Danny Moran: Comic writer Adam Farrer, PINS guitarist’s pleasure demons, local councillor considers throwing himself under train

In a Whitefield café bar Adam Farrer coughs up a confession.
“This is actually my first interview,” he says. “I hope I don’t go on about myself too much.”
In fact, it will be interesting to see just how much the budding comic writer will be able to go on about himself generally in his faintly absurdist, self-deprecating style. The live literature graduate’s first book Cold Fish Soup is published next week, and he seems one with the chops to flourish in broadcast media should his stars line up.
 “Well, that would be great,” he says. “That is what I want to do.”
It’s not so very long ago – just the other side of the pandemic, in fact – that live lit was so booming hereabouts that some zealots were holding ‘live essays’ nights and pulling in decent crowds. Farrer was one of them. A former musician, he’d stood and watched as ex-bandmates made it, drifted into fanzine writing and had a crack at crime fiction, before intuiting his metier might involve memoir and rolling his tongue round his cheek.
The Real Story night in the Northern Quarter was where he finally found some traction.
“The first essay I wrote was about this lump I’d found in the roof of my mouth, and they seemed to love it,” he says. “Stuart Maconie was headlining that night and I heard he was in work the next day at the BBC telling everyone about it, so I knew I’d hit on something.”
Watching him unpack a tale from a stage, such as the one about how his mother performed in a burlesque troupe on a TV talent show, was to encounter a slant on a familiar proposition: as a beardy white bloke in early middle age spinning a gentle comedy of excruciation he fit a recognizable type. You could indeed picture him proving popular on Radio Four. Beneath the surfaces, though, was a tangible darkness hinting at something more unsettling than your familiar Middle England dispatch – something more aligned with the piercing authenticity of a David Sedaris or an Alan Bennett.
    “Those two are big inspirations,” he nods. “They make dark things very approachable. And I love Sue Townsend. The book that really shaped me was the first Adrian Mole.”
Having bagged a Northbound Book Award, his debut concerns a small town on the East Yorkshire Coast, Withernsea, where the sixteen-year-old author and his family went to live in the early ‘90s. My Family and Other Animals it isn’t. Slowly being devoured the sea, this is a place where the young man can dream, but a backdrop also for his family’s mordantly divergent narratives: his mother’s stage fever, his brother’s suicide, his own awkward attempts to find a place in the world.
Townsfolk defer the inevitable. Siblings squabble. A local man uncovers a portal to another dimension. It’s rendered in a deprecating sotto voce whose subtle desperation tugs the narrative along with no little panache (the title story, in which the teenage Farrer learns to jump in water as an attention-seeking way of puncturing the adult world is developed with keen psychological acuity), dialogue rings bathetically true (“You need to write about the poverty” says a family friend showing too much interest in the book-in-progress; “I’ve been speaking to a man about a werewolf at Bempton puffin sanctuary” the author responds) and a melancholy cadence graces the style (“all I could think about was how comforting it would have been to curl up on the floor, dissolve into the carpet and wait for someone to hoover me up”).
It’s a leaner and more literary affair without the beardy bloke physically reading it to you.
“With more room to play with you can get so much darker,” he says. “The live pieces were designed with a short arc that was supposed to work as a form of entertainment. I could never allow myself just to end on the dark bit. In a book, in longer form, you can do that.”
Sartre Rock
At a sun-washed garden picnic table PINS guitarist Lois Macdonald weighs the nuances of why Manchester’s premier all-girl rock band is taking a hiatus.
 “Well, we’ve done some amazing things,” she says. “It’s been ten years now, so this is a good point for us all to go away and think about where we’re at and work on stuff that’s more personal. The idea is we’ll be enriched with inspiration and newfound skills and can then bring these back to the table.”
It’s been a whirlwind decade for the girls, what with hellraising tours and collabs with Iggy Pop, but whether the band have realized their potential thus far is a debatable point. This Saturday they play their final gig for the foreseeable at Kendal Calling before attention turns to the inevitable side projects. Kyoko has her long-standing Kyogen side-hustle; Faith has something secret under wraps. Lois’s noise rock trio Grave Goods, meanwhile, released a single Come at the beginning of the month, with an album to follow in September on the Tulle label.
There were shades of New Order’s famous True Faith promo to be seen in the pink-suited monsters cryptically semaphoring in the single’s video.
“Pleasure demons,” she tells me. “Here to persuade you to follow your desires. And the New Order reference would be absolutely intentional. Leigh Bowery, Michael Clarke…these are some of the best things that have ever happened.
Nausea is another massive inspiration, lyrically.”

Yes! Sartre Rock, as somebody called it – which of course we can only hope will be a thing now.
“I’ve been through periods where I read that book over and over until it was almost like living in another world. The album title [Tuesday. Nothing Exists.] is lifted from it.”
Tortured guitars, Lancashire sprechgesang and loudquietloud dynamics are the order of the day for a post-punk dust-up with existentialism and gender politics.  Belfast bassist Phil Quinn and Dublin stickswoman complete an anglo-Irish lineup necessitating sea-crossing in order that the band can merely rehearse.
“Grave goods are the things you take with you when you die,” says Lois. “Should we wonder ‘’what’s the point?’ or should we just get on with it?”

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 Dampening down
On the Piccadilly train where I reach him it’s a downbeat Manchester councillor who takes my call. Outside the first few spots of rain are peppering the heatwave and the promise is that the weather is going to turn.
What of the Tory leadership race? Truss has just pipped Morduant to the second run-off place…there’s this fleeting sense in my browser of things being ‘up in the air.’
So will any of this have any bearing on Manchester and levelling up?
“Levelling up went out with George Osborne. Danny. Or Manchester’s deal did. Economically, Rishi and Truss are the same…he’s a shiny Thatcherite and she’s a cos-playing Thatcherite, basically.”
Does the fact there’s a leadership contest at all hasten the Tories’ demise?
“The Conservatives are the most successful party in the democratic world. It would be a brave person who said anything hastened their demise. The next general election will be a culture war and I don’t think Keir will find it easy to be mean to a woman. He’s an awkward character at the very best of times.”
How is he on Manchester?
“I think he’d struggle to find Manchester on a map.”
So even if elected you don’t think he would be good news for the North?
“Look, even under Corbyn there was never a promise to reverse the cuts in council funding since 2010.”
“Which is how you would specify what needs to be done?
“That would be baseline.”
 And Burnham?
“Well the punters like him. But it’s a London-centric party and he knows the bureaucracy hates him. In London they’re still up in arms David Miliband didn’t get in.”



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