Mind Out

Don’t Bragg

It was a great surprise to receive a letter some months ago from Lord Bragg (he of unimpeachable Melvynous South Banksy fame) asking if I might consider taking over from him as President of the charity MIND. Only a few years ago MIND had paid me the great compliment of appointing me their 2007 mental health “Champion” so I was fully aware of the organisation and the fine work they did.

MIND, as you may or may not know is, in its (I should now say “our”) own words: “the leading mental health charity in England and Wales.” This is not to take away from SANE and the indefatigable Marjorie Wallace, or the work done by dozens, indeed hundreds, of smaller more locally based mental health charities up and down the country. I cannot bear it when charities, of all institutions, regard each other as rivals or even enemies. The superb Time to Change for example, is a result of cooperation across the sector. It also gave me great pleasure when this coalition government, for all that it is not my idea of the political dream team of the century (but which government ever was?) made good strides towards placing the issue of stigma front and centre with their initiative Shift.


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OTBC: An open letter to all who despise sport and most especially football

Welcome to Norwich: A Fine City

An open letter to all who despise sport and most especially football

My love of all kinds of sport surprises nobody more than myself. I do not think there has ever been a schoolboy with such overmastering contempt, fear, dread, loathing, and hatred for “games” – for sport, exercise, gymnastics and physical exertions of all or any kinds. Every day I would wake up with a sick jolt wondering just how I might get out of that day’s compulsory rugby, cricket, hockey, swimming or whatever foul healthy horror was due to be posted on the notice-board that morning. The catalogue of multiple lies, evasions, self-imposed asthma attacks and other examples at what Edwardian school fiction characterised as “lead-swinging”, malingering and “cutting”. All the acts of a cad, a swine, a rotter, an outsider and a beast.


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Showgirl Fry

After a gap of twenty years I have rediscovered my love of stage musicals.

I owe a lot to the form. It was the almost unbelievably fortunate circumstance of being asked while still in my 20s to update the book of Me and My Girl that gave me financial independence. “Book”, incidentally, is the jargon term for the written bits of a show that aren’t music or lyrics: the story and dialogue, in other words.

There are plenty who seem to feel that musicals are a low art form, something for the ignorant masses not to be uttered in the same breath as legitimate theatre, opera or ballet. Nor indeed, the same people would have us believe, are songs from the shows comparable in quality, authenticity or artistry to rock and roll, jazz, blues, hip hop and other popular modes. The songbooks of Porter, Berlin, Gershwin, Kern and early Richard Rodgers might be excluded from this anathema because their connection to staged musical comedy is all but forgotten and their songs can be accorded the status of swing and jazz standards.


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Two Million Reasons To Be Cheerful

Tweet, Drink and Be Merry

An open letter to @mobijack

Dear @mobijack

“Eat shit, a hundred billion flies can’t be wrong,” the old graffito used to say. “Follow Stephen, two million tweeters can’t be wrong,” I say.

Now, it so falls out that you are the two millionth person to follow me on Twitter. I do not know, cannot guess and have no business asking your reasons for doing so. It may be that you know who I am as a writer, broadcaster, actor and so on, it may be you have followed me on someone else’s recommendation or indeed it could simply be because you wanted to be the two millionth and timed it perfectly. I know that your name is Jonathan, that you live in Dundee (a city I love and of which I retain the fondest possible memories after six happy years of occupying the Rector’s chair at the University) and that you like BI, whatever that might be. Business Informatics, Wikipedia suggests.


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The whole silly stick…

I suppose the keenest disappointment I feel about the past week and the almost incredible weirdnesses it has brought in its train is the idea that there are people out there who actually swallow the notion that I am so stupid as to believe that women don’t enjoy sex. That I not only believe it but that I am dense, dotty and suicidally deluded enough to make a public declaration of such a crazed belief.


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