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Features / Preview: A book reading that is a stand-up

Stuart Maconie will perform a part stand-up, part book reading at Mareel on 11 June.

The Pie at Night is not a promotion of Stuart Maconie’s book of the same name – not really. It’s more that the book is a jumping-off point for an evening of what Stuart describes as “somewhere between stand-up and a book reading”, writes Alex Garrick-Wright.

Stuart is under no illusions that a straightforward book reading can be a dull affair. As a veteran journalist, writer and broadcaster, he is fully aware that a person reading from a book is not, by itself, that exciting. The show coming to Mareel, he assures Shetland News, is quite different to what you might expect.

Stuart said that, while promoting his latest book over the last several months, he found himself reading less, and talking more, incorporating stories, jokes and chatting to the audience. Now, the book is little more than the peg upon which to hang a varied, funny and interesting evening’s worth of entertainment.

The Pie at Night (the book) is about the fun and leisure of the working classes of the north of England. The Pie at Night (the show) covers family holidays, music, sport, politics, bowling and zombie apocalypses, peppered with anecdotes of Stuart’s 30 years working in the media and entertainment industry. It’s evidently evolved a fair bit from when he first started out reading passages from the text and taking questions.

TPAN marks Stuart’s ninth book. His previous works, including Cider with Roadies, Adventures on the High Teas and Pies and Prejudice display an almost pathological attachment to puns, and a fond romanticism of ‘the north’ (or ‘500 miles south’ as it is understood by Shetlanders).

Stuart may be known to readers from his writing for newspapers such as The Guardian and The Times, as well as music journalism for the likes of Mojo, and NME.

It was at NME where he (in a satirical ‘Believe it or Not’ style column) claimed that Blockbusters host Bob Holness played the saxophone solo on Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 hit Baker St – a ‘fact’ that became so established that song was played at Holness’ funeral, to Stuart’s horror and his family’s amusement.

Stuart’s not exactly a comedian, but he is funny – as can be attested by his abundant writing, and appearances on Have I Got News For You, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, and very recently on Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled.

He has been no less prolific in his frequent radio work, hosting shows on BBC Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4, and having presented his own show on Radio 6 since 2002.

Stuart has never been to Shetland, and is very much looking forward to seeing the isles: “I’ve always been looking for a good reason, and I jumped at it.”

Aside from writing, Stuart said that his passion is exploring and travel, and a chance to go to Shetland is simply too good to pass up. On Stuart’s list of sights to see are the cliffs and lighthouse at Eshaness, Scalloway Castle, the Shetland Museum, and the ‘Welcome to Northmavine’ sign at the Mavis Grind (a must-see for any tourist).

Stuart will be coming up the Shetland a couple of days ahead of the show to try to explore, learn a little about the isles, and get some insight that he can draw into the show.

“I really want to see Shetland, get some of the local colour. I can’t wait to get there.”