Chief constable shoots the messenger as gun men roam free

Picture Northern Ireland’s most senior police officer, George Hamilton, settling down to watch the film No Stone Unturned. It must have left him worried, angry and possibly betrayed. It certainly landed a big decision in his lap. The documentary feature, made by Oscar-winner Alex Gibney, and originally a BBC co-production, […]

Positive about The Negatives

Watching BBC’s Informer last night a snatch of music unearthed deeply buried memories. The song was ‘We’re From Bradford’ by The Negatives – a band who were together for less than a year, never performed outside Yorkshire and who released one single in a 500-copy pressing. It did not feature ‘We’re […]

Chill factor: Tooting Bec’s million gallon antidote to overheating

After the longest hot stretch in recent memory, I had expected a pulsating throng at Tooting Bec Lido. Instead, it was a surprisingly select gathering of refugees from the sweltering Smoke who assembled at the venerable south London oasis on this July Saturday. The Lido is among Britain’s oldest and […]

No saviour at Godless West Ham

A memory of Billy Graham on the occasion of his demise in his 100th year. A version of this piece originally appeared in Nearly Reach The Sky by Brian Williams My one visit to Upton Park left me with a single overwhelming conviction: there is no God. I travelled to […]

Roast Peanuts, how Charlie Brown introduced me to girls

June 1976 What I enjoyed about ‘Peanuts’ is hard now to say.  Charles Shultz’ strip cartoon appeared in The Observer’s colour magazine, which my parents bought on Sundays, and each week, I devoured the four-panel tale. Snoopy’s fantasy’s life as a pilot, Peppermint Pattie’s obdurate athleticism, and Charlie Brown’s fruitless […]

Better by design

With nearly eighty bicycles on display, in the Design Museum’s Cycle Revolution exhibition, enormous variety is the initial impression.  Even among those created with a single purpose in mind – going very fast around a track for a short space of time – design technology has moved in leaps and […]

#defendpressfreedom

In Hollywood blockbusters (and countries run by despots) attacks on the free press see journalists dragged to prison, presses smashed and tv stations forcibly shut. In Britain’s liberal democracy, undermining our ability to investigate, and to express freely what we find, takes different forms.  And three pieces of legislation before […]

Shopping drama: retail divas RIP

A tribute to Pete Burns, and many others Late ‘70s Leeds was monochrome, hacked apart by urban motorways, choked with disused factories and fringed with bleak system-built housing. It was a metropolis of lost purpose – at least in my recollection. Nevertheless, every Saturday, my bus ground into the centre, […]