagon Future Fund in 12 ways. It includes gift ideas, festive online activities and new ways to donate to the registered charity. York Theatre Royal (yorktheatreroyal.co.uk) and the Dukes theatre (dukeslancaster.org) in Lancaster are both registered charities appealing for donations but also offer gift cards redeemable against future productions.
Support small businesses
Sole traders don’t have corporate money behind them and rely on every sale
to keep their businesses afloat. Make the effort to find them in your area before handing your money over to big businesses, and take a look at some of our favourites from across the region. For just £2.50 you can buy greetings cards from the Little Yorkshire Candle Company (thelittleyorkshirecandlecompany.co.uk) in York or get cosy with its range of candles and reed diffusers in these cold winter months. Ramsbottom Soap Co (ramsbottomsoapco.co.uk) is a familyrun business in Lancashire that makes vegan and cruelty-free soap, bath bombs, and other bath and shower products. Lucy & Yak (lucyandyak.com) is an ethical clothing company in Barnsley that has been making scrubs for NHS workers throughout the pandemic. It’s now proven so popular it’s selling them alongside its signature unisex dungarees and colourful boilersuits. The Potions Cauldron (thepotionscauldron.com) of York is a unique shop that sells potions to mix with gin, vodka and rum, as well as potions for the bath. n
While book sales have been booming during the pandemic, local bookshops, forced to close their doors, have not been benefiting. Bookshop.org has been set up to disrupt Amazon’s online dominance of the book market and financially support independent booksellers by giving 75 per cent of its profit margin to stores, publications, authors and others. You can select which bookshop gains profit from your order. Nick Webb from the Rabbit Hole Bookshop in Brigg told Big Issue North: “We have struggled during recent times as we, like many other relatively new indie and small businesses, were not making a profit in the first couple of years.” Prior to the pandemic the shop had moved, expanded and restocked, and had just gone into profit. Then lockdown hit. “Bookshop.org came along at just the right time for us. We really hope it develops and expands organically and is a visible alternative to other major online traders like Amazon. We would hope that it increases the united voice of indie bookshops and shows the individuality of each one. “Our main hope is that Bookshop.org continues to be a unique online presence that does champion and celebrate bricks and mortar stores and doesn’t become a victim of its own success and forget what is at the very heart of its existence.”
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Real stories_ beautifully told. Long form, insightful content to take time over and savour, in a beautiful package. Page after page of high-quality journalism and stunning photography, and no advertising. All profits go to Big Issue North, changing lives for people who have the least
The New Issue is made from the same team who make Big Issue North. Although it is sold directly to readers, all our profits go to enabling us to do more to support our vendors, and to create more opportunities for people not currently earning an income, and facing homelessness and vulnerable living situations.
An annual subscription to The New Issue costs ÂŁ40. To subscribe to The New Issue, or for more information, visit www.newissue.co.uk BIN1329_16.indd BIN 990 - individual27 subs ad A4.indd 1
14:41 12/03/2020 11:17
Photo: Rebecca Lupton
Garlic roast potatoes I always advocate scrubbing potatoes and leaving the skins on because so much of the flavour is in the skin, it reduces waste and it adds a lovely crispy texture, but if you prefer to peel yours, that’s fine too. 100-150g potato per person Vegetable oil, duck fat or a mixture Fresh thyme Garlic cloves, whole, skin on, bashed
Scrubs up well Hughie is one of 12 vendors whose favourite recipes feature on our calendar this year “I chose these because they genuinely are my absolute favourite,” says Hughie, who sells Big Issue North in Liverpool. “I love roasting them with garlic. They are gorgeous. I will definitely be having these on Christmas Day!” Our 2021 vendor calendar is now on sale and this year Mary-Ellen McTague, who runs the Creameries restaurant in Chorlton, has written the 12 recipes that appear on it based on vendors’ favourite dishes, including Hughie’s. McTague, who also writes a column for Big Issue North’s sister magazine The New Issue, was pleased with the variety of dishes vendors selected. “There was traditional British stuff like steak and chips, and bread and butter pudding, but there were a number of dishes that I’d never cooked before – a few Romanian dishes and a Spanish one
as well. It was really nice to learn about those and cook them, knowing that some of the vendors would have really missed them.” The calendars will provide a vital extra income for vendors in the run-up to Christmas, usually their busiest time of year. Vendors buy the calendar for £2.50 and sell it for £5, keeping the profit they make. We’re hugely grateful to McTague, who found the time to work on the calendar while also helping run Eat Well Manchester, a food collective of professionals and volunteers feeding vulnerable people. You can buy the Big Issue North 2021 calendar from vendors or from shop. bigissuenorth.com. For more info about Eat Well Manchester visit eatwellmcr.org
Scrub the potatoes, then cut into evenly sized chunks – I like to cut mine quite small because more roasted surface area means more flavour, but it’s up to you. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and carefully add the potatoes. Bring back to the boil and then turn down to a simmer. The more cooked the potatoes are at this stage, the fluffier the roasties will be, but there’s a fine line between cooked through and mushy, so watch them carefully, stirring and checking every couple of minutes. While they are cooking, preheat the oven to 185C and prepare the cooking fat. The exact quantity depends on the size and shape of your roasting tins and how many potatoes you’re doing, but you want enough to have about a 0.5-1cm layer in each roasting tin. You also need to have a gap between the potatoes so they crisp up evenly, so if it looks like they’ll be crowded in one tray, use two. Warm the fat in a saucepan over a medium heat. Switch off the heat and add a sprig of fresh thyme and a few cloves of garlic – at least 2 per 500g of fat, more if you like it extra garlicky. Leave to infuse. Once the potatoes are very tender and cooked all the way through, drain through a colander. Give the colander a shake to get rid of any last bits of moisture. Strain the fat through a fine mesh sieve, or just pick out the garlic and thyme. Pour onto your roasting tray/s and then preheat in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven very carefully using gloves and place on a heatproof surface, then add the cooked potatoes to the hot fat. Use tongs or a fish slice to turn the potatoes in the fat, ensuring all are coated well, then return to the oven. Turn the potatoes every 15-20 minutes until a deep, crisp, crunchy golden crust has formed on all sides. Sprinkle with sea salt before serving. n CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO BIG ISSUE NORTH
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You are the champ Vendor Champions help make it easier for people to sell Big Issue North – whether that’s supporting them on their pitches, raising awareness of what they do or helping with fundraising. And now we’re on the lookout for more As we often remind people, selling Big Issue North is a job – vendors buy magazines from our offices and sell them on for double the cost, relying on their business skills to generate an income. But it is also so much more than that. In an increasingly busy world, our vendors are at the beating heart of their local communities, breaking up the rush of the day to day with a friendly smile and a warm word for their customers. For many of our vendors, this opportunity for social interaction is as important to them as earning an income. That’s why we need you to help make your local community a great place for vendors to work by becoming a Vendor Champion – a new voluntary role focused on providing the practical and emotional support our vendors need to get the most out of selling Big Issue North. This is a flexible role designed to enable people to put any skills they have to good use. Alternative singer-songwriter Karima Francis, from Blackpool, became one of our first Vendor Champions back in June, when she helped to take our annual touring music festival, the Big Busk, online as the Big Busk at Home, bringing fellow musicians into the line-up and promoting the event across her social media channels. “It was at the start of the lockdown when Big Issue North had written a piece on my single release, Shelf Life,” she said. “I got talking with Antonia [Charlesworth, deputy editor of Big Issue North] about the vendors at the start of the lockdown and was heartbroken to hear how much vendors were suffering due to Covid-19, so I offered my help to raise money for PPE packages and card payment machines so vendors could go
back to work in a safe environment. I will always support Big Issue North as I believe what they do to help people get back into work and education is just remarkable.” You don’t have to have Francis’s influence to become a Vendor Champion, though. Elsa Parker, Co-op community and membership specialist, has been a long-term friend to Dave, whose pitch is outside the Manchester Victoria Co-Op branch. From keeping an eye out to ensure he’s okay to looking after his belongings when he has to leave his pitch and giving him a gift bundle every Christmas, Elsa and her colleagues provide a shining example of a truly vendor-friendly pitch. If you run a local business, you may also be able to support local vendors even if you don’t have a pitch outside your shop – and even if you don’t have a physical shop at all. When England
business I Am Reusable, donated a tenth of the proceeds from the sale of a new line of canvas satchels to our Covid19 vendor hardship fund, providing financial support to our vendors while they were unable to work. Small Manchester business MancMade Clothing also donated £1 to the fund for every face mask it sold, as well as donating a bundle of masks for our vendors. Throughout the year, we have also been overwhelmed by the amount of people who came forward to put their creative skills to good use to make a difference to the people who sell Big Issue North. In Stoke-on-Trent – home to our southernmost pitch! – Jon Barker, his son James and a group of friends worked quickly and tirelessly to use their 3D printing skills to provide a visor for every single vendor returning to work after the first national lockdown was lifted back in June. Then, during the second national lockdown, design technology (DT), art and photography teacher Rochelle Charlton-Lainé organised DT teachers across the country in a herculean maskmaking mission for our vendors, getting their students involved. Thanks to their efforts, our vendors and their customers have been kept safe. With the cold weather upon us,
“I support Big Issue North because what they do to help people get back into work and education is remarkable.”
