In a Word . . . Pilo

It confused me still further as the distinguished Mick only deals in truth while she rarely does. It concerned a new line of socks which she insisted helped people lose weight through sweating feet. In 1988 one of her most audacious cons was published in the Soviet newspaper Izvestia. Of course it wasn’t true. I refer to Flora Pilo. Year after year. Upon my sole! So be careful out there today. She claimed there that then Argentine soccer superstar Diego Maradona was in negotiations to join Spartak Moscow, who were to pay him $6 million. That same year she conned the Financial Times into believing that agreement had been reached between the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and Guinness whereby Greenwich Mean Time would be renamed Guinness Mean Time for the year 2000. Flora Pilo is an anagram of April Fool. BBC viewers simply refused to believe it wasn’t true when it was exposed as another of her frauds sometime later. That arose through reading about one of her better-known frauds. Such as that 1992 story when she convinced the US National Public Radio that Richard Nixon, who had resigned in disgrace 20 years previously, was to run for president again, with the slogan: “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.” Still, I would be tempted to doff a metaphorical hat to her for convincing the BBC’s Panorama programme to broadcast a story that because of a mild winter and virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. You would imagine that that most reliable of publications would have been alert by then to her big “fake news” history. She even supplied them with film of Swiss people pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees, which was broadcast. Damned lie. That was in the year 2000. She claimed that as a person’s body heat rose, blood vessels dilated, and the socks drew “excess liquid from the body through sweat.” Afterwards the wearer could just wash the socks and fat away. I never understood how she gets away with it. inaword@irishtimes.com I used think her surname was spelled Peelo and that she must be connected to esteemed journalist Mick Peelo, the name being rare. Of course it was nonsense. Eventually, I discovered her surname was spelled Pilo. The FatSox scam.

Wheels come off Newstalk as Paul Williams drives Shane Coleman to distraction

If this narrative device is a bit too clever for its own good (according to the end credits, George Knowall is played by himself), the programme is more than redeemed by its sharp humour and vivid reimagining of the writer’s many pseudonymous alter egos.  The programme is further enhanced by the contributions from comedians, writers and academics, who provide insightful perspectives on the inner tensions that made O’Nolan such a singular artist. The split in question appears as bitter as the one between red and blue states in the US, or Leavers and Remainers in the UK, although perhaps less obvious. His colleague Pat Kenny likewise covers the topic frequently. Either way, Porter the protege learns a lesson about live radio. As the pair swap one-liners and compliments – Porter describes his guest as a mentor – it’s diverting mainstream fare. The tetchy tone underlines the divisiveness of the issue of cyclists on our roads. Talk about split personalities. Such a hybrid velocipede is brought to life as a sultry temptress by actor Rachel Rath in The Lyric Feature: Bones of Contention (Friday), an enjoyably inventive docudrama about the life and work of O’Brien, aka Brian O’Nolan. It draws an absorbing portrait of O’Nolan as a contradictory, divided figure, even leaving bicycles out of it. One wonders what Flann O’Brien would make of it all. “Just don’t f*** it all up.” Edgy wit or puerile laddishness? It’s not an especially heated discussion, but it highlights the differences between Cannon, who brooks little notion that cyclists are anything but virtuous, and Kenny, who takes a more jaded view, despite (or because of) cycling himself. But while the current incumbents regularly play to Odd Couple-esque stereotypes – Coleman the sensible analyst, Williams the impulsive populist – there is also real needle in some of their exchanges. On Tuesday’s Pat Kenny Show, he talks to the Fine Gael TD Ciarán Cannon about an Australian initiative that seems to have improved the safety of bicycle users. “You’re one of the few true stars in this country,” he tells Porter. But the frequency with which the topic crops up on Newstalk suggests that producers and presenters alike have identified motorists as a key demographic, complete with grievances that can be aired to ratings-friendly effect. “I won’t do the George Hook on it,” Williams reassures Ciaran Cuffe. Instead, there is a lot of heavy sighing as …

