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Preview: Writer and film-maker, Paul Mason in conversation with Stuart Maconie – 30 April 2019

Writer, film-maker and leading thinker, Paul Mason, is coming to Manchester on 30 April 2019, to discuss his latest book, Clear Bright Future: A Radical Defence of the Human Being, with BBC 6 Music’s, Stuart Maconie.

On the eve of publication, Penguin Live, will play host, at The Dancehouse, Manchester, to what promises to be a fascinating discussion about Mason’s latest work, which explores just what it is to be human.

The book argues that humans are facing a triple threat:

  • the rise of authoritarian politicians,
  • the possibility of intelligent machines; and
  • a spreading fatalism and irrationality, which has made millions susceptible to the mythologies of the new right.

Depressing times.

However, whilst many will share the view that this spells for a bleak future, Mason’s vision is that we are not merely cogs in the machine, and that we people are still capable of shaping our future.

During political unrest and trying times, such optimism is welcome and timely, but is it realistic?

Join leading thinker, Mason, and broadcaster and journalist, Maconie, for what promises to be an impassioned, through-provoking and lively discussion. See you there…

For more details and tickets, visit

Read about my last experience at a Penguin Live event: Penguin Pride – less a review, more a tribute

Events Food and Drink Manchester Preview/review

And the winner of the best Wine Awards is…

‘Twas a Monday in October when a woman who was still recovering from her (cough)th birthday party two nights before, did approach a table laden with 30 wines.


What craziness is this?

I hear you cry.

Get this woman an intervention. Or Graham from Jeremy Kyle. Or…just something.

But you see it was ok. This was all in the name of the People’s Choice Wine Awards, I had been given the prestigious honour of being a Round 1 judge, and I (mostly) gracefully spat each and every single one. Ok there were two I swallowed – one by mistake, and one champagne very much on purpose.

Were they all horrid then?

Oh you, you…imaginary person, you.

No, you see myself and my fellow tasters were doing this properly, there was a lot of contenders in the room and we all wanted to live to see Christmas.

In its second year, the People’s Choice Wine Awards is unique in that it’s the only wine awards that are dedicated to, and judged, by wine consumers. And the whole process takes part in our lovely city of Manchester.

I consume wine. Therefore I am.

This first round is a blind judging test where all tasting measures are poured from a covered bottle and so judges literally rely on their senses to select their favourites and mark them accordingly.

The full list of categories can be found here on the People’s Choice Wine Awards website but the ones I was involved with included Girls Night In, Out of the Ordinary, War of the Roses and Sweets for my Sweet.

I was admittedly out of my comfort zone. My preference is for sparkling and reds. Here was a plethora of whites, roses and dessert wines waiting for me to sniff, swirl and spit.

That evening I entered territory less visited and, reader, it was good for me to push my own boundaries. Now I know we’re not talking sky dives, organ donation or Everest, but we’re all creatures of habit and it’s good to have those challenged.

(Plus wine is really massively important, k?)

Now I’ll never really know which my favourites were from that evening, but I hope the finalists and indeed the winners included some of those I marked highly.

Because although wines we chose in Round 1 went through to the next judging round which brings in a little more official ‘expertise’, a little wine birdy told me that there is an extremely high correlation between the wine preferences from the ‘on the ground’ consumers and the ‘expert’ consumers.

My theory is that the only difference is that some of us may not know exactly why we like a wine, just that we do.

Oh how we do.

And so fast forward nearly 5 months and the shortlists have been further shortened and the finalists chosen. And my day’s leave approved as I schedule in a hangover for post-Awards Tuesday.

But a hangover produced from the best as chosen by The People.

And so on an unseasonably warm Monday in February (i.e. last night) – I mean I had a coat on but had I not, I wouldn’t have been too freezing – the great and the good gathered at The Comedy Store at Deansgate Locks, to find out just who would take away the coveted title from their categories.

The scene that met us as we entered the ‘Store was one of wine lover paradise.

For lined up on the bar was every finalist wine, each proudly wearing their nominated category on a little tag round their necks.

And these bottles were uncorked, unscrewed, popped, erm punctured and twisted (there’s a ‘bag in a box’ category). And there was a cacophony of empty glasses.

And there was this sign:

(No YOUR pic is blurred).

Anyway it basically said to have some.

And we did.

And it was fine. Not as in

Yeah, it’s ok

But fine.

At this point, I must declare my favourite. Wine is not like children. You can pick and choose. But admittedly whilst not trying every single wine on offer (I’ve only take one day’s annual leave for recovery – and my spitting days are over), a favourite from my Fizz Festival going (also run by the fabulous Cracking Wine ) was up for an award and waving at me from the bar.

Honorary Manc! It’s me! You love me and buy me and love me and things!

Hello lovely Lyme Bay Winery and your sparkling rose (as nominated in the Fabulous Fizz: Best Sparkling Wine UK category.

However, my love affair for Lyme Bay aside, there was a whole host of exemplary wines available last night and many that may have never caught your attention before. Which is why I urge you to

  • Apply to be a Round 1 judge next year; and
  • Attend the Awards night.

Speaking of which, Fizz in hand, we all entered the theatre at the ‘Store and took our seats, all sharing two thoughts…

At what point shall we take the Ellen-esque awards crowd selfie to break the internet…


What’s the etiquette on drinking more wine during this ‘bit’.

For those wondering, leave and fill up your glass when the mood takes you.

Although, timing is key. I’m looking at you – winner who was absent when their name was called.

And you – lovely lady who we all applauded as you rose from your seat as the category winner was announced, only for you to carry on walking past the stage and through the exit.

You daft articles.

Hosted by local wine heroes Reserve’s own Kate Goodman and TV presenter Amelia Singer from The Wine Show, it was great to see my experience through right to the end, as the fabulous winners took to the stage to receive both their titles and their very own Tony Husband specially commissioned artwork.

The full list of people winning at wine can be found here.

I don’t profess to be an expert but I know what I like, I’ve learned how to realise what I like (tasting techniques) and even why it might be that I like it. And this is the message that the People’s Choice Wine Awards is sending.

Wherever you sit on the scale, wine consumers are wine consumers are wine consumers. We all share a passion for wine and our preferences all hold equal validity.

And so as I hang up my frock (I didn’t stumble in and leave it scrunched up on the floor – you stumbled in and left it scrunched up on the floor) and revisit the list of winners, I make it my vow to continue on my wine-drinking ‘journey’ and try every last lovely one of them.


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Culture Manchester Popular culture Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Theatre review: SparkPlug

There are plays, productions, shows that you appreciate the work of, admire, praise, write about, commend.

Then there are those that you actually want to frogmarch people into the theatre to see.

You almost don’t want to write about it, lest it spoil the experience. You want to write of it, of course. But not a breakdown of it, as it were.

If it didn’t make me look like a lazy little blogger, I’d have titled this post

Go immediately and see SparkPlug, written and starring David  Judge, on at HOME Mcr until 23 February

and just post some pictures.

credit: author’s own

But I’ll say a little more.

Brought to the stage by Manchester-based theatre company, Box of Tricks, and directed by Hannah Tyrell-Pinder, SparkPlug is autobiographically inspired, telling the story of ‘a white man who becomes the adoptive father, mother and best friend of a mixed race child.’

A single-hander by the astonishingly talented David Judge, we’re taken straight to Manchester 1983 onwards by Judge, the frame of an old Capri (which goes on its own journey of transformation as the narrative develops), Rod Stewart, Michael Jackson and some impassioned and incredible storytelling.

David Judge (Dave), credit: Alex Mead, Decoy Media.

For 80 minutes, we were swept along with the beautiful, rhythmic, poetic dialogue as Judge told the funny, tragic, sometimes shocking story of race, sexuality and those who act as judge and jury on the two.

The energy in the dialogue was matched by the way Judge cleverly commanded the stage, every inch of the car frame interrogated as he swung, lay, sat, drove and decorated his object of amour.

There were other props seen, touched, but Judge, through his delivery, accents, stature, dancing, singing and display of emotion, gave the audience everything they needed as we travelled through the 80s with him. Young, old, man, woman, black, white, mixed race…Judge had it covered.

 David Judge (Dave), credit: Alex Mead, Decoy Media

A Manchester audience will obviously appreciate and understand more the cultural references which can be drawn simply by utterance of the word


but the setting of the story is largely irrelevant, the story is the thing.

I think that’s all I’m going to tell you about the performance and it’s more than I wanted to. I just want you to see it and be entertained, educated, moved and open-mouthed as one very talented man tells us a story of love.

David Judge (Dave), credit: Alex Mead, Decoy Media

Visit for more details and, importantly, access to your tickets.

Seeing this production on Valentine’s Day, I’m inspired to say that whilst it’s true that money can’t buy you love, £12.50 can buy you a ticket to a brilliant evening at the theatre.

PS SparkPlug is not just for Manchester; at HOME until 23 February,  it will next move onto an extensive 18-venue tour, ending in Birmingham in April. Don’t miss out.



Culture Literature Manchester News preview The Arts Theatre

Preview: Jackie Kay – She’s coming HOME…

Scottish writer, poet and patron of HOME Mcr, Jackie Kay, is heading back to Manchester and bringing with her, the gift of theatre!

September 2019 will see Red Dust Road, Jackie’s memoir of her life growing up as a mixed race adopted Scot, brought to life on stage at HOME, after its premiere at the Edinburgh Internal Festival.

Red Dust Road

Adapted for the stage by Tanika Gupta and directed by Dawn Walton, Red Dust Road will bring to life Jackie’s story of self-discovery – from her realisation as a young, adopted little girl, that her skin was a different colour to her peers, to the tracing and finding of her Highland mother and Nigerian father birth parents.

Jackie Kay

Jackie says,

I’m truly delighted that HOME – a place dear to me and close to my heart – is to put on the National Theatre of Scotland’s co-production with HOME of my memoir Red Dust Road.

The book explores belonging and adoption and the many roads that lead us to where we are, and what makes us who we are, genes or porridge, and it seems so fitting to me that it should be on at HOME, a place, as a proud patron, I feel I belong to, and where I always feel entirely at HOME.

Red Dust Road was first published in 2010, winning Scottish Book of the Year and the London Book Award.

A patron of HOME since it opened in 2015 , Jackie has picked up numerous other awards for her novels and story collections throughout her career, including an MBE in 2006. Her connections to the area also extend to her position as Chancellor of the University of Salford.

Tickets and more information can be found at

Check back here in September for a review of what promises to be a moving and adventurous tale of soul-searching and belonging.