went into lockdown back in March, we were left with thousands of magazines that could not be sold by our vendors. Inspired by our friends at Shedia, a fellow street paper in Greece, we put out a call for volunteers to use them to craft jewellery and homeware items to sell on our shop, supporting our vendors while they were unable to sell as well as reducing wastage. Alison Connery, owner of Urmston recycled jewellery business Beaglebum Jewellery, produced a stunning batch of pendants that sold out within days. In York, John McGall, a long-standing friend of our vendors and owner of eco-friendly
two knitting groups, the UK Hand Knitting Association and Blackpool’s Aunty Social, have also organised drives to provide handmade hats, scarves and gloves for vendors. Our 2019 vendor audit found that almost a third of vendors sell six or seven days a week for up to 12 hours a day. As the days grow colder, these kind-hearted knitters have made a real difference to our vendors this festive season. “We were amazed by how many hats we received last year,” said Annabelle Hill, head of the UK Hand Knitting Association’s promotions team. “This year, donations from knitters and
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Top to bottom/left to right: young people from City Year; Elsa Parker and Dave; John McGall; Rochelle Charlton-Laine; Karima Francis; donated knits from Aunty Social and others
crocheters are even more important. As a result of the pandemic more people may find themselves in dire straits.” City Year, a collective of 18 to 25-yearolds dedicated to tackling inequality, also collected donations of winter woollies, alongside some tasty snacks, to get our Manchester vendors through the months ahead. These are just a few examples taken from the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who contribute their time, skills and enthusiasm to helping our vendors to change their lives – a goal that, after such an incredibly difficult year, is more important than ever. Whatever you can offer, we would love to have you as part of this exciting new team. Here are a few more ideas for ways that you could get involved: Identifying great places for vendors to sell in your local area; Encouraging local businesses to do their bit – whether that’s offering vendors a pitch, use of their toilet facilities, storage for their items when they have to leave their pitch, or the provision of items such as vouchers to exchange for goods in-store; Promoting our work in your local community by sharing our posts to local Facebook groups, organising fundraisers or any other way you can think of to raise awareness of what we do; Sharing skills to help our vendors to develop, such as offering English language or IT lessons; Helping more people to start selling Big Issue North and change their lives by working with local outreach teams to distribute information leaflets about how they can work with us or signposting users of another local service to us. n To express an interest and make your community a great place to be a Big Issue North vendor, please email Simon Kweeday at simon.kweeday@ thebiglifegroup.com. We look forward to welcoming you aboard! CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO BIG ISSUE NORTH
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Manchester Youth Pride’s festive party takes place online and invites all LGBTQ+ young people and allies to join the free twohour event packed with quizzes, a lip-sync, games, special guests and a few surprises. (tinyurl.com/yygmmytt)
Santa Special journeys from Pickering Station to Levisham and back last around 60 mins and offer children the chance to see Santa organising his elves in their race towards Christmas. You’ll travel in your own private compartment in a festively decorated heritage steam train whilst listening to Jingle Bells FM radio. (nymr.co.uk)
There won’t be hundreds of people lining the pews of the medieval chapel this year but the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 4 on Christmas Eve. If you’d rather watch it, you can download the HD video afterwards. (kingscollegerecordings.com)
Visit the beautiful medieval house with rich gardens and estate at Sizergh and follow the Peter Rabbit activity trail. Find clues around the gardens and courtyard, solve puzzles and find out about your favourite woodland creatures along the way. (nationaltrust.org.uk/sizergh)
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THINGS TO DO ON AND OFFLINE Online
Once madly in love, Rodolfo and Mimì have fallen on hard times. Can their love survive the harsh winter? La Petite Boheme transports you to a crisp, winter evening in Paris with a short animated re-imagining of act III of Puccini’s best-loved opera La Bohème. Matthew Robins’ 20-minute animation features a new soundtrack by the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North and four soloists. (ondemand.operanorth.co.uk)
Follow the trail of Christmas lights at Dunham Massey for a safe, outdoor Christmas experience. Tree canopies are drenched in colour, the lake reflects the beautiful displays, huge snowflakes create an aerial kaleidoscope over the gardens and a tunnel of light twinkles with splendour. There’s a place to buy hot drinks and you might even spot Santa along the way. (nationaltrust.org.uk/dunham-massey)
Swedish tourism provider Lights Over Lapland is bringing the winter holiday experience to homes with a series of VR tours including dog sledding through Abisko National Park, the Northern Lights, an ice hotel virtual tour and reindeer sledding. (lightoverlapland.com)
Take the History of Christmas in York tour where you’ll be led through the famous streets and hear how an ancient mid-winter festival developed into the Christmas we enjoy today, taking in Roman and Viking traditions along the way. (ticketsource.co.uk/york-christmas-tour)
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Flights of fancy Lockdown has meant there’s a lack of seasonal sitcom specials, but there’s still plenty to keep you distracted as we wait for better days to come. Dan Whitehead is your Christmas television guide
FACTUAL Marcus Rashford: Feeding Britain’s Children BBC One, 21 Dec, 7pm One of the few consistent glimmers of hope in an unusually dark year, this all-access documentary follows the 23-year-old Man Utd star across several pivotal months as he uses his celebrity to agitate for children living in poverty. Inside John Lewis: Trouble at the Tills Channel 4, 21 Dec, 8pm Fans of ironic juxtaposition can switch channels after Marcus Rashford to go behind the scenes of posh shop John Lewis as the retail giant, whose seasonal ads have inexplicably become emotional Yuletide touchstones, fights to maintain profits during a year of lockdown. Burnt Bits ITV, 23 Dec, 8pm The blooper show genre gets a culinary makeover for this era of wall-to-wall TV cookery, with a selection of botched dishes from celebrity chef kitchens. Something to put your mind at rest before the inevitable stench of scorched parsnips fills your own home on Christmas Day.