Goldfrapp are back to their dazzling best with Silver Eye

Yes, the pastoral vibes of Seventh Tree were a temporary, if enjoyable hippie phase and Head First’s gratingly cheesy 1980s synthpop was a test in devotion. And if you thought those orchestral movements in the dark on 2013’s Tales of Us signified mid-career maturity, then think again. Ignore Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory’s PR soundbites claiming new album Silver Eye captures “the spontaneity of not knowing”; it’s really a well-calculated call back to those early century releases, an attempt to renew vows with long-standing devotees from those heady days of hit singles and Mercury Prize and Grammy nominations. GOLDFRAPP Silver Eye ★★★★ Mute  If you’re a Goldfrapp fan, you probably fell in love with them way back when, during the teasing mystique of debut Felt Mountain or through the electro-glam flirtation and seduction of Black Cherry and Supernature. Thus Faux Suede Drifter is straight out of the Cocteau Twins songbook, complete with barely decipherable words, Zodiac Black sounds like Massive Attack’s Teardrop if Mica Levi got her mitts on it and the M83-esque Moon in Your Mouth is at once epic and intimate. Silver Eye delivers. Relationships need work, don’t they? The outside influence of producers John Congleton and the Haxan Cloak succeed in keeping Goldfrapp and Gregory focused on their strengths, where lyrics are secondary to textures and melody. You want sophisticated pop bangers counterbalanced by expansive, cinematic slow-burners? goldfrapp.com Tigerman is warm and multi-layered, Gregory’s vintage keyboards looming over Goldfrapp’s sultry voice. First single Anymore takes off on a wave of buzzing synths, air-punch beats and dreamy vocals. It’s the kind of electro-ballad Róisín Murphy might own if she wasn’t dragging pop down strange new paths. Goldfrapp know this and their seventh album flourishes with dazzling melodies, otherworldly oddness and impeccable production. An elegant achievement in upcycling old ideas via renewed creative juices means Silver Eye should reignite old flames and keep pop’s young pretenders on their toes.

Nialler9’s New Irish Music: Le Galaxie, Joni, David Keenan, Orange Tree Edits and more

For his part, Rob Smith has given it a go on his solo side project The Swedish Railway Orchestra, which will receive a followup to a debut album later this year. Evergreen sounds like the band have been listening to EDM, Alt-J and tropical dance pop. VIDEO OF THE WEEK Joni – 292 Video by Joseph Ingersoll and Sarah Flanagan Capturing the house party vibe of the song itself (which is about going back to a house on Dublin’s South Circular Road and staying up all night on the sess), Joseph Ingersoll and Sarah Flanagan’s video casts the night out in neon colours to get lost in. Search Party Animal – Evergreen The young Dublin band formerly known as Bagels take on new textures and confidence on the first song under their new moniker. The quality is high here so if you like upbeat sunshine dance music with an Afro twist, then you can’t go wrong with this. RELEASE OF THE WEEK Orange Tree Edits – 002 Orange Tree Edits is a new Dublin label who are focusing on releasing edits of existing Afrobeat songs for the dancefloor. SONGS OF THE WEEK Le Galaxie – Pleasure The Dublin electro band’s first new song in a couple of years combines their gift for creating night-time tension and dancefloor square-wave propulsion with the returning and welcome voice of former Fight Like Ape May Kay, who is purported to feature on the band’s third album coming later in the year. Gahan cut her teeth growing up in Portugal where she performed in restaurants in the Algarve from the age of 16. Kitt’s contribution to 002 is currently my favourite. See is now in her fourth year of BIMM Music college in Dublin. There has been two 12” releases already and the first one with two edits by label founder Jimmy Rouge was snapped up in a day online with number two featuring reworks by Cove and Robbie Kitt. Emily Gahan – Schrödinger’s Letter The debut single and introduction to newcomer Gahan is a tender folk swirl with guitar, keys and hushed harmonics. NEW ARTIST OF THE WEEK David Keenan This Drogheda singer-songwriter is a classic storyteller, one man and his guitar giving it to the world as he sees it. There in lies the mystery of music-making, it’s hard to recreate alchemy. Paper Rabbit is typical of their tunes and they’ve a strong …

Wheels come off Newstalk as Williams drives Coleman to distraction

Instead, there is a lot of heavy sighing as Cuffe outlines his rationale, before Williams ends the interview curtly: “There’s a lot of people don’t agree with you.”  Williams is less restrained when he engages in the usual opinionated banter with Coleman: “This is part of the old Green agenda: stuff the cars, as Mr Hook would probably say in less eloquent terms.” This is unfair to Hook, who is a more eloquent (and wittier) broadcaster than Williams, as well as a red rag to Coleman. It also helps that neither side seems able to see the other’s point of view, despite the fact that many people use both forms of transport. He gets uncharacteristically hot under the collar about the matter, particularly after his cohost complains about the behaviour of, yep, bicycle users.  When Coleman says that the new speed limit is “about making city more hospitable to people other than drivers”, Williams responds that “we need to put manners on our cyclists”. It’s not an especially heated discussion, but it highlights the differences between Cannon, who brooks little notion that cyclists are anything but virtuous, and Kenny, who takes a more jaded view, despite (or because of) cycling himself. One wonders what Flann O’Brien would make of it all. But while the current incumbents regularly play to Odd Couple-esque stereotypes – Coleman the sensible analyst, Williams the impulsive populist – there is also real needle in some of their exchanges. Listening to Newstalk, it seems that Ireland is a house divided against itself. Moment of the Week: Blue O’Connor leaves Porter red-faced A month into his radio show, Al Porter (Today FM, weekdays) has settled for an untaxing mix of classic hits and cheeky chat, such as his softball conversation with journalist and broadcaster Brendan O’Connor. The tetchy tone underlines the divisiveness of the issue of cyclists on our roads. If this narrative device is a bit too clever for its own good (according to the end credits, George Knowall is played by himself), the programme is more than redeemed by its sharp humour and vivid reimagining of the writer’s many pseudonymous alter egos.  The programme is further enhanced by the contributions from comedians, writers and academics, who provide insightful perspectives on the inner tensions that made O’Nolan such a singular artist. Such a hybrid velocipede is brought to life as a sultry temptress by actor Rachel Rath …

