“Chinwag is personal therapy for me.”

“Chinwag is personal therapy for me.” Ruth Saxton

6th November 2015

Roughly once a month in one of Leeds’ friendliest bars/ art spaces – Outlaws Yacht Club, there is a unique take on interviewing figures from pop culture called ‘Chinwag’, and it’s this TLFW blogger’s diary highlight. The brain-child of psychotherapist, Chris Madden, ‘Chinwag’, often sells out quickly, through word of mouth and a loyal following.

Chris has already lived a lifetime and made a plethora of friends: studying fine art in London, DJ-ing squat parties in the East End, directing music videos, putting on club nights, setting up a music label and being a TV/radio plugger. However, it was whilst project managing a county-wide programme for musicians, in the early noughties, that a near-death experience caused him to rethink his path and retrain as a therapist.

However, Chris is still very much involved in the worlds of art and music. And people and community are his primary passions. It was after making a film with Creation Records’ Alan McGee, that the owner (and mate) of the newly established Outlaws asked Chris whether he thought Alan would come and give a talk about his career. Always one to try and promote a friend’s venture, Chris approached Alan. His response, “Nah, f*** that, not into it.” However, what Alan did suggest was a public therapy session. They decided to meet in the middle and just have a chat. People really enjoyed the formula, so Chris began calling on his other friends and contacts, and has now extended this to those he doesn’t know.

The reason that ‘Chinwag’ works so well is that even though popularity demands it should move to a larger setting, it is the intimate surroundings and casual informality that makes those watching feel like they know the guest. As Chris will explain, he doesn’t plan in detail where the discussion will go, “Sometimes they get deep, sometimes they don’t. There’s no agenda, no place to get to.” So if he runs out of things to ask, or feels it needs a new direction, he throws it open to the audience. So they’re included: drawn in. And this is why it is forming a growing community all of its own.

My favourite guest so far has been TV and film producer, Bekki Wray-Rogers. Within five minutes she’d put the cat among the pigeons for ‘This is England’ fans. (You’ll have to check out Chinwag TV to see why.) She was frank about sexism in her industry but funny and forthright about her plans to overcome it. I admired how she was not at all frightened to put forward a strong opinion on sexism, but also how she’d laugh at herself – reflecting on her own candour. And that is the ‘Chinwag’ magic formula. Chris sets the guest at ease. And they are in a warm and friendly environment, so they forget where they are and it is an uncut chat with a mate, even when they don’t previously know each other.

Bekki Wray Rodgers. Producer of This is England.
Bekki Wray Rodgers. Producer of This is England.

Guests have included writer and film maker Irvine Welsh, Viv Albertine from The Slits, musician Andrew Weatherall, writer and broadcaster James Brown, producer/DJ Justin Robertson, film director and DJ Don Letts, plus many more.
Chris has no favourite. He says his best guest is always the next one. He doesn’t have a dream one because he can never pre-empt where it is going to go.

As the ‘Chinwag’ brand developed, it was decided that the event would support  MAP, a Leeds based charity which delivers art and music programmes for young people at risk of exclusion from mainstream education. As a trustee of the charity, Chris says that this has given him the purpose to continue and not just run an exercise in massaging his own ego. So none of the guests charge a fee and all the profits go to the organisation: people agree to do it based on reputation and the worthwhile cause. And if they don’t understand this, then it is agreed that this is not the right forum for them.

This month’s ‘Chinwag’ is with artist, Jake Chapman, which sold out instantly. Always one to court controversy, I cannot wait to hear what this ‘enfant terrible’ has to say about his infamous work and what his current plans are. And apparently there is another biggie booked for December. I will be haranguing Chris to find out who this is and get my ticket booked. Let’s hope Outlaws has mince pies in to go with my Chrimbo tipple.

Jake Chapman Photo credit: Nic Serpell-Rand Photography
Jake Chapman
Photo credit: Nic Serpell-Rand Photography

For more information on Chinwag please contact Sarah Pearson at Wasted Youth PR on +44 (0)7973 518025 or

Feature image of Chris Madden Photo credit: Coby Erikson

Ruth Saxton tlfw extraordinare

Ruth is our tlfw woman on the ground in The North. If something cool is happening in Leeds or Manchester she’s normally there before it has been invented. Follow Ruth on twitter


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