Texting and talking have become a real problem but you have to understand that you can’t demand an audience’s attention, you have to command it.”

-Benedict Cumberbatch-

And he certainly did!



Let’s talk about the interesting phenomenon that is Benedict Cumberbatch! If you have not heard this name before, well, hi, welcome to the Cumberverse, you are very welcome to read this highly biased appreciation post based on facts, quotes and cheekbones.

No need to mention his films, it is hard to miss their release when the media is making sure you see enough ads to dream about them at night. Instead, let’s talk about the Benedict Cumberbatch we tend to forget.

Joanna Benecke wrote this short and entertaining illustrated biography called Being Benedict Cumberbatch. As a publishing student, I have to say that the layout of this book is amazing, and as a fan I fully recommend it as I learned a lot more than I thought I would.

So now, here are some underappreciated facts about our favourite British gentleman.

Unexpected skills

We all know he studied drama and that he is insanely well-spoken and polite, but did you know about his perfumer skills?

Benedict worked with a perfumer for six months and learned about blends and how to recognise the different notes and scents. Granted, it probably did not help his acting career but you have got to admire the skill.

Actually…



I am sorry for your nightmares tonight.

Tibetan monks



During his gap year he taught English to Tibetan monks and lived with them for half a year. Benedict said that he “could actually stay with monks in their home, watch them at work and at prayer, and get the chance to teach them and interact with them.”

Born to play Doctor Strange! Also, can we appreciate the fact that he took a gap year to teach?

Waltzing with Death

This fact is a bit darker but I promise we will talk cheekbones afterwards.

When Benedict was in South Africa, he and two of his co-workers were carjacked and kidnapped while they were trying to change a flat tire.

With a gun on his head, Benedict managed to stay calm and “reason” with his kidnappers. They had been told a few days before how to behave during a carjacking, but what he did required a mind of steel and great courage. People underestimate how disabling panic can be.

It was not Benedict Cumberbatch’s first brush with death but it was certainly the most traumatic.
“It taught me that you come into this world as you leave it, on your own. It’s made me want to live a life slightly less ordinary.”

If you want more, definitely read Being Benedict Cumberbatch, it is light hearted, funny and full of the details you did not know you needed in your life. If you are still not convinced, remember that there are more than 85 full-colour photographs in there.

Happy cheekbones time!

  

Published in We Are Live!
Monday, 16 January 2017 12:17

Blue Monday with New Order

Blue Monday is upon us, and we all need a little something to perk us up and get us through what has been dubbed the most depressing day of the year.

Getting back into the swing of things at work, booking any holiday we can afford, and maybe dipping into the chocolate and breaking a New Year’s resolution or two. That’s usually what January comprises. I know I’ve booked a last minute holiday, and my leftover Christmas chocolate is definitely getting eaten on a daily basis.

My Blue Monday is going to consist of comforting food, an evening on the sofa, and a little bit of New Order. If that doesn’t sound like the most relaxing evening then I don’t know what would. Whilst New Order’s 1983 single ‘Blue Monday’ may reflect our sentiments for this dreaded day, I think we should try to make it as stress free as possible.

We can play our favourite album, dance or relax to our favourite songs, but maybe skip the ‘Blue Monday’ single because we don’t want to succumb to those blues. Or, if a quieter night seems to be what we’re in need of, then we can satisfy our love of the iconic ‘Blue Monday’ with a bit of reading instead. The Blue Monday Diaries by Michael Butterworth will provide the perfect dose of rock without needing to get up and dance away from the comfort of your sofa. 

An insight into the recording studio and the life of New Order offers the necessary escapism from Blue Monday. Written from notebooks jottings about the mundane and the illicit, Butterworth presents behind-the-scene details that have never been discussed before. If you want to dance away this Monday, go ahead. Why let anyone stop you? But, for me, putting my feet up with an absorbing read and a healthy dose of chocolate will be ideal.

Even though it’s supposed to be the most depressing day of the year, I think we should try to make it happier, more of a Yellow Monday. Something that speaks of sunshine and summer time, something we all need to help us forget about winter and the impending frost. And if you can’t make New Order’s US tour and Coachella appearance later this year, just remember that Gillian Gilbert’s birthday is on the 27th January so there’s an excuse to celebrate.

