• Interviewing Billy Bragg in the Brecon Beacons

    I had the honour of interviewing the great Billy Bragg on stage in front of 1000+ people in the beautiful Brecon Beacons at Green Man Festival. It was an inspiring hour of not only words but also a surprise musical rendition as at the end Bragg burst into a rousing rendition of Jerusalem to a standing ovation. An amazing experience.

    We discussed his fantastic new book Roots, Radicals & Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World which has been acclaimed by those including Jon Savage who described it as “the story of the first DIY revolution; a perfect mix of author and subject”.

    Turning 60 this year, for over thirty years Billy Bragg has been an acclaimed recording artist, performer and activist, his albums including Talking with the Taxman About Poetry, England Half English and, with Joe Henry, Shine a Light: Field Recordings from the Great American Railroad and in 2015 he published his wonderful selected lyrics, A Lover Sings. Over the course of his career, Bragg has enjoyed a No.1 hit single, had a street named after him, been the subject of a South Bank Show, appeared onstage at Wembley Stadium, been mentioned in Bob Dylan’s memoir, shaken hands with the Queen and had dinner with the King of Skiffle, Lonnie Donegan & John Peel. He began by recounting the amusing anecdote of that dinner and a starstruck Peel.

    Bragg was fascinating in discussing the context to skiffle, how "skiffle was the first music for teenagers by teenagers in our cultural history... they created a do-it-yourself music that crossed over racial and social barriers”. Young women were involved in the musical movement, gathering at cappucino bars that faced towards Europe and finding empowerment in music. Skiffle was also a precursor to Rock Against Racism and Bragg recounted his own experiences of this, experience which feels hugely resonant given the rise of the far right.

    The book is subtitled 'how skiffle change the world', and Bragg spoke not only about music and its role in changing the world but also talked passionately about the need to stave off the cynicism that stops people attempting to make the world a better place - how each and every one of us can play a role in making change in the environments around us. He discussed how in the past ten years since the economic crash people's lives have been thrown into chaos and to create chaos instead for those in power responsible for such inequities.

    The guitar was an "outsider's instrument" which empowered young people - and it was very much an empowering session about empowerment. The final audience question, fittingly, asked why Bragg isn't running for Prime Minister. Perhaps most memorable of all, as well as the moving rendition of Jerusalem, was Bragg's call for empathy and compassion - needed more than ever in our world.

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  • Interview with Matt Haig

    Click here to read my interview with Matt Haig whose excellent new novel How to Stop Time is out now.

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  • Chairing event with Matt Haig, Waterstones Liverpool

    I'm delighted to be chairing an event with Matt Haig, the first event kicking off his UK tour for his excellent new novel, How to Stop Time.

    Date: 4th July

    Time: 6.30

    Location: Waterstone, Liverpool.

    Come along!

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  • Academician in the Folio Prize Academy

    I'm delighted to now be an Academician in the Folio Prize Academy.

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  • Chairing x7 events at Bradford Literature Festival 2017

    I'll be chairing x7 events at the Bradford Literature Festival 2017 - schedule below and click here.

    Colliding Worlds: Where Art Meets Science

    Akram Khan and Arthur I Miller, with Anita Sethi

    Saturday 1 July | 4pm - 5:15pm | Bradford College - Advanced Technology Centre (ATC)

    https://www.bradfordlitfest.co.uk/event/colliding-worlds-art-meets-science/

    3 x 15: The Forgotten History of Empire

    Karen Abi-Ezzi, David Olusoga and Kim Wagner, with Anita Sethi

    Sunday 2 July | 10:30am - 11:30am| Bradford College - Advanced Technology Centre (ATC)

    https://www.bradfordlitfest.co.uk/event/3-x-15-forgotten-history-empire/

    Lost Princes of Empire

    Christy Campbell and Lemn Sissay, with Anita Sethi

    Sunday 2 July | 1pm - 2pm | Bradford College - Advanced Technology Centre (ATC)

    https://www.bradfordlitfest.co.uk/event/lost-princes-empire/

    Writing Revolution

    Mona Eltahawy, Damian Flanagan and Christopher de Bellaigue, with Anita Sethi

    Sunday 2 July | 3:30pm - 4:45pm | University of Bradford - Norcroft Centre Auditorium

    https://www.bradfordlitfest.co.uk/event/writing-revolution/

    Rahm [Film Screening + Director Q&A]

    Ahmed Jamal, with Anita Sethi

    Thursday 6 July | 8pm - 10:15pm | 135 mins | 12A | National Science and Media Museum

    https://www.bradfordlitfest.co.uk/event/rahm-qa/

    The Different Perceptions of Reality

    Ben Okri, with Anita Sethi

    Saturday 8 July | 1pm - 2pm | Alhambra Studio

    https://www.bradfordlitfest.co.uk/event/different-perceptions-reality/

    The Science of Immortality

    Akram Khan and Anthony Peake, with Anita Sethi

    Saturday 8 July | 4pm - 5pm | Advanced Technology Centre (ATC), Bradford College

    https://www.bradfordlitfest.co.uk/event/the-science-of-immortality/

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  • In conversation with Daniel Rachel

    I was in conversation with author Daniel Rachel at the Stoke Newington Literature Festival 2017 where we discussed his engrossing new book, Walls Come Tumbling Down which explores music and politics including Rock Against Racism. A very thought-provoking evening.

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  • In conversation with Joy Rhoades at the Australia High Commission

    I enjoyed interviewing Joy Rhoades at an event at the Australia High Commission in June, about her atmospheric new novel, The Woolgrower's Companion - so evocative is the novel that we were transported from a sweltering Summer's evening in London to an isolated sheep farm in Australia.

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  DISPATCH FROM PORTUGAL

  The National Travel section
  April 2012

writing, broadcasting, speaking