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Left to right: A Baby Reindeer’s First Christmas and Miranda’s Games with Showbiz Names; Zog and the Flying Doctors; and Great British Bake Off
ENTERTAINMENT One Night in Hamley’s Channel 4, Christmas Eve, 9pm The wish fulfilment is strong in this one-off, as comedians Romesh Ranganathan, Rob Beckett and Tom Allen are locked inside London’s famous toy store overnight and left unsupervised until morning. The only rules: no sleeping, no trashing the place and everything has to be tided up by morning.
Jennifer Saunders’ Memory Lane ITV, 23 Dec, 9pm A sort of mix of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars series with a This Is Your Life twist, as comedy titan Jennifer Saunders drives a celebrity around important locations from their life in an ostentatious, bright red E-Type Jaguar. The celeb in question this time is lovely acting man Michael Sheen. A Baby Reindeer’s First Christmas Channel 4, Christmas Eve, 6.40pm Set your cuteness receptors to maximum for this documentary about Britain’s only herd of reindeer, living in the Cairngorms. As the title suggests, there’s a new arrival to celebrate. Whether you’re an adult looking for a unique natural history film or a kid craving some preSanta magic, this should fit the bill. If you can’t wait for the cuteness, you can read all about them in the Features section of bigissuenorth. com. Great British Bake-Off Christmas Special Christmas Eve, 7.40pm They’ve left it a bit late to inspire your own Christmas baking, but Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith and Matt Lucas are all back along with winners from previous years for a tinsel-strewn dose of festive flour power.
Miranda’s Games with Showbiz Names BBC One, Christmas Eve, 9.45pm How to deliver the expected festive spirit when celebs are still forbidden to congregate in close proximity? Enter Miranda Hart, with her usual exuberance and a half-hour televised Zoom call in which she goads fellow famous faces into playing Christmas games remotely.
Jack and the Beanstalk: After Ever After Sky One, 23 Dec, 8pm Here comes David Walliams, muscling his way into the festivities as usual, co-writing and playing the giant in this one-off comedy drama which asks what happened to Jack after the events of the classic fairy tale. More interesting is Sheridan Smith as a leather-clad eyepatch-wearing warrior.
The Jonathan Ross Christmas Show ITV, Christmas Eve, 10pm As if to prove the difficulty in coaxing the really big names out of their homes at the moment, this rather low key-sounding Christmas special finds Rossy chinwagging with Bradley Walsh and Mo Farah, while Kevin Bridges supplies some comedy.
Worzel Gummidge: Saucy Nancy BBC One, Christmas Eve, 5.55pm A somewhat unlikely hit last Christmas, Mackenzie Crook returns as a faintly sinister living scarecrow in a new hour-long adventure. For those who remember when kids’ drama used to come tinged with an unsettling echo of pagan folklore, this is an unexpected treat.
Top of the Pops Christmas Special BBC One, Christmas Day, 11.55am On the one hand, there’s something reassuring about seeing the words “Top of the Pops” on the Christmas Day schedule, but on the other there’s a good chance that anyone old enough to be nostalgic about the show won’t have a clue who any of 2020’s biggest stars are. Still, it should help drag the teenagers out of their bedrooms before noon.
Roald and Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse Sky One, Christmas Eve, 8.15pm A winsome drama, full of magical realism and loosely inspired by a true story about sixyear-old Roald Dahl’s attempt to visit his idol, Beatrix Potter. Dawn French heads the cast as Potter, with Rob Brydon, Jessica Hynes and Bill Bailey lending appropriately cosy support.
It’s Clarkson on TV ITV, Christmas Day, 9.55pm Look, it’s been a horrible year and we should probably just let people watch whatever makes them happy, but you have to draw the line somewhere. And Jeremy Clarkson’s “no-holds barred” review of the year’s TV is clearly a step too far. Mind you, for those who can’t have grandparents over to visit, wearily listening to a grumpy old sod moaning about stuff might fill a certain void. Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2020 Channel 4, Boxing Day, 9.05pm It’s going to be interesting, to say the least, to see how Jimmy Carr’s famously irreverent yearend celebrity quiz tackles 2020, a year that has not exactly been big on quirky laugh-out-loud moments of ribald whimsy.
Zog and the Flying Doctors BBC One, Christmas Day, 2.35pm Lenny Henry narrates this new film starring Zog the dragon, based on the book by Gruffalo creators Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler. This time around, Zog is hopping around the world with companions Princess Pearl and Sir Gadabout, helping an assortment of fantasy critters including mermaids and unicorns. Quentin Blake’s Clown Channel 4, Christmas Day, 7.40pm Roald Dahl’s legendary illustrator gets a well-earned and long overdue moment in the spotlight with this half-hour animation based on Quentin Blake’s solo children’s story and narrated by Helena Bonham Carter. A wellloved toy clown is thrown away and sets out to find a new home. Expect an appropriate mixture of melancholy and uplift. CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO BIG ISSUE NORTH
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INDIE FILM MUSIC LOST CHRISTMAS
A Memphis Industries Festive Selection Box (Memphis Industries)
For many years now, esteemed British indie Memphis Industries has staged a series of December concerts called Lost Christmas. With those shows unable to happen in 2020, the label has got artists from its roster to spread some alternative festive joy. “It won’t be perfect/It’s still worth it,” chant North East duo Warm Digits on Good Enough For You This Christmas, a bittersweet electropop party that epitomises the album’s playful, unorthodox tone. Other first half highlights include Haley Bonar’s ethereal torch song Like Ice and Cold and the squidgy synths of Field Music’s Home For Christmas, an arch, richly-layered tale of waiting on a freezing train platform surrounded by “crestfallen faces.”
The Phoenix Foundation’s lo-fi version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas begins side B with singer Sam Flynn Scott transforming his vocals to sound like a depressed robot that’s got yellow snow in its circuits. More upbeat festive thrills follow with Francis Lung’s brassy To Make Angels In Snow and The Go! Team’s joyful Look Outside (A New Year’s Coming). Jesca Hoop’s stirring cover of Fleet Foxes’ White Winter Hymnal – incorporating the chorus from Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – will melt even the coldest of hearts. £2 from every purchase goes to Crisis’s Home For All campaign. RICHARD SMIRKE
GOO GOO DOLLS
Chilly Gonzales describes his first Christmas album as an “authentic interpretation of this very peculiar holiday season”. He may have a point with minor key piano versions of classics like We Three Kings and Jingle Bells making up the majority of its 16 tracks. As pleasant as they are, it’s appearances from Jarvis Cocker and Feist that lift the LP beyond soothing background music. The two singers combine beautifully on an evocative string-accompanied Snow Is Falling in Manhattan. Cocker’s baritone delivery of In The Bleak Midwinter and a luminous Feist-sung The Banister Bough leave a fuzzy afterglow.
