Three and half weeks. Three hundred miles. I saw roaring arterial highway and silent lanes, candlelit cathedrals and angry men in bad pubs. The Britain of 1936 was a land of beef paste sandwiches and drill halls. Now we are nation of vaping and nail salons, pulled pork and salted caramel.
In the autumn of 1936, some 200 men from the Tyneside town of Jarrow marched 300 miles to London in protest against the destruction of their towns and industries. Precisely 80 years on, Stuart Maconie, walks from north to south retracing the route of the emblematic Jarrow Crusade.
Travelling down the country’s spine, Maconie moves through a land that is, in some ways, very much the same as the England of the 30s with its political turbulence, austerity, north/south divide, food banks and of course, football mania. Yet in other ways, it is completely unrecognisable.
Maconie visits the great cities as well as the sleepy hamlets, quiet lanes and roaring motorways. He meets those with stories to tell and whose voices build a funny, complex and entertaining tale of Britain, then and now.
Factory, mine and mill. Industry, toil and grime. Its manufacturing roots mean we still see the North of England as a hardworking place. But, more than possibly anywhere else, the North has always known how to get dressed up, take itself out on the town and have a good time. After all, working and playing hard is its specialty, and Stuart Maconie is in search of what, exactly, this entails what it tells us about the North today.
Following tip offs and rumour, Stuart takes trip to forgotten corners and locals’ haunts. From the tapas bars of Halifax to the caravan parks of Berwick Upon Tweed, from a Westhoughton bowling green to Manchester’s curry mile, via dog tracks and art galleries, dance floors and high fells, Stuart compares the new and old North, with some surprising results.
The Pie at Night could be seen as a companion to the bestselling Pies and Prejudice, but it is not a sequel. After all, this is a new decade and the North is changing faster than ever. This is a revealing and digressive journey and a State of the North address, delivered from barstool, terrace, dress circle and hillside.
These are the songs that we have listened to, laughed to, loved to and laboured to, as well as downed tools and danced to.
Covering the last seven decades, Stuart Maconie looks at the songs that have sound tracked our changing times, and – just sometimes – changed the way we feel. Beginning with Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’, a song that reassured a nation parted from their loved ones by the turmoil of war, and culminating with the manic energy of ‘Bonkers’, Dizzee Rascal’s anthem for the push and rush of the 21st century inner city, The People’s Songs takes a tour of our island’s pop music, and asks what it means to us.
This is not a rock critique about the 50 greatest tracks ever recorded. Rather, it is a celebration of songs that tell us something about a changing Britain during the dramatic and kaleidoscopic period from the Second World War to the present day. Here are songs about work, war, class, leisure, race, family, drugs, sex, patriotism and more, recorded in times of prosperity or poverty. This is the music that inspired haircuts and dance crazes, but also protest and social change.
The companion to Stuart Maconie’s landmark Radio 2 series, The People’s Songs shows us the power of ‘cheap’ pop music, one of Britain’s greatest exports. These are the songs we worked to and partied to, and grown up and grown old to – from ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ to ‘Rehab', ‘She Loves You’ to ‘Star Man’, ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ to ‘Radio Ga Ga’.
In Hope and Glory Stuart Maconie goes in search of the days that shaped the Britain we live in today. Taking one event from each decade of the 20th century, he visits the places where history happened and still echoes down the years. Stuart goes to Orgreave and Windsor, Wembley and Wootton Bassett, assembling a unique cast of Britons from Sir Edmund Hillary to Sid Vicious along the way.
It’s quite a trip, full of sex and violence and the occasional scone and jigsaw. From pop stars to politicians, Suffragettes to punks, this is a journey around Britain in search of who we are.
The Lives Less Ordinary series brings you the most exciting, adventurous and entertaining true-life writing that is out there, for men who are time-poor but want the best. Lives Less Ordinary drops you into extreme first-hand accounts of human experience, whether that's the adrenaline-pumping heights of professional sport, the brutality of the modern battlefield, the casual violence of the criminal world, the mind-blowing frontiers of science, or the excesses of rock 'n' roll, high finance and Hollywood. Lives Less Ordinary also brings you some of the finest comic voices around, on every subject from toilet etiquette to Paul Gascoigne.
