In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Emily Maitlis.
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Tonight, the Presidents Club
shuts down, the charity
money is handed back,
and Britain's business and political
elite run for cover.
But this annual event has been
going on for 30 years,
so are people really shocked,
or have they just been exposed?
We ask government
minister Margot James.
We'll discuss with a woman
who previously worked
as a hostess at the event
and another who was asked to,
but turned it down.
Also, a rare interview
with a firefighter who tackled
the blaze at Grenfell.
How are those on the front line
coping more than six months on?
I still feel guilt
and I think I will
feel eternally guilty.
My job, the reason I joined this
job, is to make sure the person
I'm saving doesn't die.
Ultimately, that's the point,
the black and white of my job.
So, when so many innocent people
lose their lives it's very,
very hard to take.
Is Cape Town about to become
the first global city
to run out of water?
We'll ask the politician
who's trying to halt
an unprecedented crisis.
And the death was announced
this evening of the Fall
singer Mark E Smith.
We look back on a life
of Manchester, music and colourful
appearances on Newsnight.
And I allowed to speak now? Yeah, go
Yeah, what ever you say. Are
you the new DJ?
And we'll speak live
to his friend Tim Burgess.
The Presidents Club's "men only"
annual dinner has been
taking place for more than 30 years.
But on the strength of one
excoriating investigative report,
and 24 hours of public outrage,
it has just announced
it's shutting its doors.
Tonight, as charities handed back
the money they received
from the fundraiser,
and a chief organiser was fired
from his role in government,
it is easy to see why business folk
could not move quicker to distance
themselves from the event.
Tonight, a minister told me
it was a watershed moment.
Yet even in 2018, when allegations
of sexual abuse and misuse of power
have permeated pubic discourse
for months, more than 300 men chose
to go to an event where the only
women they would find would be
working as hostesses.
Forced to have their underwear
dictated to them, their mobile
phones removed, and sign disclaimers
that absolved the club
from any blame.
So, have attitudes really changed?
Or just been exposed?
And what real consequences
will there be and should
there be for those involved?
Here's Helen Thomas.
It has been a day of outrage.
Women were bought as bait.
The organisers chose to make
this a men-only event.
They chose to treat
the hostesses in this way
to make them parade
across the stage in front of men,
to make them wear black,
skimpy outfits and specify
the colour of their underwear.
A charity is prepared
to facilitate that
behaviour as long as wealthy men
open their cheque
books beggars belief.
The revelations from the Presidents
Club pose many questions.
Not least how is it that an event
which seems to have been running
in roughly this form
for at least a decade has
attracted so little scrutiny.
But, there's been
soul-searching elsewhere, too.
What is acceptable in the name
of charity fundraising
and what checks could or should
charities be doing
on their donations?
In 2016 alone, nearly 60
charities received a donation
from The Presidents Club,
according to its accounts.
If fundraising isn't
being carried out in a way
that is generally acceptable,
and ethical, then the fact that
you raise lots of money is,
in a way, neither here nor there.
We want fundraising by charities
to be open, honest and respectful
of those who donate.
It's really important
because it is about public trust
and confidence in what charities do
and how they do it.
The Presidents Club wasn't
being entirely straightforward.
Last week's auction included a tour
of the Bank of England
and tea with the governor,
Newsnight understands that
that had previously been
sold at another event -
for the Lord Mayor's
Appeal last November.
And that Bruce Ritchie, the
Presidents Club's joint chairman,
was the buyer.
The bank says it was resold last
week, without its permission.
And that the successful
bidder will not be taking
tea with the governor.
Given the importance of its annual
event to fundraising,
the charity disclosed almost no
details about it.
In 2016, the dinner raised
nearly £1.6 million.
It cost almost £600,000,
according to its accounts.
Many charities would be
pleased with that ratio.
Look back to 2013 and it's
a different story.
The event raised £264,000
but cost £400,700.
True, the dinner also generated
donations accounted for seven
leave from event income,
usually £2000 or £3000.
But still, from 2012 to 2015,
the cost of putting
on the dinner was roughly the same
or higher than the amount
it paid out to charity
beneficiaries each year.
The Presidents Club
declined to comment.
