#CargoOfBricks: From library assistant in Oldpark to Smash Hits boss in four years…

Talking to a retired nationalist politician recently he recounted how important it was for him to get out of Belfast in the early days of the troubles to UCD and a Dublin in which society and its operants (arts, commerce, science) outsized the politics of the day.

#CargoOfBricks and Brian’s In Conversation podcast series draw from a wider circle of sources share insights and stories that perhaps can have a fresh bearing on our lives in-the-round, not always through the lens of the troubles era, or even politics at all.

This week’s guest, Barry McIlheney, grew up in Oldpark in North Belfast and became singer (or as he puts it, ‘chief shouter in front’) in a punk band with a bunch of school mates (including Davy McClarnon who’s still about today) called Shock Treatment.

Barry’s timeline is similar to my own (he’s about a year older than me, but we left Belfast the exact same year). When he mentions the old Pound Club, he means the old stable block at the back of Roddy’s Bar on Oxford Street (it was one pound to get in).

For Barry Mac, as he is known these days, punk was a ‘coming-out’ more than ‘shell shock’ period, in which he learned he had a talent for writing and entertaining through the sheer exuberance and the torching of any notion of the right way of doing things.

After punk died, he worked in the Oldpark library (where he had “once learned to read, and therefore write”) before moving to London for a journalism course at City University. Four years later he was editor of the big insurgent title of that era, Smash Hits.

Throughout his career, Barry played a key role in some of the biggest magazine titles in the world, including being the founding editor of Empire Magazine.  The rest, as they say, is history, much of which you’ll find in this week’s edition of #CargoOfBricks…

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See you next week. In the meantime, the best way to keep up with Cargo of Bricks and In Conversation, is to subscribe to Slugger on Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts.