Word Central with Rosie Fleeshman

WORD CENTRAL 
a semaphore-exploding mind-flow 
open mic poetry & spoken word hosted by Tony Curry 

Thursday 4th April at Manchester Central Library 
St. Peter's Square, Manchester M2 5PD 

6pm - 8pm [doors open 5.30pm] - Free Entry 

With special guest Rosie Fleeshman

Rosie Fleeshman

Actress, writer and poet Rosie Fleeshman writes witty,thought-provoking, brutally honest poetry. A multi poetry slam-winner and Great Northern Slam Champion, she is also the co-runner of SPEAK, a diverse spoken word night in the heart of Manchester. Rosie's debut play Narcissist in the Mirror won Best Spoken Word Show at the GM Fringe and was nominated for two awards at the Manchester Theatre Awards, winning Best New Play in the process. On the back of a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe, Rosie is currently touring her play across the UK.

You can book your open mic spot for April from 15th March by emailing mail@flapjackpress.co.uk 
NB Open mic slots are 3 minutes maximum 
and allocated on a 'first come first served' basis
If the open mic slots are already filled you will be offered a space on the reserve list 

You can book from around 3 weeks prior to each event
Check here or on our Facebook page for confirmed dates

Word Central Facebook Group | Twitter: @WordCentralMcr 
In association with Flapjack Press and Manchester Library & Information Service 

Book launch: extraño by Steve O'Connor

Join us at Manchester Central Library on Thursday 21st March.
Steve  O'Connor Book Launch

Word Central: March 2019

WORD CENTRAL 
a semaphore-exploding mind-flow 
open mic poetry & spoken word hosted by Tony Curry 

Thursday 7th March at Manchester Central Library 
St. Peter's Square, Manchester M2 5PD 

6pm - 8pm [doors open 5.30pm] - Free Entry 

A full evening of open mic poets

You can book your open mic spot for March from 15th February via mail@flapjackpress.co.uk 
NB Open mic slots are 3 minutes maximum 
and allocated on a 'first come first served' basis 
If the open mic slots are already filled you will be offered a space on the reserve list 

Word Central Facebook Group | Twitter: @WordCentralMcr 
In association with Flapjack Press and Manchester Library & Information Service 

International Women's Day with Flapjack Press

Book launch: I Meet Myself Returning by John Darwin

Join us at Manchester Central Library on Tuesday 26th February.

New Titles Coming Soon...

 
I Meet Myself Returning by John Darwin - February 2019


extraño by Steve O'Connor - March 2019


The Anthology of Tomorrow by Flapjack Press Poets - April 2019


Swallowing the Entire Ocean by Henry Normal - April/May 2019

Word Central with guest Ciarán Hodgers - Feb 2019

WORD CENTRAL 
a semaphore-exploding mind-flow 
open mic poetry & spoken word hosted by Tony Curry 

Thursday 7th February at Manchester Central Library 
2nd Floor Meeting Room
St. Peter's Square, Manchester M2 5PD 

6pm - 8pm [doors open 5.30pm] - Free Entry 

With special guest poet Ciarán Hodgers 

Ciarán is a multi-award-winning spoken word poet from Drogheda, currently touring his debut collection Cosmocartography. He is the Sean Dunne National Young Writer 2010, an International Pangaea Poetry Slam Champion 2015 and the Word War 3 Slam Champion. 

You can book your open mic spot for February
via mail@flapjackpress.co.uk 
NB Open mic slots are 3 minutes maximum 
and allocated on a 'first come first served' basis 
If the open mic slots are already filled you will be offered a space on the reserve list 

Word Central Facebook Group | Twitter: @WordCentralMcr 
In association with Flapjack Press and Manchester Library & Information Service 

WORD-CENTRAL-LOGO

Word Central with Rose Condo - January 2019

WORD CENTRAL
a semaphore-exploding mind-flow
open mic poetry & spoken word hosted by Tony Curry

Thursday 3rd January at Manchester Central Library
St. Peter's Square, Manchester M2 5PD