Being Miranda in Sex and the City? ‘I’m very proud of it’

He said he would write the script for A Quiet Passion and watch Sex and the City with the sound off. “That’s right. Wait until you hear what I’m about to say. She earlier played Eleanor Roosevelt. “My parents had gone to great lengths to explain that very few child actors make it when their time is up. The couple, who first met in high school, raised two children in relative calm. “It wasn’t a big deal to me,” she says calmly. She recently played Nancy Reagan in the TV movie Killing Reagan. The notion, still palpable in many contemporaneous shows, that women only had sex to oblige men was blown away. That’s one of the elite “Seven Sisters”. He wants me to play Pat.” You couldn’t make it up. At mention of the 2015 referendum on marriage equality, Cynthia perks up and summons memories of hearing the news. But we rode it out and everybody calmed down. Nearly 30 years ago, she played Juliet in Central Park for the New York Shakespeare Festival. Nixon is endlessly articulate and well catered-for in terms of intellectual hinterland, but there is no hint of Miranda’s brittleness. “We had met when he auditioned me for a film that never got made. One can imagine her slipping comfortably into character roles as the years progress. Now 50, she first spoke a line for money when she was 12 years old. There was this notion that it was just a way of trapping men into marriage. I made enough money to pay for my own, very expensive college.” Hang on. Nixon was never a tabloid target like SATC colleagues Kim Cattrall or Sarah Jessica Parker. But it stands up today.” The renown has meant that details of Cynthia’s personal life have become public. That eccentric Liverpudlian loves being unaware of contemporary popular culture. You couldn’t make it up. Kirsten Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and and Kim Cattrall filming the Sex And The City movie in New York in 2007. For 15 years, she was in a relationship with Danny Mozes, a schoolteacher. But I had two offers when I graduated.”   By the time I graduated from college, I had been working for 10 years and I was supporting myself The only child of Anne Elizabeth Knoll, an actor, and Walter Nixon, a radio journalist, Nixon can be spotted in Prince of the …

‘I feel an obligation to re-engage and better understand what it is to be Irish’

We are actively collecting and collating these accounts. More than 100,000 people visited the page during June/July last year. I am participating in a sponsored walk from May 27th to June 1st, 2017, organised by The Irish National Famine Museum. Of the 100,000 visitors to our page, many are now availing of online genealogical resources, and adding to the collective story of the passage and eventual settlement of those immigrants who crossed in 1847. Perhaps it is an immigrant lament, but in the accumulation of years since I left Ireland, and with the advancing years of my four children, I feel an obligation to re-engage and better understand what it is to be Irish. It continues to be updated. In a continued effort to help tell our story, I’ve a Facebook page that serves as a digital repository of historical documents that I uploaded during my run last year, along with daily videos I recorded. Again, I am indebted to so many for a year of writing and running, and for being granted the opportunity to reconnect with those at home and afar. The journey continues. In total, the Great Hunger accounted for the emigration of more than a million and the death of another million. We are remembered in the historical record as victims, as a people of a terrible genocide or famine. It can be accessed at facebook.com/irishdiasporarun2016 For many, the rediscovery of a historical event some 150 years past has opened deep psychological scars. Perhaps it is an immigrant lament, but in the accumulation of years since I left Ireland, and with the advancing years of my children, I feel an obligation to better understand what it is to be Irish With the completion and release of my 10th book, I have sought to reorient myself toward my own sense of Irishness. Even contemporary descendants far removed from the tragic departure of the Hunger years, when asked to reflect on their ancestors’ arrival to Canada, were more apt to characterise it as an exile than an opportunity. Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins will greet the walkers along the route. For a decade after the passage of 1847, notices appeared throughout Ontario with relatives inquiring after their loved ones. The fated story of families separated through quarantine is a recurring motif. Indeed, for many of the diaspora Irish I met along the run, the ancestral passage to Canada and America, …

