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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Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
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Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
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File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
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Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
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Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
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Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
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Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game