Dolly’s first holiday album in three decades delivers a schmaltzy blend of yuletide favourites along with six new songs from the 74-year-old queen of country. Of the latter, a stripped-back Circle of Love and frisky Cuddle Up, Cozy Down Christmas – a cheesy duet with Michael Bublé – stand tall among the limited highlights. Miley Cyrus, her dad Billy Ray and Willie Nelson also feature, although it’s Parton’s solo turn on Mary, Did You Know? that lingers longest. Sadly though, it’s for all the wrong reasons, with syrupy orchestration and ridiculously over the top vocals turning the song into the worst type of earnest power ballad.
More than 30 years after forming, Goo Goo Dolls join the long list of music acts looking to get a few extra quid in their stocking this December with their first festive cash in. The veteran rockers’ choice of material is largely predictable, but there’s still much to enjoy here with the Buffalo group energetically throwing themselves into covers of Tom Petty’s Christmas All Over Again and a swooning Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, one of several tracks that have a laidback jazz gloss. An abundance of brass horns, double bass, sleigh bells and Mellotron keyboards add to the cosy fireside feel.
A Very Chilly Christmas
A Holly Dolly Christmas
It’s Christmas All Over
Recently released, County Lines (BFI.org.uk) is the acclaimed debut feature from director Henry Blake, which was inspired by the stories he heard while mentoring young people at an East London pupil referral unit. Tyler (Conrad Khan), 14, is bullied at school, while at home he looks after his younger sister as his hardpressed young mother is either out at work cleaning, or out on the town drinking. Tyler glimpses a way out of this tough life when he meets a suave stranger in a fancy car who befriends him and talks about offering him a job. What follows is a grim descent into the world of drug running that threatens to destroy both the young lad and his family. Khan gives a moving and gripping performance as Tyler in this sturdy drama that feels a little too short for the weight of its subject matter. One minute Tyler is a shy, bullied lad, the next he’s in a crack den on the coast, driven by a desire for a different life and, perhaps, something of a teenage crush on the enigmatic but ultimately monstrous local dealer. But credible performances and a script that clearly comes from experience make this a compelling watch, despite some tough moments. The tragedy of it all looms large, and there’s not much in the way of light to penetrate the gloom in this film, but considering the fact, noted at the end of the film, that an estimated 10,000 children in the UK are now exploited by or forced to work for drugs gangs across the country, this feels like a timely and important film. The brilliant documentary production house Dogwoof (dogwoof.com) has launched a new on demand service and to celebrate it is offering subscribers to its newsletter the chance to either purchase or rent a film for free in December. Visit the site, sign up and then enter the code DOGTREAT at the checkout. You could do worse than use the opportunity to watch its latest offering, The Mole Agent, a funny, poignant exploration of age that’s also a spy movie. When family members become concerned about their mother’s wellbeing in a retirement home, Sergio, an 83-year-old man, is hired to become a new resident and find out what’s going on inside the home. CHRISTIAN LISSEMAN
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Oh no it isn’t! Christmas isn’t cancelled in the region’s theatres and beyond. Andy Murray takes you on a socially distanced walk through live and online panto, drama and more
CENTRE STAGE Christmas is usually a bums-on-seats boom time for the region’s theatres that fills their coffers for the months ahead. In the current situation, some venues have opened by observing strict social distancing guidelines, but many more remain closed. They’ve had to get resourceful to keep their shows on the road but determined theatregoers have plenty of options. If it’s a live, in-person experience you want there are some scheduled shows that will go ahead if the areas hosting them are adhering to Tier 2 Covid restrictions, which are being revised on 16 December. Liverpool Playhouse presents Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (5-24 Dec). With the strap-line “The humbug stops here”, it’s adapted by the venerable Patrick Barlow and directed by outgoing artistic director Gemma Bodinetz as her farewell production. Across town, Liverpool Everyman has shelved its traditional rock ‘n’ roll panto this year, offering instead an intimate table-seated New York-style Christmas Cabaret of seasonal songs and merriment (17-24 Dec). In Chester, Storyhouse is staging its own allages version of A Christmas Carol (2 Dec-17 Jan). Written and directed by Storyhouse’s artistic director Alex Clifton, 38
it promises to spotlight recovery, reunion, redemption – and, above all, joy. York Theatre Royal is tackling restrictions by taking a seasonal experience out on the road, bringing a distanced, interactive Travelling Pantomime show to community spaces in each of York’s 21 city wards (5-23 Dec). In Salford, the Lowry welcomes back the empowering hit musical Six (19 Dec-17 Jan), telling the stories of the women who became wives of Henry VIII, now relocated to the larger, more spacious Lyric Theatre. Needless to say, all of the above events are for limited, socially-distanced audiences so early booking is strongly advised – plus, details remain subject to change. On the other hand, a whole range of venues are presenting shows online for audiences to stream from home. Hull Truck Theatre is staging Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker, a sparkly spin on Cinderella suitable for all ages five-plus. It will be streamed on YouTube at 7pm on 22 December and made available to watch ondemand until early January (hulltruck.co.uk). Home in Manchester has two shows aimed at very different audiences. There’s Duckie (16-23 Dec), a family-friendly one-man reimagining of The Ugly Duckling with a
powerful message about identity, by acclaimed cabaret star Le Gateau Chocolat. That’s available via the Home website, on demand and on a pay-as-you-decide basis. The adults-only Sh!t Actually, meanwhile, will be livestreamed or live, depending on the status of the venue. Either way performers Rebecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole stand a certain Richard Curtis film on its head, with the promise of gratuitous nudity. For little ones, Bolton Octagon offers A Kidnapped Father Christmas, (18-19 Dec), adapted from a story by Frank L Baum of Wizard of Oz fame, in the form of an interactive Zoom storytelling session. From Sale Waterside there’s Humbug (1-31 December), a seven-part digital adventure combining online sessions with physical artefacts arriving by post, wherein the whole family can battle alongside the Ministry of Make Believe to save Christmas. From Oldham Coliseum comes Panto Digital Storytelling (12 Dec-2 Jan), which allows online viewers to decide between two bespoke pantomimes, Cinderella or Jack and the Beanstalk. Some regional venues are offering spooky festive audio experiences, such as Stephen Joseph Theatre’s reading of Haunting Julia by its author Alan Ayckbourn (1 Dec-5 Jan), or
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a streamed reading by Adam Z Robinson of A Christmas Carol from Harrogate Theatre ramping up the tale’s gothic, ghostly aspects (19-23 Dec). Of course, watching streamed shows at home means that you can see anything from anywhere, local or not. That opens your options up to include Nottingham Playhouse’s full-on pantomime Cinderella (live on 24 Dec, on demand thereafter), or Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s Magic of Christmas, a filmed version of a jolly promenade show from the Scottish Highlands all about Santa and his elves (and as an added bonus, it features Clare Grogan as Mrs Claus). If you prefer old-school festive chills, Robert Lloyd Parry’s Nunkie Productions has a full Behind Closed Doors season of online story readings throughout December, taking in MR James and Arthur Conan Doyle. Alternatively, London Old Vic is once again staging our old friend A Christmas Carol as scripted by Jack Thorne, this year starring Andrew Lincoln as Scrooge and available as a livestream wherever you happen to be. Hopefully there’s something among that little lot to amuse and entertain you before – fingers crossed – our theatres are ready to reopen at full strength next year.
