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Peter McAdam book The Nine Henrys is published

HENRY’S quite a character, as are his clones. David Whetstone enters the surreal world of Peter McAdam as his first book is published.

Peter McAdam
Peter McAdam

YOU might have seen Henry or even one of his clones. They’re all called Henry, as you might expect. There are nine of them in all.

They have been appearing in magazines around the North East for the past 10 years or so and they are the work of Peter McAdam who describes himself as a serious artist but who revels in the less serious side of life.

I meet him first in his studio on High Bridge, Newcastle, where he demonstrates a fantastic app which could revolutionise the music industry, making videos seem old hat.

He has been tinkering with the idea for a few years and has now finally teamed up with the people – John Carnell and Andy Banks of Gateshead- based Foof Productions – with the know-how to realise its potential.

We also get a little distracted talking about Peter’s horror film, Helter Skelter, which features a half-man, half-spider creation and is to be screened at the Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle on August 25.

However, it’s the Henrys I’ve really come to talk about.

Peter, who lives in Washington, talks of them rather as if they found him instead of being his cartoon creations.

“I did the first Henrys in 1994. I did about four. I don’t know where they came from. I took them to the local pub and people said they were sick or they didn’t get them. I thought, ‘I’m on to a winner here’.”

The Henrys project, Peter’s quirky sense of humour to the world but he can also laugh at them and about them. His brother rudely dismissed them, sniffing that a child could draw better than that.

Peter admits cheerfully: “I haven’t got drawing skills so I just draw the legs and the heads, the bare minimum. I’ve been sketching them for a long time.

“Sometimes I can be watching the TV or listening to the radio and I see a Henry. That’s how the creative process is.”

Then Peter tells me he has been keeping a diary of his dreams since he was 16. “You get all this strange stuff slipping into your head and one night I dreamed about a book called The Nine Henrys.

“I went to write it in my dream diary and simultaneously I was drawing some of these little characters in my notebook. They all had the same body and legs and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if he was the first cloned cartoon character?’”

The doodled characters and the book of Peter’s dream joined forces – one of the “surreal juxtapositions” he revels in – and have become a reality.

The Nine Henrys, published by Gonzo Media Group at £8.99 a copy, is to be launched at The Stand Comedy Club, High Bridge, on August 18.

It’s a free event from 2-6pm and Martin Stephenson, of Daintees fame, will be playing because he’s a mate.

But you can also see Henry, Henry, Henry and the other Henrys at the new BrewDog pub at the bottom of Newcastle’s Dean Street until the end of the month.

Peter has an exhibition there. He has chalked some of his Henry cartoons directly on to the walls and stuck other paper versions at strategic points.

Like Peter, the Henrys are full of whimsy. “Henry was a Good Drawer” is the caption to a self-referencing McAdam cartoon of a Henry with a drawer coming out of him.

Later at the BrewDog, Peter says: “I was looking at the cartoons and I thought, ‘I’m Henry, really. I live this shambolic Mr Bean life’.”

Accident-prone, then? “Yeah. I am a bit of a magnet for nutters when I’m out.”

He tells me about a disturbance on a bus – “I thought, this bus is really like a theatre” – and witnessing a woman in a Greggs shop who was holding up the queue because she couldn’t make up her mind which pasty to choose.

It’s all everyday stuff but grist to the McAdam mill, along with the dreams.

On the website www.ninehenrys .com Peter says the Henrys “live in a strange lo-fi domestic surrealist world peopled by talking rock buns and elephants on wobbly stilts.”

There’s not much about him. “A biography to follow ...” it says.

But there is a cartoon of “the author’s peanut-sized brain from which the Nine Henrys emerge”.

That also appears in the book, along with a suspect biography penned by Martin Stephenson.

I reckon Peter McAdam might be a genius. He might become a rich genius if that app takes off.

“I’m thinking of launching a 10th Henry,” he throws in as I’m about to leave.

I’m prepared to bet it’ll look a little like the others.

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