PUBLISHED: June 6, 2019

Henry Normal at home in Brighton
Photo: Jim Holden

Henry Normal at home in Brighton
Photo: Jim Holden

Jim Holden
www.jimholden.co.uk
07590 683036

Writer and producer of some of the most popular comedy series in the country, Henry Normal knows how to make audiences laugh. He now brings his unique brand of performance poetry to the Ashbourne Festival.



Henry Normal, aka Peter Carroll, photographed outside Planet X Records in Chesterfield with co-founder of "Didds" in the early 1980sHenry Normal, aka Peter Carroll, photographed outside Planet X Records in Chesterfield with co-founder of "Didds" in the early 1980s

It takes a leap of faith to stand in front of a punks audience while waiting for the arrival of a little-known band, Pulp, on stage. Especially dressed in your purple suit. But that's exactly what a budding poet in his twenties did in the early 80s.

He called himself Peter Carroll. Except that night, and forever, he would call Henry Normal.

"I thought that if I said," I'm normal "before them, I would beat them to the joke," he recalls, adding, "At the time, I was also working as a broker. I do not want my boss to know that I was doing these concerts.

Born and raised near Nottingham, Henry – who, like many of his contemporaries, including Frank Skinner and Vic Reeves, chose a pseudonym of another generation – was one of five children.

Henry Normal with his BAFTA for television services, photographed with, right, Baby Cow producers, Ted Down, Lindsay Hughes and Steve CooganHenry Normal with his BAFTA for television services, photographed with, right, Baby Cow producers, Ted Down, Lindsay Hughes and Steve Coogan

"I was raised in a city council and my mother died at the age of 11. Until then, I was very gregarious, but I became very withdrawn. However, I came across a collection of poems by Spike Milligan, in the comedy of which I held a lot, entitled Little dreams of a scorpion. In fact, these poems made me cry and I remember thinking how amazing it was that such a funny man could be so moving. That's what I tried to imitate.

With his father and older brother employed at the Raleigh Bicycle Company, a school career officer referred Henry to a position of insurance salesman at ED Notcutt in Chesterfield. This may not be the obvious stepping stone to a brilliant career as one of the country's best writers, producers and script writers on innovative shows such as: Mrs. Merton, Red dwarf, The Royle family, Gavin and Stacey, The powerful Boosh and Alan Partridge, to name a few. However, moving to the city of Derbyshire, he says, has changed everything.

"It has been mixed with many of the creators of the faculty of arts, which has allowed me to know both the ideas and the commercial side of creativity. I also co-owned a store called Planet X Records with one of my friends, Didds, and we were running monthly events in Gotham City, the local nightclub, where I would be the doorman.

"I really got out of my cocoon in Chesterfield. This has given me the confidence to give up insurance and go to Manchester to devote myself to full-time poetry; it is there that I met Steve Coogan and Caroline Aherne.

Henry's A Normal Family is a personal reflection on the life of his autistic son Johnny, as well as his five collections of poems.Henry's A Normal Family is a personal reflection on the life of his autistic son Johnny, as well as his five collections of poems.

While the world of the so-called alternative comedy is still in its infancy, these young people have found themselves on the bill in unusual places.

"The famous Buzz Club of Manchester started as a folk club, but has become one of the best comedy clubs in the country. As unknown, we often played together, so I organized a car and I drove Steve, Caroline and John Thompson. There was a true community spirit among us, with everyone involved. & # 39;

He recalled that the presence of Granada TV on their patch offered the opportunity to reach new and larger audiences by pooling their talents. The multi-award winning Mrs. Merton's showFor example, Henry co-wrote and wrote the script for the first series in collaboration with Caroline Aherne. And after co-founding Baby Cow Productions with Steve Coogan in 1999, it launched 17 and a half months of production, during which more than 400 television shows and the Oscar-nominated film were made. Philomena.

The will to stay true to its roots is obvious and never more than in the hit series, The Royle family who, again, saw him join Aherne.

"We were all working-class people, so we drew a lot, convinced that it was incumbent upon us to write these kinds of stories. For starters, the TV bosses could not understand what the characters were and did not stop saying "But they do not like". And I did not stop saying, "No, they like it, but it's not Dallasthey are from the north, so they are not going to say it. " Glasses box is The Royle family but in another format, Henry murmured.

So, perhaps it is not surprising that the news he receives from BAFTA for Television Services in 2017 is generating a generally underrated response.

My first thought was, "Who pays for all this?" The letter [from BAFTA] said I can have 150 guests for a dinner, so I hope they're not going to charge me! It was a wonderful surprise and a wonderful evening, as I was able to invite people I had worked with over the last 20 years, both behind the scenes and in front of the cameras, to become a family. & # 39;

These days, and having "retired" three years ago, he still enjoys watching comedies on the screen. "Alan has made his entry into the mainstream," he observes with irony Partridge's latest show recently presented on BBC One.

Meanwhile, in a "normal week", things went on in a loop. Most of the time, he spends days writing poetry in the top floor office of the Brighton House, shared with his wife, screenwriter Angela Pell, and their son Johnny. And, apparently, he would not prefer anything else.

"My heart is and has always been in poetry. When you're doing a TV show or a movie, it's a very big collaboration and you're trying to get an authentic view of the world, you're trained in this way. The great thing with poetry is that it's just that you communicate with the world. & # 39;

To date, this creative production has resulted in five collections of poetry and 30-minute performances on BBC Radio 4.

"My early writing and so far has tapped into my life. I think what is good in your life is that you are the expert. I'm doing a program called A normal universe – it's a beautiful big subject – as it was A natural nature. This has given me the excuse to investigate and write about topics that interest me and their impact on my daily life.

"Like Spike Milligan, I want to have that mix of comedy and something more substantial. You can do it on the radio because people listen and hear everything.

He is very excited to present a live version of the latest show in Ashbourne this summer and to make personal contacts with his audience.

So, is there any advice for the future poets of the show? "For starters, it's very difficult to make a living," says Henry. "Even John Cooper Clarke and Roger McGough do a lot of different things. The fun and adventure are glorious. In comedy, one can become rich very young, but poetry is more an act of love.

"For years, my father has said," Do not give up your real work. "Http://www.derbyshirelife.co.uk/"

A normal universe will be held at Ashbourne Town Hall on Thursday, July 4 at 7:30 pm, and you can join Henry Normal for an evening of poetry at the Derby Book Festival on Saturday, June 8 at QUAD in Derby.

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