NYC Diary


Flew, late landing but kept awake enough to take in amazing view of Empire State Building as we left 33rd Street subway station on our arrival. Quiet night, early to bed to save energy (although we did get a room service grilled cheese and fries).


Woke up early to head to parade.

After walking around roadblocks for ages, found an entrance to 6th Ave by going up West 44th then managed to take a right and get a spot on 6th Ave.

Parade amazing, such a great atmosphere

Afterwards walked up 6th, got coffees and pastries at Le Pain Quotidien

Walked to Columbus Circle, then up through Central Park – a figure of 8 round the park past the softball pitch, over Bow Bridge, up round the Jackie Onassis Reservoir, Belvedere Castle, Cleopatra’s Needle and Alice In Wonderland sculpture.

The nature in Central Park was amazing. So many birds, grey squirrels, lovely and calm. Really funny going from the madness of the parade to this within an hour. Some lovely musicians in the park including jazz duo.

By 4pm starting to get dark, and we headed back to midtown to get to Radio City in time for 5pm performance – it recommends an hour before but we got there half an hour before and that was fine. With it being Thanksgiving afternoon performance it wasn’t quite as busy as usual.

Rockettes at Radio City was amazing – such impressive dancing but this was only a part of it. It was sort of like a nativity musical thing, telling the Christmas story but also with modern songs and a narrative. They had indoor fireworks, live camels and donkeys during the nativity section, all sorts. Was so amazing. And the venue is stunning.

After this was done we had to rush to get to Il Fiorista for Thanksgiving Dinner which was fantastic. Great restaurant, lovely host who was Scottish so we shared a joke.


Erica had an interview so we headed to a little coffee shop with wifi where she did that while we had pastries a coffee.

Then to the High Line, which we walked down from the very top to the Chelsea Market exit.

As we were looking at 520 West 28th Street, a complete stranger stopped by us to tell us a bit about the architect and the design. A really nice surprise.

The High Line was so impressive, like a real oasis right inside the city. Great combination of really leafy sections, and open bits on crossroads where the view down the perfectly straight roads gave you a really great perspective and sense of the city’s scale. Some great wall murals on the apartment blocks as we went past.

Chelsea Market was fantastic – we had a great walk around, had some tacos at Los Tacos No.1 and tried on some glasses at Moscot.

Then went to The Whitney, which had a short queue – we bought two tickets whilst waiting and were in in no time.

We loved The Whitney. All exhibitions had a free audiotour on the website that described around 20 of the artworks. Jasper Johns exhibition on 4th floor was fantastic, a really amazing retrospective of a legendary, still living artist with an amazing history. You got a real sense of his work and the art scene at the time inc his relationship with Robert Rauschenberg.

Visited the other exhibitions too which were quite good but I really enjoying the JJ one and bought the exhibition book on the way out.

Wandered past Carrie Bradshaw apartment. Glass of wine at St Jardim.

By 4pm pitch black and we headed to John’s on Bleecker St for their classic large plain pizza – the best! Sat outside under patio heater. Really enjoyed it.

Then to the amazing Ear Inn. Really old American pub, opened 1817! A recommendation from Andy and Lucy who visited it last time. Great vibe, fantastic drinks and food looked great but didn’t have any. An ale and a red wine, followed by a dark and stormy and an espreso martini with baileys, then two Negronis, which got us drunk enough to want more food (see next paragraph).

What a place. TVs playing above the beer with NFL, college football etc. Very typical.

As we were in the area couldn’t resist going to Bleecker St Pizza, the local rival to John’s. Very different vibe – more like a takeaway in Manchester. Just got a slice here – pepperoni, and Erica had a Sicilian. Hers was square and much thicker, which confirmed her preference for classic slice. Both still great.

Westside Market on the way back – mindblowing grocery store, absolute labyrinth with literally every food you can imagine. When you go in it just looks like a local Whole Foods or similar, but round every corner it keeps going and going.

