Category Archives: Interviews

The Sunday Times: Candice Carty-Williams: my Queenie speaks for a whole other Britain

Queenie opens with a woman sarcastically texting “Wish you were here” to her ex-boyfriend while she lies with her legs in the stirrups for a gynaecological examination. From that moment, the book is a whirlwind of WhatsApp chats, terrible OkCupid dates, maddening millennials, horrendous flat-shares, humiliating trips to the sexual health clinic, friendship, therapy and lots of casual sex. “I put more sex in it but it was cut out,” Queenie’s author, Candice Carty-Williams, laughs.

Queenie — the book’s heroine — is a funny, sensitive, 25-year-old black woman contending with modern life. At turns hilarious and reflective, the book is also an exploration of race, sex and shame among young women. Queenie’s is a rare and urgently needed voice. “I believe that this voice needs to be part of literature,” Carty-Williams says. She’s right.

I meet her at the Penguin Random House office in London, where she works as a publishing executive. The success of her debut novel has turned her overnight into a bright young thing whose name appears on influencers’ Twitter feeds, in Radio 4 debates, and who is No 6 in The Sunday Times hardback bestseller list. Queenie has already been optioned for television. Carty-Williams is writing the pilot.
“I’ve never thought I could be here. When I was growing up I didn’t have any aspirations for myself. I didn’t think I’d amount to anything,” she says.Carty-Williams, who grew up in south London, always loved books. “They were my saviours.” She wanted to study English but her school encouraged her to read media studies instead.

The Sunday Times: Moby interview: “I don’t go on tour. I’m not promiscuous. I’m sober”

Born Richard Melville Hall, Moby was two when his father drove into a wall and killed himself. “My father, who was already a heavy drinker, [would] disappear for days on end, leaving my mother broke and alone in a cold apartment with a wailing newborn. One night she threatened to divorce him and take me away. That night he drove into the base of a bridge and died,” he writes in his new book, Then It Fell Apart.

Moby — said to be distantly related to Herman Melville, hence the nickname — was raised by his troubled, pot-smoking mother, who subsequently moved them to San Francisco. Once there, high times with her new hippie friends often took precedence over looking after her son. When Moby was three, he remembers his mother dropping him at a “low-rent day-care centre” while she went to the beach to take acid. He was woken from his afternoon nap by a male care-worker who sexually abused him. He didn’t tell anyone what happened, but grew up “afraid of men with long hair and a beard”. Unfortunately, there were many men of that description paying visits to his mother during his childhood — some violent, most druggies.

Music was his escape. His first book, 2016’s Porcelain, covered the period between 1989 and 1999, when he was a DJ, riding a modest wave of success. This one picks up where it left off. Aged 34, his career had hit the skids. He’d been dropped by his US record label and assumed his new album, Play, would be his last. Instead it became one of the world’s bestselling records.

Mega-fame, however, sent him into a spiral of alcoholism, drug addiction and depression, which resulted in his 2008 suicide attempt. Today his friends call him “monastic”. “Everything’s changed,” he tells me from his home in southern California. “The things that were important to me 10 years ago are just not important to me now. I don’t care about fame. I don’t go on tour. I’m not promiscuous. I’m sober. I look at some of the things that were important to me then and think, ‘How do I still share DNA with that person?’” Now 53, he’s working on an album of orchestral arrangements because “that’s what musicians do when they get old” and donates 100% of his profits to animal rights charities.

Of the book, he says: “The only thing that makes me worry is the character of my mother. She was a creative, complicated, possibly mentally ill human being and I hope she doesn’t come across as one-dimensional and cruel… that was a small part of who she was.”


The Sunday Times: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui on his new Sadler’s Wells performaces, Icon and Noetic

katie glass

Was there a more iconic music video in 2018 than the Carters’ Apeshit? Shot in the Louvre, with the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo as part of the backdrop, it — literally — positioned Beyoncé and Jay-Z among the art establishment.

Apeshit was choreographed by the Flemish-Moroccan dancer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Born in Antwerp, he’s often asked if he feels more Moroccan than Belgian. “I feel both,” he says. “You can be many things.” He brings the same approach to dance, combining classical technique with hip-hop moves, belly-dancing, even spoken word.

It was pop music, however, that drew him to dance. “I’m from the MTV generation,” he says when we meet in his dressing room, where he sips green tea as he talks. “Fame, Michael Jackson and Madonna. Kate Bush was very important to me.” He recalls watching Jackson and Bush perform, amazed and thinking, “I wish I could do that.” At 17 he worked as a go-go dancer in nightclubs to make extra money.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui

Yet he saw pop’s limits. “It’s fun, but it doesn’t speak about what I want to speak about. This is going to come across as arrogant — sorry — but I felt contemporary art was so many steps beyond that.”

