Archive for March, 2012



“It is with great sadness that we announce that Alternative Ulster was unsuccessful in securing Arts Council funding for 2012/2013. As a result, AU Magazine is being put on hiatus. The website will continue to be run on a voluntary basis, and AU will continue to promote the best of Northern Irish and Irish music, culture and lifestyle in every way it possibly can.”

I was so, so saddened when AU magazine editor Chris Jones broke this news earlier this week. For the past nine years – and especially the five or six that I’ve been reading it – AU has been a beacon of Irish music journalism, setting a bar that no other Irish magazine came close to reaching in terms of the quality of writing, the beauty of its design and the scope of both music and non-music features alike that it covered. And it was free. FREE! It’s the sort of magazine you’d pay good money for in any other country, which makes it seems doubly bloody unfair that such a quality magazine falls by the wayside, when there’s so much inferior crap being published elsewhere.

On a personal note, I feel extra sad, because AU were one of the first magazines to take me under their wing when I was a rookie music journo. Former editor Francis Jones took a chance on me, and gave me feature assignments with big bands when no one else would. Chris has been equally generous and supportive since he took over the reins a few years ago. I had my first-ever cover feature – an huge milestone in any journalist’s career – with AU in 2008. In recent years I haven’t contributed more than the odd feature and a smattering of reviews to every issue, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading it cover-to-cover whenever it landed in the stack by Tower Records’ front door every month, and I’ve been proud to have my name associated with it for so long. For a magazine that’s run on what I assume is a comparatively tiny amount of advertising revenue (along with the now rescinded grant) and a hell of a lot of goodwill, it has been an amazing achievement.

So I want to publicly thank publisher and editor-in-chief Jonny Tiernan, Chris, Francis and everyone else involved behind the scenes with AU for their amazing hard work in keeping the magazine going for so long. The website ( will continue on a voluntary basis, but here’s hoping there’s some way back at some point in the future.


Originally published in The Irish Times, January 20th 2012.


LIAM PAYNE looks confused, possibly even a little disappointed. “Yeah, there were none outside today,” he tells me, shrugging his shoulders. “I don’t think they know we’re in here.” Screaming girls. They have become a fixture in Payne’s life, as well as the lives of the four young men he spends most of his time with these days.

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