What inspires Hans Ulrich Obrist and seven other cultural tastemakers

The heads of the Serpentine, Secret Cinema, Glasgow International, the Young Vic and others on how they find fresh talent and new ideas

Hans Ulrich Obrist: ‘I can’t live without Instagram’

Swiss-born curator, writer and art historian and artistic director at the Serpentine Galleries. Since 2009, Obrist has held a top 10 spot in ArtReview magazine’s annual list of the art world’s 100 most powerful people.

I believe a lot in rituals. I get up very early every morning, around five or six o’clock, and I always start the day by reading 15 minutes of Edouard Glissant, a poet, writer and philosopher. I have every book he ever wrote at home and I’ll just pick one and read.

For me, Glissant’s work is like a daily toolbox. He comes from Martinique, which is one of a string of islands [making up the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea]. A cultural exchange takes place between these islands and yet they preserve their own identities. So Glissant’s work explores how we can engage with globalisation without falling into the trap of homogenisation. His books are an inspiration, particularly in this current climate of a lack of tolerance. I’m always considering how we could develop exhibitions that embrace mondiality, which don’t lead to separation but to dialogue, which build bridges.

After Glissant, I go running, often in the park, because I love London parks. In this city, you can discover new things every day, even after living here for many years. Then it’s breakfast and the office. I read about 30-40 magazines every month: all the art publications through to London Review of Books, the New Yorker, the Economist, Scientific American. In my bag currently I have about 150 articles from the last two weeks; I cut them out and share them with friends. They often trigger something. For example, many years ago I read about a group of 60s architects who had questioned the masterplan, and about Yona Friedman, and this year he has actually built one of our summer houses at the Serpentine.

With social media, there are the ones I use for information and the ones I broadcast on. Twitter is both. With Facebook, I never really use it actively, just to broadcast my interviews with artists on Facebook Live, or sometimes they’re on Periscope. Over the last six months, I’ve also increasingly been using Snapchat. I follow some people I find inspiring, but I also broadcast films, little performances by artists, short sparks, short poems.

I can’t live without Instagram. I look at it a lot, about half an hour to an hour a day and then post. My handwriting project on Instagram is a protest against the disappearance of handwriting – I post a handwritten note there every day. But I also find Instagram very inspiring. The diverse ways people use it is exciting – whether it’s the artist Wolfgang Tillmans using it for activism with his anti-Brexit posters, or Jennifer Higgie [co-editor of Frieze magazine] who posts about a different extraordinary female artist every day, with a little text of biography so it’s really a protest against forgetting.

My absolute favourite account though is from Alice Rawsthorn, the design critic of the international New York Times. She structures her posts by week, so each week there’s a new theme – “Design and Light” or “Design Families” – and each day there’s a new post related to the theme, so for example, there was a stunning lighthouse from 1750 for “Design and Light”. In a way, she came up with the rules of the game, to actually structure it by weeks, because most people have it as a daily thing. I’m completely obsessed by her Instagram – it’s a fascinating vision of design that makes us look at the world differently.

I always have my best ideas in Sils Maria, a village in the Swiss mountains. I’m from Switzerland and spent a lot of time there as a child. Now I go about once or twice a year. There’s something very magical about the place, the light – it’s almost at 2,000 metres altitude – it’s glacial, it has big mountains. Most of my exhibition and book ideas I’ve had there.

My favourite cultural venue is actually an imaginary construct – it’s the unrealised Fun Palace by the theatre director Joan Littlewood and the architect Cedric Price, who in the 60s came up with this idea of a cultural centre bringing together all artistic disciplines, removing all silos. As a thought experiment, I’m inspired by it every day. Unfortunately the Fun Palace was never built, but you can get a sense of Cedric Price’s work by going to his amazing aviary created with Lord Snowdon at London Zoo. It’s my favourite building in London.

Favourite TV I mostly watch on demand, a lot of Netflix. Recently it’s been The People v OJ Simpson. I also like this exercise of looking at all the films that a director has done – like Tarantino – going into breadth and depth at the same time.