Charity sector experts told us that
sometimes these big, glitzy dinners,
even those without 130
hired hostesses, don't
make a great profit.
Still, they said, the Presidents
Club governance looked weak
for a charity of its size.
It only had three trustees, all men.
Still, the head of fundraising at
one well-known charity told us that
their checks wouldn't have
picked up an event of
this type and they said,
if they had questions
or concerns, they weren't sure
which of the sector's regulators
and watchdogs they
should ask for help.
So, at the moment,
the Charity Commission
for England and Wales,
we have just about
300 civil servants
working for us across
That's not a lot.
Our capacity is very stretched.
We've had some good news
this week, in fact,
that the Treasury has recognised
the demands on us, the volumes,
and has agreed, on a
short-term basis, to give
it a bit more funding,
£5 million a year more funding.
The Charity Commission has
launched an investigation.
The fallout from last week's 5-star
dinner is only just beginning.
Earlier, I talked to
the Culture Minister Margot James.
I asked what she thought
the Presidents Club event showed.
Well, I think it represents the very
worst form of sexism
with a smile on its face.
You know, very clubby,
apparently a "men only" event, and,
at which, women were
paraded around in a sort
of "paid for" hostess role.
A lot of stuff gets done in the name
of charity, I guess.
Do you think charities have
to be the moral arbiter
of these kinds of events?
Well, I think you can expect them
to be, if they're organising them.
I mean, this organisation,
The Presidents Club,
they booked these hostesses.
They sanctioned the conditions
under which they worked,
the nature of the clothing,
or lack thereof, that they
were allowed to wear,
and what we've heard about the sort
of instructions they were given,
as to how they were supposed
to entertain the men
attending the dinner.
The organisers put disclaimers out,
warning that they couldn't take
responsibility for anything that
happened to the women there.
That breaks the law, doesn't it?
I hope so, yes.
Certainly, that would be something
I would want to be investigated
and I know that the minister
responsible, who answered
the question very, very effectively
in the Commons earlier,
Anne Milton, is going to look
into whether there has
been any legal breaches.
Quite right, too.
When you see all these men,
the organisations, the business
figures distance themselves today,
in the last 24 hours,
from The Presidents Club,
what does that tell you?
Well, I think, actually,
it gives me signs of hope.
I don't think 20 years ago
they would have been bothered.
So, I think that it's a watershed
moment in the excess
of this kind of culture.
And I think that charities
and companies will think long
and hard before they hire women
to be groped by men or certainly
to entertain men in this kind
of environment in the future,
under the guise
of charitable giving.
You say it's a watershed moment.
Clearly, you're horrified
by the reports you've read.
But I wonder if you can honestly say
that you're shocked or surprised.
Um, I am surprised that such
an event happens with so many
captains of industry
and banking and what have
you in the Dorchester Hotel.
The Minister for Children and
Families, Nadhim Zahawi, was there.
Are you comfortable with him
carrying on in his government role?
Yes, I am because he
didn't stay long.
In fact, he left after
an hour and a half.
I think he left at 9:30 pm.
I've spoken to him.
I wanted to get the facts.
He went home very shortly
after the hostesses were announced
by the presenter and paraded
around the room.
I think that that indicates to me
that he was shocked by the events,
didn't like the culture,
the atmosphere, and left.
Why wouldn't he report it, though?
Why wouldn't he leave an event,
saying that was deeply
uncomfortable and tell someone?
Well, I think he went
home and told his wife.
But, the point is that
I think events degenerated
further into the evening.
I mean he...
I have been to, sort of, big dinners
occasionally and you're barely
in the main course by 9:30 pm.
So, I think he probably didn't
realise how bad it got.
Your thoughts now
on "male only" events.
Nadhim Zahawi wrote today
that he was never going
to attend another one.
I think that's very wise.
What about male-only clubs?
Well, I think they should
be things of the past.
I was at an event a couple of years
ago and I went to have a meeting
after the breakfast in the drawing
room of this club in Pall Mall,
The Travellers Club,
and I was told to move.
No women in the drawing room.
I mean, this kind of thing,
this disdain, lack of equality,
that devalues women has got to end.
Joining me now is Carolyn Mason,
of Exhibition Girls Limited.
She was a hostess at
The Presidents Club, five years ago.
And Gina Miller, a prominent
business woman and city figure.
She was also asked to be a hostess
and I will bring back in. What was
it like when you worked there?
you recognise this? I would say that
The Presidents Club in general was
an unusual event. The girls who work
at it... It wasn't a standard event
in the fact that they were... So
many of us working at this event. I
wouldn't say, as I was saying to
Jena earlier, it was not a
representation of a normal event I
would be staffing. We staff for
charity events, evening events, with
professional girls and hostesses to
When you were there, the kind
of things we have heard is that it
was uncomfortable for the women,
phones were removed, there was
groping, harassment, there was new
behaviour on all levels. Is that
something that you experienced or
recognised? -- there was lewd
What I wanted to say
today is that this is not a
representation of the corporate
event industry. This is a
professional industry. The girls,
the hostesses they are there to do a
job, they are events assistance,
they are there to support the event
in terms of hospitality.
did it have a reputation? Was it
This was unusual. In
terms of the friends who work in the
industry. We talk about this event.
It was unusual because there were so
many hostesses in correlation to
attendees at the event.
Did girls go
back, women go back year after year.
Was there a sense they knew then
what -- they knew what they were
getting into, they didn't mind, the
pay was good or was its new women as
they didn't know what to expect?
was at the Dorchester Hotel, a set
time, I didn't feel unsafe working
at this event. It was the amount of
girls that were at this event.
Personally, I didn't feel at risk or
at any time... I wasn't aware that
the girls around me were. It was
again and it was an auction. There
was limited time -- it was a dinner.
There was a bar environment after
the event. I wouldn't say this is a
standard corporate or charity event.
I want to come back to your business
in a second, the Gina
I want to come back to your business
in a second, the Gina, you were
asked to be a hostess at The
Presidents Club in the 90s.
event is notorious. I have come
across it twice, once when I was a
single mother, student, like lots of
the girls that were hired. For extra
money, you do it, part-time
actresses, streams, what ever. I
have spoken to girls who had been at
this event and said it was very
uncomfortable. And that they felt it
was actually something that they
didn't feel safe at. I had heard
that so I turned it down. Later,
2004, 2005, when I was running my
agency in the city I heard about it
again. I hadn't heard about it since
then. I had presumed it had become
an PC and that it had disappeared. I
was very surprised to hear it was
It shot you?
shocked me that it was going on.
it shocks you?
In the background of
Why would you turn
up to an event like this in the
environment in which we are in at
Are we in a different
I think we are.
public at which has been
considerable today that 300 or so
men still attended the event last
This is not a normal charity event.
To try to tar fundraising charities
as these sort of events is
Do think it is
Yes. The type of men
who attended our captains of
industry, men with real power and
influence and many men who, by day,
are spouting equality for women and
at night they are going to events
like this. It is completely wrong.
What does that say that the cultures
they are perpetuating in their own
Tell us about your
business. You run and events
management team and hire women.
Would you ever imagine putting on
those sorts of requests about what
women wear and having their phones
removed or things like that or do
they signed nondisclosure agreements
that is it normal? If it is normal,
explain to us.
A lot of people do
not understand the hostess industry
in general. We are event support. It
is very professional. The girls are
engaged to support events in a
capacity of professionalism. They
are used as meet and greet and
hospitality. Not just girls. I am
proudest is a professional
environment. I have had a business
for five years and have worked in it
for six years myself. I would not
put girls in a position where they
Do you think
your industry is now in trouble as a
result of this?
I guess that is why
I wanted to come on today foot of
this industry provides great
professional safe work for
actresses, dancers, and models. I'd
feel it is positive. Students as
well. It is a positive and safe
industry. What I did want to bring
up is I do feel there should be more
regulation of this industry. I am
very pro-employee rights, agency
rights. I have been speaking to my
local MP about this. I thought there
should be a high level of
One question is where it
starts being hypocritical. There are
plenty of women who work in this
industry, as Carolyn was saying. It
might come across... Does it sound
to you like a sexist industry, an
industry you would want to tell
women in general to get out because
they are being hostesses?