Clockwise: Shorelle Hepkin as Cinderella, Oldham Coliseum; Chester Storyhouse’s Christmas Carol; York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomine; and Manchester Home’s Duckie, by cabaret star Le Gateau Chocolat
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WHITE XMAS, WELL READ
KEeP THE YOUNG BO0K LOVeR IN YOUR FAMiLY C0NTeNT THIS CHRISTMaS WITH A CH0ICE FR0M THe BEST 0F THe LATeST RELeASES, WRaPPED UP BY ANT0NIA CHARLeSW0RTH PRE-SCHOOL
IT’S ALL IN THE TALE
IT’S ALL IN THE TALE
Who’s Driving by Leo Timmers (Gecko Press) Who’s driving the racing car? Hare! He’s driving to the racetrack. Vrooooooomm. A short and charming board book to encourage page turning and recognition of animals and vehicles, Who’s Driving from Belgian illustrator and author Leo Timmers is vibrant and full of humour.
Queen of King Street by Tom McLaughlin (Barrington Stoke) When the Royal Family royally mess up they must learn to live like common people. How will they ever survive? The best-selling author of The Accidental Prime Minister, Tom McLaughlin returns with another hilarious tale with a political, satirical twist, but this time written with emergent readers in mind.
Dogger’s Christmas by Shirley Hughes (Puffin) Over 40 years after Dogger was published, beloved children’s author Shirley Hughes revisits Dave and his favourite toy Dogger, who’s at risk of being forgotten on Xmas Day. An enchanting tale, full of nostalgia and warmth, bringing a classic character to a new generation of readers. The After Christmas Tree by Bethan Welby (Scallywag Press) When Brian finds an abandoned Christmas tree by the roadside in January he decides to rescue it but his family aren’t too happy about his new friend joining them at the dinner table and on the couch. A sweet tale about childhood attachment that celebrates the beauty of nature.
Fish by Brendan Kearney (DK Books) “Where are all the fish?” Finn wondered, as he scooped his net through the water. When a fisherman and his dog head out on their small boat for their daily catch they are shocked to find a sea of rubbish instead. Returning to shore with all they can carry, they are greeted by a helpful young group of beach cleaners who educate them about pollution. With an engaging story and charming illustrations, Fish is an ideal introduction to environmentalism.
If you look high up in the sky (I’m talking higher than a parrot), you’ll see a root veg flying by (and no, I do not mean a carrot). An offbeat Christmas story from Matt Lucas and his Baked Potato character, told in rhyme and with odd and colourful illustrations.
One Hundred Steps by Captain Tom Moore, illus by Adam Lark (Puffin) Inspired by the countless young people who sent him letters of support during his charity walk, Tom Moore has told the tale in terms the youngest listeners will understand. It also follows key moments in Moore’s 100-year life as he shares pearls of wisdom he’s gleaned along the way*. Interview With A Tiger & Other Clawed Beasts Too by Andy Seed, illustrated by Nick East (Welbeck) Have you ever wondered why wolves move in a pack, or what a jaguar’s spots are for? Now’s your chance to find out, straight from the animal’s mouth. While the format of this book might strictly be fiction – former primary teacher Andy Seed doesn’t sadly have Dr Dolittle-like abilities – the content is factual, but funny and engaging. BIG ISSUE NORTH CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO
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The Marvellous Land of Snergs by Veronica Cossanteli, illus by Melissa Castrillon (Chicken House) Widely recognised as the inspiration behind The Hobbit, this forgotten classic from 1927 by EA Wyke-Smith is given a new lease of life by primary school teacher and author Cossanteli. The action unfolds at the Sunny Bay Home for Superfluous and Accidentally Parentless Children and centres on Pip and Flora, who run away and discover a marvellous new land. A timeless tale of magic, friendship and home. Merry Christmas Baked Potato by Matt Lucas, illus by Scott Coello
MOMENTS OF TRUTH
World Burn Down by Steve Cole (Barrington Stoke) For intrepid young readers or a super-readable option for reluctant or dyslexic older readers, this environmental tale of deforestation and global warming is told through Carlos, whose mother is head of a taskforce working for Brazil’s Environmental Authority in protecting the Amazon. When a group of land grabbers try to teach her a lesson Carlos becomes their target. Will he be able to outrun the flames as the world around him burns?
The Griffin Gate by Vashti Hardy, illus by Natalie Smillie (Barrington Stoke) For years Grace’s family have been wardens of the Griffin map, using its teleport technology to help people and fight crime all across Moreland. At 13 Grace wants to head out on missions alone – if her brother Bren can, why can’t she? But when a call for help comes and she decides to go it alone, Grace finds herself in the middle of a treacherous scheme. With monsters, mystery and a plucky young heroine, The Griffin Gate offers perfect fireside escapism.
MOMENTS OF TRUTH Britannica All New Children’s Encyclopedia – What We Know and What We Don’t Know ed by Christopher Lloyd (Britannica Books) A children’s encyclopedia is a Christmas gift that lasts a lifetime and none is more authoritative than the Britannica. It holds 416 pages of mind-boggling facts, data and visuals endorsed by over 100 expert
* Read our interview with Captain Tom Moore in the Features section of bigissuenorth.com
OFF THE SHELF TIGERS IN CHILDREN’S NOVELS JOAN HAIG There’s something magical about tigers. This year has been a bumper year for children’s novels featuring them. I’ve recently put down The Acrobats of Agra by Robin ScottElliot (Everything With Words) and feel a lingering literary love for Tonton the circus tiger. Tonton doesn’t have superpowers, but that doesn’t stop her being magical. The big cats in Julia Golding’s The Tigers in the Tower (Lion Hudson) can’t talk or fly either; it’s their being tigers that charms and their friendship with a girl called Sahira that makes the story sparkle. This isn’t to say there’s no place for a spot of sorcery. Ross Montgomery’s novel The Midnight Guardians (Walker Books) is not about a tiger but features one. As an imaginary friend come real, Pendlebury embodies a gorgeous mixture of child-given powers and grown-up sensibilities. She is the feline version of the seven-league boot. In my book, the tiger is bestowed with, and summoned by, deep magic. In Tiger Heart by Penny Chrimes (Hachette), the talking tiger knows what protagonist Fly does not: that they both belong to a kingdom where all animals are citizens. Two classic novels, Tiger, Tiger by Melvin Burgess and Life of Pi by Yann Martel explore the complexities of human-animal relationships. Their tigers share a goal or desire with human characters while remaining untamed. Even Shere Khan – the wildest of imaginary tigers – challenges readers with his relatable emotions and behaviour. Kipling’s tiger is driven by fear and jealousy of man’s “red flower” – fire – which threatens to destroy not only his position in the jungle but the jungle itself. Protecting nature is also a strong theme in Tania Unsworth’s colonial-era story, The Tiger and the Time Traveller (Head of Zeus), and in my book, Tiger Skin Rug. It’s truly heartening to see tigers prowling the children’s shelves of libraries and bookshops. Magical cats are great characters in stories, and tigers make the real world magical. Tiger Skin Rug by Joan Haig (Cranachan, £6.99) has been nominated for the Carnegie Medal 2021. You can also vote for it in the People’s Book Prize Winter 2020-21 competition online
consultants. Covering the universe, earth, matter, life, humans, ancient and medieval times, modern times, and today and tomorrow, each spread is excitingly illustrated and uniquely engaging. The Great Realisation – A Story of Hope for a Time of Change by Tomos Roberts, illus by Nomoco (Egmont)
“Tell me the one about the virus again, then I’ll go to bed… Please! That one’s my favourite. I promise, just once more. Take me back to 2020. That’s all I’m asking for.” At the start of the pandemic Tomos Robert’s beautiful poem of hope went viral on YouTube as people shared his hopeful vision of a man retelling the story of 2020 to his son in the future. It might not be a year many of us want to remember but for children who lived through it, this is a perfect way to mark it and make sense of it.