My litmus test for new ideas I always ask myself: “Is it urgent?” I use that word often. IC

Fabian Riggall.
‘Once Upon a Time in America made me fall in love with cinema’: Fabian Riggall. Photograph: Greg Funnell/The Guardian

Fabien Riggall: ‘I have good ideas in the shower, so I get out and get my house wet’

As founder of Secret Cinema, Riggall has transformed how we watch films: since 2007 his live cinematic events have invited costumed fans to explore the immersive world of a movie, from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to Star Wars. He now plans to expand into the US and produce films.

On a good morning, my routine is to get up around 7am and go for a run around Victoria Park, east London, near where I live, or a swim. I feel much more relaxed if I exercise in the morning, but if I’m tired I just don’t do it. I tend to have a lot of good ideas when I’m in the shower, so I get out and get my whole house wet. Then I’ll go and have a coffee in a place called Climpson & Sons and just have half an hour before the day starts to write to-do lists and notes.

The biggest influence on my career has been going to the cinema when I was very young and seeing Once Upon a Time in America, a very violent gangster film from the 80s. I was living in Morocco at the time and I sneaked out to watch it. It’s a very romantic, epic film and it had a profound effect on me. I fell in love with cinema and with the idea of what cinema was.

One non-cultural thing that inspires my work is politics. We did a big campaign for Remain through Secret Cinema; for Star Wars, we worked with the Refugee Council; for 28 Days Later, we supported the junior doctors; for Dr Strangelove, we worked with War Child. I believe that all art is political by nature and I’m passionate about people getting involved in political matters.

This summer, I went to Glastonbury, which I think is one of England’s great cultural achievements: it’s an extraordinary balance between types of culture and I like the madness and chaos of it. Just after the sad news about Brexit I saw Damon Albarn perform with the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians; it was about 60 musicians, with all these different singers. That was special.

Favourite cafe to work in I like the simplicity of Le Pain Quotidien: you sit on these long tables and work really easily.

Favourite app I spend most of my life trying to get off social media, but one app I love is Waze, a GPS-based navigation app that takes you away from traffic. I use it a lot when I’m travelling. KB

Maria Balshaw.
‘A seminal piece of work for me’: Maria Balshaw with Helen Chadwick’s Piss Flowers at Jupiter Artland. Photograph: Murdo Macleod/The Guardian

Maria Balshaw: ‘If I feel a bit sick at the thought of an idea, that means it’s a bit exciting’

Director of the Whitworth and Manchester Art Galleries, Balshaw’s dramatic £15m transformation of the Whitworth earned it the prestigious Museum of the Year award in 2015. Also director of culture for Manchester City Council, international art magazine Apollo described her as “a driving force behind the city’s cultural renaissance”.

At home, I read interior design magazines mostly – Elle Decoration, World of Interiors, Wallpaper*. When they plop on the doormat I’m always very pleased. In work, it’s more Frieze, Art Monthly, Artforum, Apollo. I dream of different lives by regularly visiting the Modern House website which, if Le Corbusier and associates are of interest to you, is the most heartbreaking website ever. Basically, the Modern House sells post-1940s houses in the UK and they’re not all super-expensive; some of them are beautifully done up ex-council places by Goldfinger or around the Barbican. And I keep saying: “I love that! Look at this 1960s house – I want to live there!” They recently published a fantastic coffee-table book and they write about the houses beautifully; they’re like museum entries for houses I’d like to live in.

Visual pleasure and visual exploration are really important to me, but I’m also a profoundly physical person. I have my best ideas in the 30 minutes following my almost daily yoga session. For me, yoga creates space within the mind as well as realigning the body so that the solutions to whatever I’ve been grappling with in the previous 24 hours or 24 weeks just sort of emerge.

One of the litmus tests I have for new ideas is in the body. If I feel a bit sick at the thought of an idea, a bit “oooh, God, this is scary”, that actually means it’s a bit exciting, doesn’t it? That feeling in the gut makes me realise that, yes, this is a challenging and therefore sensible thing to do.