6pm - 8pm [doors open 5.30pm] - Free Entry

with special guest poet Rose Condo
Rose Condo photo by Robert Norbury
Photo by Robert Norbury

Rose is a Canadian spoken word artist and educator currently residing in the North of England. A multiple slam champion, she has been performing her work extensively at spoken word nights and festivals throughout the UK and Canada since 2013, including performances for Amnesty International, Apples & Snakes, Hammer & Tongue and guest slots supporting Hollie McNish and Shane Koyczan. She has been the host and organiser of the monthly spoken word event Queenie's Coffee House Night since 2015.
Rose has written and toured two spoken word shows, The Geography Of Me and How To Starve An Artist - the latter voted runner-up for Best UK Spoken Word Show at the Saboteur Awards 2017.
Her work is unapologetically feminist, oftentimes wry, occasionally raw, but always honest and compassionate.

Open mic spots for January will be available to book from 14th December via mail@flapjackpress.co.uk
NB Open mic slots are 3 minutes maximum

Word Central Facebook Group | Twitter: @WordCentralMcr
In association with Flapjack Press and Manchester Library & Information Service

WORD-CENTRAL-LOGO

I Can Draw My Alphabet by Tony Walsh re-issued

First published by Flapjack Press in 2013 and lovingly reformatted and reissued in 2018, Tony Walsh’s I Can Draw My Alphabet is available again from December.

I Can Draw MyAlphabet
I Can Draw My Alphabet by Tony Walsh
illustrated by Paul Neads and ...
children's poetry, picture & drawing book, ages 3+ | ISBN 978-1-9996707-7-1 | 60pp | 2018
rrp £7.50

Everyone's a winner when your child joins the authors of I Can Draw My Alphabet - where memorable rhymes and hilarious pictures make learning as easy as ABC!
Little ones take great delight in silly sausage dogs and giant ice creams, but they love it even more when creating their very own masterpieces. I Can Draw My Alphabet features a page format which encourages children to copy the illustrations or to create their own, proudly adding their name at the front of the book.
A family favourite to share and treasure.

Northern Soul Awards 2018

Shortlisted - Northern Publisher of the Year
Northern Soul Awards 2018


Very happy to announce that Flapjack Press has been shortlisted for the Northern Publisher of the Year award. Thank you to all the poets, performers, artists and artistes, and all who have helped along the way, for making this possible.

To celebrate, all print titles are now marked 1/3 off cover price in the Flapjack shop.
Complete your collection or shop early for Christmas!
Offer ends 15 November 2018.

Henry Normal interviews Paul Neads at Northern Soul

Flapjack Press’s Paul Neads talks poetry, performance and, erm, flapjacks with Henry Normal:
Northern Soul.

I’m Having the Rhyme of My Life by George Melling

Flapjack Press also produces collections and anthologies for schools, workshop groups, festivals and individuals not in the Flapjack stable. Each day this week I’ll be posting a title I’ve had fun putting together which isn’t published under the Flapjack banner. So, and in no particular order, here’s the last of the week ... #5:

I’m Having the Rhyme of My Life by George Melling
Poems and tales by Th’Owd Chap.
"Wry wit, heart-break and protest. An absolute treat." - Louise Fazackerley

Published by Talentvine Press, ISBN 9781999943806.
Contact Sharon at talentvine@gmail.com or georgemelling17@gmail.com to purchase. 

Middle Earth Magic by Ged Thompson

Flapjack Press also produces collections and anthologies for schools, workshop groups, festivals and individuals not in the Flapjack stable. Each day this week I’ll be posting a title I’ve had fun putting together which isn’t published under the Flapjack banner. So here’s #4:

Middle Earth Magic by Ged Thompson
Illustrated by Elfin Bow
A collection of magical fairy tales for adults and children alike.
Published by Angelus Poetry, ISBN 9780993473708.
Available to buy here

Order & Chaos by Julia Davenport

Flapjack Press also produces collections and anthologies for schools, workshop groups, festivals and individuals not in the Flapjack stable. Each day this week I’ll be posting a title I’ve had fun putting together which isn’t published under the Flapjack banner. In no particular order, here’s #3:

