Hull Literature Festival 2001 8th - 18th November
Welcome | Festival Programme | On-Line Critics | Daily Review | Installations & Exhibitions
Themes | City Centre Venues | Hull Libraries | Festival Information | Links | E-mail:

{ Hints from the Hacks }

Double Vision | Features | Calender of Events | Humber Haddock | Comfort Stop
Hints from the Hacks | Interviews | Photo of the Day | Critical Perspective | Right to Reply
Lucy Smith | Steve Regen

Out To Lunch With Steve Regan

Double Vision asks Steve Regan, columnist for the Hull Daily Mail, how to field the flack.

At the other end of the telephone, Steve Regan sounded relieved when I said we wouldn't be taking him to a roadside diner on the A63 after all. Just our little joke, as this job doesn't come with expenses. Not that he would have minded, of course, but time was at a premium today. Instead, we whisked him off to the Minerva pub on the pier, which offers good beer, comfort food and a fine view of the wind-whipped Humber. We wedged ourselves into a dark and private slice of the back bar, set up the drinks, ordered lunch and asked Steve a bit about himself and his job.

The Minerva Steve Regan was brought up on a council estate in Wigan and became a journalist via the traditional route of NCTJ training, taking his indentures and becoming a junior reporter.

"The news reporter's role is to report and the columnist's to make people take a second look."

He has been in Hull for just over a year and writes three columns a week for the Hull Daily Mail. His interest is in reflecting local colour and character and offering a personal perspective on issues and events. Sometimes this means expressing strongly held opinions which produce equally strong reactions. These vary from the 'who do you think you are trying to put things right when you're an outsider' variety to those who welcome his approach as a breath of fresh air. Sounds pretty much like a critic's job, then?

So do his columns show the real Steve Regan or a carefully constructed persona?

'I am a patriot and an internationalist. I believe in the sanctity and dignity of human life. I despise the sex industry and worry about the lack of moral education in this country. I write what I think. The news reporter's role is to report and the columnist's to make people take a second look.'

Would he describe himself as a liberal?

'Yes, in many ways. When authority in the land is liberal, that's when you need to be personally conservative in your behaviour. However, when authority in the land is conservative, that's when one can afford to be liberal in what one does.'

Does it bother him when people attack his views?

'Not really. For example, I wrote a piece about the proposed Bridlington Marina. I don't think Bridlington needs one. The Chief Executive of the East Riding Council wrote a nasty letter to my editor. He obviously hasn't got enough to do if he can spend time writing to newspapers.'

And what about the arts? Regan believes that subsidies kill the arts. He writes poetry and has performed in pubs and clubs but dislikes poems about flimsy subjects. Poetry, he thinks, should be personal and magical. So will he be calling in to any of the poetry readings during the Literature Festival? Maybe, if there's a beautifully lit bar with good beer - that's the sort of culture he enjoys.

So what can we draw from all this? The job of columnists and critics is to express an opinion, to raise issues for discussion. At their best, these opinions are formed by a mix of background, belief, experience and observation. They can be followed through and justified logically. Opinions based on this sort of firm bedrock do not have to produce a consensus, but deserve to be respected and should, if they are to fulfil their function, generate equally informed responses. After all, they are only opinions.

Writers he admires: Julie Burchill (except on men and abortion); Mary Kenny

Writers he doesn't admire: Rebecca Tyrell (she should give it up), John Hegley (he writes poetry-lite)

Subjects he won't be writing about: lifestyle, health, fashion, the arts

People he won't be asking out to lunch: John Godber ( patronising to working class people); Peter Knaggs (poetry-lite);

Most likely to say: 'A battered sausage and a pint of Timothy Taylor's Landlord, please.'

Least likely to say: 'I'm going to phone my friend Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen for a bit of advice on interior décor, write a poem about sushi bars, apply for an Arts Council grant, then go for a workout at the gym.'

Hull Daily Mail web site: