I’m a regular contributor to the Daily Mail Weekend and Mail on Sunday Event magazines, London Evening Standard, Telegraph, Sunday Times ‘Atticus’ diary and BBC History Magazine but have also written for the Financial Times. I specialise in celebrity interviews (frequently ghosting first-person pieces), the arts, travel, politics and history.
After a year on the Daily Mirror pop page, I was a feature writer on the paper before going on to work for the Daily Express, The Times (Diary) and Sunday Times, as an arts reporter – before turning freelance in 2000. I first broke into journalism after putting together a fanzine, Wired. And by the early 1990s (after stints on a couple of regional dailies) I was shifting on the Sunday Mirror, writing business profiles for the MoS and the occasional story for magazines like GQ and Rock CD.
PR / Media consultancy
I took a two-month sabbatical from journalism to handle the PR for the Rhodes Trust’s centenary celebrations in 2003, which culminated in a Westminster Hall event attended by Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela. I also worked as a media adviser to Paddy Ashdown during the 1997 general election.
Public Speaking / Radio / Media Training
I’ve given talks about the Press and the Media to cruise ship audiences and luncheon clubs. I also have radio experience – reporting for the old Radio 5 show The Vibe, and being interviewed (about celebrities and travel).
I’m an ideas man. I’ve been dreaming up story ideas, and looking for hooks and angles, all my working life – and a keen eye for a story is of course just as important whether one works in the Press or PR.
I’m well-connected. I’ve built up a huge number of trusting relationships with editors, PRs, celebrities, politicians and businessmen and women over the years.
I’ve ghost-written dozens of stories by celebrities, politicians, business people and ‘creatives’. The challenge? Writing in a style that reflects the author’s ‘voice’, and revising and editing until a story meets with the author’s / client’s approval.
I’m fast – and can mutli-task. (I’ve always got a few stories on the go at any one time.) I’ve been racing to meet deadlines on newspapers and magazines for just about as long as I can remember. Just as importantly, I’m accurate.
I’ve worked on tabloids, midmarket papers and broadsheets – so can easily adjust my writing style to suit the publication or client.
Last, but not least, I polish my copy until it gleams like chrome…
Five ideas that flew…
1. Landmarks, big birthdays and anniversaries can be great pegs for a story. Knowing Robert Hardy was about to turn 90, I suggested to an executive at the Daily Mail Weekend magazine that we interview the actor, and got the green light. I’d established a good relationship with Robert over the years, and he agreed to have a chat. On meeting up, he cracked open a bottle of malt whisky (his favourite tipple) and the stories and anecdotes soon poured out…
2. Having read Ann Cleeves’ Shetland-set crime novel, Raven Black, and seen the TV adaptation, Shetland, starring Douglas Henshall, I sensed a strong hook for a travel story. Then I did a bit of research, and learnt that Lerwick (the Shetland capital) was further from London than Berlin and Bilbao. Who knew that? What’s more, Shetland was to host its first ever crime writing festival in Nov ’15. I pitched my idea to the Evening Standard and the travel editor went for it…
3. By 2013 Nick Clegg had given dozens of interviews since becoming Deputy Prime Minister. But there had to be a new way into the story. I had a eureka moment and pitched the following idea to the Sunday Times Magazine: ‘How about a feature involving 20-odd celebs putting probing, challenging and cheeky questions to the DPM?’ Go for it, said an executive. Cue a cover story…
4. I’ve written about business for everyone from the FT magazine to the Mail on Sunday, and interviewed everyone from Stelios Haji-Ioannou to Sir Howard Davies – and am always on the lookout for a quirky business story. I heard about start-up ale-maker Buxton Brewery at a beer tasting, checked it out and pitched the idea to the MoS, cue a good-news picture story…
5. Winston Churchill rightly topped the BBC’s Greatest Britons poll some years ago. But that got me thinking: Who were the Worst Britons? I pitched the idea to BBC History Magazine, and they liked it – so I approached ten historians, and asked them to choose the Ten Worst Britons. The result: a cover story, bags of free publicity and a rogue’s gallery of bad ‘uns …