Order & Chaos by Julia Davenport
A collection of protest poems.
“Hard-hitting verses … fantastically reflective of chaos whilst calling for order.” - The Nubian Times.
Published by Ragiel & Gill Press, ISBN 9780995568501.
Available to buy here

Astro Poetica by Dom Conlon

Flapjack Press also produces collections and anthologies for schools, workshop groups, festivals and individuals not in the Flapjack stable. Each day this week I’ll be posting a title I’ve had fun putting together which isn’t published under the Flapjack banner. So, and in no particular order, here's #2:

Astro Poetica by Dom Conlon
Illustrated by Jools Wilson
Discover the universe in this illustrated book of poetry for children.
"Ingenious, engaging and charming." - Jon Culshaw.
Published by Inkology.
Available to buy here 

Bill Naughton: His Bolton Life by Dave Burnham

Flapjack Press also produces collections and anthologies for schools, workshop groups, festivals and individuals not in the Flapjack stable. Each day this week I’ll be posting a title I’ve had fun putting together which isn’t published under the Flapjack banner. So, and in no particular order, here's #1:

Bill Naughton: His Bolton Life by Dave Burnham
A biography of the award-winning writer whose works include Alfie, Spring and Port Wine, and The Family Way.
Published by Live from Worktown, ISBN 9781999861209.
Available to buy here

WHY I HATE POEMS by HENRY NORMAL

Part 4 of 4

The great English sixties poet Adrian Mitchell once said ‘most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people’. I was fortunate enough to meet Adrian who seemed a gentle and intelligent man. I had the honour of performing alongside him at a literature festival over twenty years ago. His early works were very much an inspiration to me. They were accessible and yet always took me beyond my seventies council estate in Nottingham to a different and better world. A world seen through the eyes of a poet.

  I’ve written poetry since I was about 14. I read a book by Spike Milligan called Small Dreams of a Scorpion. I’d only known Spike has a comic writer up to that point and was struck at how someone so funny could make me cry in so few words. Up until then my reading was mostly Monty Python and Spike’s funny books and Goon Show scripts. These serious poems though stayed with me longer than all the comedy. Even though I pursued a career in comedy and became successful, it’s still the moments of pathos and genuine sentiment in all I’ve read that makes the deepest and most enduring impression.

  I got to meet Spike Milligan some years later. I was in my early forties and running the TV comedy company Baby Cow with Steve Coogan. I was asked to judge a BBC Tv comedy competition alongside Spike at the Komedia in Brighton. I sat next to him on the judging panel and people kept coming up to Spike and asking for his autograph. ‘Fuck off,’ he says to them and they’d laugh thinking he was joking, but he was seriously telling them to ‘Fuck off’.

  I told him I was very much a fan of his poetry and he recited several off the top of his head. I thanked him but felt the conversation was a bit like a performance so I tried to communicate as a person. I was, it must be said, very tired having worked all day in London and commuted back on Southern Rail. Struggling to find something we had in common I remembered that he lived in Rye. ‘I know you live in Rye,’ I said. ‘I live in Brighton because I love the sea,’ I continued. He looked at me a moment and leant in and whispered, ‘Henry, you’re a fascinating man.’ My wife now uses this repost if ever I say anything bland or boring, which unfortunately I still do occasionally.

    The first poet I saw live was Roger McGough at the Nottingham Playhouse during a lunch break when I was working in an insurance brokers and had no ambitions to perform poetry. He read ‘Summer with Monica’ and I was immediately engaged. I devoured everything I could of the Liverpool poets.

  The second poet I saw live was John Cooper Clarke at the Leadmill Sheffield. The Leadmill was traditionally a music venue frequented by students. It was quite a raucous crowd. Very different to the quiet and polite audience at the Playhouse. John did all the crowd favourites at lightning speed to cheers and whoops from the very youthful gathering. I couldn’t help being caught up in the excitement. I’d moved to Chesterfield by this time and owned a small record shop. These were the last days before CDs took over from Vinyl and the romance of running an indie record shop competed with my other romantic notion of being a writer.

