The Little Read returned to Durham Book Festival by giving 500 free copies of Tom Percival’s Perfectly Norman to children throughout County Durham. Percival’s story is about a young boy called Norman who grows a pair of wings, in turn navigating and finally embracing being different. Durham Book Festival created ‘Perfectly Norman: A Story Gig’ which completely transformed the way in which children can engage with reading and literature. Children from Blackhall,Coundon Grange, Greenhills, Pelton and Tow Law worked with a live band of professional performers to collaboratively create songs that help tell the story of Perfectly Norman. The songs focus on how Norman is feeling at points within the story, making the children place themselves in Norman’s position to voice his feelings, engaging with storytelling in a musical form.
The story gig was an interactive experience which relied on audience participation, creating a communal feeling for both audience and performers. The songs were not only created by the children, with shout-outs while introducing each song, but also featured voiceovers by the children, making them part of the band. Secondly, ‘Norman’ began the gig sitting in the audience, drawing parallels between the children watching and the story that he represents. A special touch to this communal feeling was the introduction to the author, Tom Percival, who was sat in the audience himself, which received huge excitement. The moment, for me, which highlighted the essence of the gig was the joint bow between both the band and audience at the end of the show, including everybody in the creation and performance element of this story telling.
Norman’s story is about embracing uniqueness, having courage, and being confident. The book has deep metaphorical meanings, teaching the art of standing out and being yourself. The children were given the opportunity to make their own DIY wings before the show and were asked to lift up their beautiful wings when Norman began to embrace his own, communally celebrating uniqueness for everybody, showing that nobody is alone. The story gig ended by consolidating that there’s “no such thing as perfectly normal”, celebrating the weirdness that we all share, allowing us to grow our own metaphorical wings and “soar”.
This work was produced by participants on our Durham Book Festival Reviewers in Residence programme, a cultural journalism programme run by New Writing North Young Writers. Reviewers in Residence gives aspiring journalists aged 15-23 the chance to review books, attend events and interview authors at Durham Book Festival. For more information about New Writing North Young Writers visit the New Writing North website.
Photo copyright: Marion Botella