Michael Collins Irish Times Book Club podcast

Collins has written 10 outstanding works of fictions including The Keepers of Truth, which was Irish Novel of the Year in 2000 as well as being shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the International Impac Dublin Literary Award. His latest novel, The Death of All Things Seen, was hailed by fellow author Eoin McNamee in his Irish Times review last year as a “dense, absorbing work, shot through with brilliance and insight … Earlier this month, as part of the Ennis Book Club Festival, it was my privilege to interview one of my favourite Irish authors, Michael Collins, in Glor Theatre in Ennis, Co Clare, for the March 2017 edition of the Irish Times Book Club Podcast. As Books Editor of The Irish Times, one of the perks of the job is you get to champion writers whose work you admire. a formidable, demanding achievement”. Book Club podcast In our interview, Collins discusses the arc of his career, his outsider’s sensibility as a writer, how he wrote Keepers of Truth longhand after work in Microsoft’s HQ in Seattle, his Rustbelt Trilogy and the rise of Donald Trump, his career as an extreme runner and his month-long marathon-a-day run last summer to commemorate Canada’s Famine victims. Researching for the podcast, I was struck by a similarity to Frank McCourt, another Limerick boy made good in the US, who was inspired to write by his experience of grinding poverty in Limerick. Collins travelled to Ennis all the way from his home in Indiana, to where he emigrated as a teenager on a running scholarship to the University of Notre Dame. For McCourt it was the 1930s and ’40s. He is, however, something of a local boy, born just down the road in Limerick. For Collins it was the ’70s, but the deprivation and neglect he witnessed had a big effect on his politics and his writing, though his territory would become the Rustbelt of the Midwest of the United States – America’s Ashes if you like.

Below the Rust Belt trilogy, a Famine undercurrent

It is a strikingly original metaphor for the Irish Famine migration of 1847. In Michael Collins’s novel The Death of All Things Seen, native Canadian woman Ursula reflects on the forgotten “great lessons” of animal and human migrations. In an earlier Irish Times article entitled “Remembering 20,000 Famine refugees who died in 1847,” (November 26th, 2016) Collins recalled the creative block he suffered when he began to write a Famine novel and establish his reputation. After that year, the novel remained unwritten. “It lives as a singular literary failure that has dogged me,” Collins adds, “given I would eventually transfer a sociological acuity to all things American, specifically the collapse of American industrialism, as captured in my Booker shortlisted novel, The Keepers of Truth. The question plagued me – how could I stand as outsider, impartial witness, and documentarian to another history whilst my own eluded me?” But the metaphor of spawning also marks Collins’s creative process, his return to the original source and difficult subject matter from which his literary career began. The Irish, most notably, those awful, pale-faced, skeletal wretches, ragged in the embattled way salmon rushed headlong against the current in a death run for the spawning grounds to seed the next generation”. In his own words: “I would spend a year researching the historical record and in the end wither from the burden of inhabiting the psyche of either the Irish peasantry or the landed aristocracy”. She “talked of First Nations people who bore witness along the Saint Lawrence, in the aftermath of the demise of the salmon, to the arrival of a great spawn of a new human misery, the portal, wide-eyed coffin ships, unloading a grim discharge of Europe’s flotsam. Book Club podcast Yet he was also struck by the sheer incongruity between the Grey Nuns’ stories of compassion, devotion, and self-sacrifice and the stark Black Rock memorial that marks the site where 6,000 Irish fever victims lie buried. His blog IrishFamineResearch publicises new research on the Irish Famine migration to Canada in 1847 From May 27th to June 1st, 2017, Michael Collins will join a group of  walkers to follow in the footsteps of these 1,490 Famine emigrants from Stroketown to Dublin along the Royal Canal The Black Rock is also the grave site for some of the 1,490 tenants who were forced to emigrate in 1847 on some of the worst of the …

My advice to writers? Glue yourself to an editor who is also starting out

Book Club podcast We are fellow travellers, he and I. I’ve been an editor, then a literary agent, then an editor again, and many of the writers I work with now I have been working with for what seems like centuries. I’m always hearing about the fickleness of publishers. I edited his first book of stories, The Meat Eaters, when I worked at Jonathan Cape in 1992. Another such companion on the road is Michael Collins, the brilliant, mercurial Irish-American talent who flashes out a novel every three or four years, intriguing, annoying and illuminating his readers on both sides of the Atlantic. His latest, The Death of All Things Seen, has just been published in paperback, again by Head of Zeus. Well, I can only speak for myself, but I don’t think that is down to the infidelity of the editor. Another such companion is Michael Collins, the brilliant, mercurial Irish-American talent who flashes out a novel every three or four years, intriguing, annoying and illuminating his readers In the case of the novelist Ben Okri, I have worked with him consistently since I edited The Famished Road in 1990, and I just signed off on the edit of his new story collection The Magic Lamp to be published this year by Head of Zeus. It’s probably more like 20 years. Rehired. It happens. What else could you do anyway? My advice to writers? It makes sense for a publishing house to hold onto its authors. It’s like Gertrude Stein’s to Hemingway – stick with your contemporaries. Then the wheel turns and you’re back with your author again, if you are lucky. Each new writer is an investment. Fired. If you are starting out, glue yourself to an editor who is also starting out, they will make their name while they make yours, and vice versa. The editor is the constant. I know many other editor/writer collaborations – if that’s not too big a claim to make forthe process – which have endured, despite the occasional skirmish, the occasional wandering off. That wheel turns, and here we are together again. At its best I would call that relationship a friendship. It can be genuinely heartbreaking for a editor to lose a valued author, painful to leave them when you go to another publishing house, bitter to hear how well, or badly, they are doing without you. Of all the trades …

