Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Welcome if you've linked from Comment is Free...

I got a Comment piece in the Guardian today, which takes some doing I can tell you, but Hooray anyway, cos it's stimulated a very interesting and largely good-natured thread. It's on


and I've brazenly posted on it myself, advertising this blog, so as to encourage discussion and, maybe more important, corrections which I can list to get in when the opportunity arises (which will come the sooner, if everyone buys lots of books...)

I think and hope that a slideshow with some of Chris Thomond's brilliant pics will go up on the G's site shortly too (another struggle there, but still; we Northerners win in the end). I very much like working with Chris and we have endless chitchat about how to move illustration of the North forward from the powerful and lovely, but increasingly outdated, images of the past. Colour is a start. The 'old' North only seemed to have two colours. Black and white. Oh, and grey.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Not so nice

Interviews are coming thick and fast at the mo, which is great from the point of view of debate and developing ideas. It's alarming how many things hadn't occurred to me. This week I did one of the local radio seshes which are superbly organised by a man called Peter Bestwick at Western House, round the back of Broadcasting House on the corner of Great Portland Street. It's the home of Music Radio 6, where I did an interview with the excellent, if Lancastrian, Shaun Keaveny, and got a free postcard of Jools Holland to send to my 90-year-old mother-in-law back in Leeds, who is one of his superfans. I learned a lot from Radio Kent, who did a whole lot of vox pops during the morning, prior to our chat. They had Northerners down there and Southerners up here, and one listener described how friends of hers had moved North and initially been shunned because they were Southern and therefore preconceived to be stand-offish and posh. By chance, I was chatting to a Guardian colleague later in the day at the paper's mammoth London HQ (why can't they relocate some of them up here like the BBC?), and she said: "My daughter went to Manchester University and..." I chipped in, starting to say: "Yes isn't it great? All the Southern kids love it." But she said instead: "She hated it and now she's left." The reason was that she shared accommodation with exclusively Northern girls who apparently took the same, gut, anti-South attitude, or seemed to. So all this is ammunition for my plea in True North for Northerners to lose the chip (except the edible kind), and consign the cobbles to Beamish and similar museums.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Paved with.... Huddersfield

The book is out now. We had a very enjoyable launch at the Ilkley Literature Festival, which is gradually catching up with Hay-on-Wye. I keep working at The Guardian to transfer, or at least share, its sponsorship. Ian Jack and Lucy Mangan were great debaters, along with Helen Cross, whose novel My Summer of Love gets a mention in True North as an example of modern fiction which recognises the presence of the Northern middle class and does not present it in cliched terms. She is keeping busy in a properly Northern way: two more novels since My Summer of Love, which was also filmed successfully. I bought the latest, Spilt Milk, Black Coffee, and am much enjoying its portrayal of white and Muslim Yorkshire communities. No cliches, again.
Sorry not to have added to the bibliography lately. Publication means a busy search for publicity and I probably won't have time to update for a day or two. I had a fun outing on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, debating the North-South issue with Arthur Smith. It was the last item, which seems to stick in the mind, judging by subsequent comments from all sorts of bods. Mind you, it wasn't as good as the next day's, which featured Jeffrey Archer on his rewriting of one of his novels. Talk about Arnold Bennett's The Card... Still, when Arthur talked about London's streets being paved with gold, I managed to counter that they - or at least Regent Street from Broadcasting House to Oxford Circus - are actually paved with Huddersfield's finest stone. I did a piece some years ago on the quarry from which it came. I met a producer the following day at the new BBC North in Media City at Salford Quays and she said that she and her colleagues were all examining the paving stones, as I urged people to do. They are beautiful - swirls of brown, grey and caramel. Part of the South which is for ever North, because West Yorkshire sandstone lasts for a very long time.