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Freelance Journalist Focus: Nick Warburton

This week, we ring in the New Year with freelancer Nick Warburton. While he covers environment and health-related topics, read on to find out more about Warburton’s work as a specialist music journalist and researcher.

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
My writing interests cover a range of topical and high-profile areas. A main interest of mine lies in covering features, news and profiles across a huge range of environment and health related-issues. Most recently I have worked as deputy editor for Environmental Health Practitioner, the official magazine of the CIEH. Articles have included an award-winning feature on health and safety at the UK’s only crocodile farm, the clean-up operation in Westminster following Alexander Litvinenko’s polonium poisoning and preparing for pandemic flu. I have also written for EHJ and EHN. I plan to continue to write in this field next year as a freelancer for the new bi-weekly Environmental Health News.

I am also a specialist music researcher/journalist. I write largely about music from the Sixties covering the Northern American, UK, South African and Australasian scenes and over the years have contributed to Guinness’ Rockopedia, various collector’s magazines and fanzines, including Record Collector, numerous websites and written liner notes for half a dozen CD reissues, which have attracted positive write ups in the press. I hope to branch out next year and write on travel (Japan holds a special interest) and history (the subject of my degree).

Where are we likely to see your work?
My work can be found in many weird and wonderful places. My environment and health work can be found at EHP’s site (, the European Parliament’s website (see, as well as the EHN site ( The last feature I did for EHP was an analysis piece on the Conservatives’ plans for regulation, based on an interview with Shadow Business Minister, John Penrose MP.

I have also contributed to numerous music websites ( and my own site ( – also see side links, which list a large number of articles I have written in this area). You can also find my work popping up in magazines – e.g. Shindig Magazine, and in a number of CDs for various labels including Half a Cow in Australia, Fresh in South Africa, Pacemaker in Canada, and UK’s Rev-Ola.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
I recently won runner up award at the prestigious Guild of Health Writers’ awards for my article on health and safety at a crocodile farm in the Fens. I would also credit my in-depth article on Rhinoceros, Elektra Records’ project supergroup (, which prompted Collector’s Choice Music to reissue their three albums on CD for the first time and led to the band’s first reunion show since 1970 in August 2009. I would also say my work on Rick James’s early career on my own website, which attracted the interest of Harry Weinger at Universal, who used some of the material for the Motown Boxed Sets.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I would love to interview Neil Young as I have come into contact with a lot of people who have worked with him in the past and he is a fascinating character. I am also really keen to widen the subjects I write about beyond music and environment and health issues, and would love to do more investigative work, travel writing and historical stories. I am a keen traveller and always on the look out for new adventures.

Where do you source ideas for articles?
This varies considerably. Most I would say comes from contacts or leads. However, ideas may come to mind when reading around a subject or someone phones me with a suggestion. It does require a certain amount of detective work.

About you and PRs:

How can PRs be useful to you?
Generally speaking, I find them useful in terms of giving me ideas or prompting me to investigate a certain idea further.

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
I prefer people to email me and to contact me whenever something is topical so that it is relevant. However, if an event/launch is coming up, it is really handy to be called in advance and told about it.

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
I find them really useful. They provide a really handy forum to build contacts, exchange ideas, prompt further research and enable me to come up with fresh leads.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
I don’t think I would.

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
I think I would look for some sort of research work. History is a passion of mine and one of the reasons behind writing is to try and put things into a historical perspective. Much of my music writing involves documenting music scenes and essentially acting as an archivist. This could be for a book, a film or even a documentary. For example, I contributed to a Canadian radio station back in September which was celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Toronto Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival show, which featured the first public performance by John Lennon outside of The Beatles. I would certainly explore this type of work as an alternative to writing.

If we gave you £1,000, how would you spend it?
I’ve always wanted to do a documentary on the early life of soul/funk legend, Rick James and his rise to fame. I am in contact with most of the musicians that he worked with in Toronto and Los Angeles during the 1960s and early-mid 1970s and also a musician who knows how to video the documentary professionally. It’s just a matter of cost and time. That’s a big ambition of mine.

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
My bedside table is stacked with books to read. I’ve recently started on the first of David Kynaston’s series on Austerity Britain – “A World to Build”, which covers the years 1945-1948. I’ve then got Andrew Marr’s excellent “A History of Modern Britain”. I’ve got Ian MacDonald’s brilliant Beatles book “Revolution In The Head”, which I can pick up and skim through at a whim and Will Ferguson’s “Hokkaido Highway Blues” for some light entertainment.

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[img|jpg|Nick Warburton]