Iconic Office’s ‘competition’ is everything that’s wrong with how business treats art

The rest of the builders would walk away with nothing. Companies should afford artists the same respect they pay other workers or contractors. At the end of the competition I would give one or two a fair wage for their office blocks, but I would get to keep all 20. It says it is “Ireland’s leading flexible workspace provider”, an extremely competitive market, and it is planning to expand into the United States and the rest of Europe. James Earley did not respond to requests for a comment. Each artwork, it says, will have a name plaque beside it, and the company will “profile the winners in the media and via our own social channels”. There is even an office bulldog called Jackson, which the company says is its “director of fun”. “While not actively encouraging engagement by students, the process of presenting ones work for competitions of this nature presents a valuable learning experience for emerging artists.” Thankfully, everyone I speak to avoids the phrase “it will be good for exposure”, perhaps the most hated sentence in the arts world. It will also be familiar to any artist. Iconic Offices does not appear to fit these descriptions. This kind of behaviour is rife in the arts industries. Beams and pipes are mostly exposed; lots of naked glass gleams amid industrial metal frames; period rooms are filled with modernist furniture. The Arts Council of Ireland insists that artists be paid for their work, a principle it has been more vocal about in recent years. The logic of this competition is depressing. Most acts last year played free of charge and we have over 20 acts already confirmed this year, the majority of which are willing to pay [sic] for free or for their expenses covered.” Plenty of people work for free early in their careers, through freelance work or internships. So far, so standard. There are, of course, better ways to run this sort of competition. At the time of writing, Iconic has 738 followers on Twitter. Transport it to any other industry and no worker would ever agree to it. The promoter asked the band to be “as considerate as possible when quoting us for the performance, given our current situation. “Workspace for rockstars,” its website says, and it’s easy to see why. Iconic Offices seems like a fine place to do a day’s work. Sarah Harte, a spokesperson …

Belfast poet wins £5,000 National Poetry Competition

It’s a poem to read and re-read, to ponder and to experience. The winning poem combines reminiscence about a legendary miner grandfather with the emancipation of animals from a zoo and an unspecified industrial accident. He described the feeling of having won: “It’s an outrageous honour to have this poem recognised by the judges and perhaps the most exciting thing for me is the plain old fundamental feeling of being understood. these days of violence have been my happiest. It would have pleased his handsome shoulders to watch this grizzly scoop for salmon in the fountain of his friends, or the Bengals, or the shakedown squad of chimpanzees who bang and bang on the grocery window. With shades of magic realism and heartfelt storytelling of past and present events, the poem carries the reader through complex, intertwining worlds – and times – with a flourish, leaving questions unanswered as well as hinting at a deeper connectivity between the poem’s stories and our own world. One by one eleven miners starved to death. Sunrise to sunrise and sunrise we kept indoors. Even a cabbage is not without desire my grandfather said one day, and now among the animals, I feel under my wings the words for things I thought I knew departing, and I understand him. Sexton lives in Belfast where he is working towards a PhD at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University. At once winsome, strangely happy, and peculiarly touching, it deftly conjures a world.” Sexton, a former pupil of fellow poet Ciaran Carson, has had work published in many poetry magazines and anthologies. Moniza Alvi commented: “Exuberant in its energies, The Curfew, while scarcely pausing, admits the contemplative. Or something like that. Dromedaries blue-mood around the pub aloof under their reservoirs of fat. Judges Moniza Alvi, Gerry Cambridge and Jack Underwood selected the winning poem from entries from 73 countries worldwide – maintaining the competition’s position as one of the world’s biggest international open poetry competitions for single poems. In the streets they collar or tranquillise the ocelots and run a spike of ketamine through the plumbing in the fountain. He grew wise and weary as an albatross and left for that great kingdom of nevertheless. Since it began in 1978 the competition has been an important milestone in the careers of many of today’s leading poets, with previous winners including Helen Dunmore, Ruth Padel, …

