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Monthly Archives: January 2017

Last week, after Kellyanne Conway gave an interview describing falsehoods as alternative facts, sales of George Orwells decades-old classic 1984spiked.The book, a part of so many high-school syllabi, appears to be helping people contextualize political rhetoric; the sales boost even led Michiko Kakutani at The New York Times to write an homage to the still-relevant novel, headlined Why 1984 Is a 2017 Must-Read.

But, as The New Republic pointed out, its not the only title that can offer valuable insight.Writer Josephine Livingston suggested that Franz Kafkas The Trial might be a more salient comparison.Sophie Gilbertnoted in The Atlantic that Sinclair Lewis and Hannah Arendt books have also seen sales boosts in the past year.

When it comes to undermining the media, controlling the dissemination of information and political leaders contradictions, theres plenty of literary precedent. If youve read Orwell and are looking for more novels on these topics, theres a range of dystopian and realistic fiction grappling with censorship and propaganda. Weve collected a few below:

The Tsar of Love and Technoby Anthony Marra


Marras connected stories span generations, showing how history erodes certain truths and throws others into relief. The first story is about a more concrete kind of censorship; its protagonist works in Joseph Stalins Department of Party Propaganda and Agitation, literally removing faces from paintings and newspapers. When he fails to do his job, haunted by the face of a familiar-looking ballerina, there are consequences.

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon


The dystopian world imagined by Graedon isnt so dissimilar from our own, which is what makes her novel particularly frightening. A sort of neurological disease has the potential to infect the tech-obsessed, making them no longer able to communicate clearly. Deeper readers remain more or less immune to the affliction, anchored as they are in context.

The Noise of Timeby Julian Barnes


Barnes latest novel isnt a dystopian one, but an intimate look at the life of an artist under tyrannical watch. Composer Dmitri Shostakovich goes unnoticed by Stalin until the ruler makes his negative thoughts on his music clear. Hes neither killed nor exiled, but instead made to represent Soivet ideals, forcing him to question which is more valuable: his art or his life.

Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour


In his review of Mandanipours novel, the critic James Wood reminded readers that tyranny is the mother of metaphor, and all that. In other words, a novelist hailing from a country where censorship is a literary restriction might get creative with his storytelling methods. Such is the case in this love story, centered on what can and cant be communicated publicly about a private relationship.

The Flame Alphabetby Ben Marcus


Ah, teens. Their tendency to spew righteous, thinly researched nonsense is annoying, but its harmless endearing, even. Right? Not so in Marcus experimental novel, where the language of young people is physically harmful to their parents. Naturally, chaos follows; unethical testing practices ensue, and the novels hero, Sam, strikes out on his own to find a cure. Which is all to say that words are as capable of harm as actions.

The Circleby Dave Eggers


When we imagine censorship, we imagine good citizens silenced by overt governmental mandates, finding clever new ways to express themselves in spite of noxious restrictions. In Eggers novel soon to be adapted into a film censorship is more complicated than that. It stems instead from a well-meaning corporate culture gone awry. At the Circle a Google-meets-Facebook conglomerate openness is valued over privacy, and self-censorship arises as a result.

The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood


Another beloved book soon to be adapted for the screen, Atwoods The Handmaids Tale is about a religious fundamentalist movement that occurs swiftly, oppressing women in its wake. In this imagined dystopia, called Gilead, women are issued uniforms and are separated from their families. Theyre also not allowed to read knowledge, after all, is freeing.

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

Random House

If the choppy-sounding title of Shteyngarts most recent novel Super Sad True Love Story doesnt sound to you like Doublespeak, maybe the 1984connection will be made clearer by its premise. In a near-future society where personal devices and individual scores are obsessed over, relationships are stripped of their nuance and intimate connection is nearly impossible. Sad!

The Orphan Masters Son by Adam Johnson

Random House

In Johnsons portrayal of North Korea, the government is prone to doing one thing while publicly declaring that its doing an entirely different thing. Its a tactic that, on an individual level, can lead citizens to question their own perceptions of reality; on a large, governmental scale, the method of control is even more potent. To illustrate the rift between private and public knowledge, the book is told both from a first-person perspective, using the language of sheeny propaganda.

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

Delta Trade Paperback

An apolitical playwright American born, German raised stays in Germany during World War II, and joins onto the Nazis propaganda campaign. After the war, he returns to America, where he eventually becomes a symbol of a white supremacist group. The story, like Vonneguts Bluebeard, is written as he narrates the writing of his own diary.

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Hes the breakout star of this years buzziest films, next as a Miami drug dealer in Barry Jenkins tender coming-of-age drama. Will it win him an Oscar?

Let me see Luke Cage. Im looking down my phone Mahershala Ali sounds deep in concentration on the other end of the line. OK, so Danger Zone by Big L. Uh, Fly Girl Get Em, BJ The Chicago Kid; EPMD, Strictly Business; Erykah Badu, Soldier; Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, Deeper; Thuggin

Ali is going through one of his playlists. He makes one for every character, he explains. Music that he would respond to, music that reflects the world hes living in, things he would have listened to growing up or whatnot. Hell play them in his trailer or driving to the set. They help focus me very quickly, almost like a meditation. It especially helps if youre working on a couple of things.

Ali has been working on a couple of things pretty much all the time lately, which means a lot of playlists. After minor roles in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and The Hunger Games, the 42-year-old is currently experiencing a 15-years-in-the-making overnight success moment. In the aforementioned Luke Cage, Netflixs blaxploitation-tinged superhero series, he is Cornell Cottonmouth Stokes, Harlem club owner and ruthless crime boss. Before that, he was in slave-uprising drama Free State Of Jones. Next month well see him in Hidden Figures, the story of the African-American women who powered Nasa. Last year we also said goodbye to Alis best-known incarnation: Remy Danton, smooth political operator and foil to Kevin Spacey in House Of Cards. Remys playlist? A lot of Jay Z. I always felt if Jay Z had had different opportunities, he could be someone like Remy.

Ali as Cottonmouth in Luke Cage. Photograph: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

The reason were talking now, though, is Moonlight, Barry Jenkinss sensual, lyrical study of a working-class, gay black mans fraught coming of age. The film has garnered enormous acclaim 140-plus prizes so far, including a best supporting actor Oscar nomination which means hes now in the midst of a long awards season campaign. Hes grateful to those who advised him to pace himself. I got a little sleep today so I feel about as caught up as you can do.

In Moonlight, Ali plays Juan, a Miami drug dealer who takes the films hero, Chiron, under his wing as a boy. He protects Chiron, feeds him, encourages him to find his own identity, even teaches him to swim. But Juan is also the man whos selling drugs to Chirons mother. When Chiron calls him out on this in one of many remarkable scenes, the pain and shame on Juans tear-streaked face is powerfully palpable. Ali is only in the first third of Moonlight but, as has become his forte, he does a lot with a little. I miss him more than any other character that Ive ever played, he says.

Of course, Ali made a playlist for Juan but he never really listened to it. To his surprise, Barry Jenkins had already compiled one for him. It was mostly hip-hop in the southern, slowed-down style (known as chopped and screwed, Ali says) plus a few chopped-and-screwed Bach and Mozart compositions thrown in, too. You can feel the angst and yearning in it when its slowed down like that.

Ali devised other ways to get into character, too. I found myself thinking of him as a spirit first, strange as that might sound, and engaging in conversations with him. Finding out what it was I needed to know about, what he needed to say.

Literal, talking-to-yourself conversations?

Literal conversations, yes. Alone in my office, walking around just talking with him, and even going for walks. I havent approached it in that way before, and I wasnt sure if it was OK to do that! But then at the end of the day, I never know what Im doing.