Whether you choose to dance and sing or sit and read, just be sure it’s New Order on your mind and not Blue Monday. I know which I’d rather be thinking about.

Blue Monday or ‘Blue Monday’? I’ll let you decide. 
Share your Blue Monday set-up with us over on Instagram and Twitter!

Published in We Are Live!


January is full of New Year’s resolutions aplenty, and getting healthy is one of the most popular choices.


As you look forward to a new you in 2017, we want you to step back in time and explore the recipes created by Vera Richter in the 1920s.

Vintage Vegan is guaranteed to give you some foodie inspiration that will take you out of your comfort zone. This raw vegan recipe book offers delicious and unique food and drink that is sure to kick-start your January. 

Whilst resolutions seems like a good idea when you make them, more often than not we all slip up soon enough. Instead of dreading your healthy eating, and daydreaming of chocolate at your desk, let Vintage Vegan
take you on a journey to discover the extensive options available to you whilst on a vegan diet. Those January blues will cause no more trouble once you start a fulfilling and satisfying vegan lifestyle.


Here’s how Vintage Vegan can help you to achieve your goal:

  • If it’s the 3pm sugar slump you struggle with then Vera’s coconut caramels or peanut butter confections will do the trick.
  • Liven up your salads with the sesame seed dressing or simplicity dressing.
  • Buying an unhealthy lunch will be a thing of the past with Vera’s tomato-cream soup or summer salad.
  • Keep up the Christmas spirit with vegan mince pies and Christmas spice cake.

By using Vera’s recipes inside Vintage Vegan, your energy levels will be boosted after the comfort food of Christmas. An extra boost will help to combat your January blues and make your Monday mornings something to look forward to.

The nutritional benefits are abundant in the most popular recipes from the first raw vegan restaurant. And we want to share that goodness with you to help ensure your January is the best it can be.

Beating the January blues has never been easy, but sticking to your New Year’s resolution has never been simpler. 

We made our own peanut butter confection which you can see here!

Let us know if you’ve tried any of the lovely recipes!

You can buy a copy of Vintage Vegan here.

Published in We Are Live!

It’s always exciting to see hard work come together when we receive the finished copies of our books. One of the most recent to touch down in the Plexus office is Vintage Vegan, by Vera Richter, a title that I’ve been working on since starting here as an intern in March.

On the surface, it’s a raw food recipe book, but its significance goes much deeper. Vintage Vegan is a collection of recipes from the world’s first raw vegan restaurant, opened in California in 1917. Anyone could be forgiven for thinking that the raw food movement is an emergence of recent years, but Richter takes us to the roots of this long-standing dietary choice, showing us her early interpretation of raw veganism. In Richter’s time, California was a hub for individuals following raw food diets and embracing what were considered ‘alternative’ lifestyles. Her restaurant, The Eutropheon, became a place for influential figures in the alternative lifestyle movement to meet and exchange ideas.

Richter’s recipes return to the essentials of raw foodism. Fewer ingredients were available when Richter was writing these recipes, almost a century ago, but she manages to produce tasty and filling recipes that have stood the test of time to be as satisfying today as when they were first conceived. Most of the ingredients required can be found in any supermarket, so not only are her recipes are easy to execute, they are also very economical. This was no doubt an important consideration for Richter, as her cafeteria-style restaurant served hundreds at a time.

Months of proofreading and editing Vintage Vegan left me eager to try out some of Richter’s recipes for myself. I have chosen one that particularly appealed to me, a peanut butter confection (to be found on page 88). This recipe demonstrates the wonderful simplicity of Richter’s approach, requiring only two ingredients – dates and peanut butter.


          15555628 10158054646190045 1589737323 n


I used the dates that were most readily available to me, Sayer dates, but I would recommended using a more meaty, juicy variety such as Medjool to make your treats feel even more indulgent. Peanut butter could be substituted for another nut butter, if desired.

The method was fairly simple, the dates had to be chopped in a food processor and then stirred into the peanut butter to combine, before rolling and shaping. Unfortunately I found myself lacking when rolling them into equal sized balls; although a straightforward task, my treats emerged rather non-uniform. I made a last-minute decision to coat them in ground almonds to add an extra dimension to the taste.


