Simon Hattenstone

The Guardian

Simon Hattenstone is brilliant at gaining the trust of the people he meets, at getting them to tell their stories, no matter how difficult they might be. His interviews are wonderfully sensitive, honest and beautifully written.

His warm encounter with Shane McGowan, the singer with the Pogues, was a masterclass in how to get the best from someone who has lived an extraordinary life but is now struggling - and a reluctant interviewee. Simon punctuates the story of McGowan's life with verbatim passages of a touchingly mundane conversation and details of his domestic life that draw an extraordinary picture of the singer. McGowan at times becomes testy but Simon is never unsympathetic. The result is some genuinely heartfelt and moving moments. In a rare interview with Greta Thunberg, he revealed a different side of the climate activist. Her environmental politics is well documented, but Simon's interview showed how campaigning had transformed the life of a little girl with Asperger's syndrome and few friends, and painted a different picture of Thunberg as she entered adulthood. In his interview with Rupert Whittaker, who was the boyfriend of Terrence Higgins when he died of Aids, and set up the charity in his name, Simon encouraged him to tell the story of their love affair for the first time. The result was a funny, angry, and affectionate account of a meeting that changed the course of Whittaker's life in many ways. But it also told the story of Higgins, of both his life and death and the terrible homophobia that they both faced.