Ali never had a plan to get where he is now. You could hardly accuse someone of ruthlessly seeking stardom when they were christened Mahershalalhashbaz Gilmore (he opted to change his surname to Ali when he later converted to Islam). His route into acting was via a basketball scholarship, though, according to Ali, sports was never his long-term aim. I had certain talents that I felt were going to get me to college and we didnt have a lot of money. Slam poetry was more his thing back then. That segued into rapping. He even had a recording contract.

I released a couple of projects which I wont advertise, he says modestly (a little detective work reveals him to be Prince Ali, who released a 2007 album called Curb Side Service). But he tried acting at college and it took over. Just as he was about to sign another recording contract in 1997, he got accepted by New York Universitys graduate school for acting.

Ali with The Hunger Games gang. Photograph: Color Force/REX/Shutterstock

The rest, you could say, is cinemas gain and hip-hops loss, though Ali still brings a certain musical charisma to every role he takes. Even when hes playing rogues and villains, hes irresistibly charming. As Essence magazine recently swooned: Mr Ali has some serious swag from his cool demeanour and radiant smile to his deep laugh and dope style. Its all there in Moonlight, as he rolls up in his vintage car, do-rag on his head, grills on his teeth, cigarette behind one ear, stereo blasting out Boris Gardiners 1974 soul tune Every Nigger Is A Star.

Moonlight is all about the hurt and humiliation that so often lies behind that swagger. Its a movie that helps redefine the perceptions around African-American masculinity. Ali says that he is always conscious of those and the burden of representing his culture, especially when hes playing a potential cliche like a drug dealer.

You have to be cognisant of it, he says. Since weve come out of decades of only being framed in very narrow scope, that puts a lot of pressure on those who do have some degree of success to reflect all things positive in the culture. I dont know if that will ever go away. But I think that dissipates as theres more representation, as theres more diversity of stories. Hes optimistic thats happening now. In addition to Moonlight, he cities Denzel Washingtons movie Fences, Donald Glovers Atlanta and Issa Raes Insecure.

Despite the current political climate, its a good time for Ali to be coming into his prime. He describes his unexpected ascent as humbling and sounds like a man with a sense of purpose. Im focused on trying to align myself with people who are like-minded, and trying to build the world I want to live in to the best of my powers. Alis working on it, one playlist at a time.

Moonlight is out in UK cinemas on Friday 17 February

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The money youre forking over to see your favourite band is paying for an entire touring ecosystem, including artists, promoters, sets and medical staff

In 2001, Billboard Boxscore reported that the top 100 music concerts of the year collectively generated $350m. In 2015, the top 25 concerts alone grossed just shy of $360m. There are two reasons behind this: more people are going to shows and ticket prices are spiking sharply.

Here is a topically illustrative example, given that their Joshua Tree 30th anniversary tour is the hottest ticket of the moment. In 2001, U2 had the ninth-biggest venue gross of the year in the US, collecting $6.4m from 78,275 tickets sold across four shows at the United Center in Chicago, with tickets priced at $45-$130. In 2015, they had the fourth-biggest gross of the year with $19.4m earned, playing eight shows to 149,942 people, with tickets at $30-$275. At the bottom end, some tickets were cheaper, but the band played more nights to twice as many people and made three times the money. Obviously, inflation has to be factored in, but the contrast between how they toured then and how they tour now is significant.

Of course, gross earnings are far from synonymous with profit. Acts touring today are not just swelling their own bank accounts; there are a lot of mouths to feed along the way. Fans paying $275 for a show might presume most of that is going straight to the band. But it really isnt. So what, exactly, is your ticket price paying for?

The live industry is rarely keen to draw back the curtain to show its inner workings, so the Guardian spoke to a number of live music insiders who wished to remain anonymous. In doing so, they were able to speak candidly about where, exactly, the money goes.

There are no precise splits that apply in every case as it will depend on the band, the venue, the promoter, the marketing budget and tax laws, among other things. The following is intended only as a general guide to how your ticket price could break down and what it is going to pay for. Most of the things that have to be paid for will apply in almost every case. What will be different is how much they will be paid. And that includes the band members.

