Review: Stuart Maconie – The Pie At Night @ Ilkley Literature Festival

By October 19, 2015



Earlier this year marked passing of 70s lounge lizard, grannies’ favourite Demis Roussos. Unbeknown to most, before Demis began his kaftan-induced croonathon, he cut his musical teeth as singer/bassist in cult Greek progressive rockers Aphrodite’s Child, a band also boasting a certain Vangelis on keyboards, creating a surprisingly good racket. This and many more curiosities from the annals of popular music history can be discovered while listening to Freak ZoneStuart Maconie’s fascinating Sunday evening trawl through rock and roll’s bric-a-brac store, and it’s Mr Maconie who is here tonight to talk about his new book The Pie At Night to a pretty full King’s Hall in Ilkley, one of the events from the Autumn schedule comprising the town’s 45th Literature Festival.

Demis Roussos

Tonight the audience is treated to selected excerpts from Mr Maconie’s latest work and more. Having thoroughly enjoyed Pies and Prejudice, Maconie’s wistful take on his former homeland (the North) as well as Adventures on the High Teas, his outsider’s tome on Middle England, containing a riveting chapter on home grown music, a fine yardstick for any would-be journalist on the subject, I’m keen to share his thoughts and musings on a number of subjects close to his heart, not to mention grabbing a signed copy of one of his books.

Coming from Wigan, it’s not surprising that two of Maconie’s book titles contain reference to that favourite northern life-shortening delicacy, informing the crowd that The Pie At Night is kind of a follow up to ‘Prejudice’, this time focusing on that long held Northern tradition of painting the town red once the factory hooter has sounded. To quote Oscar Wilde “Everything in moderation, including moderation”.

The Pie at Night

Naturally there are plenty of musical references too, including from his book The People’s Songs, his take on 50 popular music numbers that paint a social commentary of post-war Britain, tonight choosing to talk about Y Viva España and how this track encapsulates the advent of the package holiday boom of the 1970s, a world away from Maconie’s own childhood trips to Blackpool. Staying with Maconie’s childhood, one of his claims to fame relates to his mum taking the young upstart to see The Beatles as he shares her take on the event with the audience… queuing for tickets, what the weather was like before and after the show, but alas almost nothing about the actual performance itself, much to her son’s frustration.

Another amusing anecdote concerns Maconie’s recollection of his victorious appearance on TV’s Celebrity Mastermind, despite his chosen subject of 20th Century Poetry being somewhat more demanding than his competitors selections including Nirvana, The Empire Strikes Back and The Academy Awards.

Maconie is also a keen walker, a hobby no doubt formed from his proximity to the Pennines. He recalls how it caused much derision from his townie colleagues when working at the NME. We also get interesting facts about the North’s influence on the origins of walking, including the mass trespass of Kinder Scout, plus a witty tale about WA Poucher, the famous walker and guidebook writer whose day job was in perfumery, the contrasting images of a rugged male dressed in hiking gear mixing together the vital ingredients of your great aunt’s Lilly of the Valley eau de toilette.

Finally there are tales from Maconie’s time on BBC Radio as he confides that it’s much less aggro than doing TV, also taking time to share some of the amusing questions from Metropolitan based workmates, alarmed at the prospect of a relocation from the capital to the untamed wilderness of Salford, including “will we still be able to get Wi-Fi?” and best of all, “will we still be able to get The Guardian?” You couldn’t make it up!