I think it
is this eventful more to say about
the men in this event and the
organisers of this event. Feeling
you can use them. Would be just as
bad if it were men being told to
wear tight trousers and butter now
shouts. The fact is the NDA is in
particular, you cannot sign away
your what -- your rights. You cannot
sign something where you agree harm
against yourself and stop it is
being used, not because it is
legally binding that as a bullying
We do have a role to play
for that we are hired as
hospitality. We are signed as meet
and greets. This is an actual job
that girls are providing. We are
event support. It is about making it
Thank you both very
The fire at Grenfell left a profound
effect on a whole community.
Not just those who suffered
so terribly from its effects,
but also those who came
to their rescue that
dreadful night in June.
Many of the fire fighters
have sought counselling
and support since then.
124 have received it directly,
another 500 have been contacted
by London Fire Brigades Counselling
and welfare teams.
At its helm is Dany Cotton,
the first ever female boss
of the London Fire Brigade,
who in her first year, oversaw
London's repeated terrorist
attacks and Grenfell.
Tonight, we speak to her and to one
of her firefighters.
Ricky Nuttall wrote an emotional
poem in the week after Grenfell.
It's the first time
he's spoken publicly
about what happened on the night,
and the impact it had.
I still feel guilt and I think
I will feel eternally guilty.
When so many people,
innocent people, lose their lives,
it's very, very hard to take.
I would defy anyone who attended
that night not to have been
affected, in some way.
And it definitely did affect me.
The whole incident
was so overwhelming.
You know, I've, sort of,
gone to work one person and I've
come back, effectively,
a different person.
With the police investigation
and inquiry ongoing,
it's very rare for firefighters
to speak publicly about
what happened at Grenfell.
Right, stretcher and myself
are both in the system.
And this week, the London Fire
Brigade gave Newsnight access to two
staff members who were there.
During a training session
at London's Chelsea fire station,
we met Ricky Nuttall,
a firefighter from
Battersea Red Watch,
who went into Grenfell
more than once.
And the commissioner,
who led the operation that night.
It was immediately obvious how
serious a fire it was
and how bad a fire it was.
You know, you get called
to a high-rise fire and you expect
to see flames in a window.
I think, for me, the main image that
will always last in my memory
is when I first arrived.
And when I looked up
at the building and thought to
myself, "This just can't
be happening, here".
And, for me, the responsibility was
absolutely enormous, on that night.
You know, I haven't been backwards
in coming forwards about saying
I went and sought counselling quite
early with our counselling
I know that when I joined,
a very long time ago, you know,
we didn't much talk about stuff,
because we just got on with stuff.
And, actually, that
was the way it was.
Most of the firefighters around this
table attended the Grenfell fire.
I saw my counsellor last week.
Their Commissioner's been open
about the psychological impact
and the experience on her.
The LFB has had a mental
health awareness drive
to support its staff since the fire.
The watch at the fire station
are quite a close watch.
They've been there for each
other and talked about
things in great depth.
124 firefighters have received
directly related to Grenfell
in the months since.
You don't realise you're
going through it.
It's only when you start coming
through the other side,
you look back at your
mindset, your attitude.
For Ricky, Grenfell
was the catalyst for his own mental
He too is having counselling.
It's the first time he's spoken
to the media about what happened.
The sheer scale of the incident was
like nothing I've ever seen before
and, hopefully, will
never see it again.
So, any feelings after that,
they, sort of, reared
their heads at a later point.
You know, in the days and the weeks
and the months afterwards.
Did you hit a crisis point?
I mean, how did you realise?
One morning I, literally, just...
Had a form of a breakdown.
You know, I started crying
and I couldn't stop
for a good few hours.
And I phoned my girlfriend
and I phoned my dad and I spoke
to family and I'm very lucky that
I've got a very close family.
Who I can rely on.
But that was the moment, really,
that I realised I need...
You know, this is...
I'm not in a good place,
I need more help here.
I was offered, by my GP,
when I spoke to my GP,
she asked me, "You know,
do you need time off work?"
And, to be honest with you,
that's the last thing I wanted.
I wanted to be at work, sort of,
speaking to people that have been...
That were there at the incident
with me and that, you know, have
had their own struggles and stuff.
Because you belong there, you know,
they're like a second family.
How valuable has it been,
the fact that your boss,
your top loss, Dany Cotton,
has talked very openly
about the counselling she is having?
