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Photographer Mary McCartney is used to shooting big names, not least her father, Paul. But for GQ’s September cover, a shoot under Covid conditions threw up more challenges than usual.
Mary McCartney, naturally, is no stranger to taking photographs of her father. The photographer grew up shooting him, and her mother, Linda, was a photographer too, among other things, and taught a young Mary much of what she knows now. And so, when the commission to shoot her father for this month’s cover came through, McCartney immediately began asking all the pertinent questions: where would she shoot him, in what clothes, with what props and when?

Many of these questions were answered de facto as the coronavirus lockdown came into force across the UK, leading to both McCartneys spending weeks together under one roof in the family home in East Sussex, and that, as McCartney said, gave her an unusual opportunity to capture her dad as she knew him at home when she was a child. She broke down her September cover shoot, picture by picture.

Mary McCartney: “The good thing about this kind of portfolio is you have the opportunity, rather than doing one portrait, to do several to get a narrative. I wanted the narrative to be Dad’s outdoor style, and also [a] musical [narrative], so we pulled out a couple of key instruments and pulled out the Land Rover, which is called ‘Helen Wheels’. Helen Wheels was the base, and we were driving around in her, and then going back to the house, ‘Waterfall’. When we moved out of London, that’s the house that we lived in, so I was exploring elements from my childhood, taking Dad back in time.

“The day was beautiful, luckily. We wanted it to be outdoors and Dad is very much a nature boy. We’d been in lockdown together, up until then, living back at home together. It was like being a kid, but really it was unique and interesting to be able to spend that much time back at home. Each evening, I’d cook a meal and then we could all sit down and eat together and spend a lot more time chatting. The background was such a difficult situation – all this turmoil ­– but the one good thing that came out of it, for us, was having this extra time together. He would write something and I’d cook. We’d have a drink before dinner and then he’d play a song. That’s very much how it was growing up. I’m lucky that we have a good relationship. It’s something to be thankful for.
“[Helen Wheels is] the old Land Rover which we used to drive up to Scotland in when we were kids. To me, that’s part of my childhood, so I was like, ‘Let’s get that out.’ It’s from the early 1970s; those kind of cars are made to last. It’s not necessarily the most comfortable thing to drive around in – it’s quite bumpy – but I love it.

“The thing of being a lockdown is that we weren’t at some location in a studio – we were in a real space. I think there’s a calmness about him because of that. And also a bit of rock’n’roll, because that picture with the white Telecaster is the first time he’s been photographed with that. I was thinking, ‘What would be good [that] people haven’t seen? He’s been photographed a lot over the years, so that will be interesting for the musos.’ It’s a present that he was given by Nancy, his wife. I think he told her about this guitar that he really liked and then she found it for him, because it’s always hard to find something to give him as a present. And he’d been recording with it that week – he’s been using it a lot more in the last few months.

“The round, stained-glass piece in the background is one of my mum’s photographs, a collaboration that she did with a really good friend of hers and my dad called Brian Clark, who’s an artist. So that was also another hint, a family moment.

“We went for a little drive in the Land Rover. That’s down in the little country lanes around here. I love those long country lanes where you have overhanging trees and really dappled light. It’s a beautiful setting and really great light.

“With my mum, I grew up watching her taking photographs, but with your parents, you just go, ‘Those are my parents.’ Then you get to a certain age and, if you’re lucky, you have the opportunity to talk to them. I took my mum out for lunch when I became a photographer and was like, ‘Right. I need to talk to you about pictures you took of Hendrix.’ And suddenly, seeing her taking pictures with such ease and knowing how much more complicated it is to make something look that good and that easy? That’s part of what I love about photography – the images I like are the ones that look the most relaxed, but a lot of skill goes into making them look that that relaxed.

“I love that sunset and the beautiful hand-tapestried denim jacket. That was the very end of the shoot. I knew, vaguely, [where we planned to shoot], but a lot of it was left to the day. The weather, the light and the chemistry… Unexpected moments like that one, where he’s got his [hands] up and the sun’s setting? That’s one you could never plan, because you wouldn’t know the weather would be so amazing. I didn’t know the sun would set on that field.

