On my radar: Andy Bell's cultural highlights

The Erasure singer on Catherine Deneuve, lockdown news consumption, and why he’s in love with a shop that sells neon signs

Peterborough-born Andy Bell was 21 and working in a shoe shop when he answered a Melody Maker advert from an established songwriter looking for a singer. The songwriter was Vince Clarke, and the duo they formed, Erasure, went on to become one of the most successful British bands of the 1980s and 1990s, with five No 1 albums and 24 consecutive top 40 hits. Their most recent single, Hey Now (Think I Got a Feeling), came out in June and their new album, The Neon, is released on 21 August. Bell lives in Limehouse, London

Mother Jones magazine.
Mother Jones magazine. Photograph: motherjones.com

1. Website

Mother Jones

My husband has been stuck in Florida since the start of lockdown, so I’ve been obsessed with reading American news. It’s the first thing I do when I wake up. I find it amazing and encouraging that they still have good left-leaning news sites and magazines like Mother Jones, the Atlantic and the Hill, given how much mainstream news is obsessed with reporting like a shock jock. There are so many shootings and racist incidents that aren’t even reported internationally – it’s been a wake-up call realising how much is going on. And don’t start me on Trump. When I hear about him threatening to close institutions like PBS, I just think, how dare you?

2. Film

The Midwife (dir Martin Provost)

Catherine Deneuve, left, and Catherine Frot in The Midwife.
Catherine Deneuve, left, and Catherine Frot in The Midwife. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy Stock Photo

I’ve loved Catherine Deneuve since her films with Polanski, and this is the best thing I’ve watched in lockdown. She plays a woman who comes back into the life of her stepdaughter after having left it years ago. She’s very strange, travelling round with a suitcase, going to gambling dens, drinking red wine for breakfast – very French – and full of tough love. She reminds me of my mum, weirdly. The stepdaughter is the midwife, and I loved seeing all the babies being born in the film too – my eldest niece is a midwife, so it reminded me of her. Catherine still looks amazing as well. People used to say she had gold leaf implanted under her skin. I wouldn’t be surprised.

3. TV

Vera

Brenda Blethyn as Vera.
Brenda Blethyn as Vera. Photograph: ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Vera is our closest British version of Scandi-noir. I love how that bleakness gives you space to breathe, and isn’t gory at all. It’s also full of murky characters. I can never work out who’s done it, and I’m usually really good at that. I can spot the actor pretending to lie a mile off! I’ve also always loved Brenda Blethyn. The way she acts, like in one scene in which she burns all the furniture after her father has died – why she was never snapped up by Hollywood is a mystery to me. I’d like to be that brilliant at 74.

4. Food

Docklands Fish Bar, Limehouse

Traditional fish and chips.

I’ve been very relieved that my once-a-week Friday treat is back, as Limehouse didn’t seem right without this place open. They do the most gorgeous fish and chips – we’re very close to Billingsgate Fish Market here, so it’s really fresh stuff. The staff are friendly too. It was so nice to see them again. Without them, I’ve got addicted to cheese, which isn’t good, although I’ve been eating lots of mandarins to be better.

5. Place

God’s Own Junkyard, Walthamstow, London

God’s Own Junkyard, London E17.
God’s Own Junkyard, London E17. Photograph: Nathaniel Noir/Alamy Stock Photo

I’m completely in love with this place. It’s the biggest shop of neon signs in Europe. I really wish it were a nightclub, but there are too many things there to get broken. I love the neon Jesus signs with guns and haloes, the twisted angels, and they’ve even got a few Top of the Pops signs from shows Vince and I have been on. We did the photos for our new album here very early this year, and they’ve got a 360-degree view of it online, which I’ve lost myself in a few times. If I had my own version of Disney World, this would be it.

Perfume Book cover Patrick Suskind

6. Book

Perfume by Patrick Süskind

This is a book I still turn to, often, which is funny for someone who’s got a pretty bad sense of smell. I think it’s really influenced by Voltaire’s Candide, which I read in school and loved, especially the character Cunégonde, whose name has the best double meaning [for female genitalia]. Perfume’s a great sensory experience in terms of its visuals too – books like that seem really important now, when everything’s been so flat and quiet. You can really see this boy born in the gutter under a fish stall, and the colours and smells of Paris.

Contributor

Jude Rogers

The GuardianTramp

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