I think it's...
I think it just reassures people
when you say, "OK, you know,
I haven't got anything to be fearful
of here, no-one is going to throw me
on the scrapheap, I'm
having some problems,
but so is the Chief".
Ready when you guys are...
More than half of a firefighter's
working life is spent
in training scenarios.
It's been widely reported
that the fire at Grenfell didn't
behave as firefighter had expected
it to, but here, they believed
they were as prepared
as they could have been.
Casualties on the deck.
You know, I'd be lying if I said
I wasn't apprehensive
about going in, if I didn't feel
a bit scared.
But I felt confident
in the capabilities of my equipment
and the capabilities of myself,
through the training I had received.
And with the people
I'm going in with.
You know, they're people that
I work with most days
of the week for a lot of years.
They're people that
I trust with my life.
The conditions themselves weren't
too dissimilar to any others.
The effort you had to
put in was different,
because of the length of time
you were in the incident for.
In a two-storey building,
going up one flight of stairs...
Going up a flight of stairs
in a fire condition is hard work.
It's smoky, you have
Going up one flight of stairs
in Grenfell was exactly the same.
With the difference that you've got
to go up to 20 flights of stairs
or 15 flights of stairs.
is much more taxing.
The conditions were very, very hard.
After Grenfell, fire stations
across London received an outpouring
of support from the public.
The horror of the tragedy
affected so many.
And there are questions
about whether more lives
could have been saved.
Our filming was agreed
on the basis that neither
could talk about the specifics
of what happened, because of
the ongoing investigation.
But I did ask the Commissioner
about the "stay put" advice
given to Grenfell residents.
Do you ever, in the middle
of the night, wake up,
as part of your coming to terms
with this and think,
"Did we give the right advice?
Should we have told
people to leave?"
I can't answer that.
Because of the investigation?
Because of the investigation.
That is absolutely right,
that is part of the investigation
and it needs to come out,
as part of that, so, you know...
But, the whole purpose of what we do
and the advice we give is normally
based on an absolute sound set
of principles about how
buildings behave in fire.
And the normal advice
about staying inside,
if your flat is not affected,
is the right advice to give,
because that's what goes
in, day in, day out,
through the whole of the UK.
You know, and that's the way that
buildings should respond.
I just don't want to do anything
to jeopardise the inquiry.
It's really important to me
that people get answers.
You question yourself for weeks
and months afterwards,
"Did I do everything?
Could I have pushed a bit harder?
Could I have done
As long as you can answer those
questions honestly to yourself
and know that you couldn't have
pushed any harder and know that
you did do everything you could,
and, literally, went out of your way
as much as possible to help those
people, which I did,
and I'm happy and confident that
I did, then at least
whether the guilt is there
or not, I can square that
away as unwarranted.
For me, you know, it is about
knowing that people gave their all.
I saw firefighters who were lying
on the ground, exhausted,
completely and utterly drained.
And yet, within ten minutes,
they wanted to go back
in and recommit and do it all again.
Because everybody just had that
absolute sheer sense of purpose.
My breaths were too few.
My body exhausted.
Now mentally, too.
The silence of death...
Immediately after Grenfell,
Ricky wrote a poem to try to make
sense of what happened.
It's now been made into a video
to get the message out further.
One firefighter's feelings
shared by many, no doubt,
about the impact of the fire.
I just felt broken.
Heartbroken by what had happened,
heartbroken to think
about the people that had suffered.
Heartbroken that I couldn't do more.
So I don't think I'll ever...
Sort of, you know, square
Grenfell away as, "Oh,
I'm fine about that," I won't ever
be fine about it.
I don't think anyone will.
Cape Town - one of the most
beautiful cities in the world -
is on the brink of crisis: a drought
so severe the city's taps
may run completely dry.
Years of unseasonably dry weather
means the sprawling city,
home to four million people,
could become the first major
metropolis to run out of water.
Experts believe unless residents
come together to radically reduce
the amount they use,
the taps and toilets
will run dry on April 12th.
It's an event the authorities
are calling "Day Zero".
Over the last two years, the city
has seen historically low rainfall,
with 153.5mm recorded
at Cape Town's airport
in 2017 compared to more
than 500mm in 2014.
