Henry Normal

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Henry Normal
Henry Normal.jpg
Birth namePeter James Carroll
Born15 August 1956 (1956-08-15) (age 64)
Nottingham, England
MediumComedian, television producer,
poet, writer
Years active1980s–present

Henry Normal (real name Peter James Carroll, born 15 August 1956) is a writer, poet, TV and film producer, founder of the Manchester Poetry Festival (now the Manchester 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 set up Baby Cow Productions with Steve Coogan in 1999, and was its managing director until his retirement in 2016.

Early life[edit]

He was born in St. Ann's, Nottingham where he attended William Sharp school (now named Nottingham University Samworth Academy). It was there that his teacher encouraged him to look for poetry in the lyrics of Bob Dylan and John Lennon. He started to write poetry and published his first book of poems entitled Is Love Science Fiction? (Mushroom Books, 1975) when he was nineteen.[1]


When living in Chesterfield, Normal chanced upon a local fanzine writer and knocked on the bedsit door of editor Faye Ray. The fanzine editor played Normal tapes of 'ranting' poets he had recently received including Steven 'Seething' Wells, Little Brother and Joolz Denby. Normal went on to be a central figure in the local music scene and the performance poet was a regular fixture at local gigs.

On the road[edit]

Early in his career Normal toured with the band Pulp. With Mark Atwood he helped form the Live Poets Society, whose motto was "poetry so good you can actually understand it". Established in Manchester, they performed 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 had short prose pieces published in small press magazines such as Peace & Freedom. He released a live album, Ostrich Man, in 1987.[2]


In 1991 he starred in Channel 4's late night series, Packet of Three, which blended stand-up comedy with a peculiarly solipsistic sitcom about the staff working at a variety theatre called the Crumpsall Palladium. As the beleaguered, depressed theatre owner, Normal was assisted by stage manager Frank Skinner and kiosk attendant Jenny Eclair.

Henry co-wrote and script edited 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 Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash. With Steve Coogan, he co-wrote the BAFTA-winning Paul and Pauline Calf Video Diaries, Coogan's Run, Tony Ferrino, Doctor Terrible, all of Steve's live tours, and the film The Parole Officer.


Setting up Baby Cow Productions 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 Oscar-nominated Philomena, Gavin and Stacey, I Believe in Miracles, Moone Boy, Uncle, Red Dwarf, The Mighty Boosh, Marion and Geoff, Nighty Night, Camping, Hunderby and Alan Partridge.


Since retiring in April 2016, Normal has written and performed seven BBC Radio 4 shows, A Normal Family, A Normal Life, A Normal Love, A Normal Imagination, A Normal Nature, A Normal Universe and A Normal Communication, combining comedy, poetry and stories about his life and family. In 2018, Two Roads published A Normal Family: Everyday adventures with our autistic son, which Henry co-wrote with his wife, screenwriter Angela Pell.


Henry has several poetry collections published by Flapjack Press:

  • Travelling Second Class Through Hope (2017)
  • Raining Upwards (2017)
  • Staring Directly at the Eclipse (2018 – originally published by Five Leaves in 2016)
  • This Phantom Breath (2018)
  • The Department of Lost Wishes (2018)
  • Swallowing the Entire Ocean (2019)
  • Strikingly Invisible (2019)
  • The Escape Plan (2020)
  • The Beauty Within Shadow (2020)
  • The Distance Between Clouds (2021) [3]

Personal life[edit]

Henry now lives in Brighton with his wife, the screenwriter Angela Pell, and their son, Johnny.[4] He regularly performs poetry at literature festivals around the UK.


He has been awarded honorary degrees by both Nottingham University and Nottingham Trent University. He is a Patron of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature.[5] He has also had a beer and a bus named after him in his home city.


  1. ^ "Henry Normal: from St Anns to the edges of the universe". Nottingham City of Literature. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  2. ^ Randall, Ronnie (1987) "Henry Normal Ostrich Man", Underground, April 1987, p. 16
  3. ^ "Flapjack Press – Contents". www.flapjackpress.co.uk. Retrieved 11 August 2019.
  4. ^ "Biog". Henry Normal. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  5. ^ Literature, Nottingham UNESCO City of (9 April 2017). "Henry Normal". Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature. Retrieved 18 September 2019.

External links[edit]