Finally a late night stroll to Times Square, which was really something.

Then home via Bryant Park where they had ice skating. And home.


A bit of a lie-in to recover. Packed up from Arlo NoMad and left with bags. Then to Australian place called Ruby’s which had a brilliant brunch menu. We split an egg sandwich, and a smoked salmon bowl.

Then the ferry to Williamsburg. Really cool, with spectacular view of Manhattan – first time we’d seen it al, from a distance, during the day.

Off at North Williamsburg stop, straight to Williamsburg Hotel to drop off bags.

Walked down Franklin Ave, visited Fan Fan Doughnuts. Iranian Love Doughnut (pistachio and rose) and Churro doughnut, plus some coffees. Sat outside on a bench to eat, my back was starting to kill from all the walking.

Bought fingerpuppets for Anaya on the walk, from a Peruvian street trader.

Walked to the Brooklyn Museum, magnificent building. Some great exhibitions on, inc a Christian Dior one which unfortunately was sold out. The main exhibition of American Art was fantastic – a really diverse collection of everything from traditional paintings of white American stories and portraits of people like Gilbert Stuart’s of George Washington/a bust of Abraham Lincoln, to native stories like the history of Lenapehoking (now Delaware) and African-American perspectives on the American story. Very interesting. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s ‘A Crack in the Hourglass’ was also great – a Covid memorial piece that created portraits of those who died, with a machine that drew their face with sand, took a picture and then the sand disappeared. Quite eerie. There was also a room called Modern Gothic: The Inventive Furniture of Kimbel and Cabus, 1863–82 which was nice to look at but I didn’t give it much time. Nice pieces of furniture, quite ornate. The ‘Arts Of Asia and the Islamic World’ exhibition had lots of physical pieces – statues, masks, all the way from 300BCE to today.

Also there was a huge Kaws sculpture in the lobby.

We walked on to BedStuy and headed to Doris, which had been on my list. Great bar like the Social that did food (though we didn’t eat) and I had a few Pilsner beers, Erica had a mezcal Aperol cocktail. Chatted with the barman who was called Zack, he wrote down some recommendations for us in Williamsburg.

I liked BedStuy, it felt like our first quieter, more residential area since we go to Brooklyn, like the Village was for Manhattan, but a bit less fancy.

Headed back to the hotel where they had chocolate-dipped strawberries and a note on the bed as a welcome.

No plans for dinner so went to Brooklyn Bowl, initially for a drink but had some great food – the first time we had proper American food in a proper American place like a bowling alley. Didn’t realise there was also a gig on but jibbed it in as we said we just wanted to go to the bar. Ended up having ribs and beer, Erica had a burger and (pint of!) Margarita, then stuck around for the Marco Benevento gig where El Michels Affair was djing beforehand while we ate, a nice surprise as I like his djing. Great venue, with an impressive set up of big screens across the room (plus above each alley) and proper cameras filming, and cool band – jamming, v long songs. Listened to them afterwards on Spotify, where they had a live album v similar to what we had seen. Unfortunately we were a few days too early for the Hold Steady residency here.


Room service breakfast. Amazing. See photos – my bacon was really thick, like gammon but still sweet. Erica had french toast, and we ate by the balcony door.

Walked down the waterfront and through Domino Park to the Brooklyn Flea Market, taking in the Russ and Daughters at Brooklyn Navy Yard on the way. Bagels and latkes to get us going. As good as we’d heard, and worth the queue. Some Jewish customers really stocking up, one guy was getting all sorts from the deli plus candles etc for menorah.

On to Brooklyn Flea Market which is under Manhattan Bridge. Amazing place for it. Found a seller with a collection of original New Yorker coverpages in frames, old NY maps, subway maps etc. Picked up a Worlds Fair guidebook for Ben as it was from the 2nd Worlds Fair in Queens where many of the things he saw were first erected.