If that happens, businesses say that
overnight they will have
to shut down or cut back on staff,
putting more pressure
on South Africa's stagnant economy.
The city's residents are already
heavily restricted on how much water
they can use and have been told
to cut down even more.
Well, a short time ago
I spoke to the Premier
of Western Cape, Helen Zille.
She is the former leader
of the Democratic Alliance and has
been in charge of the Cape Town
region as both Mayor
and Premier for over a decade.
I asked her what she expects
will happen in the city
when Day Zero hits.
Well, first of all, we are trying
to prevent Day Zero,
for all we're worth.
But, when the dams are,
on average 13.5% full,
we will announce Day Zero.
That means that the taps to much
of Cape Town will be switched off
and we will have to rely
on the distribution and the fetching
of water for people to have drinking
water in their homes.
Do you actually think the taps
in Cape Town will run dry then?
Well, there is a chance of that.
There's no doubt about that.
We're not too far from 13.5%, now.
We're at 26% and we have a way to go
till the winter rains come.
So, unless every single person
cuts water consumption
for all their usages out
of the municipal system to under 50
litres per person per day,
we will hit Day Zero.
We're doing everything
we can to prevent it,
but that is the reality.
Our viewers will know that Cape Town
is a city of huge inequality.
There is enormous wealth, gardens
with sprinklers, swimming pools.
Is water still going
into those resources now?
People are not allowed
to fill summing pools.
People have not been allowed
to water their gardens
for a very long time.
People have been very innovative.
What are we to make,
then, of these reports
of resentment of anger,
that some citizens feel about others
overusing their water,
refusing to modify their behaviour?
Yes, there is a lot of anger, and I
can understand that, absolutely.
You know, South Africans
are very good in pulling
together in a real crisis.
But our back has got to be
against the wall,
before we can read
the writing on it.
What I'm saying to South Africans
now, especially Capetonians,
is that our backs
are against the wall,
is that our backs are against
the wall, and let's do what we've
done many times before in Cape Town
and in South Africa,
particularly, and pull ourselves
out of the hole we've
dug by our bootstraps.
You have said in the past
that this is a challenge that
exceeds anything a major city has
had to face anywhere in the world
since World War II or 9/11.
Is that hyperbole or do you believe
it's that serious, now?
Well, I believe running out
of water is that serious.
There are four and a half million
people in Cape Town.
If municipal water systems run
dry in a city of this
size, it is serious,
and it is that serious.
I'm not saying it's
bigger than 9/11, but I'm
saying it poses as much
of a challenge as a catastrophe such
as 9/11 did, but in
a completely different way.
So, that's why we have all hands
on deck, but we have more time
to prepare than they did at 9/11
and that's what makes a difference
and we have to be prepared.
Do you have a message,
at this point for Western leaders,
for your leaders watching this,
to try and understand
the gravity of the situation?
My message is simply this:
we have to keep our water
consumption until the rains come
and even after the rains have
come, to below 50 litres
per person, per day.
This drought could never
have been foreseen.
The South African Weather Services
have said to me that their models
don't work any more,
in an era of climate change.
The climate change projections
were to have hit us in 2025.
They came ten years before that.
This is very real
and very challenging.
And we all have to pull together,
when the experts can't predict
anything any more, and we have
to make sure that we control
what we can control,
which is our own behaviour.
And make sure we are ready
for Day Zero and that we're
pulling together as,
really, South Africans can
do, when they need to.
Earlier this evening,
the death was announced
of Mark E Smith, founder,
frontman and sometimes
fearsome capo of the British
post-punk rockers The Fall.
He was 60.
Mark E Smith was one of many
stars-to-be who attended
a near-mythical Sex Pistols gig
in his native Manchester in 1976,
and decided a career
in music was for him.
Through four decades,
and more than 30 albums,
Smith was the one constant
in The Fall, parting company
with more than 50 band
members and entourage,
including a number of his own wives.
Many fellow musicians have
been offering tributes
to Smith this evening,
though it's doubtful if any
of them will quite compare
to his own farewell to his champion,
the late DJ John Peel.
That made for one of the truly
memorable Newsnight moments,
as Stephen Smith reports.
I came top in English, like, two
years on the run and they never
thought it was me. I like that, it
was good being a Smiths, you get
away with murder, you know.
