Heaven and Hell – Stephen Forster

Steve is an arts publicist based in Norwich but operating throughout the UK. His company SFP Communications publicises national tours, London runs and Edinburgh Festival seasons for performers from around the country and overseas. He is also chair of the board of Norwich Arts Centre, an Associate Tutor at UEA, and sits on the board of music education charity The Voice Project. He talks to Gina Long

What is your connection to East Anglia?

Before becoming a publicist I ran venues and first moved to Norwich in 1995 to run a music venue (my previous venues were in Manchester and London). I knew literally no-one in the region but I soon got to meet lots of very different people and it has held me captive since!

What is your East Anglian heaven?

For a largely rural area it has so much going on in the arts, from major festivals like Latitude and Norfolk & Norwich, to large theaters in Norwich and Ipswich to very small venues all over the region. Having previously lived in Manchester and London I also love having so much coastline close by.

What is your East Anglian hell?

Probably the constant engineering work on the train line to London. It seems to have been happening most weekends for almost 30 years – and always when I need to travel on Saturday or Sunday.

What are your favorite East Anglian restaurants?

Norwich has some excellent choices, Haggle and Benedicts Restaurant being particular favourites. But perhaps the ultimate is the Gunton Arms. Brilliant food, a wonderfully eclectic selection of art on the walls and great beer too.

What’s your favorite East Anglian landmark?

Not sure I can state one favourite, but the contenders include the spire of Norwich Cathedral and the lighthouse at Southwold. Favorite buildings include Norwich’s Dragon Hall (a few years ago I contributed to a book about its history) and the Great Hospital. Honorable mentions to Ely Cathedral and Marina too, as seen from the train en-route to Cambridge.

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

I’m always wary of saying anything is ‘the best’, would rather say ‘my favorite’. I’ve always been fond of spectacle so I’d say Cromer’s New Year fireworks.

What’s your specialist Mastermind subject?

Probably the work of some little known musician/singer songwriter or band. Robert Wyatt? Richard Thompson? English folk/rock, obscure roots reggae, funk or deep southern soul. Music obsessive stuff.

What is always in your fridge?

Standard stuff like milk, cheese (especially Black Bomber), salad and of course beer.

What’s your simple philosophy of life?

Keep on keepin’ on and dance. Or ‘turn it up’.

What’s your favorite movie?

Depends on my mood but I always return to classic Ealing comedy Whiskey Galore, Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire and brilliant music spoof This Is Spinal Tap.

What was your first job?

My first proper job was working at Rare Records, a Manchester record shop where I was able to indulge my growing passion.

What is your most treasured possession?

Probably my grandfather’s baton, presented to him in 1953 by Jarrow Silver Band where he was leader, having joined as a boy cornet player.

Who do you admire most?

I’d say someone who has managed to turn their life around and become a positive role model, maybe Lemn Sissay or Ian Wright.

Or perhaps Bob Marley who became an international superstar despite staying true to his radical rebel roots. Lots of rock stars go on about love and peace, Bob actually created some when he got rival Jamaican politicians Michael Manley and Edward Seaga to hold hands on stage when their supporters were openly shooting each other.

What is your biggest indulgence?

Think it’s got to be vinyl records. I still buy them new and secondhand. Recent purchases include albums by Wet Leg, The Delines, Dry Cleaning, The Weather Station. Keeley Forsyth, Durand Jones & The Indications – actually and going to gigs too, both locally and wherever else they happen to be (London mostly).

What’s your worst character trait?

Indecision, but then I’m not so sure…

Where is your favorite holiday destination?

I mostly like city destinations so Paris or Barcelona maybe.

Best day of your life?

Hopefully it hasn’t happened yet. The best gig I ever saw was Bob Marley and the Wailers in 1975, at The Hardrock Manchester, the day after they recorded the classic Live! Album at The Lyceum London. I kept on keepin’ on and danced possibly too much.

What’s your favorite breakfast?

Fresh fruit, Greek yogurt and homemade granola.

What’s your favorite tipple?

I love a good red wine (especially Malbec) and a lovely smoky Islay whiskey (Ardbeg Uigeadail) but it has to be Blandford Fly, a sweet and spicy golden ale flavored with ginger.

What’s your hidden talent?

I make some mean puddings, white chocolate and ginger cheesecake being a specialty.

What’s your earliest memory?

There’s a photo of me as a very young child being placed in a rubbish bin by my uncle Tommy, or could just be the image I remember…

What would you like played at your funeral?

I always think funerals should be a celebration of life rather than sad but these are undeniably melancholy. Roy Harper’s When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease, This Old Heart of Mine by obscure folk/rock band Heron and Small Hours by John Martyn.

Tell us something people don’t know about you?

I’m ashamed to admit I promoted the very first Simply Red gig (although, for that night only, they were called Just Red). It was when I worked at Band on the Wall in Manchester, before they had released any records, and I had no idea of ​​the beast of blandness we were unleashing.

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

We’re closed.

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else?

While I’m proud of my Manchester roots and loved my time in London it just feels like home now. Most of my greatest friends are in the region too. Living close to the centre, in Norwich I can walk pretty much everywhere rather than spending time on the tube as in London.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

I’m just about to head off to the Edinburgh Fringe where, the last two pandemic years aside, I’ve spent every August since 2020. We’re working on some wonderful shows including Musclebound by Brighton’s Rosy Carrick, Classic! from Manchester’s Hope Mill Theater (directed by Kenneth Branagh’s sister), Megalith by Mechanimal from Bristol, How I Came Third in the North Korean Marathon by London comedian Dan Kelly and two from Suffolk poet Luke Wright. All well worth seeing if you’re visiting the biggest arts festival in the world after its two year enforced lay off.

Find out more about Steve at sfppr.co.uk

I am always looking for interesting people from Suffolk and Norfolk to feature in my Q&A. Please do contact me at gina@hallfarmfornham.com

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