Then into a small bookshop – Powerhouse – which had some great bits. Could have happily spent a fortune in here, nearly grabbed David Byrne’s Arboretum but decided to save the money.

The views of the two bridges from the Brooklyn side were amazing. We decided to walk further down and walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to the middle for some photos. Our first view of Liberty in the distance and another great sense of the scale of the city and further afield to Governors Island etc.

Wandering through Cadman Plaza and past some of the great state buildings was fantastic, to see a bit of that side of Brooklyn.

Drinks at June, glasses of nice natural wine inc a natural orange wine Erica liked ( and I had this: plus a bowl of nibbles – seaweed-roasted nuts. Very nice! Then on to Frank’s, where we wolfed down a burger, pasta, and drinks as I mistakenly thought the basketball was tonight. Long chat with the server about the game, who must have thought I was an idiot/mental. Rushed to get a cab to Barclays Center across town only to find the venue closed and a small practise session being held in a side court. Got the subway, firstly in the wrong direction, then finally made it home. A long day.


Breakfast pastries and coffee at Devocion (brought back a bag of their coffee beans) then exploring.

We’d planned to focus on Williamsburg and Greenpoint today, and after looking in some shops around the Nassau Ave subway sort of area – included Awoke Vintage, and walking past The Lot Radio – we ended up in Allswell for lunch, a real highlight. The sardines, nachos, Ebbs lager and cocktail spoke for themselves. Definitely want to recreate the nachos, which were done with hot sauce on the bottom, American cheese, pinto beans in a smokey tomato sauce, carrot, homemade corn tortillas and radish topping and the lager was one of the best I’ve drunk – brewed locally. We could have spent all day in this place. A cosy spot on Bedford Avenue, really welcoming, great music and lovely vibe. Staff nice too.

A quick doughnut stop at Peter Pan doughnuts, which even though it was mostly doughnuts and coffee was the closest we got to the very old school diner feel I’d hoped to find. I loved this place. A proper jelly (not jam) filled doughnut and black filter coffee. Proper.

After a lot of wandering we nipped back to the hotel, to recharge and have a break to watch the latest Succession. Then back out.

Dinner at L’Industrie, which was on our list but recommended to us by waitress at June. They were filming a video piece for Van Moof cycles in there and we got chatting to the film crew.

The food was sublime – burrata pizza a highlight, and cans of Brooklyn Best lemonade, which had a very weak flavour but worked nicely with the salty pizza. Lots of Bill Withers playing. We got four slices, then another two.

Pitstop at The Four Horseman, which was on the way and an ideal fit for the LCD Soundsystem gig night as it’s part owned by the singer. We sat outside for a quick glass, and got chatting to Australian couple next to us who lived in London but had been travelling all over with their young son. It was their last day in NYC before heading to Australia for Christmas.

One glass of

and one glass of

Then on for the long walk to Brooklyn Steel for the LCD gig – photos and videos to cover this one. Great show, got there super early and enjoyed watching this tiny (for them) venue fill up over the course of an hour, with some great music.

Balloon sellers outside venue, a stranger asked us what the gig had been etc. A nice post-gig vibe. Long walk back though, and by this point it had started to snow. Went past the Brooklyn Brewery itself.


A day on the Lower East Side planned. Explored the Brooklyn Harvest Market, a grocery store that had a lot of nice stuff.

Walked over Williamsburg Bridge to land in the middle of LES. This area has a really cool buzz to it, still. Reading John Lurie’s book A History Of Bones about what it was like in the 80s and doesn’t seem to have changed all that much.

A big lunch at Katz’s. What an experience. I think we struggled to move after this. The turkey was so moist and the pastrami too – so unlike the pre-packaged stuff we get over here. Amazing to watch them cut too.

Headed for a coffee at Veniero’s with Errol. If we had an appetite we would have grabbed something here too, as the pastries and cakes looked great.