He studied traditional music from Italy, Corsica, Japan and Korea, making his first work for Les Ballets C de la B and then becoming artist-in-residence at Antwerp’s Toneelhuis. He collaborated with the performance artist Marina Abramovic, and also with the artist Antony Gormley — for Icon and Noetic, but most notably on Sutra, featuring Shaolin monks, and Babel (Words), which won an Olivier award. (He won a second for Puz/zle.) Now he manages more jobs than George Osborne, as artistic director at the Royal Ballet of Flanders, artistic director of his own company, Eastman, and associate artist at Sadler’s Wells.


Sunday Times: Home: Rapper Professor Green’s Home




A perfect path of monochrome tiles runs between two neat squares of box hedging to a pair of beautiful stained-glass doors. The red bricks are smart, the paintwork is swanky and there is a weather vane perched on the roof. Yet the man who opens the door of this house is no dandy: he has “Lucky” tattooed on his neck below a scar from a bottle attack, and is attempting to control a pack of dogs. “People probably wouldn’t expect this of a rapper’s house,” says Stephen Manderson, aka the rapper Professor Green, “they’d probably expect gold taps.” Yet his southeast London home reflects who he is: a gentleman from a different kind of estate.


The Sunday Times: Interview: Tom Hardy


I wanted to like Tom Hardy. Who wouldn’t? He is a proper British megastar, on the cusp of nailing Hollywood, with the box-office draw and versatility to be our DiCaprio, Cruise or Travolta. He is magnetic on screen, with a rare ability to combine masculinity with vulnerability. He is Derek Jacobi in Jason Statham’s body. As a result, he makes cartoonish characters such as Mad Max and the super-villain Bane in The Dark Knight Rises compelling and lends heinous men such as Charles Bronson and the Kray twins humanity. It is a credit to his ability to shape-shift that he is soon to star in an array of biopics, playing the war photographer Don McCullin, the explorer Ernest Shackleton and Elton John. It’s hard to think of another actor who could manage all three. So, I admire him as an artist. My boyfriend is in love with him. And everyone I know fancies him.

I did wonder if, in real life, Hardy might be … difficult. One interviewer suggested that “interviewing Tom Hardy is not an entirely comfortable experience … One cannot help being slightly wary about what he might say or do next.” Another journalist claimed in a Twitter rant — after missing out on an interview — that he had “seen Tom Hardy make publicists cry”. There was an incredibly awkward interview on Jonathan Ross, when Ross screened footage of a 20-year-old Hardy winning a Big Breakfast modelling competition, and Hardy seemed so irritated that afterwards Ross anxiously told the audience: “He is genuinely pissed off with me.” Hardy later said he was just winding Ross up.

Apparently George Miller, wanting to cast him for Mad Max: Fury Road, was so worried that Hardy would be combative on set that he asked other directors for reassurance. And then there was that fight he had while filming Lawless with his co-star Shia LaBeouf. Besides all of which, Hardy himself has admitted: “I have a reputation for being difficult. And I am. I am, actually.” Fair enough. Perhaps the qualities that make someone a great actor — an ability to dig deep into their guts and wrench out their soul on screen — are the same qualities that, in person, might make someone prickly.

When Hardy arrives, however, he is lovely. We meet in Richmond, at a posh boutique hotel on the banks of the Thames. He tells me they do a fantastic afternoon tea. Perhaps, at 39, he has relaxed. He lives nearby, as does his dad, Edward “Chips” Hardy, a writer, and his mum, Anne, an artist — they raised him just two miles away in East Sheen. I’m meeting both Tom and Chips today, because together they have created a drama, Taboo, the first episode of which aired on BBC1 last night.

Taboo took nine years from conception to completion. The Hardys are enamoured of it — as if it were a child they have brought into the world. And they should be proud: it’s wonderful. Set in 1813 London, Taboo tells the story of James Delaney, an adventurer and outsider who returns from Africa to build an empire after his father’s death. Chips wrote the treatment for it, the Peaky Blinders writer Steven Knight did the script, Sir Ridley Scott produced it and Tom stars in it. The sets are as rich as you’d expect from a BBC costume drama, but it’s not stuffy. Instead, it plays on explosive themes: death, the occult, incest and revolution. Scott has claimed that Hardy’s character, Delaney, “will become iconic”.

Chips arrives first. He looks like AC Grayling in Steve Jobs’s wardrobe: tall and wiry with long grey hair and silver glasses, wearing all black. He looks like what he is: a Cambridge-educated comedy writer, straight enough to have worked as an advertising executive, but hip enough to tell me he spent the 1960s smoking weed. He’s not the kind of dad I’d assumed Hardy would have, but I like him immediately. He folds himself into a chair, orders coffee and starts chatting about Zac Goldsmith, who has just become his former MP after losing the Richmond Park by-election — something Chips doesn’t seem particularly sad about.