I walk a lot; I really love walking in the landscape, seeing beautiful things. One of my favourite cultural venues is Jupiter Artland, an outdoor sculpture park about 12 miles outside Edinburgh. It has a really wide range of contemporary sculpture, all commissioned for the site, beautiful woodland and fantastic walks through rolling fields, as well as a lovely house. The artworks include a nine-metre-high shotgun by Cornelia Parker propped up against a very tall tree and a wonderful amethyst grotto by Anya Gallaccio. Installed just beside the cafe are Helen Chadwick’s Piss Flowers – a kind of garden of Piss Flowers, which I love; they were a seminal piece of work for me when I was younger.

In Manchester, in the year since it opened, I’ve been going a lot to Home, the multi-artform space in the centre of town. It’s rapidly become a great social space with a diverse crowd, and that’s also true for my teenagers who are 19 and 16; it’s become their space as well. I have lots of breakfast meetings in Fig + Sparrow, a cafe in the northern quarter that also sells really nice Danish homewares. It’s run by two artist-photographers who can’t make a living being artist-photographers so are cafe owners too.

I could happily live without all technology, but I’m not violently opposed to it – I just don’t like it to take up too much of the time that I have to be in the world myself. Instagram is my favourite social media because it’s the most visual. I’m quite picky about who I follow – I only follow people who have a very good eye. So one of my favourites is British-Nigerian fashion designer and occasional curator Duro Olowu, who is just fabulous. He could be commenting on something in his professional life or passing through an airport in Lagos and he sees an extraordinarily dressed woman and catches the print and the style.

The thing I really couldn’t live without, though, is my camera on my iPhone, because I want to capture the world as I’m going along, the things I need to remember – and I need visual anchors for them.

In the role that I’m in now, a very small number of artists have been sounding boards, touchstones, inspirations, including Marina Abramović, Richard Wentworth and Cornelia Parker. For me, the process of working with artists is about exploring the not yet known and that’s why I love my job. But for my whole life my family have been the most incredible anchor. My husband, Nick, who is a work colleague as well, is just so optimistic about possibilities. And there’s nothing better than a toddler’s or a teenager’s view on whatever particularly difficult work problem you’re wrestling with. My daughter, Lily, forged an incredibly close bond with Marina Abramović when she worked with us in Manchester in 2009 and every so often, even now, she’ll say: “You know if you asked Marina that question she’d say, ‘Don’t do it’ or she’d tell them to get lost”. But Lily is 16 now so she’d use less polite language than that. In fact, another test for new ideas comes from Marina; she said: “If you have a lot of ideas and you write them down and think, ‘Oh I really like that one’, she said, ‘Throw that idea away, it’s too easy’.”

If you only work you lose your capacity to have ideas. So, as I said, I do a lot of physical practice but also gardening. Growing vegetables and things that I have started from seed and that end up on the plate is incredibly important to me. When I was a PhD student, I worked in a remarkable south Indian restaurant in Brighton and I learned how to cook Goan and Keralan food so I particularly like to cook that sort of food, and I live in the curry mile in Manchester so I can get all the ingredients in really big bags. Most of the good projects I’ve worked on have started with a dinner at my house.

Unmissable TV These past couple of months it’s been The Legacy, a Danish drama with an absolutely monstrous female gallery director. The observations around the art world have been really hilarious. IC

David Lan.
‘My iPhone is like my third hand’: David Lan. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

David Lan: ‘My best ideas come when I’m climbing the steps into an aeroplane’

Artistic director of the Young Vic theatre since 2000, South African-born Lan has transformed the venue near London’s South Bank into a multi-award-winning theatrical powerhouse.

When I have an idea I ask myself, do I know how to do this? And if the answer is yes, I don’t do it – we’ve done that, so let’s not bother. The thing that’s energising in making theatre is the unknown: trying to make things, inventing, improvising.

