Ravenously Hungary: Sziget 2013

Blur, Franz Ferdinand and The Cribs defy a Budapest heatwave at one of Europe’s more relaxed festivals

By Lee Gale

GQ.co.uk, 2013

It’s a wonder of the modern age that you can arrive at the entrance of a major European music festival quicker than it takes to drive from London to Glastonbury (factoring in traffic jams, stop-offs to purchase roadside scrumpy in Domestos containers, etc). Having said ta-ta to the cat at midday, six hours later we’re in the Hungarian heat, onsite at the Sziget festival, sipping Budapest-brewed Dreher lager (£2 a pint) with a collection of multi-coloured wristbands. The flight on the Airbus A320 of Wizz was far from restful; it was packed and Luton Airport is a factory process, something to endure rather than enjoy (and at £330 return, it’s a ridiculously costly hop). Despite the grief, a feeling of peace and serenity awaits at Sziget, even when Enter Shikari are on stage.

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Squadron leader

You owe your freedom to the Avro Lancaster, a four-engined World War II aircraft, and the crews who flew it. Here we pay homage to the glorious dam-busting, Tirpitz-blasting, viaduct-smashing bomber

Jack, December 2003

Story by Lee Gale 

If it weren’t for the Avro Lancaster, you might be reading the opening line to this story in German. It would start off, “Dank zur helligkeit von Ernst Heinkel und er seines He-111 mittelmäßiger bomber… and drift into a frightening, umlaut-rich diatribe of how superior German aircraft helped bring our nations together. Your attention would be broken as the front door of your hovel was kicked off its hinges, and your aged, ill grandfather dragged into the street for summary execution because he was no longer contributing satisfactorily to the German Empire. In fact, this magazine would probably be called Jackboot, or Ulrich

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One last thing… Graham Fellows

The Guardian’s The Guide’s great, lost, back-page interview from 2009! This interview was dumped when the newspaper’s cultural diary was overhauled – but now, here it is!

It’s fantastic to see your character John Shuttleworth back on telly, the first time since Europigeon (1) in 1998.
I’ve just made some TV and radio ads for Yorkshire Tea with my old pal Willy Smax, who shot 500 Bus Stops (2). John might have preferred to promote a quality tile grout or travel mints, but as far as I’m concerned it’s the perfect marriage of two trusted niche brands.

What are you working on at the moment?
The final edit of my new [John Shuttleworth] movie Southern Softies, set in the Channel Islands. It’s the follow-up to It’s Nice Up North, set in the Shetlands. Southern Softies nearly bit the dust when I inadvertently plugged the AC adaptor for my laptop into the hard drive, blowing it up and its contents. I’m a careless sod, but a persistent one, so it’s all back on course and I’m very excited about the world premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe on August 18th.

You’re from Sheffield, but before you were famous, did you have a Sheffield claim to fame?
My sister, Sally, claims she used to deliver Tony Christie’s mother’s newspaper in Sheffield in the early ’70s. I reminded Tony of this when I met him in Leeds a few years ago when we were guests on Richard Whiteley’s (3) short-lived TV series Friday Whiteley.

John likes a pair of fawn slacks, nothing wrong with that, but have you had any fashion disasters in the past?
My mother made me a pair of bell-bottom trousers for a Christmas party in [school class] J4. I thought they were cool until someone laughed and said they looked homemade. I said, ‘Well yes, they are,’ and this kid laughed even harder. So I kicked him and split my trousers.

John Shuttleworth is eco-minded – but are you?
Earlier this year I bought an electric G-Wiz (4) car in an attempt to reduce my carbon footprint. Having now left London and moved back up north, the car is parked permanently in a West End car park. I make frequent trips down south to recharge it, trips which increase my carbon footprint. I realise this irony must not be left unchecked, so I plan an epic voyage in my G-Wiz from London to Orkney, where I have an old church (5) which I’m planning to restore and convert into an eco-friendly recording studio. The car will be there to ferry Bono and the Arctic Monkeys, etc, around the island. Anyway, it might take a while, this trip, as a single charge of the car’s battery will only take it 30 miles, so I’ll be looking for a few power sockets en route. Look out for me!

What issue outrages you?
Cruelty to farm animals. It amazes me how worked up we get because a whippet is malnourished, cruel as that is, but no-one cares that thousands of sheep, cows, pigs and chickens live miserable lives before suffering even more miserable deaths. Check out PETA [www.peta.org.uk] and you’ll learn all about how Australian sheep farmers still carry out ‘mulesing’ (6), a barbaric practice that is maiming thousands of defenceless lambs for no logical reason. Am I a vegetarian? Not quite, so yes, I’m a hypocrite. But I’m beginning to realise that vegetarianism is the way forward – not just for the sake of the animals, but the planet too.

None of us are getting any younger, are we?
I recently hit 50 and death is suddenly on the agenda. I’m noticing a lot more people around me are dying. My father, Derek, recently observed that he used to be invited to lots of funerals but gradually the invites are tailing off. I used to want to be cremated, but a good old-fashioned burial is more eco-friendly. I’d miss the ashes routine, so perhaps the compost that I eventually become could be sprinkled on my vegetable patch.

Where would you want to be buried?
Well, I wouldn’t want to be planted anywhere near noisy traffic, or where disaffected youths congregate, or next to one of those chavvy headstones with a drawing of a footballer doing a bodyswerve. That’d start me turning, that would.

1 Shuttleworth’s Eurovision push; 2 Trans-Peak District tour; 3 C, U, N, T came out on Countdown, but cut; 4 Made in India; 5 wwwthespaceorkney.com; 6 Removal of buttock skin.

Southern Softies is at Pleasance Above, Pleasance, Edinburgh, August 18, 9.15pm, www.pleasance.co.uk

I’m not a number, I’m a free Manc!