OLDER CHILDREN IT’S ALL IN THE TALE Lori and Max and the Book Thieves by Catherine O’Flynn (Firefly Press) The second book in the Lori and Max series follows the inquisitive pair, now in year six, as they seek out mystery, injustice and confectionery in their neighbourhood. This time a stolen phone, an unruly dog, a buried lunchbox and an antique children’s book are all under investigation. It’s at once witty, warm and wise. Clock of Stars – The Shadow Moth by Francesca Gibbons, illus by Chris Riddell (Harper Collins Children’s Books) Siblings, a secret door into another world, fantastical creatures and illustrations by one of our best-loved cartoonists – Francesca Gibbon’s debut has all the hallmarks of a fantasy classic. The Clock of Stars follows sisters Imogen and Marie through a magical door in a tree and into a kingdom where they are swept into a thrilling race against time – helped by the spoiled prince of the kingdom, a dancing bear, a grumpy hunter and the stars above them. Expansively written with a sisterly bond at its heart, this suspenseful novel will captivate and enchant. Moonchild – Voyage of the Lost and Found by Aisha Bushby, illus by Rachael Dean (Egmont) Inspired by the timeless tales of the Arabian Nights, Moonchild is Amira – a seafaring 12 year old for whom magic is second nature. But when a magical being that feeds on people’s emotions threatens her world, it’s up to her to save it. A heartfelt tale of friendship and enchantment to drift away on. Shine by Jessica Jung (Egmont) K-pop sensation Girls’ Generation’s lead singer Jessica Jung brings her star quality to Shine. It follows 17-year-old Korean-American Rachel Kim, whose dream is to become a K-pop star and is willing to give it all the dedication it needs. And it’s a lot. Train 24/7. Don’t date. Be perfect. When Rachel gets a chance to duet with DB golden boy Jason Lee, it could be the making of her career, or it could unravel the delicate thread holding it all together. For all the sparkle and glitz, Jung ultimately shines a light on an industry that is as twisted as it is technicolour.
The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips, illus by Isabelle Follath (Egmont)
Ebeneezer Tweezer is a youthful 511 year old who keeps a beast living on the top floor of his 15-storey house. In return for food the beast vomits up irresistible gifts, and the greater the meal, the more impressive the gift. What might the beast exchange for, say, a child-sized meal? Weird, whimsical and whip-smart, this is a book that will linger as long as its protagonist.
MOMENTS OF TRUTH Climate Emergency Atlas (DK) With a foreword by natural history and environment broadcaster Liz Bonnin this unique atlas shows children exactly what’s happening and where and what they can do to help. With a fact-based approach and a hopeful message it will inspire and educate on one of the most important topics of our time. Timelines from Black History (DK) “Black history has been overlooked and minimised in every area of society,” writes Mireille Harper in the powerful foreword. “Yet the contributions of black people to society influence every part of how we live.” This comprehensive book delves deep into the worldchanging stories of black people with over 30 visual timelines. CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO BIG ISSUE NORTH
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GET ON BOARD
The selection box It took a global pandemic but board games have finally seen a resurgence as families have sought out fun in the home. With Christmas upon us Ricky Stack demonstrates there’s more to modern gameplay than passing go FAMILY Cobra Paw Ninja-like reflex skills are required to play Cobra Paw, a reaction-testing game with two big, chunky dice, each featuring six symbols. The two-symbol combination a player rolls will correlate to one of 21 domino-style tiles and the first player to recognise the tile must use their ninja-like reflexes and sharp recognition skills to snatch the tile as quickly as possible. An amusing filler for in between the prawn cocktail and the turkey. Don’t Get Got A marathon game of trickery and deception, Don’t Get Got can begin when the toddlers open their first presents before dawn, and last until your dad falls asleep in front of the telly. This daylong game won’t hinder any other festivities, as long as you can deal with creeping paranoia and suspicion of everyone you’re playing against. Up to eight players are given a plastic wallet containing six unique mission cards, which they can fold up and keep in their pocket. Players must complete three out of six missions first to win.
OK Play OK Play doesn’t look or sound particularly interesting but first impressions count for little here. The premise is simple: up to four players take a coloured stack of tiles and take turns to place one down, connecting the edges to an already laid tile. The goal: connect five in a row, whether in a straight line or diagonally. If every tile has been used and no one has been declared the winner, the game continues by moving a tile to a new location. It couldn’t be an easier game to play but the scope for tactics is vast. There are endless hours of fun to be had in this addictive little game. Patchwork Designed for two players the objective of Patchwork is to fill a personal 9×9 square grid with pieces of card “fabric” to complete a patchwork blanket of your dreams. There are 33 Tetris-like pieces that come in various shapes and sizes. As the game progresses each player will buy pieces (with buttons as currency) to slot into their grid, leaving a minimal number of blank spaces. The player with the least blank squares and most buttons will win the game. Patchwork is an absolute gem of a game. Not only is it multifaceted, but there is nothing like it on the market. Who knew sewing a quilt could be so much fun?
PARTY Codenames This game can be played with as few as four players (although the more the merrier), with the group splitting into teams. One person from each team is selected as spymaster and must sit opposite their field operatives. Placing 25 random word cards onto the five-by-five grid, Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the table. Teammates try to guess words of their colour while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team, and everyone wants to avoid the assassin. An intense theme but gameplay is simple and there’s plenty of fun to be had. The Chameleon You’ll need to blend in to play this cunning game of espionage. Between three and eight players are given a secret word to depict, except for the chameleon, who is unaware of the word. If the secret word is “Cinderella”, a player could say “prince”, “stepmother”, even “Disney”, but answers shouldn’t be too precise – saying “glass slipper” would let the chameleon know exactly what the word is, resulting in their own answer being very convincing. After each player has said an associated word everyone must point simultaneously at who they believe the chameleon to be. Finding out you are the chameleon is such a buzz, and getting away with it is even better!