Peeling it back layer by layer, of your ticket price, around 10% is going to be swallowed up by a booking fee and processing fee (either posting the tickets or charging you for the privilege of printing them at home), with some of that actually working its way back to the band and their promoter.

You also have to take out taxes from that. In the US, about a 5% rate is applied to tickets, but it can be as high as 35% in some European countries due to the addition of cultural taxes. A small percentage of the gross the monies left after transaction fees are deducted will be collected and paid through, eventually, to songwriters in public performance royalties. The rate will depend on the venue size, but Ascap, which collects royalties, says on its website the figure can start at 0.8% and drop to 0.1% for venues with over 25,000 capacities. Again, as with taxes, there are higher deductions in Europe, with PRS for Music in the UK, for example, collecting 3% of the gross.

What is left roughly 84% of the gross then is carved up between the band and their promoter (who puts on and underwrites the show). But there are still more things to be paid for.

Fixed expenses are many and various, says one source, who drew on a spreadsheet for a recent arena tour for a major act they worked with before reeling off all the things that they had to account for. These included (deep breath): venue hire, stage hands, venue staff, electricians, power, spotlight hire, scaffolding, barriers, catering, public liability insurance (in case anyone is injured at the show), backstage furniture (yes, really), forklifts, rigging, medical staff, transport and even towels. Many times the venue will pay for that out of its cut, but that will depend on the particulars of the deal struck.

That can leave anything between 50% and 70% of the gross, but there are no hard and fast rules for how that is divided between the act and the promoter. A commonly quoted figure is that the promoter will take 15% of what is left and the act will get 85%. But it will depend on if the promoter really has to work to get the show to sell out or if they are pushing on an open door and demand is so high it sells out in seconds. In those instances, the promoter may get as little as 5%; but for arena shows charging $150 or more for tickets, that 5% quickly adds up.

U2s claw. Photograph: Lluis Gene/AFP/Getty Images

Performers are often offered a guarantee, making the performance risk-free as they will be offered a set fee regardless of whether the show sells out, with the promoter shouldering any losses. In many cases, the performers will get a guaranteed minimum fee plus a percentage of anything made beyond that figure.

In the case of a fixed fee, the promoter would guarantee the artist money and then the promoter gets anything above that, says Steve Machin, CEO of Accent Media, the operator of the .tickets domain name space. Or they might split the money with different percentages. So if its normally 80-20 after allowable costs, if the act gets a guarantee, then the split would be adjusted in favour of the promoter.

The artists share then has to cover its own mini economy. The act will have their own crew (roadies, sound engineers, lighting crew, catering, tour manager, backing singers, extra musicians, dancers and so on) as well as transport trucks, with 30 articulated trucks on the road not being uncommon for the biggest shows. One huge acts manager reportedly said it cost them $750,000 a day to be on the road, whether they were playing a show or not. Talking of which, dont forget that the manager also needs their cut of the bands share normally 15%-20%.

Before any of that happens, rehearsal time has to be paid for as well as the design and build of stage sets. Not every band will have something as spectacular (and costly) as the Claw on U2s 360 tour, but they cant just show up and play to 80,000 people with a few lights and screens, hoping for the best.

I often ask myself if the audience would rather have that amount of money spent on that kind of show or have a much cheaper ticket price to get into a reasonable-sized venue and watch the act playing, says one source of the huge drain a spectacular show can have on profits. That comes down to the act.

The more money acts are going to make, it appears, the more ways they can find to spend it on expensive hotels, helicopters and ostentatious stage sets that in less hubristic moments they perhaps dont need. Never underestimate ego and its ability to blow budgets out of the water.

If you give an act loads of money, theyll find a good way of spending it on the show, says a source who has seen this happen time and again. So its never going to be as profitable as people think and its never a case of all the money going straight into the bands pockets.

This is not a play to make us feel sympathy for poor stadium acts who are left destitute after an exhausting 300 shows around the world. Rather it is a timely reminder that as in everything money generated and profits made are never bedfellows. Indeed, they rarely even share the same zip code.