By contrast Tom arrives late, in a red puffer jacket, looking like a lumbersexual. He’s bearded and scruffy in cargo pants and a black T-shirt, showing off tattooed guns. I can report that he is even better looking in real life than on screen. And has the same laddish, cocky-but-fun demeanour he had in those MySpace pictures that emerged of him posing in his underpants a decade ago. “I’m starving!” he announces, straddling a pouf. “I’ll get the turkey and chestnuts — let’s have a proper Christmas lunch … We’ve got to have the hats — we need hats!” Chips orders a vegetarian risotto.

Superficially, father and son seem to be opposites. One wiry professor; the other tattooed jock. The way they speak is different, too — Chips’s eloquent tones at odds with Tom’s confused accent: part posh west London, part Danny Dyer. They are aware of how they come across. “I paint with my fingers, like potatoes,” Tom says. “And I read Modiano,” Chips jokes.


Read the full interview at:



The Sunday Times Interview: Susan Sarandon, actress

“There is nothing about Hillary Clinton I find feminist, except that she’s a woman”

Susan Sarandon arrived last night from LA. Is she exhausted? “I’m surprisingly all right,” she grins. She looks damn good for 69. Relaxed, too. Her hair, loosely up in messy ringlets, seems more strawberry blonde than red-carpet red. She is dressed casually in a loose, pink, sequined kaftan top, which she pulls at, complaining: “I am at my fattest.” Still, she digs into the bread basket and declares she’s hungry. “Let’s get oysters!”

I confess, I am slightly disappointed. I had hoped to meet Sarandon at her purringly seductive best. After all, she was the sexiest feminist icon ever in Thelma & Louise — and 25 years later she is a siren still: tweeting pictures of herself comparing cleavage size with Salma Hayek at this year’s Cannes and stealing the red carpet from stars 40 years younger by turning up in a plunging tuxedo dress (her “double-breasted look”). In 1975 she played Janet (dammit) in the Rocky Horror Picture Show, where she seduced Frank-N-Furter and Rocky Horror in one night. In real life, she had a three-year fling with David Bowie in the mid-1980s after they met on the set of The Hunger. For years Playboy begged her to pose, offering ever more cash. Now she says she regrets not finding a way to do it, on her own terms, in a way “that wasn’t dehumanising or objectifying”. She did offer to pose naked while pregnant, but it wasn’t interested. Now she can’t do it “because I have two grown-up sons”.

Today, though, I might not have recognised her walking into Claridge’s. Unlike celebrities who travel with an entourage while wearing giant Prada sunglasses and complaining about paparazzi, Sarandon avoids starry fuss. In Hollywood, she claims, she is “kind of an outsider”, and chooses to live in New York because “if I was isolated behind gates in Beverly Hills, I wonder if I would be able to maintain my connection to the bigger picture”. That is important to her.

The day we meet, Hillary Clinton has won the Democratic nomination. Sarandon, who has been campaigning fervently for Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s rival, is unimpressed. “She could be indicted,” she says of the FBI investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server to send classified information. “She’s lied and she’s broken the law.” Even off the red-eye with no sleep, she can’t wait to sink her teeth in.

I would have thought a famously liberal feminist like Sarandon would relish the prospect of America’s first female president, but no. “I don’t vote with my vagina,” she retorts. Besides, in her view, Clinton is no sister: “There is nothing about her I find feminist, except that she’s a woman. She doesn’t support basic things that would help women.” She continues railing in this vein, firing partisan allegations about everything from Clinton’s alleged lack of support for a $15 minimum wage and universal healthcare to her willingness to send back some undocumented child refugees.

Her gripes against Hillary are so numerous, I could write about nothing else. “She’s a hawk and she’ll probably get us into another war — she’s been desperate to get us into it with Russia and Iran.” As Sarandon warms to her theme, she reels off the charges: “She won’t release the transcripts of all her speeches to Goldman Sachs … She was the last one out for gay rights … Monsanto … Honduras … Libya. Across the board, everything she stands for is wrong.”

So what is the alternative? Sarandon has provocatively suggested people might vote for Trump over Clinton just to watch the system implode. “Some people feel Trump will bring the revolution immediately,” she has said. She has since seen the light, admitting that, rather than voting for Trump, she’ll abstain or vote for Jill Stein, an independent candidate.

If she feels so strongly, would she ever run herself? “No! Absolutely not.” But Americans love a celebrity politician: look at Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California. “No, you can’t make a difference, it’s much better to be outside.” This seems to be a recurring theme with her.

She is easy to be with, and relaxed in the way people are who are totally comfortable in themselves, which you’d expect from a woman who has always been authentically herself, long before being so was a thing. Unpretentious, she is not afraid to speak her mind, even about her own industry. She recently called out Woody Allen as a paedophile, in the light of renewed allegations that he abused his adopted daughter: “I think he sexually assaulted a child and I don’t think that is right.”