Even by the standards of punk, from
which The Fall emerged, Mark E Smith
was unlikely front man.
Let me tune
it up. Just play it. Couldn't play
an instrument, couldn't dance and
with a vocal style once described as
a unique one note delivery somewhere
between amphetamine spiked rant and
alcohol Yadav yarn --
alcohol Yadav yarn -- alcohol
But he outlasted
almost all of his contemporaries,
becoming a unique and influential
figure in British music and culture.
He was the one constant of The
Fall's line-up. By one estimate, the
band got 366 members in its four
decades or so. Smith said he was the
only man apart from Kalex Mac prince
who could recruit talent off the
street. -- apart from Prince.
As for his songwriting, one critic
called it a kind of northern English
magic realism that mixed industrial
grime with the North Lake that with
the unearthly and the uncanny.
-- mixed industrial grime with the
unearthly. The former champion by
the Radio 1 DJ John Peel on it was
inevitable that grub turned to Smith
went John Peel died in 2004 -- that
Newsnight turned to Smith. He became
obsessed with The Fall from various
points, he played endlessly and
endlessly, must have been an
What, for The
Yeah. Me and John had an
agreement, we were never friends or
anything like that. This is what I
admired about him, he was always
objective. People forget that.
interested to know what you thought
of his programme, Mark? When you
listened to it, presumably you
listen to it a lot.
I listened to it
in the early 70s when I was a
teenager and that. And I heard a lot
of Jamaican staff and German staff
through him. -- German
He seemed to find something for
every generation including The Fall?
Am I allowed to speak now?
Yeah, whatever you say. Are
you the new DJ?
Truth be told, an interview with
Mark E Smith was sometimes even more
enjoyable than a new album. In one
of his last interviews, Smith said
"People still cross the road from
me, I've still got that, I can clear
a pub when I want to, it's a
I'm joined now by Tim Burgess
from The Charlatans.
He was a close friend
of Mark E Smith and he's with us
on Skype from Cheshire.
It's very nice of you to join us.
Manchester and Salford boys, you
must be feeling this very deeply
I'm gutted. It's a
really... You know, if they really
sad night to night. -- it's a really
sad night tonight.
He was such a
character. We saw him at his best or
maybe you think at his worst in the
Newsnight Ndidi but he took so much
pleasure in that cantankerous nurse
and rebelliousness -- Newsnight
He was always
unpredictable. I have loved The Fall
since I was 15 years old. They had
been there all my life. Mark has
been there all through my life. So,
you know, it's really sad news. I
did get to know him. You know, we
became friends. You know, I would
just sit and listen to his stories,
really. He's just fascinating. You
know, quoting Nietzsche one minute
and then scrounging a cigarette the
next minutes. His favourite artist
was Weird Al Yankovich and he really
He drew on everything and
he used a lot of poetry, he was very
lyrical. And sci-fi came into his
work as well, didn't it? Was there
anything he didn't touch?
know, every lyric is just pure gold,
What do you make of that
idea, Steve was counting up the band
members he'd lost along the way. But
he used that amazing phrase that he
could recruit from the street. What
was that? Was that a very personal
approach? Or was it something that
he spotted in other people?
he is a nonmusician, I think to find
a rawness in other people, that
helped him propel his vision. You
know, he was always in the present.
You know, he, kind of, you know,
always relevant. And I think... That
one of the reasons.
described The Fall is always
different and always the same. I
wonder if you can, sort of, unpick
that's for us, how do you hear that?
Well, any time I ever spent time
with him he would always ask what my
dad did. Or what does your dad too.
I obviously told him he worked in a
chemical factory but he always used
to find that really important. I
always used to... You know, I
wouldn't feel satisfied that I've
had a proper conversation with him
unless he asked me that question.
guess, in some ways, we know he
stopped touring and his death was
not completely unexpected, but, give
us, if you can, your sense of the
memory or the phrase, I don't know,
the look that will remain with you
from his friendship.
I mean... I'll always think of him
as a genius.
I can't really say much more than
Laughing in the pub.
It's great to
speak to you, thank you.
That's all we have time for.
I will be back tomorrow. I hope to
see you then. Goodbye.