  The third poet I saw was Stephen ‘Seething’ Wells at Manchester University. Swells was a powerhouse of words and insults and energy and poetic anger. Overturning comfortable convention, he made the entire audience get onto the stage and then performed to them from the floor. He was probably the truest incarnation of what at the time were called ‘rant’ poets. Sadly, very little is available of his work although I’m proud to say we did manage to film him for the BBC on a show we made at Baby Cow called Whine Gums.

  These were the highlights to my introduction to poetry. Not just words on a page but a way of seeing the world. An attitude, a truth, a way of perception everything of the universe. I was a convert, a disciple, an evangelist. It was very much like I’d found a religion. I wanted so much to believe that poetry would change the world and make people’s lives richer and give their experience more depth and quality.  I expected too much I realise. So, trying to capture all that in a poem was setting a high bar. Whilst poetry itself could be vast, infinite even, timeless and spiritual any one poem can’t hope to capture all that. Poems can only hope to aspire and form part of something bigger. 

  The more I read the more disappointed I became that most of what is considered mainstream poetry doesn't evoke in me that excitement and awe at what poetry can be. Let me be honest this disappointment includes my own poems. 

  Occasionally, I will read a poem for the first time and something about the moment will echo my dream of poetry. I suspect it’s a bit like happiness in that plan as you might, it only occurs when the time is right and then only fleetingly. 

  I hate poems for not always fulfilling the promise I once romantically dreamt was in all poetry. When a poem connects with me though I love it like life itself.

WHY I GAVE UP A SUCCESSFUL CAREER IN TV TO RETURN TO POETRY by HENRY NORMAL

Part 3 of 4

Being awarded a Special BAFTA for services to Television this June was a reminder of how far I’d come from performing poetic ditties in front of punk and new wave banks like Pulp.

  My business partner Steve Coogan was there, of course, together with Craig Cash, Ruth Jones, Julia Davis, Nick Helm, Sean Walsh and many of the on screen and behind the scenes talents I’d worked with over 30 years in TV.

  So why was I giving all this up to go back to writing poetry? It certainly wasn’t for money. Very few poets can make enough money to survive on their poetry alone. Most have second jobs or expand their work to commissions, teaching and workshops.

  It wasn’t for fame or glamour. Very little in poetry these days can compete with the multi-Oscar nomination we had with Philomela which I executive produced.

  It was far more basic than that. Poetry like all is art forms is about communication whether it be something you communicate with others or just yourself. Over the past 30 years there has been a lot I’d have like to communicate but was unable to find either the time or the outlet.

  Poetry is particularly good at communicating individual perception. It’s not a collaborative act. It’s very personal and can get to the undiluted truth quickly and efficiently. TV and film are very much collaborative and can involve scores of people and many compromises to get an idea and vision to the screen.

  I always contend ‘Ozymandias‘ by Percy Bysshe Shelley is the best piece ever written about TV executives!

  The experience I wanted to communicate felt too personal to bend out of shape and too important to compromise. The deaths of my father and brother both from cancer had an important effect on me. I know over the past year more than 56 million people have died worldwide. It doesn’t really hit home though until it affects someone close to you. 

  My mother had died when I was 11 and that resulted in me becoming less gregarious and more withdrawn and led to a passion for writing and poetry.

  It was my son, Johnny turning 16 though that brought matters to a head. Having struggled as a family to cope with our only son being diagnosed ‘Severely Autistic’ we had a visit from the local council just after his 16th birthday. The council worker informed us that as Johnny is officially ‘Mentally Incapacitated’ now he’d become an adult he was a Ward of the State. 

  I’d never seen this person before and we’ve not seen her since, nor any other official from the council. The worry that Johnny might be in the hands of people who don’t know him hit me hard in the stomach. As a Parent of an autistic child your worse fear is what will happen to your child when you and your partner die. 

   You can try to prepare for that day as best you can but ultimately you are in the hands of others.

