‘Irish Music’ magazine commissioned me to interview Michael McGoldrick, a leading flute player who’s worked with big names such as Kate Rusby, Capercaillie, the Afro-Celt Sound System and Mark Knopfler. Of course, Mike is a ‘big name’ himself now, releasing his own solo recordings – so I jumped at the chance of actually meeting him. We got on really well, and I stayed for the gig. It was great.
Folk singer Cara Dillon is a leading light on the Irish music scene. Her appeal spreads wider than that, but that’s the realm where she commands much respect. I’d met Cara at a gig in Horsham, Sussex. Then ‘Irish Music’ magazine commissioned me to cover her showcase concert at Gibson Guitar Studios in London, followed by an interview. This is one of the most enjoyable types of journalistic assignments – covering great music and meeting lovely people.
Adrian Plass is a popular writer and speaker who lampoons religion in an affectionate way. After all, he’s a believer himself. But he spots all the funny ways of the faithful and helps them to laugh at themselves. I’ve interviewed Adrian a number of times, and this article highlighted his appearance at a conference called ‘The Mandate’. I had asked Adrian on board as a speaker for the event. As Media Consultant to The Mandate, I distributed various articles about Adrian to publicise his contribution to the conference.
Dave Bilbrough is one of Britain’s leading composers of contemporary hymns. His songs are sung at religious services across the globe. He conducted an experiment by taking his music to London’s West End. And so in the intimate setting of Jermyn Theatre, Dave’s compositions took on a new life.
It was a great honour to interview Roy and Fiona Castle at their home. My photographer Chris Gander and I chatted away with Roy about some of his greatest moments – including when he starred in a Dr Who movie with Peter Cushing! Meeting Roy was such a delight. And our work made the cover story for a magazine called ‘Christian Family’, which I was editing at the time.
I interviewed Rick Wakeman as part of a major feature on rock musicians in the US-based ‘Charisma’ magazine. I’d met Rick a few times over the years, and had interviewed him about various recording projects he’d undertaken. So I got to know him a little, and found him thoroughly entertaining and engaging company. I also love his music.
Longtime journalist friend and colleague Billy Bruce used to be my editor. And one day he asked me to interview some rock musicians about religion for ‘Charisma’ magazine. Another friend of mine Steve Legg had booked Paul Jones from Manfred Mann to do a gig locally. So I met up with Paul and I think we chatted on the phone, too. Paul was one of Britain’s classic rock voices, and an ardent atheist – until he found the realm of the spirit while looking at paintings!
US-based ‘Charisma’ magazine asked me to interview some mainstream rock musicians about their spiritual journeys. Broadcaster and writer Gerald Coates put me in touch with The Moody Blues’ bass player John Lodge. We met at the Moodies’ record company offices in Surrey. Being a longtime fan of the band, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our time together. John told me some entertaining stories, as you can imagine! Then he had to go off to do some decorating.
Michele Guinness phoned and asked if I had any poetry about…sex? Now, Michele can be controversial, but still this made me gulp. It was okay, she just wanted contributions to an anthology she was putting together, called ‘Made For Each Other: Reflections On The Opposite Sex’. I just happened to have written a poem about childhood sweethearts for a community production. And she used that.
The mid-90s saw waves of spiritual renewal sweep across many churches around the world. These movements carried strange names and were marked by strange phenomena – from Rodney Howard-Browne’s ‘laughing revival’ to John Arnott’s ‘Toronto Blessing’. I met many of the key players, interviewed them, told their stories, witnessed a few things, and tried to bring some meaning to it all. But then it’s all up to the reader to decide…
Family expert Rob Parsons has always been a supporter of my work. One day he asked me to help him finish off a book he’d written on fatherhood. He wanted some practical applications at the end of each chapter. My wife and I came up with a load of suggestions. I think Rob took them all. The book went on to become a massive seller. I’m proud to have played a small part in its success.
It was a call out of the blue. International aid agency World Vision asked me, ‘Can you write a children’s book?’ I said yes. It was a specific brief – produce a resource to help children understand life in a drought-stricken community in Niger. I interviewed people who’d worked out there. I watched video clips of village life. I read Bob Geldof’s book on Africa. Then I road-tested the story at River Beach School. The kids loved it. An old friend who used to live in Niger said the text brought back many memories.