I always find I get ideas when I’m about to go somewhere, travelling – often it’s when I’m climbing up the steps into an aeroplane. But it’s always going. Coming back is different and I don’t have any ideas at all. The other place I have ideas is watching other people’s shows, although it’s usually not obviously connected to what I’m watching. I’ll sit for the rest of the show with my fingers crossed, going: “I know there are two or three things I’ve got to remember”.

I do a lot of thinking when I’m swimming, especially in the summer, when I go away for a while and I swim all the time. There’s a great big lake in south-west France, near Carcassonne, where I’ve been swimming for 20 years. I just go round and round, up and down, and there’s almost never anybody else there. I go swimming in London too, but not as much as I’d like to. At the right time of year I go up to the Hampstead ponds, but really you can just splash about.

I love watching dance at Sadler’s Wells – the Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter or avant-garde choreographers such as William Forsythe or Pina Bausch. I think her work is a bit patchy; sometimes, it’s the best thing you’ve ever seen and sometimes you can’t wait for it to end. But at its best, it’s fantastically interesting.

Somewhere not in London that I like very much is the Amsterdam Toneelgroep. There are two theatres next to each other: one was probably built in the late 18th century, the Stadsschouwburg. It’s a beautiful, big, old, rather baroque theatre with a huge stage; to the side of it is the new theatre that Ivo van Hove’s company has built. It’s very plain, very beautifully designed and the work they do there is great.

My iPhone is like my sixth finger or my third hand. I use it all the time – I make notes on it, it’s got my diary on it – although I can live without and do periodically live without it. If I’m walking down the street I feel I’m not complete if I’m not sending an email or something. I used to say I could do two things at once, having a conversation and doing something with my iPhone, but I’ve discovered that I don’t remember the conversation or what I was doing on the phone. So the truth is that I can’t.

Quite often, I’m at the theatre at 8am, 8:30am, and often I don’t leave there until 10pm. So my mornings are about speed: I can get from bed to desk in about 55 minutes. I’ve been doing the same journey for so many years now I can do it really fast. I can generally do it in under an hour; best ever is 50 minutes. That does not include breakfast, just getting there with a reasonable quantity of clothes on.

My favourite websites The Guardian, and this American political website called Democracy Now! – they cover stories that very often the other papers don’t, or the papers in this country anyway.

I read... all the time, European history mostly, from the 14th century through until now. I discovered, quite late in my life, what amazing historians we have in this country. KB

Sarah McCrory
‘I really love karaoke but I’m quite bad at it. I don’t care’: Sarah McCrory. Photograph: Ruth Clark

Sarah McCrory: ‘Some of my favourite artists have come from their city’s subcultures and music scenes’

Appointed director of Glasgow International in 2012, McCrory has overseen two acclaimed years of the biennial festival of visual art. Formerly a curator for Frieze and Studio Voltaire in London, she is renowned for championing young and underrepresented artists.

I didn’t really go to a gallery until I was in my late teens; I wasn’t interested in visual arts. It was music that shaped my interest in the arts. When I was younger, I moved around a lot – I’m a military child – and by knowing about music I could very quickly find my people, my friends. So in terms of the sort of contemporary art I’m interested in, some of my favourite artists have come from being involved in the subcultures, the music and art scene of their city. For example, in a way, Mark Leckey’s whole practice is born out of a very specific working-class subculture that’s strongly tied to music and the rave scene. The way he talks about it is that music distinguishes different tribes. So to get a quick overview of good music that’s out I read websites like Pitchfork, Triple Canopy and Fact (like a British version of Pitchfork). A lot of those sites also commission playlists of new music by DJs and musicians, which are a great way of having fresh music to listen to without doing the legwork. I used to buy a lot of new music but I’m now restricted by time and I don’t really go to record shops any more.

I read a lot online. The commercial production company Somesuch commissions and publishes great writing on its website – fiction and essays – from personal pieces about something very tragic to humorous, insightful pieces on people’s work. It’s just published a small book of fiction too. I love it that this company, which makes really high-end adverts for huge brands, has also done that.