Three Irish on £10,000 Desmond Elliott Prize shortlist

Pop’s also an industry, one that took root in British cities during a period of wider industrial decline, and I want to investigate that too.” Jacki Lyden, a radio presenter and contributor to NPR radio in the US, is hosting a memoir, photography and poetry retreat, entitled Love Comes in at the Eye, in Renvyle House Hotel, Connemara, from May 25 to June 1st. McBride’s debut A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, Desmond Elliott Prize, Goldsmiths Prize and Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award. Past winners include Lisa McInerney and Eimear McBride. My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal has also been shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award. Desmond Elliott Prize 2017 longlist Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan (Sceptre) My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal (Viking) Little Deaths by Emma Flint (Picador) Montpelier Parade by Karl Geary (Harvill Secker) The Transition by Luke Kennard (4th Estate) Ithaca by Alan McMonagle (Picador) The Sacred Combe by Thomas Maloney (Scribe UK) They are Trying to Break Your Heart by David Savill (Bloomsbury) Golden Hill by Francis Spufford (Faber & Faber) Forbidden Line by Paul Stanbridge (Galley Beggar Press) The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride has been shortlisted for the £10,000 RSL Encore Award 2017 for best second novel of the year, along with The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry; The North Water by Ian McGuire; The Lauras by Sara Taylor; Beast by Paul Kingsnorth; and The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan. Last year’s winner was The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota. His first book, Hidden City: Adventures and Explorations in Dublin, a non-fiction exploration of his home city, was published by Penguin and was a Guardian book of the week. Gutter Bookshop was chosen for the regional prize by a panel of expert judges, who read testimonials by local customers submitted online to the BBA website. One of my favourite novels of 2016, it is the story of an 18-year-old Irish girl who arrives in London to study drama and falls violently in love with an older actor. Previous Irish winners of the award, first presented in 1990, are MJ Hyland for Carry Me Down (2007); Anne Enright for What Are You Like? “Pop music is such an intrinsic part of people’s everyday lives, and often so specific to a place and a time – I’m …

Game of Thrones teaser trailer: winter has arrived

Snow is seen walking through the halls of Winterfell, Cersei strolls through King’s Landing, while Daenerys Targaryen is apparently in her ancestral home of Dragonstone. As in that trailer, amid the dark predictions about the great war and talk of revenge, the blue eye of what appears to be the Night King, the leader of the White Walkers, slowly appears in the background, alluding to the conflict that has been referenced since the very first season. With only two seasons left, the show-runner David Benioff said earlier this year that the show is “definitely heading into the endgame now”. The Oscar winner Jim Broadbent will join the cast as an “archmaester”, as will the chart-dominating pop star Ed Sheeran, who will make a cameo in the fantasy drama. In a promo called Long Walk, the trio are seen strolling towards different grand chairs as a cover version of James’s 90s hit Sit Down plays in the background. Few details have been revealed about the new season, which will premiere in the US on 16 July, but two guest stars have been confirmed. The trailer is the second brief peek into the world of Westeros following another teaser, which suggested dark times were ahead for the different clans. Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister are all still watching the throne in the latest teaser trailer for the seventh and penultimate season of Game of Thrones. – Guardian Service

Melanie C: A Spice Girls reunion? Not without all five

These guys are in their early to mid-20s, and the first day I was working with them, one of them said to me, ‘Yeah, I was four when the Spice Girls came out.’ I was like ‘Okaaaaay.. I think that’s it for me,’ and we completely respected that,” she says. Then, with Chisholm and Victoria Beckham reportedly opting out, Mel B, Emma Bunton and Geri Horner (nee Halliwell) tentatively (if not a little confusingly) launched themselves as “GEM” amidst speculation that they were refused permission to use the Spice name. So it’s kind of gone full circle, in a weird sort of way.” All in all, the artist formerly known as Sporty Spice sounds pretty damned zen these days. “When I was 15, I was really ambitious and really driven, but it was very pure and very innocent. ‘Super-flattering’ “Obviously, someone like Adele is an incredible vocalist and super-flattering… “The audience went nuts, she loved it and I loved it. The funny thing is that she was a fan of the Spice Girls and many other things, but now I find that I’m influenced by her. There are some regrets, sure – but the general advice that she’d have given the 20-year-old Melanie, about to embark on this crazy adventure, is pretty sound. “I never thought I’d be working with people who work with grime artists. Of course, I’ve had a wonderful solo career as well, but it’s kind of thanks to the Spice Girls that I’ve been able to do that.” Melanie Chisholm: “Someone like Adele is an incredible vocalist… In more recent years, she even released an album of songs from stage musicals, and Version of Me continues that thread. “I would probably say to my 20-year-old self: ‘Just remain who you are. So that’s pretty much how I feel about it. The gamble has paid off: the album has proved her most commercially successful and highest-charting record in more than a decade. Wannabe was 20 last year and was the perfect opportunity to celebrate. At various points in her life, she has been plain ol’ Melanie, then Mel C, then Sporty Spice; a pop collaborator with the likes of Bryan Adams, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and many others; a musical-theatre star; a talent-show judge on Asian TV; and, perhaps most significantly, “mummy” to her daughter Scarlett. At the end of last year, I performed on stage with …