She has been outspoken since high school, when she was arrested at protests for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. Since then she has sparked controversy with her support for gun control and LGBT rights, as well as speaking out against sex trafficking, the death penalty and human-rights violations. This is not just luvvie talk — she went to Lesbos recently to work with refugees: “The worst humanitarian crisis I have seen.”



The Sunday Times Magazine: Girls Uninterrupted



I’ve never been to a lesbian orgy before, so I wasn’t sure what to wear. My dungarees were in the wash and I’d just waxed my legs. Lucky, then, that Skirt Club, “an underground community for girls who play with girls”, is above such sapphic clichés. Instead it promised a night that would be “dark and decadent”, referencing 1920s Berlin.

“I’m going to a lezzer orgy!” I texted my friends. A few hours later I was surrounded by women in Coco de Mer knickers, feather capes, designer leather dresses and sheer kimonos — a scene worthy of Eyes Wide Shut unfolding in Notting Hill. Women licked tequila shots from each other’s taut torsos. They kissed in groups of two, three and four, then disappeared behind Chinese screens into candlelit rooms laid with sheepskin rugs, so you could only see their entwined silhouettes.

Skirt Club fills a new niche for young, single, financially independent and curious women at a time when female sexuality is changing. Increasingly, high-profile women aren’t “coming out”, as Ellen DeGeneres once did (in 1997, on the cover of Time magazine), but taking a more relaxed approach to defining their sexuality.











The supermodel of the moment Cara Delevingne, currently dating the singer Annie Clark, says she believes in “gender fluidity”, coyly tweeting that she “plays for more than one team”. The actress Evan Rachel Wood — once married to the actor Jamie Bell — says she has fallen in love with men and women. “I don’t know how you label that, it’s just how it is.” And the actress Kristen Stewart, once engaged to Robert Pattinson but who then dated her female PA, Alicia Cargil, doesn’t feel the need for labels: “In three or four years, there are going to be a lot more people who don’t think it’s necessary to figure out if you’re gay or straight. It’s, like, just do your thing.” Last year, even yours truly — having always been into boys — started dating a woman. I didn’t feel the need to call myself a lesbian. It was what it was. Now I’m back to dating a boy.

There is an emerging group of women like me resisting boring labels. Not calling ourselves gay, bisexual or straight, but feeling more sexually fluid. We’re on a spectrum where terms such as pansexual, polysexual and hetero-flexible come closer to what we do in bed. In a YouGov survey this year, almost half of British people aged 18-24 said they did not consider themselves exclusively straight or gay, and in the past decade there has been a fourfold increase in the number of sexual encounters women are having with other women.

Why is this happening? Why now? Some might wonder if it is down to the influence of technology — apps such as Scissr (Grindr for gay girls), Her and Tinder making sexual experimentation easier — opening up the pool of people you can meet and allowing you to do this privately from the palm of your hand. Perhaps it reflects more liberal attitudes? Or a fad? Perhaps it relates to feminism going mainstream and encouraging women to be less shy about getting what they want. Perhaps it’s girls giving up on pornified men. I hitched up my stockings and went to Skirt Club to find out.

Skirt Club would not call itself a lesbian orgy. It is far more discerning. Members, “intellectually minded” professionals aged 18-39, apply to a “strict committee”, enclosing photographs. “We’ve had men try to come,” the founder, Geneviève LeJeune, says, “but they’re banned.” LeJeune suggests there is “a trend for women calling out for what we want sexually”. She notes that most of her members identify as straight. “It’s not a club for lesbians but for bi-curious, bisexual and heterosexual women to explore. It doesn’t mean they’re gay. Skirt Club is a place they can have a one-off wild night.”

You have to get there, of course. Even if you take a taxi from your house straight to Skirt Club, you need to get from your front door to the car dressed in hooker heels and fishnets, without bumping into the neighbours while they’re putting out the bins. Then, once the cab drops you off, you’re left wandering the streets looking for a “secret door”, too embarrassed to ask anyone for directions.

The location is classy for an orgy, not the usual sleazy swingers setting — in the suburbs or at someone’s idea of a posh hotel — but a five-storey townhouse in Notting Hill. I watch as a slim Chinese girl in patent black heels buzzes her way through a door, and follow her in. A pretty brunette hostess, wearing a black silk corset, suspenders and peacock-feather collar, is waiting. She fastens an antique key on a black ribbon around my wrist, so other members would know I was a “Skirt Club virgin”.

The bar is a makeshift in someone’s kitchen. In fact, the whole house is pretty homely, with sofas, bookshelves and Ikea art. This is always the problem with orgies. You picture a scene in the catacombs of Notre-Dame and end up in a bungalow in Rottingdean (you can count on the English to suburbanise even group sex).