KENDRICK LAMAR, O2 Arena – Evening Standard, 13 Feb 2018

Whether people are talking about what he’s done (just now, curating the soundtrack for Marvel’s groundbreaking Black Panther movie) or what he hasn’t done (won all the Grammys he deserved last month), Kendrick Lamar is at the centre of the cultural conversation. It’s easy to see why the 30-year-old fascinates. He  has risen from Compton gangland to be widely acknowledged… Read more →

KHALID interview – Evening Standard, 9 Feb 2018

Khalid Robinson, 19, called his debut album American Teen and its signature song Young Dumb & Broke. Now that it’s a platinum seller, the 10th biggest album of 2017 in the US, he’s become the latest to be saddled with the “voice of a generation” tag. But the R&B singer is about to have a little trouble with his job… Read more →

MGMT, Electric Brixton – Evening Standard, 7 Feb 2018

It feels strange to be enthusing about US duo MGMT in 2018. Long ago Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser burned their bridges, or more accurately, turned them into surreal impassable corkcrews, by forgoing the euphoric synth pop of their debut album for dense psychedelia. Oracular Spectacular, their first release, went platinum in 2008. Then these chronic pranksters set about shedding… Read more →

RAE MORRIS interview – Evening Standard, 2 Feb 2018

It makes a nice change from all the break-up albums. Someone Out There by Blackpool musician Rae Morris is a dayglo love story, the tale of her growing intimacy with her producer told through vibrant electronic pop.   He’s called Fryars, real name Ben Garrett, and is currently working on Lily Allen’s comeback as well as his own album. He… Read more →

HOW TO ORGANISE A MARATHON – Men’s Running March 2018 issue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A marathon doesn’t usually start in a pub. But that’s sometimes where they begin, years before the inaugural bang of the starting gun.

 

In the case of two relatively new Sussex marathons – the Moyleman, which loops around Lewes and first took place in 2015, and Brighton, which has been the UK’s second biggest marathon since 2010 – the pub was where those first speculative conversations were had. Could this be done? Why hasn’t anyone done it before? Could we do it?

 

It’s a tale of two cities – well, one city and a market town. The two races couldn’t be more different. Brighton sees about 12,000 runners trotting along the famous seafront, cheered on by a further 60,000 in an event that rivals Pride and the London to Brighton Bike Ride as one of the largest events in the South Coast tourist destination’s calendar. In its fourth year, the Moyleman has grown from 90 participants to 350 and follows the trails in the hills surrounding Lewes, 10 miles east of Brighton, including a sizeable chunk of the South Downs Way. The spectators are mostly sheep.

 

Brighton began because two locals used their expertise to spot a gap in the running market. Tim Hutchings was a former GB runner with medals for 5000m at the European Championship and Commonwealth Games. He’s also a Eurosport commentator and had worked as the London Marathon’s International Coordinator for 10 years. Tom Naylor is Brighton born and bred, the son of parents who had long been active in local running events. They used to organise Brighton’s half marathon. His mum, Chris, is the current President of the city’s Arena 80 athletics club.

 

“They organised their first race when I was about seven, so I’ve had many years of stuffing race packs in the kitchen. That was just a thing we did in our family,” says Naylor. He competed as a high level club runner in 1500m and 5000m before going on to open a running shop in Hove. “Tim had seen the London Marathon change and grow hugely, and had also travelled the world commentating on running events and seen how many major cities across Europe have their own marathons. We couldn’t understand why London was the size it was, rejecting so many people in the ballot every year, while there was nothing else close to being that big.”

 

The Moyleman, in contrast, began as a less ambitious concept but has still grown to the immense satisfation of the local mates who thought it would be a fun thing to do. It’s named after Chris Moyle, a local runner who died from stomach cancer in 2009. The spot where his ashes are scattered looks down on part of the route. Its real genesis came, however, when Duncan Rawson, a keen mountain biker, met Ash Head, Moyle’s training buddy, in a pub, and enthused about his day spent riding a punishing lap around the local hills. He said he’d covered about 28 miles, which switched on a lightbulb.

 

Head wrote a blog outlining a speculative marathon route, saying: “This’ll probably never happen.” The reply came back from another friend and local runner, Tom Roper: “This MUST happen.” Rawson and Head now share the job of race director, while Roper is chief marshall. Two more friends, Rob Read and Brian Courage, handle PR and money stuff respectively. No one spends so much time on the organising that it ruins the experience, though Rawson still replies to every querying email personally, so the immediate run-up gets hectic.

 

“It ebbs and flows, the amount of time it takes up in our lives,” says Head. “Six weeks out, you might have nowhere near enough marshalls. Organising the roving 4×4 medical teams is a significant job. But the bar is set reasonably low. There’s not a lot that can go wrong. The thing we fear the most is people getting hurt, injured, lost.”

 

The Moyleman doesn’t require any road closures, and finishes in the deliveries yard of the helpful local brewer, Harveys. Instead of a medal, you get a branded pint glass, complete with beer, at the finish. The only piece of private land used requires verbal permission from a friendly local farmer, who they treat to dinner in a nice restaurant once a year.

 

Brighton Marathon, in contrast, completely takes over a significant chunk of the city. “It impacts everyone in different ways. For some people it’s a bit annoying. For others it shuts down what they’re trying to do,” says Naylor. “We’re dealing with an under pressure hospital. Bus routes, taxi routes, fire stations, car parks, all have to be considered. The Council were great – they wanted to do it. But it took a long time to get the route into position and make them confident that we weren’t going to ruin a lot of people’s weekend.”

