How did an old-fashioned British manufacturer of motorbike clobber become the label of choice for the Hollywood set?

Longton, Staffordshire, is one of the original six Potteries towns that make up the city of Stoke-on-Trent, where it is known, rather disparagingly, as "the neck end". Once home to so many "bottle-oven" brick kilns that the streets were clogged with the fug of chimney smoke, Longton now fights urban decay. There's no obvious connection to the red carpets of film premieres, to nation builders and iconic revolutionaries, to pioneers of aviation or heroes of motorsport.

Pandora: Powell gets his books in order

Here's a development that is sure to come in handy in the aftermath of this year's election: Jonathan Powell, former chief of staff to Tony Blair, has found a publisher for his forthcoming book, aptly titled The New Machiavelli: How to Wield Power in Modern Britain.

Rock and reel: Rockbiopics go lo-fi

From Ian Curtis to John Lennon, musical heroes have long fascinated film-makers. As a raft of new biopics hits our screens, Geoffrey Macnab explains the eternal love affair

Business Diary: Waples' audition for world of PR

The news last week that Sunday Times business editor John Waples is taking a highly paid job in PR with Financial Dynamics did not come as a complete surprise to everyone. A couple of months ago Waples took a star turn at a conference organised by CorpComms, the magazine for PR professionals. He was planning ahead, clearly.

Listen to a song from 'Nowhere Boy'

Nowehere Boy, the biopic of a young John Lennon reaches UK cinemas next week and is reviewed in today's Independent.

Album: Various artists, Nowhere Boy (Sony)

“You know what rock’n’roll means?” John Lennon’s mother asks her son in Sam Taylor-Wood’s imminent biopic. “Sex.”

Aaron Johnson on being John Lennon

Aaron Johnson, who plays the young Beatle in the forthcoming Nowhere Boy, talks to James Mottram about his preparation for the role – and his much-publicised romance with the film's director, Sam Taylor-Wood

Woman admits hiding terror files in burka

A mother of six has been given a two-year jail sentence after admitting concealing "a mini encyclopaedia of weapons making" in the sleeve of her burka.

First Night: Nowhere Boy, London Film Festival

A voyage round John Lennon's mother

Lennon's real-life 'Lucy in the sky with diamonds' dies at 46

The woman who inspired the Beatles' song "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" has died of lupus. The St Thomas Lupus Trust, which supported Lucy Vodden during her long illness, said she died last week at the age of 46.

Woman who inspired The Beatles' song Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds dies aged 46

The woman who inspired the classic Beatles song Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, has died aged 46, a charity said today.

Minor British Institutions: The Order of the British Empire

Despite many efforts to reform it, this archaic "order of chivalry" survives, though how seriously it is taken even by those proudly waving their medals outside Buck House is debatable.

Alexei Sayle: Roll up for the magical mystery tour of Liverpool – but don't visit my old house

It is an unsettling experience to take a tourist trip round your hometown
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As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links