The Gruffalo’s Julia Donaldson: ‘I had a real crush on Mick Jagger’

First concert I attended

One of the first was a concert my father put on at Hampstead Theatre about the history of Hampstead. But a memorable concert as a teenager was seeing the Rolling Stones. I had a real crush on Mick Jagger. I wasn’t one of the screaming girls, but a girl staring in adoration.

First adult book I read

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien was the first book I read that didn’t have a happy ending. That book, and La Peste by Camus, sent me into depression because that’s when

Geri Halliwell-Horner: the day I vowed I’d marry George Michael

Sometimes you meet people and you realise everyone’s just human. I recall meeting Shirley Bassey at Elton John’s party. She hugged me and told me that Michael Jackson had just died. It was quite overwhelming.

Writing the lyrics to the Spice Girls song Too Much. I was in the back of the car and we were struggling to get out of the filming of Spice World. The gates were locked and there were loads of fans in front of us. That inspired some of that song’s lyrics.

The Naughtiest Girl in the School

Elizabeth Day: ‘I wanted to write the next Great Gatsby — I failed’

I’ve always relied on books. With a book you’re never alone. My mother would read me the Meg and Mog series, written by Helen Nicoll and illustrated by Jan Pienkowski. The series made me fall in love with books as a concept and made me want to become an author.

The Great Gatsby when I was around 12, which makes me sound like a precocious brat. It was for a sponsored read at my secondary school in Belfast. I discovered such clarity in F Scott Fitzgerald’s prose. When I wrote my fourth book, The

Michelle Keegan: ‘I always gravitate towards strong female characters’

Why did you decide to go into acting?

When I was younger, television was my everything. We still have lots of home videos of me, sitting in front of the TV in our home in Salford. I was obsessed with performing in front of my family, and very confident at my school in Greater Manchester, especially when we were in drama class. Drama was the only subject that I did quite well in. When I left college, I didn’t know what to do apart from acting. It was my only passion.

How did you end up starrin

Mel Giedroyc: my first performance with Sue Perkins was shambolic

I watched a lot of male comedians with my dad, who was a Polish-Lithuanian civil engineer. We loved Les Dawson, Morecambe and Wise and The Two Ronnies. One day I joined our lodgers upstairs to watch Not the Nine O’Clock News and that blew my mind. Then the women who pioneered the way for female comedy came along: Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, Victoria Wood, Julie Walters.

The annual pantomime at the Thorndike Theatre in Leatherhead, where I grew up, was the most important day of the year.

Starstruck’s Rose Matafeo: Rob Lowe, Nelson Mandela and me

Despite Bridget Jones’s Diary centring on a thirtysomething in London, I related to it as a 16-year-old growing up in Auckland, New Zealand. It’s a comfort watch, it calms me down. I’ve seen every Richard Curtis film. If you’re making a rom-com set in London, like I did with my series Starstruck, you’re open to comparisons to that world. There are bad rom-coms out there — but people who make good rom-coms, or comedy films in general, know how to do a story well and Curtis is one of them.

My dad

Hozier: fame, faith and baggy skater jeans

I went to gigs when I was very young because my dad, John Byrne, was a drummer and blues musician. My first concert was Sting in Dublin when I was about six. Two years later it was Van Morrison. I channelled my dad’s interests, clearly.

JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit because I’ve always loved escaping into fantasy worlds. Later, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four really affected me. The chapter that explains the nature of war really resonated — I was reading it at the time of the Iraq war. As a chi

Stephen Fry: ‘I fell for a boy and was never the same again’

At school, I absolutely fell for a boy. Completely dominated my life from then on. Every waking moment. Guessing his paths to and from this lesson to that. Contriving opportunities for “accidental” meetings. I was never the same again. I know — it’s soppy, clichéd and absurd. Calf love is, I suppose. But it’s heartbreakingly real too. To that agonising catastrophe I owe my discovery of whole oceans of literature. Books were the only sources I could consult back then. Suddenly, pop lyrics, love p

Simon Mayo on Mary Poppins, podcasts and ‘terrible’ festivals

First time I went to the cinema

Mary Poppins with my mum when I was seven years old. For my 60th birthday, I didn’t want a big birthday party — I’m not into that sort of thing — so I hosted a mini film festival and screened Mary Poppins and School of Rock followed by Apollo 13.

First time I cried in the cinema

My podcast co-host, Mark Kermode, cries at everything. Real life moves me more than a film. But after watching Peter Weir’s Gallipoli, I found myself shedding tears.

First film I disli

Russian Doll’s Natasha Lyonne on stealing CDs, Julia Roberts and taking LSD

I’m a person with a lot of brain damage. I don’t even remember my first hit of LSD, but I do remember reading The Little Prince as a child. The first novel that I loved was Hermann Hesse’s Demian, which we reference in my Netflix series Russian Doll.

I do remember the first albums I stole. There was a mail order CD company when I was growing up in Great Neck, New York, that would have an initial offering of five free CDs. I’d steal them from the other residents in our apartment building. It hel

Arlo Parks: The day I tried to sing like Taylor Swift

First book I read

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket kicked off my love of dark novels that explore strange, flawed characters. My Nigerian father and Chadian-French mother encouraged me to read. I’ve always had a love of books.

