I’m proud of the fact the people who trust me to interview them often tell me things they don’t tell anyone else. They can tell I’ve done my research and they feel safe and respected - whether that’s on radio, on stage or in print. Sometimes it’s about asking the questions the audience really want to hear the answers to but really it’s about listening - really listening - to what they’re saying. Then responding honestly. Whoever I’m talking with. Whatever the outlet or platform.
Books are at the heart of my life and I’m lucky enough to make my living telling stories - some true, some truer still, a few of my own but mostly those of others at my Literary Salon. I tell stories to help people better understand themselves and others, to ask better questions not provide easy answers. The Financial Times recently described me as a ‘literary impresario’. The Guardian says I’m ‘one of the most connected men in publishing’. GQ listed me as one of the 100 Most Connected Men in Britain.
Since my first piece ran in the Guardian in 1996, I’ve written for national newspapers and magazines. I’ve been a columnist for the Times, Sunday Times and Big Issue. Highlights include: revisiting New Orleans a year after Katrina to discover why one hotel survived while all around perished, getting wet in Venice to understand why its really sinking and helping to fly a tiny plane around New Zealand for a sky safari. In 2016 I was Highly Commended by BSME as Columnist of the Year for my Big Issue column which covered topics as varied as fuel poverty and misogyny in politics. As Drinks Critic for the Sunday Times, I was the magazine's much-loved BarrFly from 2014. For a decade I was Literary Editor of Soho House. 'Novel Destination's is my new books and travel column for High Life.
My Literary Salon recently celebrated its tenth birthday at a special with Tracey Thorn, Adam Kay and Rose McGowan. We started at Shoreditch House in 2008 but now reside at the supremely storied Savoy who recently appointed me their first ever Literary Ambassador. Our events are always intimate, revealing and headline-making. We pop-up all over the country and around the world partnering with brilliant brands like Corney & Barrow and the National Trust and great venues like the Ace in New York or the Balmoral in Edinburgh. Working closely with British Airways, the #litsalon podcast plays in-flight. In 2018 we started celebrating a different Indie Bookshop of the Month every month and we’re adding new features all the time. We've been covered in The Times, Telegraph, Sunday Times, Guardian, Evening Standard, New York Times, Red, Grazia, Elle and Vanity Fair. Our success is due to the passionate support of all the Salonistas – our highly engaged, influential and frankly fabulous community. Get in touch with the Salon team if you want to suggest books, venues or partners. We’d love to hear from you.
Books and booze are both about stories and equally subjective: I like a Manhattan, you like a Murakami. And so it goes. But every bottle, whether it’s wine or a spirit, contains a story. I often work with drinks brands to help them communicate and reach new audiences--Hendrick's Gin and Corney & Barrow are two strong examples. For three years I programmed plays and shows for the Hendrick’s Carriage of Curiosities taking it to festivals like Latitude. Since 2016 I’ve been conjuring A Book And A Bottle with Corney & Barrow-a live tasting event to find the perfect novel pairing (insert link to site). Sometimes our pick is literal—a wine from the book. But usually it’s literary-a bottle that encapsulates a character or theme. Interestingly, audiences always finish the white wines but generally pick a red. For each book we produce a bibulousography of all the drinks in it. Guest authors include Ian Rankin, Lionel Shriver and Jessie Burton.
Chickens. For years I’ve enjoyed tending my little flock. Currently pecking around my back garden in Brighton you’ll find Blanche, Blithe and Dolly - the three fluffy-footed pekins who very generously allow me to share their lives. They lay eggs when they feel like it and when you look as good as they do you can get away with just about anything. One day I’d like to be the male poultry equivalent of the Cat Lady.
Awards. This is a funny one. I’ve judged lots, including the Wellcome Prize and the British Book Awards, and hosted some too, notably the IPG Awards. I really enjoy judging and hosting. It’s lovely indeed if you win and always a bit crushing if you don’t. But, as creatives we mustn’t confuse winning awards with claiming rewards. Awards are bestowed by others and fickle. Rewards are what we win for ourselves: readers, some money and (more than anything) the chance to do more of the creative work we love. Maggie & Me won several major awards: The Political Humour and Satire Book of the Year at The Paddy Power Political Book Awards, Sunday Times Memoir of the Year and Stonewall Writer of the Year. The reward was getting to write my novel and have it published.