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30 March 2022

Annie Macmanus Q&A: “I’ve often been a woman in a man’s world”

The broadcaster discusses the legacy of John Hume, Channel 4 News and her love of dance music from the late Seventies.

By New Statesman

Annie Macmanus was born in Dublin in 1978 and from 2004 to 2021 was a regular presenter on BBC Radio 1. She runs Lost & Found, a music festival in Malta, and regularly DJs around the world.

What’s your earliest memory?

Running to my mum, down the hall of my house, because one of my brothers hit me and I was crying. I must have been about two or three.

Who are your heroes?

My childhood hero was always my dad. He worked away from home for most of my childhood, so I think that magnified his hero status. Now I’m inspired by people all the time. I recently had a woman called Kerri Douglas on my podcast. She’s one of those people who had everything going against her from a very young age: neglect, abuse, addiction, homelessness. She’s a mother now. I am in awe of people who are able to live in spite of being dealt the worst cards.

What book last changed your thinking?

Scattered Minds by Gabor Maté. It helped me understand how ADHD affects people, and how to empathise with neurodiverse people in general.

What would be your “Mastermind” specialist subject?

Dance music from the late Seventies. 

[See also: Caroline Lucas Q&A: “Even if you’re in a minority of one, the truth is still the truth”]

Which political figure do you look up to?

John Hume, the politician from Derry who had a huge impact on the peace process. I admire him for bringing people together.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

I’d go straight back to the late Seventies: that amazing era of Paradise Garage, with Larry Levan on the decks. I would love to experience the alchemy of the time, the culture that created disco music before it became very commercial.

What TV show could you not live without?

I love Channel 4 News.

Who would paint your portrait?

My sister. I would feel safe in her hands.

[See also: Neil Gaiman Q&A: “As long as there’s a Tardis, all’s right with the world”]

What’s your theme tune?

“I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day.” It’s the one song the Pogues did that was sung solely by a woman, Cait O’Riordan, the future wife of Elvis Costello – who produced the album it’s on. It’s an old Irish folk song but there’s something lovely about a woman singing from the perspective of a man. In my career I’ve often been a woman in a man’s world.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

My dad always told me to get on with things and I am naturally a really impulsive person. It’s general advice but it suits me: don’t wait for people to do things for you.

What’s currently bugging you?

The war. The fact that we can be living in a world where there can still be war. I find it overwhelming and anxiety-inducing.

What single thing would make your life better?

Being closer to my family. I’d like to be able to click my heels and be in Dublin.

When were you happiest?

In the first weeks after the births of both of my kids. I was in that total sleepless delirium where you feel like you’re high all the time. I was bursting with love and relief and gratitude that everything went OK.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

A career guidance counsellor. I enjoy helping people find what they want in life. It’s something I’ve always been drawn to.

Are we all doomed?

No, I don’t think we are. I think death is an inevitable and important part of life that should be talked about more, and acknowledged and embraced more.

“Mother Mother”, a novel by Annie Macmanus, is published by Headline

[See also: Alan Davies Q&A: “What would make my life better? Not needing a wee in the middle of the night”]

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This article appears in the 30 Mar 2022 issue of the New Statesman, The New Iron Curtain