   The first poems I wrote after over twenty years silence were to try and explain who Johnny is, how we live and to communicate something of our lives. Poetry is a much better medium to do this that TV and Film.

  I did perform some of the poems recently on two BBC Radio 4 shows I wrote especially ‘a normal life’ and ‘a normal family’. I’ve a further two been commission for next year.

  These days I get to work from home and I see more of my wife and son. I can get more involved in their daily lives and can help out more. Seeing how much my wife, Angela, does of a day she deserves an award far more than me. 

  Do I miss TV and Film? I miss the camaraderie of my fellow workers. I was lucky enough to work with some beautiful, brilliant and talented people. I don’t miss the commute to London on Southern Rail. Let’s be honest, to avoid that would be reason alone to work from home.

WHAT MANCHESTER GAVE ME by HENRY NORMAL

Part 2 of 4

I moved to Manchester for love. A beautiful girl I was dating started at Manchester University and I came up to share a flat in Crumpsall. After she’d finished her course she moved to London. I stayed in Manchester. You can ask too much of love.

     Back in the eighties I used to dye my hair black and dressed to match. My head looked like a goth pineapple. In the first few years everyone in Manchester seemed to look like Smith’s fans so I certainly stuck out. I used to dye my hair myself in a very small sink and my entire face would end up stained like some sort of army camouflage. 

    I was lucky to meet four Manchester legends Darren Poyzer, Chris Coup and Ric Micheal and John Marshall alias Agraman (the human anagram). All four were Manchester promoters. 

     Darren Poyzer ran ‘Stand and Deliver’ a performance poetry and cabaret night at the Tameside Theatre bar. There I met Martin Coogan a singer with the band ‘The Mock Turtles’ who often performed solo acoustic sets and John Bramwell then going under the name of Johnny Dangerously. This is before John formed the band I Am Kloot. Martin had a younger brother, ten years my junior, who did impressions and a character called Duncan Thicket who was a parody of a bad comic. This was Steve Coogan around the age of nineteen and already making money on voice over work. His encore was a news report on the bombing of Trumpton which is still funny today. There wasn’t much of an audience, perhaps twenty on a good night and we didn’t get paid much if at all. Stand and Deliver was a place to meet up though and try out new material, get drunk and have a laugh with fellow dreamers. Darren was a performer himself and often covered the evening creating a friendly atmosphere. He went on to run a night at the Witchwood in Ashton and still performs as a singer songwriter to this day. My abiding memory of Darren is at a particularly hostile gig he stood on a chair and sang Fireball XL5 and completely disarmed the audience.

    Chris Coup ran a number of events under the name Fun Box. Usually with a bill that had a singer songwriter, a poet and a comic. He also organised the Legendary Manchester Busker. An extravaganza of local talent which often featured over twenty acts on the same bill. Everyone from John Thompson to Bryan Glancy, from Lemn Sissay to George Borowski. Chris, always enthusiastic, was constantly running into debt so one time all the acts did a benefit for his phone bill. The next day he rang everyone to thank them!

     Ric Micheal also ran comedy and music nights - a dapper young Jewish boy with a stocky east European frame, often he often dressed in a white glittery suit with flares and a hood.  He later helped me put on the very first Manchester Poetry Festival which has now become the Manchester Literature Festival. My favourite night was when we had Seamus Heaney two days after he’d been given the Nobel Prize. He arrived at Manchester Airport with a cheque in his pocket for nearly a million pounds which is what you got those days along with the prize itself. We explained to him we’d got him a cheque for £600. ‘I couldn’t have it in cash’ he asked. He’d got no cash on him only this huge cheque so we went to a cashpoint and got the money out. When he arrived at the Whitworth Art Gallery all 300 in the audience gave him a standing ovation.

    Agraman ran the Buzz Club for many years, the very best place in Manchester to see live comedy. He would compere the evening with a torrent of the most excruciating puns that served to bond the audience into a community through communal suffering. A lovely man who helped launch many a comics career. He would support the local scene with acts like Caroline Ahern’s Sister Mary Immaculate and also bring national names to Manchester. Frank Skinner, Jack Dee, Lee Evans and Tim Vine.