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STRATEGY Ticket to Ride A modern alternative to Monopoly without the randomness or rage, Ticket to Ride: Europe is set at the turn of the 20th century and begins with a map of the Continent, illustrated with train lines connecting up the most prominent capital cities. Each player has two destination ticket cards, which set journey goals from one city to another and, using different coloured carriage pieces, mark out their route across Europe. There are also smaller routes to complete, as well as the ability to block other players’ routes and steal points. Depending on number of players (you can have up to five), the game will last one to two hours. But with a clear end goal and rewarding accomplishments along the way this is unlikely to feel like an annual family punishment.
The Shame of Life The Shame of Life can be soul cleansing or destroying, depending on the direction this game takes. Either way it should definitely be saved until the kids are in bed, and maybe even until your parents have left – things can get embarrassing and quite silly. With a big deck of questions, a player takes one at random and reads it out to the group. The question could either prompt a debate, pose a dilemma or ask you to describe something. Chaos ensues. Which celebrity death match would you like to see? If getting an erection made a sound, what sound would you want it to make? These are just the more innocent questions of the game; many more are Not Safe For Print.
Catan Designed for up to four players who take their turn to slowly take control of the land on the fictional, titular island, players gather tiles to build a road, settlement or city. The steps are simple. Roll. Trade. Build. Players must use the right amount of resources to build either a road or settlement (worth one point), or a city (worth two points). Placing a road will aid you in progressing across the island. The aim is to be the first player to reach 10 victory points – how you reach that goal is up to you.
Carcassonne Suitable for ages six and up and for two to five players, the board is the medieval French town of the title, which players build on throughout gameplay. To begin, a terrain tile is upturned and players take turns to pick up others, each containing a piece of a landscape such as road, monastery or city, which they must match to the tiles on the board. Players can then opt to place one of their “meeple” – little wooden counters resembling people – on the newly placed tiles, scoring the points necessary to win. The player who places the last tile ends the game and points are counted. Pandemic Bring this one along to your five-day Christmas lockdown release in bad taste perhaps, but this is your chance to put your (2-4) heads together and wipe out four deadly viruses. You need to find a cure for each disease and eradicate outbreaks all over the world. With a map of the world as the playing board, major cities are highlighted as places where diseases can take hold at any time. Each player has a character role with special attributes that affect the outcome. Gameplay is complicated, there are multiple ways to lose and the odds are against you – at times it will feel a lot like, well, 2020. But as a cooperative game with a sadly relatable objective, this one reaps big rewards.
Telestrations Each player takes a wipeable sketchbook, marker pen and a random card with a series of secret words. You write down your word on page one, be it a “rubber ducky”, “pin cushion” or “buffet”, then you have 60 seconds to draw it on the following page. When time is up you pass it to the person next to you. That person then has to decide what your drawing depicts and write down their guess on page three before passing it on to the next player to draw on page four. The game continues until everyone has their original sketchbook back in hand. Whilst the game can be played with as few as four people, it is a lot more enjoyable with seven or eight players. It gives more of a chance for the secret words to get lost in translation and produce hilarious results. You can read longer versions of these reviews and more in the See Hear section of bigissuenorth.com
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CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO BIG ISSUE NORTH
LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF DAVID BYRNE Singer and co-founder of Talking Heads, aged 68 At 16, I was extremely shy but already starting to perform. I was in high school and taking an interest in all kinds of music, but I had no aspirations that it would be my future. It was just something I loved and would tinker with. I had, for a brief time, a band with some schoolmates and then started doing very odd performances at coffee shops in Baltimore. So I was kind of precocious in that sense, yet I remained extremely shy. The two went hand in hand, because that was my way to communicate, by performing. My pop music heroes were James Brown, The Beatles, The Temptations but I had a growing awareness of all sorts of other music. I listened to electronic music and records on a label called Folkways, which was folk music from other parts of the world. It was available from the local public library. I can’t imagine how well the vinyl held up, being lent to all these people, but it opened up the world to me. Look, there’s all this other music besides the pop music you hear on the radio! It was incredible. Listening to experimental music, I realised there were so many ways of making music and constructing sounds, and that all kinds of sounds are valid. I drew surreal cartoon strips and my versions of the psychedelic posters that were around in the late 1960s. I had not done any drugs but I would go down to the basement, get out the paints and create my own trippy drawings. I was also fascinated by science so I applied for art schools, based on my drawings, and an engineering school. I thought, OK, let’s see where you end up. The engineering college was quiet. But when I visited art schools, there was more ferment, the creativity was on the walls. They’d scrawl things everywhere and work was spilling out of the studios. I would tell my younger self, don’t worry, there are people like you and you’ll find them. At that age there are worries your older self could help you with – I felt like a lot of people do, like you’re different and don’t fit in. Especially growing up in a little suburban town, you think, do I belong? Is there a place for me? Are there any other people like me? I’d like to have had that reassurance. People would find their people on the dancefloor or through writing, but you had to actively seek them out. I’d wonder, where are these folks who are like me – maybe they are in art school. My mother was politically involved, starting from when I was an adolescent and the anti-Vietnam War protests. She continued to protest. She was out there demonstrating about the invasion of Iraq and all sorts of other things. Even though she’d get yelled at by the neighbours she stood her ground. She set a real example that way. As a young person who liked music, it was almost destined I’d also be involved in the antiwar movement. I marched against the Vietnam War when – as there is now – there’d be tear gas and you dealt with it by wearing a bandana across your face. The country had been – as it is now – ripped in half. To some extent it felt generational. And there was still – as there is now – a kind of urban versus rural split. You sensed this patriotic core in rural America, but we felt we were being patriotic too. We were trying to hold the country to its core values when we were being lied to by our government. Again, not dissimilar from now. I would tell my younger self, although you may win this battle, you will have to keep doing this over and over and over again. I enjoyed that early scene in New York. I was still shy and introverted so it was incredibly exciting to be surrounded by all these authors, artists and musicians. The fact that my younger self would find people who shared common interests would fire him up. It would be good to hear he has it to look forward to. I was not as socially engaged as some of my 44
Try different things. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t find an audience
friends but I got to tag along to the clubs, art galleries or studios. I got to be there. And on the stage I was in the middle. Then I had a voice. In the early life of Talking Heads I tried to educate myself about the music business, because these things weren’t taught in schools. You have to find out for yourself and the stories of musicians being taken advantage of were plentiful. I didn’t want that to happen to us. I remember reading music business books and things like Alice Cooper’s autobiography to educate myself. Maybe I needed [Byrne’s 2012 book] How Music Works. So much of pop music seemed to be about rebellion, overthrowing the old order. I wanted to know what comes after that. My younger self would like the idea that he could keep exploring and moving forward. It would be good to confirm to him that it is possible, but it is not always easy. Sometimes you meet with resistance. There were times when my interests and the interests of existing Talking Heads* fans diverged. They would be like: “Oh, where’s he gone now? OK. We’re not going to follow him there.” That was tough. But one keeps working. The work is not always the same quality. It goes up and down. But then something emerges that’s as good as anything you’ve ever done. You have to keep toiling away. I have collaborated with so many people and learned from each one. I have worked with Brian Eno on and off for decades and each time is different. Last time it was these drum loops he’d done, which I thought were amazing. And I’ve worked with Annie-B Parson, the choreographer who did this new show, three times. I’ve learned that collaborations don’t always work, but you can gently guide them so there are good odds of something interesting coming out. Listen and be open to the other person’s ideas – if they reciprocate, you’re in a pretty good place. My younger self would say, how did you end up doing all this variety of stuff when you have no particular skills in that area? What gives you the qualifications? I’ve been doing pen and ink drawings lately that he’d recognise. He’d go: “Those are just like the ones I do.” But American Utopia, the film of my concert show that is coming out, would seem completely unfathomable, immensely complicated and convoluted.