First album I bought

Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not by Arctic Monkeys. I was obsessed with the grit and humanity of that record. Growing up in Hammersmith, west London, I often heard music when we were driving or cooking

Emily Atack: ‘I’d never been told I was fat until I did lads’ mags’

First book I read

I was a very emotional child and remember being traumatised by Jacqueline Wilson’s novels because I found them so sad. My attention span is terrible so instead of reading novels, I used to get lost for hours in poetry, particularly poems by Wendy Cope. I think my mum [the actress Kate Robbins, who voiced Spitting Image puppets such as Margaret Thatcher] wished I had read more but I was more interested in boys.

First album I bought

Music is at the centre of my family. My mum

Rose Ayling-Ellis: Mum told me X Factor presenters were deaf too

What deaf or disabled people inspired you on television when you were growing up?

I didn’t have anyone to look up to who was deaf when I was growing up and I don’t remember seeing anyone disabled on TV either. I remember asking my mum if the presenters on live shows like The X Factor or Comic Relief were deaf because they were wearing earpieces; she told me yes, even though she knew that wasn’t true. She saw how important it was to me to see myself represented and I was in awe. This just shows

Maisie Peters: ‘I was shocked when Taylor Swift liked my cover of her song’

First book I loved

I didn’t grow up in a literary household. My father, a geography teacher, and my mother, a journalist, were not big readers — but I’ve always adored reading, often under the duvet when I was supposed to be asleep. I wanted to devour everything and was obsessed with the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Vampires fascinated me.

First artists I listened to

Abba, Plan B and Arctic Monkeys were hugely influential, but it was when I discovered singer-songwriters that things re

‘We didn’t need an intimacy coach’ — the real-life couple from Colin from Accounts

PB: For the first ten years of my life I was in and out of hospital with the often-fatal prune belly syndrome, a rare condition that affects about one in 50,000 children. My parents went through a lot. I was a really sick kid who wasn’t allowed to eat. While the others on the ward were eating, I would distract myself by drawing the curtains and becoming absorbed by The Empire Strikes Back.

HD: I grew up in Townsville, a city on the Queensland coast in Australia, and was obsessed with Curly Sue,

Kevin McCloud: my teenage fashion sense was no grand design

First book I loved

I still own the first book I fell for: an early 1960s copy of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. It’s still such a powerful read. I didn’t grow up in a literary family — my mother worked in accounts and my father was an electronics engineer and our lives were dominated by numbers and making things. We never needed a plumber or an electrician because my father did everything (other than make clothes, which he left to my mother). My interest in reading only took off at school and

Julian Clary: I devoured DH Lawrence aged 11 — even the fruity ones

Children’s books never really interested me, but when I was about 11 I discovered DH Lawrence’s The Rainbow on my mother’s bookshelf and became completely immersed. So I read all his others, even the fruity ones. When this information came out in a class discussion at school the teacher (a Benedictine monk) was horrified and wrote a stern letter to my parents saying such books were unsuitable for a Catholic boy. Of course it was too late by then.

The 1970 T. Rex by T. Rex. I loved the otherworl

Greg Davies: ‘I’m a freak of nature with size 14 feet’

First book I loved

I wasn’t an especially academic child, but reading The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ by Sue Townsend when I was 14 felt like quite an awakening.

First grown-up author I admired

I’m not really sure how he did it but John Steinbeck made me feel like I was an itinerant farm worker in 1930s California. His powerful writing really hit me. When I made the worst mistake of my life and became an English and drama teacher, Of Mice and Men was the book that inspired the imagi

Louise Redknapp: ‘Your private time was still private in the Nineties’

First book I loved

I devoured every Enid Blyton book, particularly the Famous Five series. My mum, who worked at Gatwick airport, was keen on getting me to read, but it was hit and miss — if I found a book I loved, I would choose that over watching TV. I encourage my children — Charley, 18, and Beau, 14 — to read, but it’s difficult because they want to play football instead. Nowadays, at 48, reading is the only way I can switch off.

First music I listened to

I used to listen to a lot of my p

Becky Hill: ‘I was fearless as a kid — I worry now’

First book I read

Books weren’t exactly a big thing in our house. My dad was a financial adviser and my mum was a market researcher and they’re not big readers. I think I may have mild ADHD so I find reading difficult. When I was 18 I read Kill Your Friends by John Niven, a kind of horror story about the cut-throat music industry, especially in the 1990s when drugs were so prevalent. It massively put me off for a while, but I realised I can’t do much else other than sing and write songs.


Alice Levine: ‘We won’t have healthier sex lives unless we talk about it’

Allan and Janet Ahlberg’s poetry collections were popular in our house in Nottinghamshire when I was growing up, particularly Please Mrs Butler. They inspired me to write a few poems at school. There was one about cobwebs, which I wrote when I was seven and which my dad, then a lecturer at the University of Nottingham, rewrote. I got a certificate for it and it went on the classroom wall. I’ve never felt guiltier. My parents are big readers, but I’m a really slow reader, which is one of my great

Craig Mazin: ‘We wouldn’t just do one more season’ of The Last of Us

Tomorrow the biggest show of the year ends its first season. The Last of Us is a brilliant, raw zombie epic based on a video game. The series has more than 22 million viewers. Have we found the next Game of Thrones?

First, for the uninitiated: The Last of Us shows what happens when a fungus evolves and takes over humans. Twenty years after the outbreak, Joel (Pedro Pascal) must smuggle a scrappy teenager, Ellie (Bella Ramsey), across the zombie-infested country.

A second series has been announ
Load More

Let's get social