     Manchester was a thriving hotbed of creativity at this time. Places like the Cornerhouse and the Green Room were teaming with up and coming stars from every corner of the arts. I even saw Eric Cantona in the Cornerhouse once. Steve and I filmed the first Paul Calf TV show there and the first event of the poetry festival was held there.

     Manchester had something I hadn’t seen before in Nottingham, Hull, Liverpool or Sheffield. It had a sense of its self and confidence in its future. It was a heady vibe. It spurred me on to get my own Channel 4 TV show ‘Packet of Three’ which I set naturally in Crumpsall.

     Alongside Jon Ronson for a couple of years I wrote a column for Manchester’s What’s On Magazine City Life. My column was entitled ‘Postcard from Crumpsall’. It forced me to look beyond my little corner of the arts and witness the magnitude of what was happening in the North West.

     When Mad-chester got into swing and Antony Wilson proved himself a catalyst many times over, it was the only place to be. A few years later and being an exec producer by, then I sat next to Tony as he watched an early edit of 24 Hour Party People for the first time. His comment on the film was consistent - ‘When forced to pick between the truth and the legend, print the legend’.

    Not only did I get to meet some brilliant people in Manchester, the city gave me confidence to be myself. I’d always been a little intimidated by London but Manchester wasn’t intimidating. When I was writing the first series of The Royle Family with Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash, Caroline would stop occasionally and say as an in-joke, ‘It’s raining in London’ and we’d laugh and cheer. 

     I’ve got so much to thank Manchester for; good friends, my career but perhaps most of all for being the place I met my wife, Angela. When she moved to Brighton we tried having a long-distance romance for a few months. I’d travel down to see her and tell people I’d got a big sex drive. Eventually I relented and moved to Brighton, so maybe love won through in the end. Thank God she didn’t move to London.

HOW I FAILED TO GET A JOB AT SISSON AND PARKER'S AND BECAME A SUCCESSFUL TV PRODUCER INSTEAD by Henry Normal

Part 1 of 4

My first part time job was stacking shelves at Fine Fare on Bracebridge Drive, Bilborough. Fine Fare was a fairly downmarket supermarket and the wages were low. I used to look at the people coming in to shop and think they were looking down at me for working in Fine Fare. As we lived on the council estate and didn’t have much money we shopped at Fine Fare. When I entered to shop I used to look at the people stacking shelves and think they were looking down on me for shopping at Fine Fare. Either way I couldn’t win.

  My first full time job was as an insurance brokers clerk in the centre of Nottingham on the south parade of what I always still refer to as Slab Square. I managed to get the job by persuading the manager that CSEs were better than GCEs as the mark was earned over a two-year period and so showed consistency. My first wage was £15 a week. It was 1974. I enjoyed working at an insurance brokers, helping to keep the wheels of industry turning. We insured goods and lorries mainly. If you were sending strawberries to Iran I was the man to ring. It was an old-fashioned firm where you wore a suit and tie every day, even in summer and always kept the top button of your shirt done up no matter how hot it became. The boss sat at the back of the room then the second in charge in front of him, then the next down in front of him then me. I figured if I kept moving my desk back an inch every day I could get promotion within a year. The office was deadly quiet at times so to eat a bag of crisps I had to suck them.

  At lunchtime, I would scour the local bookshops for comedy books I’d not read and at night read and transport myself to another world. I read all the Monty Python books, the MASH series, Spike Milligan’s books, any cartoon (Honeysett being my favourite) even James Thurber and Alan Coren. Books of TV and Radio scripts like Morecambe and Wise, the Goons, ITMA, Round the Horne. This was in the days before video recorders. Marx Bros Scripts I loved and biographies of great comics like Jack Benny or Abbot and Costello. I read some non-comedy books including Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday night Sunday Morning and Loneliness of the The Long Distance Runner. I could relate to both of these having been born in St Annes and with my dad and my brother both working at Raleigh. I read Orwell notably Keep the Aspidistra Flying, 1984 and Animal Farm. Some H.G.Wells and Huxley’s Brave New World.  

