INTERVIEW: LUCY NICHOL | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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You need to look for a vehicle for how to tell a story, and I knew it had to be music.”

Where were you when the news broke of Kurdt (for the fans) Cobain’s death? Or Jones, Winehouse, Joplin, Hendrix or Morrison for that matter?

Inside the pages of Lucy Nichol’s striking debut novel, The Twenty Seven Club, Emma is working nine to five in her beloved city of Hull. Her friendships and adoration for rock music are keeping her sane. When news of Cobain’s death breaks, Emma becomes consumed with anxiety, her 27th birthday fast approaching… she fears she may be next to join the club.

The multi-talented writer, mental health campaigner, PR specialist, Courtney Love fan girl and vanilla milkshake club biscuit enthusiast has delivered a vibrant tale of fandom and friendship; an intricate investigation of media and mental health.

Nichol’s career started in PR, before making her move to the Toon and picking up a fortnightly column on mental health with Sarah Millican’s Standard Issue. “They are the ‘in crowd’ because they are inclusive and not exclusive… so I thought it was a brilliant place to start writing about stigmas.”

growing up there was a weird glamorisation of the tortured rock star. I think when we’re young we tend to glamorise darkness

Nichol continued to develop her own distinctive voice on mental health, publishing A Series of Unfortunate Stereotypes: Naming and Shaming Mental Health Stigmas, the non-fictional memoir of her own experience with anxiety disorder. “Having an anxiety disorder didn’t make me like Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket, it doesn’t make us weak feeble little women.”

Nichol speaks about nostalgia, music and breaking mental health stigmas with vigour. “I knew I wanted nostalgia; I knew I wanted music. I found so much comfort in alternative music growing up and to bring it all together, to be able to get something out there about anxiety and about how the media impacts us, The Twenty Seven Club was born out of that.”

The exploration of mental health through the media lens of the 90’s grunge scene is integral to the novel’s identity. Nichol explained where this idea originated. “That was the music I loved, but I think growing up there was a weird glamorisation of the tortured rock star. I think when we’re young we tend to glamorise darkness.” Talking on fandom, Nichol adds, “we don’t know them as human beings, we only know them as headlines and artists, we know their art, and we know what the media tells us, so I was just really interested in going behind the scenes of that.”

Clearly music is a passion in her life; we talk Desert Island Discs, her playlist is sterling: “Senseless Things, Nirvana, Pixies, Sonic Youth, Babes and Toyland and Bikini Kill…” Music’s ability to comfort proves to be timeless.

A live theatre adaption of The Twenty Seven Club is in the works, with support from Newcastle’s Live Theatre and Arts Council England, and the adaption is set to come to the stage, hopefully, at the start of 2022. She’s producing the show in collaboration with her husband Chris, who is in theatre, Nichol assures me: “I’ve said its non-negotiable, I have to be music director…we need to have senseless music in, we must have some Nirvana.”

Lucy Nichol launches The 27 Club on Wednesday 3rd March with an in conversation event hosted by Anna Foster (BBC Radio Newcastle) on behalf of Forum Books, which will explore how music has shaped her work. Guests include Guy Mankowski and Karl Whitney

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