A wander round the shops of LES including popping into Mara Hoffman store and looking around, then a drink at the famous McSorleys. Phenomenal place, so rich with history. Two pints of ‘dark’ (that’s all the info you get) and a breather. Sawdust on the floor, walls covered in faded memoribilia. Because of the lighting and all the stuff on the walls being brown, the whole place actually felt sepia, which really added to the feeling of going into a little time capsule.

Final big thing, subway to the Barclay Center for the Knicks at the Nets. Great game, but the game was only part of it – the entertainment during every break, no matter how short, felt like such a funny experience compared to going to a football match. Cheerleaders, breakdancers, rappers, DJs, t-shirt giveaways, celeb cams etc during every single gap in play. What an experience. Wish we’d grabbed some food too as the arena itself was amazing and all the concessions looked great.

Stopped for a final drink in the hotel bar before bed, a fancy cocktail with a flower in it for me.


Checked-out and left our bags at the hotel. A bit glum to be preparing to leave but still packed plenty in as flight not until evening. Walked to Sunday In Brooklyn, a fantastic black-owned cafe/restaurant that served the most amazing brunch. See photos.

Ferry from South Williamsburg this time, to Wall Street. Walked to the Staten Island Ferry station and got the boat there and back as it’s the best (free) view of Liberty. Some amazing views of Manhattan, NJ and the statue, please interesting to get a sense of the size of Staten and how south Jersey runs. Got a Nathan’s hot dog and corn dog in the ferry station when we got back.

Headed to the very eerie 9/11 memorial, which was very profound. Very loud water rushing into a huge chasm, the foundations of both buildings. The sound of the water was so unpleasant. It didn’t feel like a peaceful memorial, but then maybe that’s the point.

Martha’s Country Bakery just outside Bedford Ave station for coffee and cake before heading back to the hotel to pick up bags. Past the Warhol/Basquiat mural, dark by this point and getting really glum that we had to go. Subway trip to airport, met a guy called Emery who had been visiting daughter at NYU and was returning to LA. Spent the whole journey chatting with him, as we made connections, waited for cancelled trains etc then parted ways when got to airport security.

Airport, had dinner in a middling Italian place and watched the Christmas Lights switch-on on tv from NY – Norah Jones etc. Then home!

The Future of UK Music Festivals

I joined Phil Williams on Times Radio last night to speak about the upcoming DCMS inquiry into the festivals sector. Read more here

DCMS have invited the sector to share what is required to get us up and running in 2021, and I shared some of my thoughts.

Listen to the segment here, at the 2-hour mark

We can’t have a ‘one size fits all’ approach to hospitality, and recent months have shown that some of the steps taken by the Government show a lack of understanding of what some specific sectors – like festivals – need to continue operating.

So, what can be done?

I recommended a three-pronged approach:

Extension of the VAT rate cut, or making it permanent.
The VAT rate cut for the hospitality sector to 5% was a good first step, but its initial deadline of January meant it would have little positive effect on our sector. Most festivals make the bulk of their ticket revenue from the end of January onwards, not to mention the vital role played by our bar and merch sales at the festival itself. While I welcome this being extended further, to March 2021, we can do more. By keeping the VAT rate at 5% for the full 2021 financial year, or even making it permanent, we’ll have an easy win to help aid our recovery.

Mass Testing clarity
The Government’s policy on mass testing needs to clear well in advance of the festival season. The infrastructure and planning required to make large-scale events happen means we need to make a call in March (or earlier) as to whether we can go ahead in the summer. By laying out a clear timeline and policy of their stance on mass testing in advance, the Government will help us to make the necessary decisions without incurring unnecessary overheads.

Protecting the CRF Losers and Freelance Workforce
Finding ways to protect those who lost out on the Culture Recovery Fund scheme will allow us to care for all elements of our ecosystem. Staging a major event requires the input of huge agencies and individual freelancers alike, and losing any part of that ecosystem makes events difficult, if not unviable. We still have millions of freelancers and sole traders left behind, and while our industry is paused, without support many talented and vital cogs in our system will leave the industry. We risk a potentially damaging ‘brain drain’ domino effect.

