Feargal Sharkey got his Teenage Kicks on Top of the Pops, while James Purnell spent his adolescence studying A levels at the Royal Grammar School, Guildford.

Neil Connor met them both at a conference in Birmingham yesterday...

James Purnell arrived fashionably late, in a fashionable suit, talking about the fashionable issue of live music.

If ever there was a man fit for the job of reaching out to the young, creative sector in the UK, then it is Mr Purnell.

At 36 years old, the Government's Minister for Creative Industries looks like he should be with the New Romantics rather than New Labour.

With a suit borrowed from Spandau Ballet and a hairstyle from Duran Duran, Mr Purnell sat down next to Feargal Sharkey for the second half of Radio 1's Live Music Forum at the Glee Club in the Arcadian Centre.

Sharkey, meanwhile, had spent the last 45 minutes puffing on cigarettes, spelling out the importance of live music. He was energetic and passionate about the subject. This is a man who led a band which spent two years trying to get gigs in ultra-conservative Londonderry, before they finally made the big time via legendary DJ John Peel playing their first single on the radio.

Sharkey did it the hard way, and following the success of Teenage Kicks it was still constant motorway travelling and run-down hotels and venues for The Undertones.

But now Mr Purnell - the 'one to watch' political darling of London lobby journalists - was here lending a hand. And he was not offering to drive the Ford Transit and carry the amplifiers. He was talking hard cash.

He had only just got comfortable in his seat when event host and DJ Steve Lamacq raised the questions that everyone was thinking: "The Government and rock music; Can they both mix? Is it still rock music?"

Mr Purnell set out to prove that David Bowie and Bryan Ferry were not the only men in suits who make it in the music industry.

"I have got one of the best jobs in the world," he responded.

"I am a massive music fan. The reason I am here is to find out what more the Government can do for live music.

"I want to work with Feargal to see how we can help out. I believe the Government can make a difference."

For 45 minutes before Mr Purnell's arrival, Sharkey was being fed information from the crowd of music promoters, band members and venue owners on the future of live music.

As chairman of the Live Music Forum, he is writing a policy paper exploring the subject which he will submit to the Government. To Sharkey, there is no such thing as a music industry without live performances.

"There is no concert at Wembley Stadium in front of 100,000 people, performed by a band who have sold five million albums if there was not that gig at the pub five years before," he said.

"There is more live music around now then there has ever been at any time. I would say I am pleased about that as the chairman of the Live Music Forum, but as an ex-musician it is extremely satisfying."

Sharkey and Mr Purnell took scores of questions on issues ranging from the plight of young musicians in Birmingham to the scourge of ticket touts.

To be fair, they both knew the subject, and Mr Purnell was eager to prove that this was not Cool Britannia Mark II.

"People did not like Cool Britannia because of all the parties associated with it." he said.

But would Sharkey get an invite to Number 10?

"It is not about invites and parties, the creative industries are a serious part of the economy."

No doubt Sharkey would have preferred a pint of Guinness at his local anyway.