The notsosecret birthday party of Adrian Mole aged 50

Well, Adrian himself won’t – obviously – but some of those involved with his story over the years, and many of his keenest fans, will gather at the University of Leicester this Sunday, 2 April 2017, to mark the occasion of his 50th birthday.*

The event will also celebrate the work of Adrian’s creator who passed away three years ago. Sue Townsend was a good friend of the University of Leicester; we made her an Honorary Master of Arts in 1991 and an Honorary Distinguished Fellow in 2008, and her literary archive is housed in our Library’s Special Collections.

Among those contributing to the celebration of Adrian Albert Mole’s half-century will be:

  • Artist Caroline Holden Hotopf who created the iconic artwork for the original book covers
  • Producer John Tydeman who commissioned the original Radio 4 play that introduced the world to Adrian Mole**
  • Sue Townsend’s husband Colin Broadway
  • Publisher Geoffrey Strachan who oversaw the first books’ publication by Methuen
  • Actor Simon Schatzberger who played Adrian in Sue Townsend’s stage adaptation of the first book in 1984
  • Director Carole Hayman who brought two of Sue Townsend’s plays to the stage when she was Associate Director at the Royal Court Theatre, and co-wrote Townsend’s 1987 TV series The Refuge
  • Actor Janet Legge who appeared in The Refuge on TV and in Bazaar and Rummage, one of Sue Townsend’s plays at the Royal Court
  • Leicester author Bali Rai whose own career in teenage fiction was inspired by reading the Adrian Mole books
  • Leicestershire’s own Great British Bake-Off winner Frances Quinn, who has created a special birthday cake for the occasion

The day will kick off with an artwork workshop led by Caroline Holden Hotopf. Next, Carole Hayman and Janet Legge will lead a discussion of Sue Townsend’s extensive work writing for the stage. In the afternoon, a panel on ‘the birth of Adrian Mole’ will feature John Tydeman, Geoffrey Strachan, Colin Broadway and Caroline Holden Hotopf.

Update, 31 March: Unfortunately, Colin Broadway and John Tydeman are unable to attend. Simon Dixon, Special Collections Manager for the University Library, will join the panel instead.

The day will culminate with Adrian’s ‘50th Birthday Bash’. You can hear three specially commissioned new monologues, plus readings by students from local schools who have worked with Bali Rai, and Simon Schatzberger's reminiscences of bringing Adrian to life on stage. Then everyone will tuck into a slap-up birthday tea – including Frances Quinn’s cracking birthday cake. Plus, as with all the best birthday parties, everyone who attends take home a goody bag!

You can attend one, some or all of the day’s events, which all take place in the Peter Williams Lecture Theatre on campus. Everything is free but tickets must be pre-booked. The morning’s art workshop in particular has very limited places.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ defined a generation. If you grew up with Adrian here’s a chance to celebrate one of the great sagas of late 20th century English literature. If you discovered the books through later editions, come along and find out how the story started.

Penguin Books have generously provided a copy of the first Adrian Mole book for everyone who attends the day (you probably have one already but it could be pretty dog-eared by now!). If you are missing any of the later volumes, copies will be available to buy.

*In the first book Adrian celebrates his 14th birthday on 2 April 1981, meaning he was born in 1967. In some of the later books his stated age indicates that he was born in 1969. We do not need to worry about this discrepancy which simply means that we can do this all again in two years’ time if we feel like it.

**He was actually called Nigel Mole at that stage. The name was changed to avoid confusion with Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle’s 1950s creation Nigel Molesworth (as any fule kno).