“That kind of stuff is the extra, beautiful, exciting thing that makes me love being a photographer. The things that you don’t plan are always things that give you that extra buzz.”



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Paul McCartney is carving a mushroom Wellington. Except he’s doing it wrong. He cuts through the pastry too quickly and the photographer standing on the other side of the table can’t get her shot. Then a small decorative vase is in the way. Fashion designer Stella McCartney, Paul’s daughter, films everything for her Instagram Story. “End animal agriculture!” she says, panning her phone over the spread of vegetarian dishes and zooming right in on the pastry. Stella is now also in the way of the shot.
By this point though, Paul has sliced the entire Wellington. Another one is sent for from the kitchen, and someone suggests he try carving the vegetarian roast – the table’s centrepiece, served with mushroom duxelles on a marbled ceramic plate – instead. Photographer Mary McCartney, who sits on the opposite end of the table to her sister Stella, says that the lighting would be better if Dad were on the other side. Paul smiles his Can’t-Buy-Me-Love smile. “I just love carving!” he laughs. Mary makes him swap seats. The photographer politely suggests Stella pause her Instagramming for a moment so that she can get the photo of Sir Paul McCartney CH MBE slicing a veggie roast.

So, I’m at a festive lunch with the McCartney family – and a few “really cool people”, according to Paul: musician and youth advocate Loyle Carner, 18-year-old climate activist Anna Taylor, and zero-waste restaurant founder Doug McMaster. We’re ostensibly here to celebrate the launch of a limited edition vegetarian roast from Linda McCartney Foods, the vegetarian food brand founded by Paul’s first wife, a vocal animal rights activist up until her death from breast cancer in 1998. But today isn’t just about a photogenically sliced roast. We end up discussing the climate crisis, in a conversation underpinned by the bizarre reality of sitting around a table with one of the last living Beatles.
When I arrived earlier this morning at the airy shoot location in north west London, the space buzzed with assistants wrestling photography screens and catering staff eager to offer glasses of Engish sparkling wine. Taylor arrived shortly after me, fresh from her first term at university, and McMaster came straight from the site of his new Silo restaurant. We made small talk around a beautiful platter of crudites and homemade oatcakes, none of us sure what to expect. Loyle Carner told me that when the Linda McCartney Foods publicist first contacted him about the lunch, he didn’t realise that he was being invited. “I said, ‘Great, I’ll look out for it online then,’” he recounted, laughing. Even cool people don’t expect to be invited to lunch with Paul McCartney.

And yet, here we are. An anecdote Paul shares about carrot and turnip mash “which we used to have when we were kids” forms the extent of the food-related conversation.

Talk quickly turns to news coverage of the environmental crisis, kicked off by Stella positing her late mother’s brand as “a revolutionary concept”. This lunch could have been “a conventional Christmas roast”, she continues, “but it’s a much more timely conversation to take advantage of the fact that, for the first time in the history of our lives, we’re witnessing human beings around the world waking up to this issue.”
Soon, we’re trading ideas back and forth. First, Taylor points out that “The media focuses on Western problems, on white European problems, which means “people in the global south and ethnic minorities are just left out of the discussion when they’re the ones that are suffering the most”.
The table nods in agreement. Paul says: “It changes really slowly, so all you can do is what the kids are doing, and protest and do everything you can. I was thinking the other day, ‘Oh, it’s going to turn everyone off’” – a reference to both the student climate strikes and Extinction Rebellion’s non-violent direct action tactics – “and sure enough it is: ‘Oh they’re naughty, they’re making noise, it woke me up.’ But it’s like, what about the suffragettes? They were dying for it and now women have rights. Well, some women – not everyone.”

“Everything is radical when it first happens,” Taylor agrees, “but it’s a radical crisis. We need radical solutions.”
Paul went veggie in the mid-70s after seeing lambs “gambolling” outside while he ate a Sunday roast, but credits Linda as the driving force behind their family’s conversion. She launched the food business in 1991, focusing on veggie versions of homely comfort foods like lasagna and burgers, then expanding the range. Despite her day job as a music photographer – and performing with Paul in Wings for much of the 1970s – Linda was a staunch earth mother. She and Paul raised Stella, Mary and their siblings on a farm in East Sussex, surrounded by acres of countryside, horses and pet chickens. “The fox got all of them, wiped them all out,” Paul says wistfully. “But we loved those little chickens.”This love for the natural world and domestic life forms the core of the brand, which still promotes its products as  coming from ‘Linda’s kitchen’. Paul, Mary and Stella consult on the business, including its drive to use entirely plastic-free packaging by 2021 and the introduction of new vegan products, aligning it both with veganism’s growing popularity and the modern environmental movement. On the day of our lunch, Extinction Rebellion protestors are four days into their two-week shutdown of central London.

“The weird thing is that the only people who aren’t responding are the government,” Paul says. “Everyone else is going, ‘Yeah!’ and Trump is going, ‘Climate change is a hoax.’”

“Big industry isn’t really responding either,” Stella points out.

Do the McCartneys see any similarities between Linda’s views on the environment and Extinction Rebellion?

“Yeah, she would have been out front, she would have been out there,” Paul says. “You can look at all these protestors and go, ‘They’re out of step, they’re not doing what ordinary people do.’ But then you would still have slavery, you would still have women with no rights. There would be no changes made. These things all had to have quite violent beginnings, actually, if you think about it. So this is actually quite nice, stopping a few people going to work. I think we’re at a good place and we need to go further and further, but people need to do it themselves. You can’t bully anyone into doing it, you have to attract people to do it.”“There is a connective tissue between what you’re seeing in the climate strikes and how Mum approached things,” Stella agrees. “That was actually at the core of it – there is a loving desire to make change and give information and solutions.”

In practical terms, that looks like Stella refusing to use fur or leather in her designs, and recently shooting an ad campaign featuring Extinction Rebellion protestors. Throughout our lunch, Mary and Stella talk loud and fast about everything from dodgy salmon farms to wild ponies and antibiotics in beef, desperate to get across the importance of helping more people eat less meat. Paul sits in the middle and nods good-naturedly, the dad between two chatty sisters.
“It’s a bit like Question Time,” he laughs.

Everyone has a Beatles story. Here’s mine: I got the 1 compilation album for Christmas when I was nine and I played it over and

over on my dad’s hi-fi in the living room, listening through headphones with my back pressed against the radiator. That anecdote is meaningless to anyone but me though, because you’ll have your own Beatles story. It might involve singing “Yellow Submarine” so loudly on the way home from a school trip that your geography teacher threatened to pull the bus over, or crying the first time you heard “Blackbird”. Paul Gascoigne’s full name is Paul John Gascoigne – not in honour of the disciples, but two lads from Liverpool. Liam Gallagher loves The Beatles so much he built a career on fronting what is essentially a Beatles tribute band.

The Beatles are so elemental to western pop music, to British culture; trying to squeeze anything new into their narrative feels pointless. The book has already been written – many, many, many books, in fact. As Chris Heath wrote in his GQ profile of Paul McCartney last year, “There is all kinds of lore about the very early days of the various Beatles, pre-fame, and how they bonded and learned from one another, and McCartney had spoken about most of this endlessly.”

In other words, sitting opposite him while trying not to spill veggie gravy down my front feels surreal.
While Paul exists in another stratosphere of celebrity, he’s aware most people won’t stop eating meat completely. “The thing is, you’ve gotta realise who you’re talking to here. It’s people!” he says. “It’s not us, it’s all those people who say, ‘I like my Sunday roast, I like my turkey.’ I was brought up like that.”

