Nov 24th: Henry Normal – How Chesterfield Changed My Life

In the run up to November’s “IEG Presents at Chesterfield Labour Club” host for the evening, MATT McATEER got a wonderful email from the headline guest – HENRY NORMAL. Anyone with an affiliation to Chesterfield in any way should read it…

HenryNormal Nov


“You might not consider Chesterfield a place of radical ideas and cultural awakening but for me it was.

I’d no idea where Chesterfield was before I moved there in the early eighties. I’d been told it had a crooked spire but hadn’t been told anything else. I knew no-one.

I started work at an insurance brokers in the centre of town just next to the shop that sold electric organs and I had a small bedsit in a block of newly built apartments.

My work colleagues were friendly, but we didn’t really socialise outside of work so occasionally I found myself sitting in the local pub on my own. I was determined not to just sit in my flat.

I took to reading as much as possible and was already writing comedy and poetry although mainly for my own amusement. I dressed very traditionally at the time. I wore a suit for work and had short hair. I’m told I had been mistaken for a policeman sitting on my own drinking. One day though I struck up a conversation with a couple a few years younger than me. Tracy and Dids two students from Chesterfield college on the Arts Foundation course. Within weeks we became friends and they introduced me to further friends Phil, Ivan, Judith and a distinctive couple called Rat and Pat.

I saw an address on a musical fanzine that was published in Chesterfield by a character called Faye Ray. Now Faye Ray is, of course, the heroine in the story King Kong. so I knew this was a pseudonym. I searched out the publisher and plucking up courage I knocked on the door. It turned out to be Steve Waterhouse, a beautifully kind and generous man who was a local activist and ran a community centre in a portacabin called ’48’.

It was Steve that inspired me to make that leap of faith and quit insurance to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. I owe him a great debt.

All the arts crowd I met in Chesterfield had such energy for life and optimism about the future. A very different attitude that I was used to coming from a council estate in Nottingham. In this seemingly sleepy backwater, lives filled with creativity were all around me. There was also a great sense of community. Something I’d not experienced before.

I handed in my notice and used both the money I’d saved up and my pension that I’d cashed in, to buy half shares in a new indie record shop just outside the centre of Chesterfield with Dids. The shop was Planet X records and after a couple of years we moved to just behind the spire.

These were the last days of vinyl as we knew it, before Cd’s really took over. It was much harder than I thought running a record shop and we made very little profit.

I started performing poetry both locally and around the region, especially in Sheffield and I adopted the name Henry Normal.

I helped at a dance night Dids used to organise with Rat and Pat called Gotham City. I usually did the door. I drove a few of the local bands to gigs including once a band called ‘Criminal Sex’. I supported many Chesterfield bands on stage like Body Factory, Substitute Flesh and most memorably The Bland.

Gotham City would occasionally put on bands and I got to meet Pulp and Dig Vis Drill both of which I went on to perform with around the country, including at the famous Marquee Cub in London.

Jarvis broke his legs around this time falling from a window. I would have to wheel him on stage in his wheelchair. Morrissey had been wearing fake glasses and a hearing aid on stage as an affectation, and I’m sure some people though it was Jarvis going one further. It did make me laugh when he danced his characteristic moves, but in his chair.

One of my favourite memories of Chesterfield is the informal football matches we used to play – Planet X versus 48. It usually turned into a sort of goths verses hippies affair. with a sprinkling of punks and soul music fans included.

I loved the sense of community of those days in Chesterfield and the great characters. I fell in love with a girl who moved to Manchester to go to University so I moved with her. There I met Steve Coogan and Caroline Aherne and got involved in television. I look back on Chesterfield with a great fondness. If I hadn’t have had my time there I would not have been ready for Manchester and a life of creativity.”

Henry Normal…

HENRY NORMAL headlines the Independent Electric Group presents, at Chesterfield Labour Club, Saturday 24th Nov, 8PM.

Nov 24th: Henry Mormal, Andrew Graves, Ichabod, Matt McAteer


IEG Nov HenryNormal

Independent Electric Group proudly presents Henry Normal

Born in St Annes, Nottingham in 1956. Now lives in Brighton with his wife, the screenwriter Angela Pell, and their son, Johnny. He is a writer, poet and TV and Film producer and founder of the Manchester Poetry Festival (now the Literature festival) and co-founder of the Nottingham Poetry Festival.

In June 2017 he was honoured with a special BAFTA for services to Television. He co-wrote and script edited every episode of 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.

With Steve Coogan he 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 and the film The Parole Officer.

Setting up Baby Cow Productions Ltd in 1999 Henry Executive Produced all, and script edited many of the shows of its seventeen and a half year output during his tenure as MD.

Highlights of the Baby Cow output during this time include
Philomena, I believe in Miracles, Gavin and Stacey, Moone Boy, Uncle , Marion and Geof, Nighty Night, The Mighty Boosh, Red Dwarf, Hunderby, Camping and Alan Partridge,

Since retiring in April 2016 Henry has written and performed two BBC Radio 4 shows “a normal family’ and ‘a normal life’ combining comedy, poetry and stories about bringing up his autistic son. He is currently writing a book on Autism for Two Roads publishers ‘a normal family’ drawing on his family experience

Henry performs poetry at Literature Festival’s around the UK and has three recent poetry books out ‘Staring Directly at the Eclipse’, ’Travelling Second Class Through Hope’ and ‘Raining Upwards’.

Also appearing will be Chesterfield Labour Club favourite Andrew Graves. Andrew is a poet and writer who regularly performs his work throughout the UK. He has appeared on TV and radio on a number of occasions, being featured on programmes like 6 Music’s Cerys Matthews Show and the BBC 4 documentary Evidently John Cooper Clarke. He has performed alongside Henry previously as well as the likes of John Hegley and Sleaford Mods. His work has been praised by comic book legend Alan Moore. Following on from his first Burning Eye Books collection, Light at the end of the Tenner, he is now touring with his latest book and show God Save the Teen. He is also a film fanatic and regularly runs film courses at The Broadway cinema in Nottingham. These have included The Killing Joke, a history of screen comedy and Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down, an appraisal of working class cinema.

Opening the night, Independent Electric Group’s resident geniius Ichabod will be reasserting his reputation as the best goddam songwriter in town.

Amazing line up with door entrance held at the usual bargain price of £5 – great bar, venue and crowd. See you there