 

Naylor’s and Hutchings’ company, Grounded Events, has eight employees who work on the Marathon all year round. But as race day approaches, that number ramps up considerably. They bring in 25 events professionals who have worked on big occasions such as the Olympics and the Tour de France, supervising a 200-strong events team. There’ll be about 500 stewards and security people across the event, as well as 150 medical volunteers – doctors and senior nurses – and 400 St John Ambulance first aiders. Plus about 1800 volunteers handing out race packs beforehand and managing drinks stations during the race.

 

Their race was popular straight away, attracting about 7,500 runners in its first year. Like Edinburgh, whose marathon had just over 6,000 finishers last year, it’s an attractive city to visit for a weekend anyway so has instant appeal. Brighton’s immediate success was also helped by the cunning decision to take place the week before London, hoovering up many who want to train through the winter and didn’t get into the big one.

 

Social media also helps these days, enabling them to publicise the race far more widely and quickly than putting an advert in the back of a magazine. “It’s created an experience market,” says Naylor. “People challenge themselves in a public way, and are inspired by seeing other people challenging themselves. Up to 70 per cent of people doing our marathon are first timers.”

 

But it has its downsides too. Complaints are aired more widely too. What kind of criticism has Brighton had? “Anything and everything! It’s somebody’s once in a lifetime experience, so anything that makes that the slightest bit negative – queueing, the loos, not liking the start location, hating the music – that feedback starts to come in immediately after the race has finished.”

 

So putting on a marathon is an evolving process – they’re still tinkering. The Moyleman organisers now have to put up their route arrows at the last minute in one village, otherwise they get taken down again by hostile locals. Brighton is experimenting with a start time 45 minutes later this year, to make it easier for participants who don’t live in the city. While they fiddle with this, as well as a slight route alteration and changes to the park and ride system, they’ve made the number of entrants a bit lower.

 

Yet both sets of organisers know that they’ve created something valuable, loved by many who come repeatedly, and have no desire to make their races much bigger or smaller. “Someone suggested a while back that we could make this the Sainsbury’s Moyleman. Over my dead body,” says Head.

 

“We like to be at the finish line and shake everyone’s hand,” says Rawson of the Moyleman’s low-key finale. “We never set out to make money. Watching people cross the line, the tears and the hugs, it’s incredibly emotional. That’s the real pay-off.”

 

TIPS FOR ORGANISING YOUR OWN MARATHON

 

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU KNOW

Through their backgrounds as high level runners and Tom Naylor’s experience running a small business, Brighton’s organisers already knew plenty of the key people to speak to about putting on a local marathon. Moyleman organiser Duncan Rawson’s background in farming got him access to the right fields.

 

BE PATIENT

It can take a few years for that initial pub idea to become a reality. The first conversation about a Brighton Marathon took place in July 2007 and it was licensed in May 2009. An unofficial Moyleman for 15 running friends took place the year before they did it for real.

 

ACCEPT YOUR MISTAKES AND IMPROVE THE NEXT YEAR

One of Brighton’s biggest problems was the year that the kit bags turned out to be too small and flimsy. Unfortunately they only discovered this when thousands of them arrived two days before the race. Needless to say it didn’t happen again.

 

HAVE FAITH IN PEOPLE

As a small race relying largely on local goodwill, the Moyleman can cut it fine to be completely ready. Marshalls often only emerge at the last minute, or have to be ferried from early in the race to near the end to man a second post. One year, in the absence of anyone else, a medic crew took over a water station for a while.

 

BE CHARITABLE

Without the investment of numerous charities, who receive their money back fivefold when people receive their allocated places and do sponsored runs, Brighton would struggle to operate. Although it doesn’t have any offcial charity involvement, the Moyleman gives any profits to Martlets, the local hospice that cared for the race’s namesake.

BBC SOUND OF 2018 LIVE, Maida Vale Studios – Evening Standard, 31 Jan 2018

The BBC’s annual Sound of… poll is a valuable indicator of which musicians are on their way to ubiquity. Some of the 2018 batch were brought together last night for Radio 1, in a studio adorned with a plaque dedicated to a hot young thing of yesteryear, Bing Crosby. The winner this year, Norwegian singer Sigrid, is already rewarding the… Read more →

NADINE SHAH interview – Evening Standard, 26 Jan 2018

After we’ve wrapped up our interview, Nadine Shah invites me to watch her participating in a panel discussion down the road at the 100 Club. She can’t remember what it’s about.   It might be a consideration of the plight of the UK’s small gig venues – Shah has curated a UK tour for next week’s Independent Venue Week –… Read more →

STEEL PANTHER, Shepherd’s Bush Empire – Evening Standard, 23 Jan 2018

In this time of Time’s Up and #MeToo, the day after the latest Women’s March, there surely couldn’t be a worse moment to be a sexist hair metal band with songs including 17 Girls in a Row, Asian Hooker and Stripper Girl. Yet Steel Panther, a former covers band on LA’s Sunset Strip, are doing great, playing one show here… Read more →

FALL OUT BOY interview – Evening Standard, 19 Jan 2018

The world’s politicians could learn a thing or two from Fall Out Boy. Things not going to plan? Don’t style it out, and don’t lie about it. Just own up, then work harder.   I was originally supposed to sit down with the Chicago rock quartet’s dual figureheads: singer and chief songwriter Patrick Stump, and lyricist and extensively tattooed bass… Read more →

POP AWARDS 2017 – Evening Standard, 15 Dec 2017

Long denied the outrageous budgets of the Evening Standard’s Fim and Theatre Awards, here in the pop section we carry on making up categories and dishing out imaginary trophies regardless. The year gone by looked dull and predictable on the surface, dominated yet again by pop juggernauts Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift, but there were higher highs and lower lows… Read more →