Cynthia Nixon: from Sex and the City to sexual equality

“We had met when he auditioned me for a film that never got made. But I’m betting Davies barely knew the show existed. There was this notion that it was just a way of trapping men into marriage. Kirsten Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and and Kim Cattrall filming the Sex And The City movie in New York in 2007. Next week, we see her as Emily Dickinson – she really has a look of that poet – in Terence Davies’s excellent A Quiet Passion. We get the open-hearted, hopeful Emily in the surprisingly witty opening act. That’s gone.”  Here we are talking about A Quiet Passion and Sex and the City still elbows its way to the table. That eccentric Liverpudlian loves being unaware of contemporary popular culture. My wife and kids had come out the weekend when you guys voted. Emerging in 1998, the show attracted much media attention, but it was not until the turn of the decade that it became a keystone of the zeitgeist. “In our case it was this idea that women are going about their lives and careers, having a great time of it and not sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. “It wasn’t a big deal to me,” she says calmly. “Oh, I know all about it,” she laughs. That changed in 2003 when she broke up with Mozez and began a relationship with Christine Marinoni. Nixon is endlessly articulate and well catered-for in terms of intellectual hinterland, but there is no hint of Miranda’s brittleness. Cynthia Nixon and Jennifer Ehle in A Quiet Passion, Terence Davies’s excellent film about the poet Emily Dickinson It is at this point that we finally mention she is best known for playing the sensible Miranda in Sex and the City. “I was always able to make a living. “It was a big deal to other people for a while. “There was Law and Order and The Cosby Show shooting there and that was about it. “But Rod Lurie, who made the Reagan film, just phoned me up and told me he is making one about Nixon. My understanding is that it would be cheaper to fund the space programme for three years. “I think that’s right,” she laughs. That was an enormous thing for us.” Nixon has the sort of presence and flexibility that appeals to casting directors. The notion, still …

Fortitude finale – ramps up the crazy and goes out on an explosive high

If Dormer’s Anderssen became the show’s natural focus at the expense of all else, it’s partly because he straddles the divide between a police procedural and a horror show most effortlessly: even in the grip of demonic possession, the good sheriff/bad sheriff question is hard to settle. The question was rhetorical – there was no crime in Fortitude, the northernmost settlement in the world and “the safest place on earth”. Modelling his performance on the ferocity and even weighting of a polar bear, Dormer alone knows how to walk on it. Dormer’s terrific performance has become more growling and sinister (and darkly comic) as Sky’s second series has progressed, frequently gnashing at the genre boundaries of the show to see how much it can contain. Gruff, grizzly and clearly territorial himself, maybe Richard Dormer’s sheriff harboured a beastly prejudice. In truth, though, eventually he had little competition as the rest of the cast was gored, butchered, beheaded, incinerated, fatally infected, crushed, drowned, defenestrated or – less frequently – shot. “Is Dan Anderssen a good sheriff or a bad sheriff?” wondered one character when Fortitude (Sky Atlantic, Thursday, 9pm) first began. He was simply the last person prowling. In the finale, an abrupt manhunt for Anderssen, now believed to have healing powers that science can exploit, serves only as a perfunctory excuse to off any remaining baddies and blow the rest of the pyrotechnics budget. Is it any wonder that only Dormer, resplendent in bulky furs and finally given to eating his prey, seems truly at home? That ramping up of crazy means the show is best watched in a quibble-free binge, and yet writer Simon Donald’s narrative has been allowed to drift. Fortitude’s blend of the forensic, scientific and supernatural deliberately seeks out a terrain of thinnest ice. While fatal attacks were not unheard of, the polar bears that committed them generally avoided arrest. A long-anticipated showdown between Anderssen and Robert Sheehan’s boyish shaman, Vladek, pitched as a battle between good and evil, was roundly decided in evil’s favour.