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Photo: Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock
How many parts have to fit together? But it’s a coming together of everything I’ve done before. From working on musical theatre projects, I was aware you could trigger a narrative through songs and staging. It might not be an obvious arc but you sense there’s a structure, and having enough of a catalogue, there is clay to shape that. It would have been inappropriate to have Psycho Killer in there – it would not have fitted the story that’s being told. We moved a lot when I was young. In retrospect, I think it influenced me because it means you have to find a new set of friends every time, which can be tricky. It takes work but is also an opportunity. Every time you are in a new place, you gravitate toward the ones that share your current interests – so at each point you have a chance to reinvent yourself. I would attach myself to a person and form feelings, then not know what to do or how to act. There wasn’t an instruction book. Being shy was not easy. Whether it was physical attraction or conversation, it was like, how do you do this? But I didn’t feel disadvantaged in my romantic life. I was aware some people seemed to find it easy and I may not have been as successful as people I saw in movies, but I felt like I was doing the best I could. Not everything you do has to find an audience. I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to stretch my creative muscles in all sorts of ways. So all the things I was doing as a teenager, whether it was psychedelic drawings or electronic experimentations, I’d say to keep on bumbling about at. Try different things. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t find an audience. As citizens, we have a duty to participate in our democracy. As a younger person, we may be more concerned about our careers, how we’re going to make our way in the world, who our friends are and whether we will find true love. But being a citizen is important too. Reproduced from The Big Issue UK (@bigissue) INTERVIEW: ADRIAN LOBB
David Byrne’s American Utopia, directed by Spike Lee, is out on VOD services and DVD from 14 December
Read an interview with fellow Talking Heads co-founder Chris Frantz in the Reading Room section of bigissuenorth.com
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Complete the Sudoku puzzle so that each and every row, column and region contains the numbers one to nine once. The solution to the last Sudoku is shown on the right.
COMPETITION WIN A CINEMA PARADISO HD BLU-RAY Cinema lovers have had little to rejoice about this year, but here’s a little something to add some end of year sparkle to our lives. The multi-awardwinning Cinema Paradiso has been recently remastered and released on 4k HD Blu-Ray. Giuseppe Tornatore’s homage to cinema tells the story of Salvatore, a successful film director returning home for the funeral of his old friend who was the projectionist at the local cinema throughout his childhood. Soon memories of his first love affair with a beautiful woman and all the highs and lows that shaped his life come flooding back, as Salvatore reconnects with the community he left 30 years earlier. The newly released Blu-ray includes a director’s cut of the movie that adds an extra 40 minutes to the running time, delving deeper into Salvatore’s back story. There are also audio commentaries from the director and Millicent Marcus, an Italian cinema expert, plus various documentaries about the film. We have a copy of the Blu-ray to give away to one lucky winner. To be in with a chance, simply email your answer to the question below, along with your full name and address, to Christian@bigissuenorth.co.uk before 23 December. In the film Cinema Paradiso, what’s the name of Salvatore’s projectionist friend?
CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO BIG ISSUE NORTH
BRAINWORK CHRISTMAS CROSSWORD 1368
QUICK CLUES: ACROSS
8. Sound of bell (4-4) 9. Only (6) 10. Sound of bell (4) 11. Towed by Rudolph, and other reindeers? (6,4) 12. Don’t go out (4,2) 14. Spend extravagantly (8) 15. Moaner (3-4) 17. Shenanigans (7) 20. Sound of bells (8) 22. Westminster timekeeper (3,3) 23. 8 ac on 11 ac (6,4) 24. Sound of bell (church) (4) 25. Not awake (6) 26. Winter sport footwear (3,5)
QUICK CLUES: DOWN
SUPPLIED BY PANTHES
CRYPTIC CLUES: ACROSS
8. Daughter gets in half of dinner before gong sounds for Christmas (4-4) 9. Just depend on me (6) 10. Circle to make noise like a 24ac of 22d, we hear (4) 11. Seasonal transport stuffed with stocking fillers, and tassels, slightly tangled (6,4) 12. Turn round to stay at home (4,2) 14. Smoother with queen in waste money (8) 15. Whining child at Christmas riles you, but are best yet for starters (3-4) 17. Parcel delivery missing one end of excited mischief (7) 20. A 24ac of 22d, we hear, tinsel set out with carol, discordantly (8) 22. Bing falling over live on strike, we hear 8 (3,3) 46
23. Tinkling on 11ac, murder heard to theme of crossword? (6,4) 24. Leap about, causing chime (4) 25. Zzzzzzzzz (6) 26. Ask Katherine if she’d like desserts to make figures on lake? (3,5)
CRYPTIC CLUES: DOWN
1. I’m in turmoil, rest disturbed,find a clergyman! (8) 2. Some wag ogled me, with eyes on stalks (4) 3. Sounds like poison, sounds like 22d (6) 4. Endure anguish before the present giving in South East storm (7) 5. Tire a mum ragged when juvenile (8) 6. Is Father Christmas doing this now with a mixed gin? (10) 7. In myth, golden jacket swindle (6)
13. Promoted bar, with side adjusted (10) 16. 3d skips personnel in American hotel (8) 18. Scan tree for replacement, as one does with Nativity play (2-6) 19. Nice gal, beautifully behaved (7) 21. Finally time to get to the bottom of Moroccan mountains (2,4) 22. Beauties sell up to be at the top (6) 24. Jab fingers in exercise, all right? (4)
1. Parson (8) 2. Gobsmacked (4) 3. Sound of bell (alarm) (6) 4. Fret, worry (7) 5. Not yet ripe (8) 6. Awarding (10) 7. Wool of sheep (6) 13. Plugged (10) 16. US page boys (8) 18. Describes event in actions (2-6) 19. Like one of the heavenly host (7) 21. In the end (2,4) 22. Good looking women (6) 24. Nudge (4)
LAST WEEK’S SOLUTIONS
ACROSS: 1. Century, 5. Box 7. Double helix, 8. Rook, 9. Thebes 11. Hoopoe, 12. Rash, 15. A little bird 16. Dot, 17. Wriggle DOWN: 1. Cedar, 2. Neurologist 3. Ugly, 4. Yo-ho-ho, 5. Ball-bearing 6. X-axis, 10. Kowtow, 11. Hear 13. Hedge, 14. Semi
BIG ISSUE NORTH CHRISTMAS ISSUE TWO
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From writing Covid guidelines into scripts to bringing installation experts over from China, event organisers have been ever more innovative...
Published on Dec 11, 2020
From writing Covid guidelines into scripts to bringing installation experts over from China, event organisers have been ever more innovative...