Published: 17th November 2021
Phil Hilton worked in consumer publishing since the mid-nineties, beginning his career editing Men’s Health, before helming variety of men’s magazines including Later Magazine.
He was a founding director of ShortList Media and oversaw content across all the company’s brands that included Stylist, Emerald Street and Mr Hyde. A talented writer he has contributed to numerous publications including The Times, The Guardian and the Huffington Post. He now co-hosts Manatomy with broadcaster Danny Wallace and together they run Assembly
He lives in North London with his wife and children and in his own words can be found “jogging, kickboxing, lifting weights or doing HIIT just at the very moment you need him for something urgent”.
I’m currently co-hosting a podcast Manatomy: famous men talking about their bodies. We’ve had amazing guests: Rob Beckett, Gary Lineker, Tim Minchin. Our latest episode is with Reverend Richard Coles, which deals with death, greying pubic hair and drugs – it’s one of my favourites.
I am also co-writing the Assembly subscription newsletter with the writer and broadcaster Danny Wallace. It’s all about family, favourite crisps, the smell of onions, the best James Bond books… Danny and I are friends from years back and working together is such a pleasure – we operate remotely but it’s very close to the brilliant camaraderie of proper office life.
We used to go to the Kings Road in Chelsea. We lived in East London on location I saw as potentially the least glamorous set of semi-detached houses on earth but 45 minutes away was the centre of punk rock, fashion and cool.
I remember being 13 and we had to shelter in a branch of Kickers while Punks and Teds fought up and down the street. Very exciting times. I eventually bought a pair of PVC trousers when I was 16 from the legendary Boy punk fashion store – deeply uncomfortable. Essentially, I was dressed as a pub sofa.
Go to Suffolk: Aldeburgh, Southwold, Dunwich. The skies are huge and if you walk for ten minutes you can escape everyone and find a little patch. (I accept that if everyone walked, this effect would be ruined but most people don’t). There’s loads of great bakeries, tea shops and the beaches are kind of innocent and not bursting with arcades and bad donut stands. The pubs are havens of fish and chip glory and just horse-brassy enough to still be proper pubs.
I really buy into trying to sell middle-class cultural events to the family. I figure YouTubers, TOWIE and Strictly have such heft, you have to work a bit to show your kids another side to life.
I think partly because I’m from a pretty working class place it matters that we go to venues like the Tate. The perfect day out is a gallery – something big and challenging and physically tiring to walk around. The Barbican’s main space is huge – then a dodgy but acceptable lunch in a cafeteria where you talk about the show/fail to talk about the show. After that a classic film at the BFI with cocktails. I’m braced for legal action now my children have realised what I put them through.
I completed my finals in 1987 having attended UCL. A group of us went to Heaven that night – the much written-about gigantic gay nightclub in Charing Cross. This was a little after the core ‘It’s a Sin’ years but essentially that was still the temperature of London. I loved the gay club scene as a young straight man, loved the music, the clothes and absence of violence and I guess I wasn’t in-play as a sexual participant so that was relaxing.
It was General Election night: Kinnock vs Thatcher. We watched Thatcher’s victory from the dancefloor up on big screens. It was a scene from a rather heavy-handed period drama. Felt very at the heart of the action, gutted but delighted to be with my people, in a place where I felt safe and happy.
Primrose Hill is a little patch of magic. It had a hard time this summer – just too many people, too many drugs, too much booze, but it survived. The view from the top has never failed to make my heart dance for the love of London.
I’m an exercise freak so I run up and down the beautifully steep slopes. The little high street is packed with decorative celebrities. (I never, ever bother them. I wouldn’t ask a plumber walking down the street to fix my toilet why would I ask Brian Cox for a selfie on his day off?) It’s not suffocated by the wealth in the area, it’s pretty and alive and has the absolute best bookshop.