“That’s the worry with Extinction Rebellion, right?” Loyle Carner responds. “Protests are important but the issue that

I’ve been hearing from friends of mine is that lower-working class people trying to get to work are getting blocked by the protests, and they get angry. Then they start to look at the people who are protesting like they’re the enemy, but they’re not.”
“Most people can’t afford to take a week off work and lose a week’s pay,” Taylor points out.
“That’s why I think it’s this slow revolution I’m talking about,” says Paul. “I don’t think you can speed it up.”

I can’t help but find Paul McCartney’s confidence in a coming climate reckoning reassuring – like seeing photos of Barack Obama kitesurfing during the hellish first few months of the Trump Administration. If the guy who literally wrote the song on revolution thinks that a revolution powerful enough to fix the environmental crisis is just around the corner, then maybe we’re OK.

As much as the McCartneys want Linda McCartney Foods to fuel protestors glueing themselves to Whitehall or Greta Thunberg-inspired student strikers, it also can’t afford to alienate consumers who may be less sympathetic to the environmental cause. This year, its sales of frozen sausages – not the more esoteric vegan items or hipster fried ‘chicken’ – were up 20 percent. The brand toes a delicate line, highlighted by this lunch – a conversation about tactics to minimise waste and environmental impact – being directly linked to a business in a capitalist system.

But the fact that Paul McCartney – a man who, by this point in his six-decade career could quite reasonably spend his time creating MS Paint ‘artworks’ from a sun lounger in LA, or simply retire, bitch – will happily pose for a pretend Christmas lunch to promote vegetarianism feels political. Perhaps even radical.
Towards the end of the lunch, Paul tells us about the East Sussex farm where he and Linda escaped the spotlight to raise their family.


“Years ago, we decided we’d grow organic. One of the fields had no worms in, due to fertilisers and pesticides. The soil was just dead. When we went organic, we had to put nutrients in but after a few years – and now – there are worms everywhere! You just go back to nature. Once you interfere with nature’s chain, you screw everything up.”

“It took a few years and the locals thought we were daft. I feel so good, I’ll ride horses around the farm and my god, you’re really in real nature. All the sheep die of old age.” Paul laughs at himself. “It’s pathetic, really, but I always think, ‘If I had to, if there was like a war or something and I had to go heavy productive, I’m ready.’ The soil is now good.”

I’ll always have my Beatles story but after today’s lunch, I also have the image of Paul McCartney horse-riding over fields filled with happy worms, plus the most surreal Christmas dinner I think I’ve ever eaten. Neither of them can solve the climate crisis, but they certainly remind me why our planet is worth fighting for.


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The 49-year-old daughter of Paul McCartney has become an adviser and investor to Green Monday, a start-up that encourages people to eat less meat
She says her mother Linda wanted to be a voice for animals, and would be so happy about how many people her vegetarianism inspired

Photographer and food writer Mary McCartney has been announced as an adviser and investor to Green Monday, the Hong Kong-based social enterprise geared towards encouraging people to eat less meat.

The 49-year-old daughter of musician Paul McCartney and animal-rights activist Linda McCartney, a lifelong vegetarian who died in 1998, has long advocated for a meat-free diet, but said her latest appointment represents a stepping up of her efforts out of concern for the livestock industry’s negative environmental impact.

“The reports are getting more immediate. The call to action is now,” she said during a visit to Hong Kong as her new role was announced earlier this month. “Rather than being completely overwhelmed and daunted, it’s the way to help if you want to eat less meat. What I love about Green Monday is that it’s quite a straightforward idea. One day a week is very doable.”

Mary, along with her father and sister Stella, are the faces of the UK arm of the global Meat Free Monday campaign, which, like Green Monday, extols the benefits of giving up meat just one day a week for both improved personal health and lower environmental impact.

When considering the McCartney family’s legacy, it is Paul’s musical career that is likely to be regarded as the most influential worldwide. However, it was Linda’s popularisation and promotion of a vegetarian diet during the ’90s that laid the foundations for one of the defining food movements of the 21st century.