The inaugural Festival No.6 in North Wales mixes Sixties spy drama with the better elements of indie rock. Despite the rough red wine and absolutely miserable weather, it proves an outstanding, curiously British, cultural gathering

By Lee Gale

GQ.co.uk, 2012

Taking the paranoia of Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner and adding Britain’s foremost purveyors of rock-dance crossover – ie New Order and Primal Scream – sounds like the loose plot of a late-morning dream, the sort of wonky scenario you find yourself in once the alarm has stopped and you’re drifting idly back to Boboland. Despite the weirdness, Festival No 6 piques the interest. If cheese and brown sauce can magically combine in sandwich format, then maybe merging an ingenious but frequently unfathomable Sixties spy series with cooler aspects of British indie music might just work. 

Continue reading I’m not a number, I’m a free Manc!

Prince doesn’t like Motörhead: a review of Sziget 2011

Budapest’s annual music festival is better attended than Glastonbury but chances are you’ve never heard of it. It’s planned as a British gathering which is why Sziget feels like a home away from home. It even has bobbies on the beat…

By Lee Gale

GQ.co.uk, 2011

Now in its 19th year, Sziget in Budapest is a week-long festival on the wooded Obuda Island (sziget translates as island in Hungarian) in the middle of the Danube. Hungary’s major tributary, rather than being a bubbling, lead-infused, froth-churning black snake connecting industrial heartlands, would actually make an acceptable image for a 1,000-piece jigsaw.

Continue reading Prince doesn’t like Motörhead: a review of Sziget 2011

Station to station: in praise of a reborn King’s Cross

With its problems of prostitution and drug-dealing, King’s Cross in London had reached the end of the line, but £3bn of investment and an influx of artists and creative minds are changing the perception of this former no-go zone

By Lee Gale

GQ.co.uk, 2013

In the not-too-distant past, when trains operated in pizzazz-free “rail blue”, King’s Cross in London was Hell’s waiting room, a den of iniquity with a dilapidated rail terminus and derelict goods yard at its core. It was unwise to hang about in N1. Travellers from the north arrived at the station, moved with the crowd towards an Underground exit and kept a tight guard of the money in their pocket. 

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Silver linings: Festival No.6, 2013

While the weather did its best to ruin the superb Festival No.6 in north Wales, GQ took shelter with Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa and Father Ted director Declan Lowney, culminating in a Q&A on Sunday evening at Portmeirion’s majestic Piazza stage

Words Lee Gale

GQ.co.uk, 2013

On The Prisoner, Patrick McGoohan’s lavish 17-part cult spy series of 1967, there isn’t much in the way of relentless precipitation halting No.6’s daring attempts to escape the Village. It’s all well and good proclaiming, “I’m not a number, I’m a free man!” and scowling in a defiant manner when a Mini Moke approaches, but when the rain’s falling so hard that lyns form around your walking boots and the wind’s toppling metal fencing in a furious show of intent, there isn’t much you can do other than flap open an umbrella and hope that you’re not carried into the sky like Mary Poppins. Let it be said that at Festival No.6 – the nation’s most eccentric and all-round fun cultural gathering – it knows how to rain.

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Fjällräven Kånken backpack: Too cool for school

By Lee Gale

GQ.co.uk, 2012

One of the main problems with casual fashion is that the Iberian peninsula and, by association, South America, holds too much sway over the way the British currently dress. Where once our fashion pointers were derived from All Creatures Great And Small, golf or WWII armed forces, today’s High Street hotsteppas are more likely to resemble Mario Kempes on a post-Argentina ’78 beach holiday.

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Get it in the mixer! Fatboy Slim on DJing at the Amex

After phenomenally successful Big Beach Boutique shows on the pebbles of Brighton seafront, Fatboy Slim makes a hometown comeback with Big Beach Bootique 5, two nights of DJ goal-lagging at Brighton & Hove Albion’s Amex Stadium

GQ.co.uk, 2011

Slashing rain, and Brighton & Hove Albion in their new Amex Stadium are running out of viable ideas against a determined West Ham side whose average height seems to be that of King Friedrich Wilhelm I’s Prussian Infantry Regiment No 6 – the “Potsdam Giants”. Nil-one and an electronic indicator reveals to the assembled 20,686 that there will be eight minutes of injury time. West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has sworn at the fourth official at every juncture during the 90 minutes – world-class foulmouths can be entertaining ogres – and he swears again: “F*** that!” Brighton boss Gus Poyet, who had earlier blown a raspberry at the fourth official, now applauds and begins whistling at his players like they are obedient working dogs. But Brighton haven’t the rufty-tuftiness to break down that great, claret, Sbobet-sponsored wall. West Ham are impenetrable, a Thames Barrier across the seasider’s turf.

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Ohm is where the heart is: Karl Bartos on life post-Kraftwerk

GQ.co.uk, 2013

“Rick Waller? Fat fella on Pop Idol? Yeah, he was great. Kraftwerk? Never heard of them. Were they dancers on Britain’s Got Talent?” It’s easy to say there’s no hope for civilisation when educated people in top jobs speak this way. The ideal solution would be to take these ne’er-do-wells into a study, reach for a cane, and, while striking that sorry rump, repeat, “’Numbers’, ‘The Model’, ‘Pocket Calculator’, ‘Tour De France’, ‘Home Computer’,” hoping that a physical chastising in the quiet of your low-lit cultural headmaster’s office might open minds to music away from the ongoing Opportunity Knocks-plus karaoke pap of ITV1.

But you can’t lay hands on people these days, not in the workplace. All you can say is, “You want to get yourself on iTunes and open those big, flappy ears of yours.”

Continue reading Ohm is where the heart is: Karl Bartos on life post-Kraftwerk