          


Although my substandard food prep skills leave these less aesthetically-pleasing than Richter no doubt intended, the finished result was delicious! 10 out of 10 for Vera Richter’s Peanut Butter Confection from the entire Plexus team, who sampled the fruits of my labour this morning.


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Have you been trying out any recipes from the book? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

Buy your copy of Vintage Vegan here.
Published in We Are Live!
The first member of Joy Division to discover our bookshops was Stephen Morris, on days when he was wagging school. He found us (though not me personally yet) at House on the Borderland, Savoy’s first shop, opened in 1972. Named after William Hope Hodgson’s novel of fantastical horror, it was positioned in Port Street at the top of the ‘triangle’ in what is today’s Northern Quarter. Fittingly, its home was the run-down warren of backstreets near to Piccadilly train station.

David, who managed the shop in those days, remembers a ‘hesitant, nervous teenager about fifteen years of age, buddingly eccentric, with an inner intelligence and depth belied by outer appearances; he engendered a keen sense that he was looking for something else in life.’ After his school eventually expelled him for smoking dope, Stephen’s visits became more frequent. Nervy and wiry, he was occasionally accompanied by school friend Adam, who was quiet and reserved. But Adam could also be articulate and knowledgeable, so that in years to come David misremembered him for Ian, until we realised that Ian did not meet Stephen until three or four years later, even though they went to the same school.

‘You’re right. I hadn’t met Ian at that time,’ Stephen confirmed when I asked him for clarification. ‘Adam was a great fan of Moorcock, although he preferred Moorcock’s character Elric to his other character Jerry Cornelius, a constant source of disagreement between us at the time.’

Adam also gravitated towards more outré literary titles by William Burroughs and the weirder fringe magazines of the period – New Worlds, Heathcote Williams’ The Fanatic, and Crucified Toad – foreshadowing the later friendship between Stephen and Ian who took to each other instantly. Ian and Stephen were to meet for the first time after an Electric Circus gig, and again when Stephen responded to an ad for a drummer, put up by Ian in Jones’ Music Store, in Macclesfield, following which he joined Warsaw, the nascent incarnation of Joy Division.

Stephen and his friend Adam helped out with minding the shop and running errands. The tasks usually entailed getting in supplies of ‘hot jam squares’ and cups of tea from a nearby sandwich shop, but ‘less serious’ work could also be involved, purchasing cumbersome quantities of stock from local wholesalers such as Abel Heywood, World Distributors, or Thorpe & Porter, the latter presiding over a cadaverous mill on Pollard Street in nearby Ancoats. No one could drive a car, so extra hands were always needed to manhandle boxes and sacks back to the shop.

Ian found his way to us much later, at Bookchain, at the bottom of the ‘triangle’ of bookshops, where one of the ex-shop managers remembers him as always wearing a long mac, ‘de rigueur’ clothing of the time that Ian hung on to. He remembers one occasion particularly clearly. ‘It must have been 1979,’ he told me, ‘because I was playing Bowie’s Lodger on the shop’s hi-fi system. It had just come out, and Ian came over and asked me what it was.’ Apparently, I then I arrived at the shop, and Ian left with me. ‘You both went round to the Savoy office on Deansgate,’ the ex-manager recalled, ‘I think to discuss William Burroughs.’

Ian and I had only recently met one another. He had invited me to a Joy Division gig and I must now have been repaying him with a return invite. I have very little memory of the occasion, but he was curious to understand how book publishing works, so I let him look at the books we were working on. I had just got back from America, and showed him a signed copy of the 1978 Viking Press hardback edition of William Burroughs’ book collaboration with Brion Gysin, The Third Mind. In October, Ian himself had plans to meet Burroughs, at Joy Division’s Plan K gig in Belgium. The meeting was to have a weird outcome. When Ian introduced himself and tried requesting ‘a spare copy’ of The Third Mind. Burroughs allegedly told him to ‘get lost, kid’. Supposedly, Ian was most upset at this. My own feelings are that if Burroughs really said what he was supposed to have said, then it must have been intended playfully. Ian said later that Burroughs had simply said that he hadn’t got any copies left. 

The Blue Monday Diaries: In the Studio With New Order is available from Amazon both in Kindle and paperback format. Click here to find out more.