Anyone who every dreams of being in the music business thinks that 'being with the band' is an instant passport to free drugs, women and hedonistic, rock 'n' roll good times. But Stuart Maconie hilariously tells a different story of the slow-drip hell of continental travel in the claustrophobic confines a small van with a certain death metal trio.
This digital bite has been extracted from Stuart Maconie's brilliant book Cider with Roadies.
'These were the days that made us, and these are the day trips to find them. Should we do a flask? And are you sure you'll be warm enough in that coat?'
In Hope and Glory Stuart Maconie goes in search of the places, people and events that have shaped modern Britain. Starting with the death of Queen Victoria, to the Battle of the Somme and the General Strike, and on to the docking of the Empire Windrush and Bobby Moore raising the Jules Rimet trophy, he chooses a defining moment in our nation's story from each decade of the last century and explores its legacy today.
Some were glorious days, some were tragic, or even shameful, but each has played its part in making us who we are as a nation. From pop stars to politicians, Suffragettes to punks, this is a journey around Britain in search of who we are.
Everyone talks about 'Middle England'. Sometimes they mean something bad, like a lynch mob of Daily Mail readers, and sometimes they mean something good, like a pint of ale in a sleepy Cotswold village in summer twilight. But just where and what is Middle England? Stuart Maconie didn't know either, so he packed his Thermos and sandwiches and set off to find out...
Is Middle England about tradition and decency or closed minds and bigotry? Is it maypoles and evensong, or flooded market towns and binge drinkers in the park? And is Slough really as bad as Ricky Gervais and John Betjeman make out? From Shakespeare to JK Rowling, Vaughan Williams to Craig David, William Morris to B&Q, Stuart Maconie leads the expedition, with plenty of stop-offs for tea and scones, to discover the truth.
Ey up, it's not only footie, pints and pies that are better up north - the humour also takes some beating. Whether it's comics like Peter Kay, Les Dawson and Victoria Wood, telly shows like Corrie and Open All Hours, or writers like Alan Bennett and Keith Waterhouse, the funniest and best-loved invariably hail from the land of perpetual drizzle (another thing they do better).
This grand collection of northern wit is packed with these favourites and more. Likely lads and lippy lasses cast a wry eye on subjects close to the heart of every northerner, including - brass, grub, graft, courting, cricket, tittle-tattle and t'weather - adding up to a feast of northern hilarity.
A Northerner in exile, Stuart Maconie goes on a journey in search of the North, attempting to discover where the clichés end and the truth begins. He travels from Wigan Pier to Blackpool Tower and Newcastle's Bigg Market to the Lake District to find his own Northern Soul, encountering along the way an exotic cast of chippy Scousers, pie-eating woollybacks, topless Geordies, mad-for-it Mancs, Yorkshire nationalists and brothers in southern exile.
The bestselling Pies and Prejudice is a hugely enjoyable journey around the north of England.
Cider with Roadies is the true story of a boy's obsessive relationship with pop. A life lived through music from Stuart's audience with the Beatles (aged 3); his confessions as a pubescent prog rocker; a youthful gymnastic dalliance with northern soul; the radical effects of punk on his politics, homework and trouser dimensions; playing in crap bands and failing to impress girls; writing for the NME by accident; living the sex, drugs (chiefly lager in a plastic glass) and rock and roll lifestyle; discovering the tawdry truth behind the glamour and knowing when to ditch it all for what really matters.
From Stuart's four minutes in a leisure centre with MC Hammer to four days in a small van with Napalm Death it's a life-affirming journey through the land where ordinary life and pop come together to make music.
Stuart Maconie is a writer, broadcaster and journalist familiar to millions from his work in print, on radio and on TV. His previous bestsellers have included Cider with Roadies, Pies and Prejudice and Adventures on the High Teas, and he currently hosts the afternoon show on BBC 6music with Mark Radcliffe as well as weekly show The Freak Zone. Based in the cities of Birmingham and Manchester, he can also often be spotted on top of a mountain in the Lake District with a Thermos flask and individual pork pie.