  To earn extra money, I took an evening job as well as barman at the Early Bird Pub next to the Bus Depot towards Beechdale Road. As a young fresh faced lad I got teased mercilessly. ‘Gay boy’ was the usual nick name. We later used this in The Royle Family which I created and wrote with Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash.

  I saw a job advertised in the Nottingham Evening Post and for a trainee at Sisson and Parker’s. Though gone now I’m sure Sisson and Parker's lives in the memory of many of my fellow Nottingham contemporaries. It was like WH Smith but as though run by Grace Bros. A posh old-fashioned shop that sold Parker Pens and desk tidies along with books.

  I loved Sisson and Parker, it was the antithesis of Fine Fare. I decided to go for the job and managed to get an interview. It became apparent the interviewer took one look at me and decided I wasn’t their type. He asked me the strangest of questions I thought at the time. He asked, ‘do you play football?’ I told him I did and loved to watch Forest. This seemed to seal my fate. He asked no more questions and I was told he had more candidates to see. I never heard from them again. 

  That question ‘do you play football?’ ate away at me for months. What was it he thought he saw in me that meant I wasn’t the type that wouldn’t be right for a job working with books. Now I could be totally wrong in my interpretation of the whole interview scenario but still I worried that I was pigeon holed and discarded. There was something at the time that felt unfair. 

  Was it my working-class Nottingham accent? My Burtons suit? My schooling? It made me set my jaw to succeed. I was determined to make my way in the world and do it by being myself.  

I joined a writers group at Angel Row Library that was part of the Worker Writers’ Federation. Jimmy Govern was a member of the sister group in Liverpool and once a year at Nottingham University, all the groups in the UK had a conference. I read some poems at the conference which seemed to go down well. It encouraged me to keep writing and performing which I did in the pubs around Nottingham. The Black Boy, The Thurland Arms even the bar at the Nottingham Playhouse were host to poetry events in which I performed and tried out material.

  Eventually I felt confident enough to try the local Cabaret which in the late seventies was called Spotz. I got paid £30 for twenty minutes and concentrating on comedy managed to get a second booking.

  Widening my horizons to Beeston, Loughborough, Leicester, Derby and beyond I started to perform around the country. I must have performed at almost a thousand events. On bills with the band Pulp, on with Can Can dancers, alongside Seamus Heaney, in factories, schools, hospitals and pop concerts I learnt my trade. By the time I received the Edinburgh Festival I was good enough to be offered my own Channel 4 TV show. I’d met Caroline Aherne and Steve Coogan who were fellow northern working-class performers and we bonded. I wrote on all the Mrs Merton shows and even script edited and associate produced them. I co-wrote on all the early Coogan shows other than Alan Partridge. I co-wrote two Mrs Merton books and a Paul and Pauline Calf book. The sort of books I used to read as a young man in Bilborough. 

  Along the way I changed my name to Henry Normal to always remind me where I came from. I was lucky enough as a boy from a council estate to work with great actors like Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver, national treasures like Joanna Lumley and Dame Judy Dench. I even stood next to Gorbachev once. 

  It made me laugh to think I was standing next one of the greatest figures of recent history when a friend of mine Phil Jones at William Sharpe had explained once that he hadn’t handed his homework in because he thought there was going to be nuclear war with the Russians and he hadn’t wanted to spend his last night on earth doing homework.

  When I met Dame Judy I reminded her that I had written her a sex scene. ‘No,’ she said, ‘I’ve never done a sex scene.’ I had to remind her that she had for BBC radio on a natural science program in the character of a slug, ‘Oh yes,’ she said. So, it appears I have written her only sex scene. 

  Last year, after 30 years of working in television, the last seventeen of which I ran Baby Cow Productions, I retired. We’d just been nominated for several Oscars for Philomela and had won every other award possible, most several times. This year I was given a special BAFTA for my services to the UK TV and Film industry.

  I’ve written several poetry books now. I do sometimes think back to the job interview at Sisson and Parker's. If I’d have got that job where would I be now?

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