Next week’s extract includes Michael’s first 1982 diary entry.
Published in We Are Live!
Over the next four weeks we will be sharing extracts from The Blue Monday Diaries: In the Studio With New Order by Michael Butterworth. This book is a memoir of the time he spent with New Order in 1982, whilst the band was recording ‘Blue Monday’ and Power, Corruption and Lies. Butterworth kept a handwritten diary documenting this period, when he was both living with the band and going with them to Britannia Row studios during the recordings. This diary forms the centre of the book.

The blog posts that we will be sharing are selected passages from The Blue Monday Diaries. These are simply highlights, which are explored in much greater detail in the book.

The first two posts set the scene, describing the late seventies, when Stephen Morris and Ian Curtis found the Savoy bookshops.

Documentarians of Joy Division and New Order, seduced by satanic mills, the city’s seventies doom-laden veneer and the moody black-and-white photography of Kevin Cummins reflecting a true Taste of Honey version of Manchester, usually stop at Joy Division. The cloud that hung about the city seemed to oppress its inhabitants, especially its youth, and it is not surprising that the spirit of the Sex Pistols, in the form of Joy Division, rose with anger and a cold cry of anguish there. But for me, rather than being distinctly separate bands, Joy Division and New Order are aspects of each other. The aspect I will be documenting here is the band’s sunnier one, the side that, for pragmatic reasons, happens to have called itself New Order. For me, they are the Mancs who finally cut loose from their own and their city’s past; who, with other bands, discovered black swagger and cool in New York.

As part of Factory Records, the band grew up in a parallel world to my own, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time to record a part of what they brought back. There was another side to the Madchester music explosion, one that is largely unknown, that isn’t recorded in the annals of the city’s musical history except in the underground press and covertly in books like Clinton Heylin’s history of rock bootlegs, The Great White Wonders. The company that conceived and disseminated this alternative culture began in 1975, a few years before the founding of Factory. The publishing house, Savoy Books, consisted of David Britton and myself, and the early ‘edges’ of these two companies, Savoy Books and Factory Records, overlapped and cross-influenced one another.

In a city that was still trying to emerge from its industrial past, its buildings blackened from soot, coping with wartime decline and the purging of its nightlife by police, the company’s retail outlets were oases of alternative youth culture for bands including Joy Division and New Order. Inhabited by young rockers, leather-clad punks and would-be Baudelaires from the science-fiction wastelands, and positioned on the run-down edges of the city centre, these bookshops – House on the Borderland, Bookchain, Orbit Books – formed a kind of occult triangle about Manchester’s respectable mercantile heartland. Gaudy posters, fly-pasted around the city guided the wary and not-so-wary citizens to our door. It was an area staked out as Savoyland.

Growing up as children and teenagers in the late 1950s and sixties, the formative experiences of David and I were seminal rock’n’roll, the literary experimentalism of the Beats, the music of Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, and the UK underground magazines Oz and Ink. By the seventies, instead of conforming, as many of our peers were doing, we just carried on.

Our attitude was expressed in the books we published, but it carried through into our retail businesses, where our young shop managers – each a specialist in their own areas of comics, music or literature – reigned supreme over their cultural fiefdoms. At Bookchain, they outdid one another by compiling tapes of newly-released punk and post-punk music, cranking the volume up on the shops’ sound systems so high that the music was not just audible inside the shop but also yards away outside in the street, advertising the iconoclastic presence of Savoy Books. Over there, on that side of town, may be Factory Records. But over here, on our side, something different was happening.

Meccas for the rebels of the city’s street life the shops held a particular allure for the Electric Circus/Ranch/Rafters/Factory/Beach crowd in the sparse era before the chain stores, emboldened by pirates like us, came to monopolise the markets. An integral part of Manchester’s music and literature scenes, we sold bootleg records in the days when such a venture was dangerous. The bootlegs were principally of Bowie and Roxy Music (the backbone of rebellious youth culture), quickly followed by the New York Dolls, the Sex Pistols and any vinyl bearing a candid photograph of Debbie Harry on its hastily printed sleeve.

The Blue Monday Diaries: In the Studio With New Order is available from Amazon both in Kindle and paperback format. Click here to find out more.
Published in We Are Live!
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