“The Alan Bennett of poetry” – The Scotsman
“Dovetails bittersweet poetry with a sublimely observant wit” – The Guardian
Henry is co-writer and producer of some of the very biggest hits of British TV and cinema over the past decade and a half. He co-wrote Mrs Merton, The Royle Family and much of Steve Coogan’s early output. He’s produced everything from 24 Hour Party People, to Red Dwarf, Nighty Night and Philomena.
Henry Normal may be less well-known as a poet, though he is no less esteemed. Influenced by the Liverpool poets; Adrian Mitchell, John Cooper Clarke and ‘ranting’ poets like Steven ‘Seething’ Wells, along with poets on the cabaret circuit like John Hegley, Henry was a stalwart of the performance poetry scene of the 1980s, before he was (so successfully) diverted into TV.
He is the founder of the Manchester Poetry Festival (now the Literature festival) and co-founder of the Nottingham Poetry Festival
Last year, Henry retired as MD of Baby Cow Productions, the company he co-founded with Steve Coogan in 1999, to return to his first love – poetry. He’s “a mixture of the absurd and downright wacky… a gentle giant of stand-up poetry”, says The List. “The poetry itself is stuff of proper substance, marrying the suburban beauty of Beatles ballads with the blunt candour of the kitchen sink”, said The Guardian. In recent collections in particular, he has written candidly and movingly about bringing up his autistic son, Johnny, also the subject of his two recent shows for BBC Radio 4, A Normal Family and A Normal Life.
Currently touring to promote his latest collection, Raining Upwards, published in September by Flapjack Press, you can catch Henry at the Poetry Café on Thursday 5 October, 7-9pm. At what is sure to be his most intimate gig, he’ll be reading from collections past, present and boxfresh, and telling a few jokes and stories. Henry has generously offered to donate all proceeds from ticket sales and half of book sales to the Poetry Café fundraising campaign.
About Henry Normal
Born in 1956 in St Annes, Nottingham, Henry started writing poetry after reading Small dreams of a Scorpion by Spike Milligan. As a teenager he began performing with a Worker Writers Federation group at Nottingham Central Library. The first two poets he saw live were Roger McGough and John Cooper Clarke. Moving to Chesterfield he met Steve Waterhouse alias Faye Ray who introduced him to Fanzines and Ranting poetry. He began touring with bands, notably Pulp.
Henry moved to Manchester and with Mark Atwood he helped form the Live Poets Society, whose motto was “poetry so good you can actually understand it”, performing in pubs and clubs throughout the north of England. Normal had an eccentric delivery style, and at a 1987 poetry convention in Corby performed with a paper bag over his head. Also in the 1980s, Henry Normal toured Finland and performed in New York. A live album, Ostrich Man, was released in 1987 by Native Records. He recorded 4 episodes of a radio 4 show Encyclopaedia Poetica and starred in the Channel 4 TV series Packet of Three.
He is the author of numerous poetry collections include Nude Modelling for the Afterlife, The Dream Ticket, Is Love Science Fiction?, Map of Heaven and A More Intimate Fame. In the past year he has published two collections: Staring Directly at the Eclipse and Travelling Second Class Through Hope. His latest, Raining Upwards, is published this September by Flapjack Press.
As a TV and film producer, writer and editor, Normal has been responsible for some of TV’s biggest hits of the past decade and a half, including the multi-award winning Mrs Merton show and the spin-off series Mrs Merton and Malcolm. He also co-created and co-wrote the first series of The Royle Family and, with Steve Coogan, co-wrote the BAFTA-winning Paul and Pauline Calf Video Diaries, Coogan’s Run, Tony Ferrino, Doctor Terrible and all three of Steve’s live tours, as well as the film The Parole Officer.
In 1999, he and Steve Coogan co-founded the TV and film production company, Baby Cow Productions. In his seventeen-and-a-half-year tenure as managing director, he executive produced all, and script-edited many, of its shows, including: I Believe in Miracles, Gavin and Stacey, Uncle, Marion and Geoff, Nighty Night, The Mighty Boosh, Red Dwarf, Hunderby, Camping and Alan Partridge, as well as the Oscar-nominated Philomena. He was honoured with a special BAFTA Award for Services to Television in 2017.
Since retiring from Baby Cow in 2016 Henry has written and performed two shows for BBC Radio 4, A Normal Family and A Normal Life, combining comedy, poetry and stories about bringing up his autistic son, Johnny. A Normal Family, his book on autism, drawing on his family’s experience, will be published next year by John Murray.
He was recently given an honorary doctorate of letter by Nottingham Trent University and has had a beer named after him.
He lives in Brighton with his wife, the screenwriter Angela Pell, and their son, Johnny.