Tag Archives: manchester

Episode 18 – Horror is in everything


In this episode, Rob talks to novelist and METALHEAD, Stephen McGeagh, about METAL, the state of Horror writing, having his novel, Habit, made into a film, MORE METAL, MAs in Creative Writing, beautiful Manchester and EVEN MORE METAL.



Rachel Richardson-Jones, Simeon Halligan, Colibra, Sam Eades, Jess Barton, Nikesh Shukla, Garth Greenwell, Simon Savidge,

Episode 16 – Writing worried


In this episode, Rob takes to the Wilderness festival to chat with Emma Jane Unsworth about physics, frostbite and murderous cats. Emma also talks about the movie being made from her novel, Animals, and Rob begs to be in it. Emma also reads from her brand new and yet unnamed novel.


Links mentioned in the podcast:
The world’s smallest movie: A boy and his atom
Roisin and Chiara “Wild at Heart”


Sarah Brocklehurst, Wyl Menmuir, Sophie Hyde, Jenn Ashworth, Margaret Atwood, Jo Bell, Caitlin Moran, Garth Greenwell, Edinburgh Book Festival, Literary Friction podcast, Lord Piddick, Camilla Elworthy and Roisin and Chiara

The Manchester Literature Festival



In this mini-episode, Rob talks to Kate Feld about the Manchester Literature Festival. In addition to MLFing it out, they talk about Good Immigrants, they try to figure out what “working class” means and of course, chat about the end of the world. Rob has a bit of a sweary whinge (what else is new?) about the Olympics.



Ian McMillan, Andrew McMillan, Simon Savidge, Nikesh Shukla, Selena Godden, Hollie McNish, Dead Ink Books, Olivia Laing, Garth Greenwell, Yuval Noah Harari, Margaret Atwood, Richard Hines, Lionel Shriver, Dr Katy Shaw, Andrew Michael Hurley, Jenn Ashworth, Gillian Slovo, Lemn Sissay, Jenny Murray, Rose Tremain, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jeanette Winterson, Anne Enright, Vivienne Westwood, Susan Calman, Margaret Drabble, Jane Rogers, Johnny Marr, Kamila Shamsie, Deborah Levy, Jo Bell, Michael Symmons Roberts, David Gaffney, Eimer McBride

Episode 14 – The page is a stage



In this episode, Rob talks to poets Amy McCauley and Robert Harper about Lit mags, Oedipus, the origins of poetry and using a PhD to make fat stacks (not really). They also talk about (ahem) Europe and the fear of not being in it.

Warning: This one is properly sweary.



Society of Authors, Bloodaxe, Andrew McMillan, Dan O’Brien, Rebecca Goss, Bare Fiction, The New Welsh Review, Helen Mort, David Gaffney, Courttia Newland, Annette C Boehm, Zelda Chappel, Carcanet, PN Review, Peter Greenaway, Aki Shilz

Episode 13 – Working it out


In this episode, Rob talks to the winner of the last ever Guardian First Book Award, Andrew McMillan, on “modern male anxieties” as the Guardian puts it, working out in gyms, writing poetry like Jon McGregor writes prose, Creative Writing MAs (again), Horror as a gateway drug (again), and what it’s like growing up Gay in Barnsley.

NOTE: This was recorded before the terrible homophobic nightclub shooting in Orlando, which is why we don’t talk about it in the interview and why I don’t mention it in the intro. But let me say something about it now: Fuck these terrorist shitbags.



Jon McGregor, Sara Howe, Rebecca Perry, The Guardian, Fenton Aldeburgh prize, Colin Barrett, Dylan Thomas Award, Max Porter, Jonathan Cape, New Writing North, Sharon Olds, Mark Doty, Geoff Hattersley, Chicago Rock Cafe and Robin Robertson

Episode 12 – Squaddies


In this episode, you get two interviews for the price of one. In the first, Rob talks to Steve Dearden, writer, producer and director of The Writing Squad. We talk about Creative Writing MAs, Manchester United, the rise of genre and YA fiction and the best time ever to be a writer(hint:now). In the second, Rob talks to Writing Squad alum Lenni Sanders and Jasmine Chatfield about Manchester lit nights, Putting a show on in Edinburgh and (my favourite) Post-apocalysm.

At the end, Steve reads his short story, No Caller ID. She’s a long one, this, so get comfortable.

