James Innes-Smith

James Innes-Smith is the author of two books about old school entertainers, Life Is A Cabaret and Reach For The Big Time.

Tyre Nichols and the muted response of Black Lives Matter

The reaction to the brutal death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old, after he was stopped by police has been strangely muted. Nichols, a father-of-one, died of his injuries on 10 January, three days after a confrontation with five black officers in Memphis, Tennessee. Lawyers for the family said Nichols, an African-American, was beaten ‘like a

In defence of the Brummie accent

‘It is impossible for a Brummie to open his mouth without making some other-accented Englishman hate or despise him.’ I am misquoting George Bernard Shaw, of course – but maybe the great man had the much-maligned Birmingham accent in mind when he made his famous pronouncement. In a recent study more than 2,000 people were asked to listen

The curious story of Ann Summers

I always thought that ‘Ann Summers’ was one of those made-up names created by corporate brains, like Dorothy Perkins and Ted Baker. But it turns out that Ms Summers was an actual person.  The store’s founder Michael Caborn-Waterfield named his first shop after his 19-year-old secretary Annice Summers. ‘Dandy Kim’, as he was known, had been a roguish figure around post-war London, a gentleman adventurer

The joy – and occasional pain – of a fountain pen

Our new King isn’t the only royal to have lost his rag over a leaky pen, as happened when he was signing a visitors’ book at Hillsborough Castle near Belfast. ‘Oh God, I hate this,’ King Charles said, before handing the pen to his wife, Camilla, Queen Consort. ‘I can’t bear this bloody thing… every

London’s best tasting menus

Once the preserve of only the fanciest of fancy restaurants, the tasting menu has come into its own post-pandemic. Set menus make economic sense for cost-cutting restaurateurs and their harried staff, of course – but customers benefit too, with no nasty surprises or bust-ups when the bill arrives. And for those of us who suffer

The utter misery of BBC’s Marriage

‘Who are these people and why should we care about them?’ This is the most important question any screenwriter must ask before committing pen to paper. Sadly it’s a question I failed to come anywhere near answering during the interminable ‘realism’ of the BBC’s much discussed (and much praised) Marriage. Sean Bean and Nicola Walker

The lost charm of London’s St Giles

London’s architectural landscape is changing at such a pace that it’s hard to remember what’s been lost beneath the acres of tarpaulin. Buildings I must have walked past a thousand times and that I could have sworn were important landmarks have been disappearing at an alarming rate. Despite the devastation there appears to be little

London’s healthiest restaurants

Without ‘drastic government action’ a recent report has warned, obese adults in the UK are set to outnumber those who are a healthy weight within five years. By 2040 nearly four in ten adults in the UK, that’s 21 million people, are projected to be obese, with 19 million classed as overweight. The so-called obesity

Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge problem

Is Steve Coogan a one trick pony? It’s a question that has dogged the Mancunian actor’s career ever since his preening Partridge flapped into the nation’s affections over thirty years ago. Since then, with a couple of notable exceptions (his turn as Stan Laurel was a triumph), Coogan’s projects have been little more than variations on

Welcome to globalised paradise

‘I remember when this was a dusty old coastal road with stunning views across the length of Seven Mile Beach’ recalls my charming cab driver as we cruise along one of Grand Cayman’s many spotless highways. That was back in the 80s before mass tourism and the financial sector barricaded the island’s most bankable asset

The truth about the anxiety epidemic

Knots in the stomach? An overwhelming sense of despair? Nervous, restless and tense? That’ll be the anxiety talking and for good reason. What with the financial crash, austerity, Brexit partisanship, climate change catastrophising, social media derangement, pandemic pandemonium and now the possibility of a third world war, I’d be concerned if we weren’t all feeling

Fatherhood is a risk men aren’t willing to take

Recent reports that half of women in England and Wales are now childless by their 30th birthday reveal a worrying new attitude amongst Gen Z. Parenthood, to the younger generation, is the enemy of unfettered frivolity. Young women, we are told, would rather live for the moment than plan for the future. ‘Being present’ has become

How sausage dogs were weaponised in the war

Short of leg but big on personality, the eccentrically shaped dachshund is one of Britain’s most beloved pets. Originally known as the ‘dachs kriecher’ (badger crawler) or ‘dachs krieger’ (badger warrior), dachshunds as we know them today can be traced back to 15th-century Germany where they were bred primarily for hunting. With extended, sausage-shaped body,

London’s most romantic restaurants

Get your credit cards out lads, it’s that time of year again when we demonstrate our love via the medium of grub. Because this year the big day falls on a Monday many restaurants have extended their Valentine menus to cover the whole weekend. With any luck, this should free up tables for those naughty

In defence of road rage

A friend told me recently that the only time she and her husband get passionate these days is when they are yelling abuse at each other across the cup-holders of their Renault Hybrid. He complains that she drives like an anxious old lady while she’s convinced he’s an entitled prat behind the wheel. During every

What I’ve learnt about luxury

What do you look for in a luxury hotel? For me it’s the quality of the pillows every time. You can keep your fancy hair products, exotic fruit bowls and hooded towelling robes; give me two perfectly puffy goose down pillows and I can forgive almost anything – well, maybe not a lumpy mattress. Luxury

Spare me the celebrity Christmas memoir

Is there anything more dispiriting at this time of year than the dreaded ‘celebrity’ memoir – the publishing industry’s annual two-fingered salute to all us starving mid-list authors? Last week I managed to weave my way through a heaving Waterstones, eventually arriving at one of those vast tables groaning with needy ‘personalities’; there they all were, present

How having babies fell out of fashion

With all of our institutions now firmly under the iron fist of progressivism it was only a matter of time before social justice mission creep slipped under the doormat and into the home. You can only promulgate the idea that we live under a tyrannical patriarchy for so long before young people take notice and

The truth about plant-based food

There’s an air of familiarity about the former head chef of Claridge’s penchant for plant-based food. It was reported this weekend that he has left his role after the hotel passed on his plans for an entirely plant-based menu. All credit to Claridge’s who are one of the few institutions not to have swallowed this particular culinary cool