I also religiously follow the journalist Charlie Porter, who has a unique voice – very funny and opinionated. He comes from a fashion background but is now writing about art and there’s a sense of freedom to what he writes because he’s coming out of left field. Sometimes, people caught up in their own industry forget that they use a particular kind of jargon so when someone comes in from another place it’s really refreshing. Visual art is like anything else – there’s a whole industry behind it and sometimes you have to fight a little to get through the structures to the good stuff, the meat and potatoes.

It’s hard to choose one artist who has been my biggest influence but the American artist Mike Kelley is someone I keep coming back to. I think that’s partly because he was a really prolific writer as well. He was able to look at subcultures and write them into stories. One of my interests is in transgressive practices or grotesqueries and Mike wrote a really good book called Foul Perfection.

I’m very fond of a group of galleries that work with emerging or under-represented artists in London, such as Studio Voltaire, the Showroom and the Chisenhale. The recent Sharon Hayes show at Studio Voltaire was superb. Around the country the Hepworth, Dundee Contemporary Arts and Baltic are great venues with strong international programmes. In Glasgow, GoMA is being revitalised with a brilliant new curator, though I’m biased because I recently curated a Cosima von Bonin exhibition there. And Kinning Park Complex is an amazing multi-use community centre that houses performances, workshops and events of all types. The last thing I saw there was Glasgow-based feminist warriors Fallopé and the Tubes.

My favourite pub in the world is the Horse Shoe in Glasgow, where they have karaoke upstairs every night. I heard about it from a cabbie who informed me that a high percentage of the clientele had got quite far on The X Factor. I really love karaoke but I’m quite bad at it. It’s embarrassing, but I don’t care. Sometimes, after a few drinks, I get into a bit of a rant about how everyone should have the right to sing. I like it when people surprise you. A friend, a brilliant artist called Stephen Sutcliffe, got up one night and did Elton John’s I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues, and it was amazing. The Horse Shoe also has a bit of a community centre feeling sometimes: you’ll see tables of mum, auntie, nan and the kids who are there for two hours before they go off clubbing. It reminds me a bit of the social centre we used to go to with my family and grandparents when I was much younger, of when we used to go “up the club”.

Non-arts stuff I enjoy I have started horseriding again after an 18-year hiatus. When you move out of London your leisure time is freed up; you don’t slip into the pressures of going to five art openings a night and all of that. IC

Kully Thiarai director of National Theatre Wales
‘TED talks allow you to connect with the world from different perspectives’: Kully Thiarai. Photograph: Gary Calton/The Observer

Kully Thiarai: ‘My favourite cultural venues challenge the norm’

Artistic director at National Theatre Wales, Thiarai is only the second woman, and the first Asian director to lead one of Britain’s national theatre companies. Previously she transformed Doncaster’s cultural scene at the helm of new theatre Cast and has led some of Britain’s key theatre venues and producing companies.

When I want to be nourished I go to Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It’s a place for contemplation and inspiration – you never quite know what you’re going to see. Even the most permanent works can shed new light just because the weather looks different or your walk to it has been from somewhere else. It’s calming to be in nature in that way, to see art in the context of the real world.

My favourite cultural venues challenge the norm or at least question it, all in different ways. It’s wonderful to go to a big mainstream venue, but it’s a very different experience encountering the new, the rough and ready. What I find interesting is exploring how we refresh our artform, how we find collisions between things rather than specifying this is theatre, this is dance, this is music. Theatre in the Mill at Bradford University was very important to me when I was a student there. I saw some extraordinary things. Ruth Mackenzie ran it then and her programme was very inspiring – shows from the very young Phoenix Dance and the early work of Gay Sweatshop. She became a real influence. And the venue continues to have work that is surprising and new and emerging. It’s a bit like the Hub in Leeds, a space that artists use in different ways, often to present work in its early stages. A nice creative conversation goes along with the presenting of work there and I really love that. I’m also a big admirer of Contact in Manchester. It’s refreshing to hang out in a venue with so much energy and such a commitment to young people.

I’ve recently moved to Cardiff so I’m still discovering lots of places there. It’s got a real vibrancy. A cafe called Milgi does healthy food and juices and is a lovely place to hang out, with great music. Waterloo Tea in Wyndham Arcade is wonderful and there’s a restaurant called the Purple Poppadom – I love the name, but also it does the most delicious food.

I like watching TED talks to come across a wide variety of ideas, to connect with the world from different perspectives. They’re short and snappy and you can digest them on the move. The famous Ken Robinson talk about creativity and schools is joyous to watch because he explains things brilliantly and it’s a masterclass in how to present ideas.

The four questions I always try to ask about new work or projects are: why this, why now, why here and who for? They’re also the questions I ask when I’m watching other people’s things. It feels like how is a separate question once you’ve worked out the why.

Best social media I dip into Twitter a lot. My favourite tweets are Lemn Sissay’s poems, especially in the mornings. IC

Madani Younis, right, with a fellow patron of west London restaurant Ochi.
‘You never know who you are going to meet’: Madani Younis, right, with a fellow patron of west London restaurant Ochi. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

Madani Younis: ‘I’m trying to reveal what this moment means in our cultural history’

Artistic director at the world-renowned new writing theatre based in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, and former head of Freedom Studios theatre company in Bradford. When Younis accepted the Bush role in 2012 he became London’s first non‑white artistic director.

This will probably come as a big surprise, but I’m a huge fan of mixed martial arts, otherwise known as cage fighting, which is an unfortunate expression. The female fighters in mixed martial arts are the most exciting part of the sport. I watched boxing as a kid and found it a bit brutal, but reading Ernest Hemingway made me appreciate it and now mixed martial arts, in a very different way. He writes about it as a balletic art. For him, it’s about the human condition: you enter the ring and you take your destiny, your dreams, with you. Last year, I directed a boxing play entitled The Royale, about Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight boxing champion of the world. I’ve waited my whole career to direct a sports play. So, yes, I love mixed martial arts and I love the mmafighting.com app.

My mother has been a huge influence on me. She introduced me to the writers who really inspired me early on, people like James Baldwin, Derek Walcott, Ralph Ellison, Bell Hooks. When I read Derek Walcott’s play Dream on Monkey Mountain, aged 16, it just blew my mind. In the same way, reading Baldwin writing about Harlem in the 60s, there was a resonance: I thought, yes, I know what that feels like.

I always loved words. I think it was only when I was about 17 that I really fell in love with theatre: I went to the Old Red Lion in Islington, north London, and saw a play about the Troubles in Northern Ireland by Seamus Finnegan. That was the moment. I felt that that artistic communion couldn’t be replicated in any other medium.

These days, going to a monthly spoken-word night at the Forge in Camden, called Out-Spoken, makes me feel like I did when I was 17. I’ve seen some amazing artists there and there’s no censorship, no notes, no separation between me and the artist on stage – just words from their mouth to your ears, unadulterated. It’s a beautiful kind of communion. Out-Spoken is run by the artist Anthony Anaxagorou and the venue only seats about 100-120 people, but it’s always a great mix of people – City types, younger men and women.

I’m also a huge fan of the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton. It’s a beautifully conceived building. For me, it holds up against any of our other great museums and galleries in the city; I always take visitors there. It’s a reminder of a great lineage of men and women and the impact they’ve had on both our city and our sense of being as a country.

There’s a West Indian restaurant/takeaway in Uxbridge Road called Ochi that I love because it’s been there probably since the 60s/70s and it’s an absolute staple of the community in Shepherd’s Bush. Because of the music venues in the area, such as the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, now known as the O2, Ochi has this really inspiring wall of fame, with shots of people that have been there to eat, like Bob Marley, Amy Winehouse and Lauryn Hill. The food is amazing and it’s a beautiful place to hang out; you never know who you are going to meet or what you’re going to end up talking about. The other place I like is Bush Hall Dining Rooms, an independent restaurant in Uxbridge Road. The food is really great and it has a cool vibe.

