On my radar: Jo Brand’s cultural highlights


Born in Hastings in 1957, Jo Brand was a psychiatric nurse for 10 years before turning to standup in the mid-80s. She is a TV regular on shows such as QI, Have I Got News for You, which she has also hosted, and in Countdown’s Dictionary Corner. She co-wrote the Bafta-winning hospital sitcom Getting On with co-stars Vicki Pepperdine and Joanna Scanlan, and its spinoff, Going Forward. Brand’s latest book, Born Lippy: How to Do Female (Hodder & Stoughton, £20), is out now.

1. Stage

Girl from the North Country by Conor McPherson at the Old Vic





Girl From The North Country



Shirley Henderson and Arinze Kene in Girl from the North Country. Photograph by Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

I really enjoyed this musical, which took some of the lesser-known songs of Bob Dylan and wove them into a story. What I loved about it was the parity between the fantastic singing and the level of acting. It’s set in 1930s America, after the crash, and centres round a downmarket hotel and some of its guests. I love Bob Dylan, and it was great to hear different voices and orchestrations for his songs. For my money, Shirley Henderson was the star – she’s got that slightly surreal, elfin quality about her. She has that thing some actors have, where they mesmerise you a bit by their presence. Wish I had that.

2. Book

The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks





The writer and farmer James Rebanks



‘Absorbing and heartwarming’: the writer and farmer James Rebanks, with his flock in Penrith, Cumbria. Photograph by Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian

This is an autobiographical account by a guy who was brought up on a rather lonely mountain sheep farm in Cumbria but ended up going to Oxford, so it has that interesting duality of something harsh and working class described by someone very intelligent. I was brought up in a small village in Kent and a lot of my friends were children of farmers. I found the book really absorbing, even when he was talking about sheep diseases and the bleakness of winter. I found it heartwarming that he went off to Oxford but came back, and he’s now running a farm with his wife and kids.

3. TV

Cardinal, BBC Four





Cardinal



Billy Campbell and Karine Vanasse in Cardinal. Photograph: BBC4

About three months ago I watched this Canadian police procedural set in a very rural, forested area. It’s about the indigenous population who – understandably so – harbour resentment towards other parts of the community for having ended up on reservations. There’s some pretty awful violence in it, which I didn’t like, but what I liked was the relationship between the two main characters. You do get a sort of disgruntled middle-aged man, the Cardinal of the title, but his partner, a younger woman, is interesting: she’s quiet, and not very showy or beautiful. She just sort of gets on with it – I really like her.

4. Film

Loveless (Dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2017)





Loveless



‘I’d imagine Putin didn’t like it much’: Matvey Novikov in Loveless. Photograph: Alamy

This is set in a pretty unremarkable town in Russia. The story involves a married couple who are splitting up, and they have a 12-year-old son. The woman and the man are both unpleasant people, and the son hears them arguing one night – he’s standing outside the door – about the fact that neither of them wants him. It’s a harrowing film; it’s incredibly beautifully directed, it’s dark, it’s fascinating. I think it actually does show you Russia, as opposed to the slightly cartoonish view we get of it in the west. I’d imagine that Putin didn’t like it much. In my book, that’s a good thing.

5. Art

Space Shifters at the Hayward Gallery, London





Monika Sosnowska’s Handrail at the Space Shifters



Monika Sosnowska’s Handrail at the Space Shifters exhibition. Photograph: © Monika Sosnowska/DACS 2018

I’m a complete philistine, art-wise. My husband’s much more knowledgeable – if I go with him he tells me what it’s all aboutThis is a series of pieces by different artists, including Anish Kapoor. There was one piece in this show I loved because it made me laugh: it’s by a Polish artist called Monika Sosnowska. It’s basically a handrail that you first meet as you’re going up to the top floor, and when it goes round the corner it suddenly goes all sorts of bonkers. It goes up, up, all over the wall, and twists round in circles and turns and is completely and utterly pointless as a handrail.

6. Restaurant

Leon





Leon



‘The sort of stuff your grandma couldn’t pronounce’: Leon. Photograph: Leon restaurants

At the moment, because we have varying degrees of vegetarianism in our family, from carnivore to vegan, this is one place that suits us. The food is lovely and the kids really like it. I always was a fan of Linda McCartney, because she used to produce stuff that could be part of a traditional British meal, for all those people who like a roast dinner. Leon combines elements of that with the sort of stuff your grandma couldn’t pronounce – quinoa and salads and reasonably healthy combinations of things. It tastes amazing as well.

To order a copy of Jo Brand’s Born Lippy: How to Do Female for £17.20 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99



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