On Saturday 8 June we welcome TV producer and award-winning comedy writer Henry Normal to Derby Book Festival for two events, the first of which focuses on Henry’s new book, A Normal Family: Everyday adventures with our autistic son.

Both events take place at Derby QUAD, which for many years has been the home of QClub, a programme of activities through term times and the summer holidays for children and young people on the autistic spectrum or with additional support needs.

We spoke to Programme Curator, Abbie Canning, to find out more about QClub and its recent partnership with the International Photography Exhibition, FORMAT19.

How did QClub start?

Abbie: QClub has been at QUAD for many years through the securing of differing pots of funding. The impact of our three year BBC Children In Need grant has been significant in allowing QClub to establish a full programme of regular activities – securing this long term funding has contributed in fostering a sense of connectedness, ownership and belonging for the QClubbers who attend.

How did the FORMAT partnership come about?

Abbie: QClub were offered the opportunity to exhibit at FORMAT19. As each termly QClub project culminates in a public exhibition of work this was an amazing opportunity to develop a project to be part of FORMAT19.

QClubbers visited the exhibition space and contributed ideas on how the final work could be curated – and the final install was supported by an amazing QClubber who helped hang everything and contributed ideas to the final show.

Having the opportunity to publicly exhibit work at the end of each termly project really helps to develop QClubbers’s confidence and self esteem. Young people can experience a sense of pride in their achievements by sharing their work with family, friends and the wider public.

The fact that FORMAT is an International Photography Exhibition with contributing artists from all over the world really is a fantastic accomplishment for QClubbers!


Seeing and creating art is something that some children might rarely have the chance to experience – what’s the value of art to the children you work with, and how has it helped them and their families?

Abbie: The young people that we work with at QClub are supported to gain advanced creative and digital art skills and produce artwork for public exhibition. QClub seeks to provide a child centred, relaxed and supportive environment where young people develop essential life skills through this creative engagement.

QClubbers learn to experiment, learn how to regulate their emotions when things don’t go to plan, learn to adapt, learn to creatively problem solve all whilst developing a better understanding themselves and others around them who may be experiencing similar challenges.

QClubbers are encouraged to share their unique strengths and skills by offering support to other young people within the group. This not only cultivates a sense of togetherness and facilitates social engagement – but can help develop empathy and increase wellbeing by giving young people a sense of purpose.

QClub clearly demonstrates that artistic engagement is a useful and powerful tool to develop confidence, self esteem and resilience.

Did you know much about the books that Henry Normal has published with his son (Art by Johnny and A Normal Family)?

Abbie: No, I was not aware of the Henry Normal books until I read it in The Book Festival Guide – I am very excited to discover more during the festival.

QClubbers produced Ceramic books which were exhibited at QUAD during Derby Book Festival last year – we might have to develop a QClub project around the Henry Normal books next…

Thanks to Abbie and congratulations to all at QClub for their exhibition (pictured).

Book now for A Normal Family: Everyday adventures with our autistic son.

Derby Book Festival

29 May – 6 June 2020

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Derby Book Festival is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation registered with the Charity Commission for England & Wales Number 1159763