0:30 – Intro
13:05 – Interview with Steve Dearden
58:12 – Interview with Lenni Sanders and Jasmine Chatfield
1:26:40 – Outro
1:30:13 – Steve reads his short story No Caller ID

’tis sweary.



Steve interview: The Writing Squad, Jane Rogers, Jenn Ashworth, Stevie Ronnie, Mark Catley, John Griffin, Catherine Williams, Ronnie Smith, NAWE, Jamal Gerald, Harry Jelly, David Gaffney, Gemma Saltzer

Lenni and Jas interview: Flim Nite, Stirred poetry, Rebecca Audra, Anna Percy, iOrganic, Harry Jelly (again), Wonder Women, Claire Pollard, Manchester Art Gallery, Instigate Arts, Dead Lads, Harriet Williamson, PBH, The Laughing Horse, Edinburgh Free Fringe, Bad Language, First Draft, Cheethams Library


Episode 7 – The perils of live performance


In this episode, Rob talks to David Hartley and Ben Judge, two seasoned literature performers about the ups and downs of performing your work live. We talk about Dave’s new night Speak Easy, Ben’s stint as a Not the booker prize judge and evil evil coffee machines. Ben was (sadly) not available for the photo sesh so we did the best we could. Recorded live on Pomona island.


Namechecks: Paul McVeigh, Tania Hershman, Jo Bell (again), Ambit magazine, Unsung, Not the booker, Sam Jordison, Adam Marek (again), Claire Dean, Nightjar (again), Socrates Adams, Trish Starbrook, Didsbury Arts Festival, Chorley Arts Festival, Joy France, Fat Roland, Lancaster Lit Fest, Bad Language (again), Verbose, First Draft, National Flash Fiction Day, Sarah-Clare Conlon (again) and Tom Mason… phew

Sounds from the other city

I have been to Salford exactly three times and always by accident. I suppose that’s odd considering Salford is precisely 2.1 miles from my front door (thanks Google Maps) but I just never felt the need to go there. On purpose.

The area around Chapel St has been described to me as an “ungentrified Northern Quarter”, and if you think about it, it is quite like Manchester’s Northern Quarter except that it is nothing like it at all. The Northern Quarter has bars with DJs, gourmet burger joints, music venues, art galleries and craft beer shops. Salford has a Premier Inn with all the letters in the sign burned out, a pub off Coronation Street and a boys home you can cycle around like him from The Smiths. Salford has beards like the Northern Quarter, but unlike a well-coiffured NQ beard, a Salford beard has things in it. Like fluff. Or chips.

Only a music festival in a place as odd as Salford could you see a band called Kult Country in a pub called The Old Pint Pot, or Grumbling Fur in an old mill. Only at a Salford festival could an active parish church be home to ambient techno. There is an actual tent as well (just so you know it’s a festival), but I imagine it exists solely as a place to self-righteously tut. Yech, a tent? So Glasto.

With a festival as bonkers as this, I thought it might be a good idea to do some research. For you. I had big plans. I was going to listen to every band and create a fancy infographic, dividing the acts into tidy genres so you could decide in which venue you should plonk yourself down and at which time. A good idea, right? It was impossible.

How do you classify a band who does Spanish surf rock, punk and dub all on the same album (Las Kellies)? Or a band with a name that is unpronounceable (ZZZ’s)? How do you classify a band who has yet to release an album or who are in fact not even a band? How do you classify an activist? It’s really annoying for an OCD, data dork like myself; that infographic was gonna be awesome. With bespoke images and everything.

Mark Carlin, SFTOC head honcho describes it thus:

”We tend to favour promoters and programmers that are blurring the lines between disciplines, be it art, music, theatre, film; so rather than having music in one place, visual art in another place, theatre in another space, we really enjoy when they all meld together as in one in chaotic cross section.”

Music is in a strange place at the moment. The pop juggernaut that is currently steamrolling everything is making it difficult for anyone without electric teeth or a push up bra to get on a festival stage, so it is nice to find a festival that hasn’t a single act I’ve heard of on the bill. A festival with an eclectic mix of underground acts, artists, producers and venues. A festival in a city 2.1 miles from my house (or a quick train ride from Liverpool).

One thing is for sure, this is not a festival for planning ahead. No lists, no diaries, no apps required. Like the city itself, this is the festival for flipping coins and hoping for the best. This is a festival for winging it.

Published 1 May 2014 by The Double Negative.


New Banksy piece in Manchester?