In 2019, meat substitutes are big news. But before Silicon Valley and investors turned their attention to lab-grown meat, burgers that bleed and other foods that increasingly blur the lines between what is perceived as animal or plant-based, there was Linda McCartney Foods. The brand was a collaboration between Britain’s earliest celebrity vegetarians and Ross Young’s, a shrewd frozen-food manufacturer working ahead of the curve. Together, they would launch one of the most successful celebrity food brands to date.

On her mother Linda: Established in 1991, Linda McCartney Foods produced a meat-free food range, one of the first to launch in the UK. It reimagined hearty British staples like pies, sausages and burgers in a range that has since expanded to include sausage rolls, shredded hoisin “duck”, pulled “chicken” and “fish” goujons.

The ingredient that gives the products their distinctive meat-like texture is textured vegetable protein, a chewy substance extracted from soy that remains a popular meat substitute to this day. The brand was an instant hit in the UK, with sales of £12 million by 1992; now, the range is the second largest British meat alternative brand, after Quorn, with sales of £26.7 million (US$34.9 million).

“She did it because she was passionate and wanted to be the voice for animals,” McCartney says of her mother, who died of breast cancer in 1998. “She cooked for people and they’d say, ‘If I could eat like this I would eat a lot more vegetarian,’ so she did a cookbook then a food range.”

Although the brand has changed hands multiple times – it is now owned by US food company Hain Celestial Group – the McCartney family is still involved in its product development and promotion. Earlier this year, to coincide with “Veganuary” – during which people become vegan during January – the company released an advert directed by Mary titled Kindness Forever. McCartney also runs the food blog P for Peckish, and has launched two of her own cookbooks alongside the The Meat Free Monday Cookbook she co-authored with her father and sister. Earlier this year, a vote in the European parliament led to the ruling that only products containing meat could use terms like “sausage”, “burger”, “steak” and “escalope”. The decision to protect meat-related terms and names “exclusively for edible parts of the animals” was opposed by NGOs such as Greenpeace who argued it would be a setback for sustainable food.

McCartney rolls her eyes in exasperation at the news. “Growing up vegetarian, people were always like, ‘Why do you want to have a burger? Why do you want to have sausage or mince?’

“Because a burger is a shape and I’d like to have a barbecue. Just because I’m a vegetarian doesn’t mean I can’t have a burger – a burger can be made with meat or a variety of different things. A sausage is a shape. The protein you choose to use is up to you. If you don’t want to do that, you can do vegetable stir fry or use lentils and beans. There are a lot of options.”

Along with their father, Linda’s three children have continued Linda’s work; her ethos is a binding thread throughout each of their careers. While Mary furthers the family’s message worldwide with her latest Green Monday role, Stella has put sustainability at the heart of her eponymous luxury brand, and youngest sibling James McCartney has woven vegan activism into his career as a musician. Though vegetarian options may have diversified greatly since the launch of Linda’s sausages, her daughter often hears how her mother’s food range was a lifeline for vegetarians growing up in meat-eating households and still represents an inexpensive option for anyone trying to go meat-free in an easy way. “People grew up on her. People come up to me now and say, ‘If it wasn’t for your mum’s sausages I would have starved growing up,’” she says. “It would make her so happy – how many people she inspired. It’s about inspiring people. It’s food. It’s a way of eating.”




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Mary, Stella, her husband Alasdhair Willis and her childrens dsuring vacation in St Barts.


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It wasn’t always easy being vegetarian, even for rock stars. Sir Paul McCartney, who ditched meat and fish from his diet back in the mid Seventies, groans at the memory. “You wouldn’t have believed it.”It’s true: we’ve forgotten how alien a meat-free diet seemed to most people in the last millennium. These days, vegetarians have never had it so good.
Even if we aren’t all committing to removing meat from our diets completely, it seems that – call it flexitarianism, reducetarian, or simply cutting back – a significant chunk of the population will willingly go without some of the time.

Read more .. here.


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Paul attend the “My Generation” special screening at BFI Southbank on March 14, 2018 in London, England.