The questions I always ask about new ideas are: what is it that this piece is trying to reveal about the world? And: from what vantage point are they trying to do that? More specifically, as a new writing theatre in Shepherd’s Bush, one of London’s most diverse areas, I always ask: how does this speak to London today? In a way I’m trying to reveal – not in a touristy way – what this moment means in our cultural history, however uncomfortable or inspiring. If Charles Dickens were alive now, this version of London would be amazing to him.

My favourite websites Media Diversified gives me another version of the news. It’s a response to the lack of black and minority ethnic journalists writing in our mainstream papers and it covers news, culture, sport and comment. It’s great seeing young journalists quickly develop their voice in that space. I’ve also really been taken by Vice News in the two years since it launched, particularly its global perspective and the level of investigative journalism.

Unmissable TV Daredevil on Netflix. It’s based on a Marvel comic book and the writing is really muscular. The other one is House of Cards; my wife and I are addicted to it. What an amazing insight into what politics really is all about. IC

Tom Baker
‘Every night I set a new tune to wake me up’: Tom Baker Photograph: Carolina Faruolo

Tom Baker: ‘Being in a teenage band gave me a great foundation’

Founder of Field Day festival in east London and the live music booking agency Eat Your Own Ears, Baker is often described as London’s best promoter. Since beginning his career distributing flyers for All Tomorrow’s Parties, he has worked with artists including Florence and the Machine, the xx, PJ Harvey and Four Tet.

I’ve got a Sonos alarm and every night I set a new tune to wake me up, usually the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin or Jimi Hendrix – a classic, something I want to get stuck in my head for the next day. Then, once I’m up, I’ll go downstairs and my seven-year-old son will already be listening to music so I’ll chat with him while making coffee on the stove top.

I’m biased [because we put on acts there], but in terms of gig venues I really like the Moth Club, a new 300-capacity venue in Hackney, east London. It’s an old working men’s club with a great sound system. It’s been renovated but very tastefully and it’s got a special feel to it because they’ve still got all the old war memorabilia and old tin hats.

Even though I’ve got young children sometimes I come back from a gig and I just need a bit of head space, so I’ll watch a Netflix series, even if it’s midnight. I’ve seen all the obvious ones. I’ve been really enjoying Peaky Blinders recently.

I was five when I went to my first Glastonbury with my parents and then I went every year until I was 12. I started going again when I was 17 with friends. It’s such a magical place I think it definitely inspired me. As a teenager, I was in a band and just embracing so much music – everything from Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew to Neil Young to minimal classical music. It was all very physical – sharing CDs, you’d work your way through a pile of 10 CDs, whole albums, not just a single track. That gave me a great foundation. I absorbed a lot.

I normally have my best ideas... When I’m at an event and think, oh that’s a good way to do it or I’ll wake up the next day and suddenly, ahhh, how about that? IC


Interviews by Imogen Carter and Kathryn Bromwich

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Twenty events to enrich mind and wallet, from Hockney in Cambridge to Cardiff’s 6 Music fringe festival

Susannah Clapp, Sarah Crompton, Laura Cumming, Kitty Empire, Fiona Maddocks

12, Mar, 2022 @4:00 PM

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The place that inspires me: artist reveal their secret getaways
The roots of home, a wild escape… most creative types have a place that unlocks their imagination. We asked writers, musicians and artists to tell us about theirs

Interviews by Killian Fox, Corinne Jones and Joanne O'Connor

30, Aug, 2015 @6:00 AM

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Will two Trojan horses prove more than the British Museum can handle?
There’ll be treasures, tall tales and protest at a new exhibition, while the BBC is under pressure again

Richard Brooks

03, Nov, 2019 @9:00 AM

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Spring arts calendar 2012

The Observer's critics pick the season's cultural highlights, from the Tate's survey of Damien Hirst to Grimes's UK tour

Observer critics

31, Mar, 2012 @11:06 PM

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On my radar: Toby Jones’s cultural highlights
The actor on Dragons’ Den, the jazz improvisations of Brad Mehldau, the Cinema Museum, a south London bus garage, and more…

Kathryn Bromwich

12, Nov, 2017 @10:00 AM