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Henry Normal: Patron of City of Literature

12 January 16 words: James Walker
"Looking at the rich history of dissent and protest in Nottingham I feel very much at home in my small way."

If you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months then you will have missed the news that our little ode factory town blossomed into a UNESCO City of Literature on 11 December 2015. This is not a permanent title and is dependent on the board achieving the outcomes set out in their bid proposal. So the hard graft has just begun...

Patrons are one way in which these goals can be visualised to the public and so it made a lot of sense to bring in comedian Henry Normal as the ninth patron. Normal is the c o-founder with Steve Coogan of Baby Cow productions. Their CV includes the likes of Gavin and Stacey and The Mighty Boosh.

Normal has dabbled in various things over the years. He co-wrote the Mrs Merton Show, The Royle Family and Coogan’s Run, set up the successful Manchester Poetry Festival (now the Manchester Literary Festival) in 1996, and has six poetry collections under his belt. Elsewhere he’s done a tour with Pulp and produced a series of short televised series of Chekhov’s comic plays, starring an all-star cast. Credited as being the ‘funniest man you’ve never heard of’ he recently put together the Nottingham Poetry Festival which saw local poets teamed up with the likes of Lemn Sissay, Attila the Stockbroker and Luke Wright.

Normal was born in Nottingham in 1956, two years before that book about a Raleigh worker quenching pay day thirst put us on the literary map. He left us in his mid-twenties to pursue work and love but has regularly returned to the city to see friends and family. Most importantly, he still has his Notts accent.

Normal said: When I was 11 my mother died and I became withdrawn and discovered the world of literature. My problem was how can a working class boy from Nottingham compete in the world of literature. Then I remembered Alan Sillitoe and set to writing what I know.

Since then becoming aware of the significance of DH Lawrence, Byron, Stanley Middleton, Henry Kirke White, and others I realise I am very much in the tradition of Nottingham voices.

Looking at the rich history of dissent and protest in Nottingham I feel very much at home in my small way.

I think it’s important we celebrate Nottingham’s sense of self, it’s creativity and individual thought.  I’m very proud to be associated with Nottingham as a UNESCO city of literature. What of the future? To amend a local phrase ‘It’s not looking too black over Bill’s mothers’“

The other City of Literature patrons are: Panya Banjoko; Sir Harry Djanogly; Michael Eaton; William Ivory; John Harvey; Vicky McClure; Amanda Whittington and honoury president Stephen Lowe.

If you want to have a natter with Henry Normal you can see him perform at Jazz and Poetry at Guitar Bar, Hotel Deux, Sherwood Rise on Wednesday 13 January. The theme for this event is based around Alan Sillitoe and the new anthology of writing inspired by the author, More Raw Material.


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