Saw this image this morning on my daily cycle commute along the Bridgewater canal. I am no Banksy aficionado so, for the moment, I’m going to call this a Banksy-esque image. You can decide whether it’s legit or not. It’s probably not.

Probably not a real banksy 1.

Probably not a real banksy 2

The one thing I do know is that this was not here yesterday so if it is real, I must be 1 in about 12 people who’ve seen it, which is kinda cool.

Me and my ID card

My ID card

In case you’ve been living on Mars for the past few months, Manchester has been
selected as the guinea pig for the national ID card scheme. ID cards are there to make
travelling through the EU easier and cheaper, to protect you from identity theft and to
disrupt terrorist activity if you believe what the Home Office has to say about it.

I must admit, I was a bit sceptical going in. Why would anyone pay £30 to put even
more sensitive information into the hands of the government? I’m not a tinfoil hat
wearing nut locked in my basement with my 800 copies of Catcher in the Rye by any
means, but I think it’s safe to say that they don’t have the best track record when it
comes to keeping personal information safe.

Step One: Go to the ID card webpage (http://idsmart.direct.gov.uk/index.html) and
request an application pack.

The first thing I read on the website is the fact that I need a passport before I can
apply for an ID card. Erm, I thought this could be used instead of a passport? Scratch
making travel through the EU cheaper and easier.

Step Zero: Get a passport. Fill out forms, get my photos taken, hand over £77 and
go for an interview. The interviewer gets all Nineteen Eighty-Four on me when, to
confirm my identity, he asks me who I bank with. “Erm… Lloyds”. “That’s fine”, he
confirms, “Don’t worry, if you didn’t get that one right, we could ask you who your
mortgage is with”. Yikes.

Step Two: Fill out a second set of forms that ask for virtually the same information
my passport application provided and go for a second interview.

The second interview was an interesting process. I was called up to talk to a cheery
fella who checks my form, takes my money and inputs my info. Just to make
conversation while he typed all my info in manually, I asked “Have you had many
people apply for these things?” Sensing my surprise when he answers yes, he goes
on the defensive. “I don’t know what the fuss is all about,” he starts, “Organisations
hold personal information about you for all kinds of things, it’s just how it works. It’s
about time they came in if you ask me, the Home Secretary has said that they can’t
keep track of illegal immigrants who are claiming benefits”. Hmm, that’s odd, they
didn’t mention that bit in their marketing material, I thought this was about protecting
me from identity theft.

“Besides,” he continues, “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to worry
about”. He says that last bit three times during the interview. I’ve never liked that
phrase “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to worry about” especially
since the US government used it to convince Americans to accept the Patriot Act. You
know, that one that allows the feds to wiretap anybody without their consent.

At the end of my interview, I’m asked to sit back down, write down the answers
to five security questions and wait to get called up again for the second part of the
interview. There are a number of security questions on the list to choose from. I choose the sports
position I played as a kid, the name of my first pet and the first book I’d ever read. I
chose the last one because saying “Jacob Two Two meets The Hooded Fang” to an
over-efficient ID card flunkie tickled me.

Step Three: Give over my “biometric data”. I get called up to the biometric room
where I am greeted by a silver box, a camera and plastic container full of used
tissues. “Close the curtains behind you for privacy,” the woman says. Yikes again.
Biometric data just sounds disgusting. Disgusting AND technical. Like getting a Dirty
Sanchez from a robot. I think to myself, If she hands me a girlie mag and a cup, I’m
outta there, sod the 30 quid.

Thankfully, no bodily fluids were spilled; the tissues were for wiping the fingerprint
glass down (thank the maker). Biometric data is simply college talk for fingerprints, a
signature and a photograph that apparently scans my retinas. Yes, this biometric lark
isn’t like Nineteen Eighty-Four at all, scanning my retinas is entirely rational. As she
takes my fingerprints, I ask her, “Who will have access to these? Can the police use
this fingerprint database to solve crimes?” to which she replies, “Yes, I suppose they
can. If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about”. Yikes a third

I’m sure this is not an utterly pointless exercise concerned more with treating me as
a potential criminal than fighting terrorism by fingerprinting me at my own expense.
No, that would be far too cynical. I’m sure that these cards will help hunt down those
pesky illegal immigrants, stop Osama from stealing my identity and make travelling
through Europe quick and easy like it was in the good old days. Why, I feel safer
already. Now then, where did I put my Daily Express?

The original article can be found at Manchester Confidential