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24 September 2014

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You are in: Leicester > Features > Leicestershire Legends > Adrian Mole's Creator

Sue Townsend

Sue Townsend

Adrian Mole's Creator

If ever an author has put Leiceter on the map it's Sue Townsend, the creator of the immortal Adrian Mole. Listen as she talks exclusively to BBC R Leicester's John Florance about her life, times and ambivalent feelings about Leiceter.

I first met Sue Townsend in 1982.

I was then a very green freelancer on BBC Radio Leicester and I was sent to her little terraced house on the edge of Highfields clutching a tape recorder and an advance copy of the first Adrian Mole book.

Listen: Interview with Sue Townsend

BBC Leicester's John Florance spoke to Sue Townsend...

I had read this the previous day and had ached with laughter at the antics of Adrian and his ill-fated dealings with life, family, friends and neighbours…to say nothing of Bert Baxter's mangy dog.

But I had also been impressed by the sensitivity Sue had shown towards her creation. Her insight into adolescent angst was extraordinary.

Sue Townsend

Author Sue Townsend

Leicester born

Thankfully we hit it off and have kept in touch ever since.

Although the steady succession of books she has produced has brought her fame and fortune, she remains essentially the same Sue I first met a quarter of a century ago.

Sue is Leicester born and bred, and the city often features in her work including many of the Mole books, 'The Queen and I' and the play 'The Ghost of Daniel Lambert.'

Civic Vandalism

She still becomes angry when she talks about the destruction of the Leicester in which she grew up. "Civic vandalism," she calls it.

"She still becomes angry when she talks about the destruction of the Leicester in which she grew up. "Civic vandalism," she calls it. "

John Florance, BBC Leicester

But she remains happy to live in the city and says she can't imagine living anywhere else.

In her books Leicester is quintessential provincial England. Leicester doesn't have a host of cultural and historical associations as, for example, Liverpool or Birmingham do. 

I'ts very unremarkable, undemonstrative character is perhaps what makes it attractive to Sue.

It's a representative place and I am sure that in 25 years time people, not least social historians, will be reading the books to find out about the texture of everyday life at the time they were written.

Wheelchairs and Death

Sadly, Sue is now a wheelchair user and is registered blind. Disability has had a profound affect on her personal life and this makes itself felt in the books.

Sue Townsend and Sir Peter Soulsby

Sue chatting to Sir Peter Soulsby

In the most recent Mole book, the 34-year-old Adrian tells of his, "slide towards gum disease, wheelchairs and death", and feels awkward when he is with his friend Nigel, now blind.

In spite of everything she still retains a glorious (occasionally caustic) sense of humour, she is still passionate about politics, and still angry about many of the things that go on in the world.

There is no sign of her inspiration drying up. Long may she continue to make us laugh and continue to provide trenchant commentary on contemporary life, not least the monarchy and the state of politics.

last updated: 07/11/07

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