Van Morrison gets the band back together – after 54 years

Juniper The Co Kildare band produced a series of singles and EPs in the 1990s, but they’re of far more note for what happened after their demise in 1998. The band signed a deal with London Record but rock’n’roll fame did not follow. They were big in the Philippines, mind. Future E Street Band members Steve Van Zandt, Danny Federici and Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez also served in the Mill alongside Springsteen. Uncle Tupelo Here you’ll find the pre-Wilco Jeff Tweedy initially alongside Jay Farrar and Mike Heidorn who then went on to form Son Volt. Seona Dancing You know Ricky Gervais as the comedian from The Office and Extras, but he had a previous life as a pop performer and a member of this 1980s new wave band alongside Bill Macrae. On the tiny stage in the Yacht Club, Morrison stood alongside George Jones, Billy McAllen and Roy Kane to play as The Monarchs for the first time since they toured Germany in 1963. While Morrison went on to have huge international success first with Them and then as a solo star, The Monarchs are obviously more than just a footnote in his back-pages, judging by this surprise gig. The gig was to remember the late Billy Deane and to raise funds for the Marie Curie hospice in east Belfast. Girls Tyme Before she was Queen Bey and even before Destiny’s Child came along, Beyoncé Knowles was a member of a Houston-based girl band called Girls Tyme. The line-up included such acts as Inis Mor, the Alan McKelvey Blues Band, The Leah McConnell Band, Lee Hedley’s Ram Jam, George Jones and Friends and the Pikestone Preachers. Few of those who turned up to last weekend’s charity gig at the Holywood Yacht Club outside Belfast expected to witness a piece of rock’n’roll history. That split produced a solo star in the shape of Damien Rice and one of the most consistently fascinating Irish bands around in Bell X1. Any band that featured Morrissey before he went on to form The Smiths, Billy Duffy before The Cult came calling and The Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly is well worth seeing again. It does make you wonder if more stars of today should go back and play with their pre-fame acts, providing there’s enough of them still around to make it onto the stage. Admission was a tenner and that included “quality hot …

In search of the American experience

For three days, we’ll become surrogate-residents of the split-level. All three of us saw it.” Fear was written on their faces. Early into his deployment in Afghanistan, he witnessed a father bring a burned five-year-old girl to the edge of a US military base. We are doing our time, until our parole is granted and we are sent home. She would use the left-over soap. We gave her things, things we were going to throw away, worn out running shoes, half empty bottles of shampoo, socks with holes. *** The ethnic cleansing that went on in Kosovo, the former republic of Yugoslavia, during the 1990s was largely based on religion. That was his bio. My father crawls through the window, and I prepare the camera, waiting for him to open the front door. I grabbed the sandbag on his head and shook it once and said. The two men shook uncontrollably. The sergeant of the guard jumped on top of him and punched him repeatedly in the head and body. “Let‘s just leave the damned thing here: ‘Spacious split-level with complimentary television’.” “We‘ve gotten it this far,” my father says through a half-laugh. Four bag chairs sat next to the picnic table, arranged in a row facing a TV tuned to the Armed Forces Network. *** I’d wanted this event to make the local newspaper like Lily’s estate sale had – “Historic Home Demolished” – but it was to be strictly a family affair. She’d kept the plastic on the lampshades, too – as if she’d somehow sensed this was coming. The camouflage-print bandana he has tied around his bald head is saturated with sweat. I met Steve in a bleak Rust Belt mid-American town. The Rise and Fall of the US Mortgage and Credit Markets: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Market Meltdown. All is documented in the aperture of a camera lens, per the bank’s demand, in shots a daughter takes to pictorially document the loss. He said it was an Asian thing. But into how many homes must I watch my father break and enter? I told them my side of the story. This place the rest of the world forgot. We are hinged at our hips, our arms forming a roof above our heads, our hands palm to palm-an apex. Now bricks and mortar fill the void that once held colorful stain glass windows. Their stories were …

Cannibalism meets feminism in this new horror movie

And now it has slunk its way into a multiplex near you. “And I probably imagined them as worse than they actually were. I don’t know why genre cinema is not taken very seriously in France. So we’ve lost that.”   Ducornau and producer Jean de Forêts were pleasantly surprised when the French funding quickly came together for Raw. I think something got lost in time, because before even the New Wave, we had directors like Henri-Georges Clouzot. Whatever.     “Everybody wants to talk about the bodies and the cannibalism,” says the director. Because genre horror films are often associated with violence and anger, they are useful for the younger generation – to which I belong – as a way to express larger fears effectively.” Garance M arillier and Rabah Nait Oufella in Raw Get Out has received near-universal acclaim among critics and crowds, who have jollied the film – made for $4.5 million – toward $154,410,610 at the box office thus far. “But work so far has featured a lot of bodies and the mutation of bodies. During these cruel initiations, Justine is forced to eat rabbit kidney, an act that leaves her with an insatiable craving for meat. Made from real fingers. “I’m not a sociologist, so I can probably only give you stupid reasons,” says the Parisian film-maker, laughing. A sub-genre that once looked to have peaked around 1977 – the year when Eraserhead and Suspiria triggered brand new nightmares – has been steadily gaining traction since the turn of the millennium. I think also, if you have family or friends who are doctors, they have a very practical point of view about illness and mortality. But we really expected to struggle way, way more to get funding than we did, because of the identity of my movie. The horse is being put to sleep for a real procedure. “But a lot of that recognition has happened in the light of history. Raw has gone one better, having made headlines when it picked up the Fipresci Prize. There was something so tragic and sad about seeing such a big beast in such a small room.” Raw opens on April 7th They are separating for the first time in their lives. “It requires a lot of perseverence. awarded by international critics, at Cannes last year. Even when you think about directors like [Jean-Pierre] Melville, they worked in film …