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(CNN)Azealia Banks has kicked off another celebrity feud.

The rapper ignited a social media battle with Rihanna after she tweeted her opposition to President Donald Trump’s temporary ban of immigrants from seven predominately Muslim countries.
“Disgusted,” Rihanna tweeted. “The news is devastating! America is being ruined right before our eyes! What an immoral pig you have to be to implement such BS!!”
    Banks then took to Instagram on Sunday to slam Rihanna in a series of expletive-filled posts — eventually posting what she claimed was Rihanna’s phone number.
    Most of the exchanges between the artists have since been deleted, but Banks has been at the center of a few other star squabbles.
    In October, Banks filed a police report against actor Russell Crowe alleging he called her the “N-word” and choked her while attending a party in Beverly Hills. No charges were ever pursued by the Los Angeles District Attorney.
    She is currently banned from Twitter after posting racist and homophobic tweets back in May aimed at the former One Direction star, Zayn Malik.
    In April, Banks went after former Alaska governor Sarah Palin in a series of offensive tweets in which she said she wished Palin would be assaulted. Palin then threatened to sue the rapper. Banks eventually deleted her tweets and wrote an open letter to apologize to the former governor.

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    Another epic cover by the project Rockin’ 1000, where 1000 musicians altogether perform “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana in Cesena, Italy. The video already got around 1.7 million views on YouTube.

    via: testspiel

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    Miranda Lambert probably isn’t the only one that’s been “drinking a little extra” these days…

    As you may remember, the 33-year-old went through a very public divorce from Blake Shelton over a year ago — and Blake quickly began dating Gwen Stefani shortly after.

    Although she’s now in a happy relationship with Anderson East, the Vice songstress admitted during a special show at Joe’s Bar in Chicago last week that her breakup influenced her album, The Weight of These Wings.

    Related: Beyonc Leads 2017 Grammy Nominations

    In reference to her song Ugly Lights, Miz Lambert joked:

    “I got divorced so I started drinking a little extra.”

    She added:

    “Anyways, I found myself in Midtown in Nashville three nights in a row at like last call and with the lights coming on, and I’m still sitting there. So I wrote a song about it.”

    You can listen to the tune (below)!

    We’ve all been there, right?!

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    The British crooner unveiled the project on Monday, showing off his crazy boxing skills and fit bod! Yes, unlike Castle on the Hill‘s video, the 25-year-old actually stars in the clip, along with a beautiful boxing babe who goes on to break his heart.

    Of course, this only makes Ed wants to fight harder for her!

    Watch the confident artist take the boxing ring (below)!

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    The singer with 20m album sales to his name has realized a dream by making his Broadway debut starring in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

    Last year might have been an annus horribilis for most, but for Josh Groban, 2016 couldnt have gone much better. The multiplatinum-selling singer-songwriter, who shot to fame as a teenager, made the transition to Broadway star after making his debut in the musical Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.

    A musical adaptation of 70pages of Tolstoys War and Peace, affectionately shortened to The Great Comet, caught Grobans attention when it was in residency at a custom-built supper club in downtown Manhattan. Hed been looking for a new musical project and contacted the producers to express his interest in working on the show.Fast-forward many months and Groban is starring on Broadway, singing (happily) and dancing (reluctantly) in eight performances a week of a show with almost wall-to-wall rave reviews.

    The Great Comet is his Broadway debut, but Groban is no stranger to the stage. When he was a child in Los Angeles, his parents took him to the theater, and he was accepted into Carnegie Mellon Universitys musical theater program but dropped out of his freshman year after being offered a recording deal by Warner Brothers. Seven albums and more than 20m sales later, Broadway was still on his mind, which was apparentwhen he starred in two concert productions of the musical Chess and then released Stages, an album of musical theater favorites that includes Bring Him Home from Les Misrables and Old Devil Moon from Finians Rainbow.

    But none of the songs from Stages resemble melodies from The Great Comet, an electro-pop opera that features only one line of spoken dialogue in its two-and-a-half-hour production. Composed by Dave Malloy, the score which follows the naive Natasha who, while her fiance, Andrey, is at war, is swept into the fast-paced life in Moscow and falls into an affair with the rascal Anatole is a fusion of Russian folk, classical compositions, indie rock and punk music.

    Josh Groban in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 Photograph: Chad Batka/AP

    Despite all that, Groban says it was the restlessness and discomfortof Pierre that drew him to the character and the project.

    He simultaneously kind of shuns and criticizes the vapidness and narcissisms of society, and at the same time so badly wants to be a part of it, he said. I thought that was so much more interesting as a character than any of the step-out-in-the-spotlight leading man kind of roles.

    Rather than a soaring love ballad, that big number for Groban is a song called Dust and Ashes, in which Pierre reflects on the wasted opportunities of his own life and articulates his desire for meaning.

    You do have your epiphany and do have the discovery of true love and joy and the comet and all the things that Pierre eventually discovers, Groban continued. I think it gives that so much more weight and meaning when youre bumbling and shy and locked in your hole.

    While Grobans acting and singing have been praised by critics, he is quickly and bluntly self-deprecating about his dancing. Another reason Pierre appealed to Groban was the character did not dance.

    The choreographer, one day at rehearsal, he said: Uh, Josh Groban, can you come out in the hallway please? I thought, Oh, God, am I in trouble? Groban recalled, laughing. He pulled me out and said, Youre going to hate me, but theres a scene in Gypsy Lovers where I think Pierres going to have to dance. So we came up with this five-second twirl that he does, and I can say that I have been a triple threat on Broadway not well, but I have done it. And the nice thing about Pierres dancing ability is hes supposed to be drunk and supposed to be a bull in a china shop.

    Accessing Pierres despair, Groban said, came from his own experiences, both personal and artistic, battling self-doubt and self-criticism and struggling with a lack of purpose or structure.

    Ive never gone through anything to the extreme that Pierre has gone through. Luckily, I think most of us have not gone through that, he said. But at the same time, we all understand what hopelessness feels like. We all understand what a lack of purpose, what a lack of vitality feels like. I think we all know what it feels like to break through that and be stronger from it.

    Groban has weathered a few onstage mishaps, including one that actually landed him offstage. Caught up in a moment of conflict with another character,Groban stamped his foot so hard that he fell forwardinto the orchestra pit.

    Every time I said [the line] I kept stomping and stepping forward and I didnt realize where my feet were, he recalled. Usually Im a little farther back. I missed because the strobe lights are so disorienting. I said, You bully! You scoundrel! It was like a vaudevillian slapstick routine. I fell smack-dab right on to the drum set.

    I had fat padding on so I didnt feel a thing. But my ego was bruised, he continued. At least it was when Pierre is drunk and stumbling. At least it wasnt, like, during the final song. Complete chaos. I crashed into the pit. It was almost a rim shot. The snare hit, the cymbal went flying. Everyone in the cast was like: Well, youve done 50 shows now, but this was your official initiation.

    Stunt-casting a show, with a glittery celebrity name taking on a very limited run, is nothing new to Broadway, and something Groban is aware of. But the star is quick to emphasize the community of the Comet cast and sing his colleagues praises. If anything, finally performing on Broadway, which was his dream since he was a teenager, makes the self-proclaimed dork who admits to difficulty relaxing and celebrating his accomplishments feel like one of the cool kids.

    When James Corden played my clip of Tevye at the Tonys, I was embarrassed, he said, recalling a video of himself as a teenager singing If I Were a Rich Man in a school production of Fiddler on the Roof. But mainly I was like, Look at that kid who couldnt get a date, who had to put on a fake beard, whose truly being onstage as Tevye was the most cathartic thing for me going through a difficult high school experience. To see that being aired on the Tonys I so rarely do it, but sometimes I give myself a high five.

    Recently, hes had a lot to celebrate.

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    The midfielder, who joined Spurs as a five-year-old, talks about the influence of the scary academy manager, John McDermott, and the brutal Gacon test the players do in pre-season

    Harry Winks struggles to find the words but the sense of what he is trying to get across is etched into his features. There is boyish wonder, excitement and pride but above all, there is happiness and it feels like the antidote to the cynicism in the modern game.

    The music that they play at White Hart Lane before you walk out is just the 20-year-old Tottenham Hotspur midfielder says, before he tails off. I absolutely love it. I think its from Star Wars. Me and my dad, when we used to stand in the crowd as fans we used to get hairs sticking up on our necks listening to it. Being in the tunnel now, about to walk out to it, its still the same feeling. I cant really describe it. Its amazing. It really is.

    This is what it is like to live the dream. Winks has been at Tottenham since the age of five, which is one of the many eye-catching details to his beautifully scripted story. His father, Gary, is a Tottenham fanatic and Winks remembers going to his first game with him at White Hart Lane when he was six or seven.

    It was against Middlesbrough and Id managed to get tickets from one of the guys who worked at the club, Winks says. I had the directors seats, the leather seats, bang on the halfway line. I remember the crowd, all those people singing and its just like Wow. It has stuck with me. When I play now and I hear the crowd, it still gives me that buzz I had when I was at that age. I dont think that will ever go, to be honest.

    Winkss association with Tottenham had started after he attended a summer football camp as a five-year-old which was run by Ross Kemp (no, not that one). Kemp also worked for the clubs development centre in St Albans and he invited Winks to train there, but it was not long before he was moved to the Tottenham academy at White Hart Lane.

    It was twice a week at the academy, just for an hour or so, in a ball court above White Hart Lane, Winks says. I remember getting the Kappa bag with all the gear inside when I was six. I progressed from there.

    The boy from Hemel Hempstead has been the discovery of Spurs season, exceeding even his own expectations. I wanted to hit 20 games not starts, just games, whether it was for five minutes or however long, Winks says. On Saturday, most likely in the starting XI in the FA Cup tie against Wycombe Wanderers, he will hit 23.

    Winks has impressed with the range and efficiency of his passing and, in particular, his composure in pressure situations. He has demonstrated an ability to get his team moving or off the hook with a smart touch or pass and there have been several occasions when his manager, Mauricio Pochettino, has brought him on as a substitute to try to preserve a lead or dig out a foothold.

    Harry Winks was speaking at the launch of a new football and education programme being delivered by the club at his old school, Cavendish, in Hemel Hempstead. For more information, please visit Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

    Winkss breakthrough came in the Premier League game against West Ham United on 19 November. Thrust into the starting lineup, he scored the equaliser for 1-1 and more than justified Pochettinos faith in him as Tottenham won 3-2. He ran over to celebrate with the manager following his goal, which illustrated the bond between the two and Pochettino would reveal that Winks said thank you to him in his office after the game.

    The manager called me in, Winks says. I was just about to get into the shower and I had my towel on. He was there with all the coaches and they were having a glass of wine. He said: Well done, and he gave me a cuddle. He understood how difficult the season before had been for me, travelling and not playing, and he said that. I just said: Thank you very much for the opportunity, for progressing me to the first team. That goal was like a thank you. Its why I ran to him after it.

    For Winks, it was a time to take stock of his journey through the clubs youth teams and, also, the all or nothing point, as he calls it, of last summer. The 2015-16 season had been tough for him, even if it had started well with an invitation to travel with the first team to the pre-season Audi Cup in Munich.

    Pochettino took only him and Josh Onomah from the outfield ranks of the academy and he would tell the other hopefuls that they could go on loan. The Argentinian prefers to keep his most talented young players with him in order to drum his methods into them, and it is not always a positive sign when they are loaned. Pochettino always refused to let Winks go out.

    Winks spent the season around the first-team squad but the cycle, in his words, of travelling, being left out; travelling, being left out was frustrating. He made only two Europa League substitute appearances, totalling 17 minutes. In 2014-15 Pochettinos first season at the club Winks had made his debut as an 87th minute substitute in the Europa League but nothing more.

    Ill be honest, last summer was very stressful, Winks says. Because youre 20 years old and youve only played three times and never started, and you can see other boys who are playing regularly in the Premier League or the Championship. I got told I wasnt allowed to go on loan, which was a good thing but, at the same time, I just wanted to play matches. So do I annoy the manager and try to push for a loan or was I just to keep working hard and trust him? Winks did the latter although, in truth, there was no decision to make. Pochettino has long had a plan for him and all Winks has ever wanted to do is play for Tottenham. He reported for pre-season training in top condition and he made it his mission to leave nothing on the training pitch.

    Pochettinos pre-season regime is unforgiving and Winks sheds light on something called the Gacon test, which is named after Professor Georges Gacon, who was, among other things, the fitness coach at Paris St-Germain, for whom Pochettino once played. It is an intermittent beep-style test, with a period of running followed by a rest and the distance increasing incrementally. Its an absolute killer, Winks says. Yet he was one of the last men standing. I really pushed myself to the limit, he continues. And the one thing the manager loves is fitness and that mental side.

    Harry Winks, in action here against West Ham, says he knew this season was potentially make or break for him at Tottenham. Photograph: Tottenham Hotspur FC/via Getty Images

    Pochettino took Winks on the clubs tour to Australia, where he excelled in the friendlies against Juventus and Atltico Madrid and, when he named him on the bench at Everton on the opening weekend of the season, Winks saw the first signal that he would be a part of his plans.

    Winks talks of John McDermott, the clubs academy manager, as being one of the most key parts of me being where I am today, while he worked productively under the coach, Chris Ramsey, from the age of 12.

    I remember I used to be really, really scared of John when I was 12, 13, Winks says. Hes strict, hes old-school and he toughens you up. He likes a tackle, he likes you to be tough but he also likes the technical side. Hes very similar to the manager.

    It is Pochettino that has taken Winks to the next level, having made an impression on him from their first meeting. I signed my first professional contract in the summer of 2014, which was when the manager came to the club, Winks says. As I was signing, just next to his office, he walked in, shook my hand and said I dont know if he was being truthful or not Ive seen your videos and I told John McDermott to sign you up straight away. I was gobsmacked.

    Winks offers insight into Pochettinos training sessions, which begin each morning with possession drills known as boxes. Eight players work on the sides of a small square, trying to keep the ball from two more in the middle. It is like a rondo. Whenever one of those in the centre gets a touch, they swap with the player that gave the errant pass.

    Weve got this new rule if you get nutmegged three times, you have to sing on an away trip, Winks says. Its happened to Eric Dier and Josh Onomah but theyre fighting their corner and refusing to sing. There is a bit of a debate over whether their leg was up or was it down for a proper nutmeg?

    Winks says that Pochettino oversees a lot of small-sided games, sometimes as tight as two-versus-two, in which the intensity is always high, while a more recent innovation is matches between the squads English and foreign players. Its been getting feisty, Winks says, with a smile.

    Pochettino likes to get involved. I remember he injured himself taking someone else out, Winks says. He went for a high ball, someone else has gone for it and he whacked his back and hes hobbled into the physio. It was either Cam Carter-Vickers or Ben Davies. They were a bit nervous. Ive just injured the gaffer here. I think it might have been Cam.

    Winks is engaging company, polite and self-effacing to a fault, and he tells the story of when he was six and his mother, Anita, persuaded him to write to his hero, Steven Gerrard, at the Liverpool training ground. Unfortunately, he did not get a reply but he would see him in March 2014, when he was on the bench for Tottenhams game at Liverpool under Tim Sherwood while he has also met him at a sponsors event.

    Ive shaken his hand, Winks says. And hes given me a look as if to say: Keep going, that sort of thing. Winks intends to do so.

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