You can find out more about the DCMS inquiry and submit your recommendations here

Naval’s ‘Team That Ships’

As part of a team that creates ‘products’ (festivals and events) with a fairly standard roll-out and lead-time, I’ve begun to be fascinated with how development and deployment works in other industries and sectors.

While our campaigns for bluedot and Kendal Calling typically run over a recurring twelve-month with similar timelines and budgets, comparing what we do with the likes of the tech industry offers some great insight into how we could improve our approach. From this, our move to a new approach of ‘projectising’ within our campaigns – breaking our year into a series of mini-campaigns that each have their own brand, roll-out schedule, budget and marketing – has been a great first step towards a better, more rigorous way of operating.

One great example is Naval Ravikant’s great – if blunt – Build A Team That Ships from 2012. Naval’s piece offers some simple guidelines for how to build and team that builds and ships products on a weekly basis, with an agile, project-based mindset. Examples include…

People choose what to work on. Better they ship what they want than not ship what you want.

No tasks longer than one week. You have to ship something into live production every week – worst case, two weeks. If you just joined, ship something.

Peer-management. Promise what you’ll do in the coming week on internal Yammer. Deliver – or publicly break your promise – next week.

For Naval, building more strict structure is, of course, freeing – the first steps towards regimenting how teams and individual staff members operate ultimately result in an environment where staff choose to work on projects that they feel fit their own abilities best, and get the reinforcement of seeing their hard work delivered as products on a weekly basis.

Read Naval’s Build A Team That Ships

The Joy Of Being A Noob

If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.

– Marina Abramovic

It is impossible to learn that which one thinks one already knows

– Epictetus

Paul Graham’s recent ‘Being A Noob‘ essay is a great, short meditation on the joy of inexperience. Graham nails the idea of ‘competence at existing problems over the discovery of new ones’ – how our fear of being seen as an inexperienced ‘noob’ is something we dislike and shy away from, stifling new opportunities.

In actual fact, learning how to be a noob – sacrificing the ego that convinces you you can’t show weakness or inexperience – is a good first step towards no longer being a noob at all.

Conversely shyness or an unwillingness to be seen as an amateur, or someone who is learning, is a surefire way to lock yourself into a pretty boring comfort zone, and miss a lot of chances.

“the feeling of being a noob is inversely correlated with actual ignorance”

Paul Graham

Graham’s angle – that admitting ignorance is the beginning of no longer being ignorant – is a nice take. Only through admitting (and relishing in) your ignorance can you begin to truly learn. As someone in his late twenties, my last few years have been a realisation that we can only develop and grow through understanding what we don’t know, and moving from a toxic ego-driven mindset to one of wonder and joy in learning new things. That transition requires a willingness to admit you don’t know things.


Wanting to have ‘life’ all figured out, and thinking there’s an expectation that you do


Realising not only is that not realistic, but that people much more grown-up than you don’t have it figured out either

“Though it feels unpleasant, and people will sometimes ridicule you for it, the more you feel like a noob, the better.”

Paul Graham

In a work environment, it’s also apt. Admitting you’re not sure about something – and helping to foster an environment where ‘I don’t know’ is a conversation starter rather than finisher – could be the key to developing a creative team more willing to share ideas. ‘Noobness’ is definitely connected with your willingness to fail – to have the confidence to risk putting yourself (or an idea) forward and being shot down. In that willingness, sometimes there are great creative or constructive ideas that would otherwise never be said out loud.

The limbo of not understanding things is a joy we stop allowing ourselves when we grow old – once we step out of the school or university, we suddenly feel a need to act like we’ve got it sussed, and not show the weakness of not knowing something. Social competitiveness, or arrogance? One thing I do know is that becoming comfortable with being a ‘noob’ might be a good first step.