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health &beauty: By George!; A Swansea Jack who came to love Cardiff, a music fanatic who `looked normal', a writer who `indirectly brought Posh and Becks together'. Many things define former GQ music editor Iestyn George, as Sarah Welsh discovered.

Byline: Sarah Welsh

IESTYN George describes himself as an ``odd combination.'' He is referring to the fact he was a prefect and his school exam results, which ``weren't great'', when he says this, but it seems to be a good phrase for the man who could have had the term `a finger in every pie' coined about him.

Iestyn, who lives in Cardiff with his wife Pandora and two children, fiveyear-old Manon, and Finlay, two, has packed a hell of a lot into his 36 years. Best known for his work in journalism, he also presents S4C Welsh-language music programme Y Sesiwn Hwyr (The Late Session), is set to open new bar and restaurant Union in Cardiff, which he co-founded with Manic Street Preachers' manager Martin Hall, and set up his own communications firm this year. Iestyn was brought up by his father in Mayals, a tiny village near Swansea, after his parents split when he was nine.

His mother Beti is a well-known presenter on S4C, but Iestyn says he never felt like he was growing up in her shadow.

``She was the first lady of Welsh television, but it wasn't like being the Prime Minister's son,'' he said. ``There was never any acrimony between my parents and my mother and I have always been close.''

He and his father Dai, a vet-turnedlawyer, also get on very well.

Another famous export from Mayals, who Iestyn remembers, is Catherine Zeta Jones.

He said: ``She used to walk past my house on the way to school, but I always fancied her next-door-neighbour!''

Growing up in the Swansea Valley, Iestyn says he was one of only two pupils out of 1,300 at his secondary school to buy the NME.

``There were only about two newsagents in the area which sold it,'' he said. ``I never walked around looking like a punk rocker, but I liked different music.

``My mother is a classically trained pianist so it was in my blood really. I got into my parents' Beatles collection first and was obsessive about the charts which I used to write down in a notebook. I also used to tape John Peel. ``While my friends were all listening to Queen and Van Halen, I was into bands like The Smiths. I saw The Jam play Port Talbot when I was 15 and it had a profound influence on me.''

Iestyn moved to London in 1985 to study media at what is now Westminster University.

He said: ``I started a fanzine with two friends - basically because we wanted free records and entry to gigs.

``It was called Zine and had a fan logo - about as literal as you can get!''

His friends from those years, Tim Southwell and Juliet Sensicle, went on to edit Loaded magazine and work with All Saints. The heroes Iestyn interviewed during those years include John Peel and Paul Weller, who remains a friend to this day.

After four years the trio stopped producing Zine, and Iestyn went on to freelance for the Record Mirror before moving to the NME where he worked for four years.

He said: ``I had never really dared to dream I would write for NME. We were a group of writers who loved music.''

After NME Iestyn worked for two years for football magazine 90 minutes, but found footballers much harder to interview than ``usually amenable'' musicians.

``The worst was Alan Shearer,'' he said. ``He was dull, rude and suspicious. I ended up ripping him to shreds in the article - I wanted to slaughter the one sacred cow of British football but I regretted it later.

``We credited ourselves on 90 minutes with popularising satire on football. We were a precursor to They Think It is All Over - Nick Hancock and Frank Skinner used to write columns for us.

``We also claim we indirectly introduced Posh to Becks. We did a cover with the Spice Girls in football kits and Victoria wore the Manchester United strip.

``We also showed them pictures of loads of footballers and she loved David.''

Iestyn went on to work as features editor and then music editor at GQ Magazine for five years, before moving back to South Wales in 1999.

Since relocating to his roots Iestyn has turned presenter on Y Sesiwn Hwyr, a third series of which will air on S4C in October, helped open hugely successful venue Barfly in Cardiff in 2000, and started his own firm TM Communications this year.

He has also worked in consultation with the bid team at Cardiff for Capital of Culture 2008, and is set to open bar and restaurant Union in the city later this year.

He said: ``To me culture is about independent venues, which we need more of in Cardiff. I also think music will play a big role in Cardiff 2008 - that is not a view which comes from nationalism but the fact we have the best audience of music fans anywhere in Britain.''

Y Sesiwn Hwyr starts on SC4C at 10.30pm on Thursday September 19 and runs for eight weeks.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 7, 2002
Words:853
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