My Cultural Life: Annie Macmanus

The DJ and author on what she’s reading, listening to and more

annie macmanus
Stephanie Sian Smith

The Irish lilt of Dublin-born DJ, broadcaster and writer Annie Macmanus was a mainstay of Radio 1 for 17 years, with shows like Future Sounds and Dance Party cementing her legacy as a leading authority in the British music industry. Affectionately known as Annie Mac, she’s a tireless champion for new artists and an outspoken voice on subjects like youth knife crime and misogyny in rap. She launched her podcast, Changes with Annie MacManus, last year and released her debut novel, Mother Mother (Wildfire Books; £16.99) in May.

The first album I loved was Use Your Illusion I and II by Guns N’ Roses. The double cassette fell out of my pocket on a roller coaster in Dublin’s Funderland. I was heartbroken.

My all-time favourite piece of music is Sweet Thing by Van Morrison. It’s all wrapped up in my nostalgia for Ireland, and memories of being squished up in the back of my parents’ car with my brothers and sister. It reminds me of fuchsia hedgerows and rolling fields and that sense of togetherness that my family gave me.

I’m currently listening to Mustafa, a young Toronto poet. He writes odes to his friends who have been killed on the streets and I find his lyrics and the timbre of his voice profoundly moving.

annie macmanus
Mustafa
Pascal Le Segretain

My favourite film is the musical Annie. I watched it obsessively as a kid and I know all the songs. I’ve been re-watching all of the director and artist Steve McQueen’s films and his Small Axe TV series. I’ve just interviewed him for my podcast.

My top podcast tip is On Being with Krista Tippett, an award-winning broadcaster, who hosts conversations about spirituality and life woven in with poetry. It accompanies me on my cycles home from work and helps me to put the day behind me.

The books that have influenced me the most are Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, for her strength of voice and the economy of her storytelling, and Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy, for opening my eyes to the joys of writing dialogue phonetically, and for his story of a young Irish man realising that English men aren’t so bad after all.

annie macmanus
Faber Publishing

I’ve just finished reading Expectation by Anna Hope, which follows three female friends growing up together in east London. It’s about how life doesn’t always turn out how you expect it to. I devoured it.

Words to live by? In my childhood bedroom, I had a poster of Albert Einstein with a quote underneath that said, ‘Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.’ I think of it often when it comes to London’s huge problem with the police and youth violence. Until youth centres and clubs are invested in and youth workers are paid properly, and there is a conscious push for police to work with communities rather than against them, then children will keep killing each other. I hate that we have become so desensitised to knife crime statistics.

I’m always adding to my collection of books and vinyl. I often get sent signed albums from artists I’ve supported, which I treasure.

My lockdown discovery was Nigella Lawson’s recipes. My friends tease me because I’ve only just discovered her. I’m a very rudimentary cook but I enjoyed the attempts to make a different Nigella dessert every Saturday night in lockdown.

I love to visit cities by the sea. Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Barcelona… Maybe it’s because I come from one myself. DJing has taken me all over the world, but I don’t often get to see much of the local culture. I’ve been to Miami countless times and could point you in the direction of some amazing club spaces and pool party venues, but nothing more!

annie macmanus
Miami
Aurora Kreativ / Unsplash

My favourite place in the world is still Ireland, and especially the Wild Atlantic Way, the route leading down the spectacular west coast. It is the most westerly tip of Europe and it’s beautifully remote and rugged. anniemacmanus.com

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