Arts & Entertainment

Nina Stibbe moved to London in 1982 to work as a nanny for Mary-Kay Wilmers, the editor of the London Review of Books. In the years following, she wrote letters home to her sister in Leicester, and Love, Nina is the result.

Smut, By Alan Bennett

Smut is a curious mix of the Alan Bennett we know of old, whose clucking, mid-life Northern treasures - Thora Hird and the like - divulge their secrets in gently subversive sotto voce, and the Alan Bennett we are coming to know, post-cancer scare, who might one day be seen as late, uncloseted Bennett, with sex increasingly on the brain.

Stand-out stand-up: comedians name their favourite funnyman

Daniel Kitson, a comic virtually unknown to mainstream television audiences, today received the ultimate accolade when he was declared the funniest man in the business by his contemporaries.

Seeing Stars, By Simon Armitage

From a talking sperm-whale at the outset to a sighting of Martin Amis in a surreally-enhanced Yorkshire at the end, Simon Armitage's new collection consists of funny, quirky, piquant prose poems.

Book Of A Lifetime: Red Shift, By Alan Garner

As a teenager, in the mid-1980s, I picked up Alan Garner's 'Red Shift'. It looked like other Garners I had read: a children's fantasy. But 'Red Shift', with its passionately bickering adolescent lovers and its vertiginous plunges through the wormhole of time, shook me to the core every time I read it, and still does.

Streetwise I'm not, says a chastened Alan Bennett

Playwright describes for the first time what happened when he fell for a scam and had £1,500 stolen from him

Buried In Books: A Reader’s Anthology, By Julie Rugg

Many readers of this section will share Julie Rugg's anguish about arriving home "with a blush and bag that is just a little too heavy". Her useful advice for hiding second-hand book purchases from your partner is to "spread them on existing piles of books... a method learned from the tunnellers in The Great Escape." Buried in Books would be a fruitful addition to any booklover's pile. Exploring this delightful anthology is akin to rummaging in the better sort of second-hand bookshop.

Desmond Barrit: 'Im making a Habit of being Richard Griffiths

It is slightly frightening seeing a show when you know you are going to take over a role. Actors are like magpies – they pick everything up that they think is clever. Of course, you want to reinvent a role and not repeat what the previous actor did. The fact I have taken over from Richard Griffiths twice – both in The Habit of Art and The History Boys – mystifies me because we are very different.

Cultural Life: Andrea Levy, Novelist

'It doesn't feel like cinema is catering for me so mostly I get things out on DVD and watch them on my humongous television'

The Diary: Shane Meadows; Alan Bennett; Playboy Bunny; Handel; Alice Walker

A degree of credit for British director

Polar Bears, Donmar Warehouse, London

Mark Haddon made his name with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a novel about the break-up of a marriage as seen through the eyes of a teenager with Asperger's syndrome. When I heard that he had written Polar Bears, a play about the stresses of loving a female with a bipolar disorder, my first cynical reaction was to wonder whether he has started to collect disorders for creative exploitation across the art forms.

First Night: Behud <i>(Beyond Belief)</i>, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Bhatti revisits drama that became a crisis

Johann Hari: Alan Bennett and the question of innocence

In his new play, [Bennett] takes his dark analysis of pederasty further

Cock, Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court, London

A brilliant study in bisexuality
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environmentGardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
musicBest exclusives coming to an independent record shop near you this Record Store Day
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
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How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit