Mr Tickle helps record Norfolk dialect

Children's storybook character Mr Tickle is helping capture the way English is 'spook' in Norfolk.

Local folk are being asked to read the Mr Men storybook aloud in recording booths that are part of a national project run by the British Library.

The sound snippets will be added to the national library's sound archive, and used for research into accents and dialect including tracking changes in pronunciation.

The recordings are part of the library's Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices event which is the first ever exhibition exploring the English language, which is spoken by a third of the world's population, from Anglo-Saxon runes to modern day rap.

Earlier surveys have involved people reading out Biblical parables or classic Aesop's fables, but Mr Tickle was chosen for this project because the British Library says it contains a mixture of different vowel sounds that provide a good basis for comparing accents.

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The story sees the long-armed joker roaming around town causing chaos as he tickles schoolchildren, a policemen, and workers including a railway guard whose train then leaves 10 minutes late.

The first of the popular children's stories, penned by Roger Hargreaves in 1971 and narrated by Dad's Army actor Arthur Lowe in a television version, takes about four minutes to read aloud and is more accessible to people of all ages, and non-native speakers.

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The booths which are travelling around the country are in Norwich at the express area at the Millennium Library and near the Fusion big screen, also at the Forum, from Tuesday January 18 to Friday January 28 and are linked in with a series of other events celebrating the English language.

Norfolk dialect enthusiast Keith Skipper welcomed anything which 'helps to clarify the position of true Norfolk' so long as it was used to ensure the native tongue was reflected more accurately on television and radio.

'But I wonder if the booths will bit artificial and see people with broad accents put on their posh voice rather than flow naturally.

'There is also a problem getting Norfolk people into booths - as voting history shows,' added Mr Skipper, founder of the Friends of the Norfolk Dialect group.

As for the chosen book, he wondered if there was a more suitable one from the series for Norfolk, as there was no real local word for tickle. There was scope however to have a Mr Squit (Silly), Mr Finicking (Fussy), Mr Puckerterry (Muddle), Mr Fumblefisted (Clumsy) Mr Bronicle (Wheezy) or Mr Bosky (Tipsy).

Norfolk county council's 'Mr Culture' cabinet member James Carswell said: ''We have quite a broad spectrum of accents in the county today and it would fantastic to capture as many of these as possible.

'We have a fairly distinctive traditional accent and dialect in Norfolk that isn't widely known outside East Anglia, or worse, widely misrepresented – the west country we are not!'

? Events ranging from music and comedy to film and poetry are being staged at the Millennium Library and Forum over the next two weeks as a local celebration of the English language.

Thursday, 20 January, 6.30 – 8pm at the library. British Library curator Jonnie Robinson talks about the Library and the Evolving English project. Tickets �1 for library members (�2 for non-members) from the library.

Friday, 21 January, 6.30 – 8pm at The Curve theatre in The Forum. Normal for Norfolk – an evening of comedy with local man Andy Palmer. Suitable for over 16s. Tickets �1 for library members (�2 for non-members) from the library.

Saturday, 22 January, 1.30 – 2.30pm at the library. Sheringham Shantymen – a free concert by the Norfolk singing group.

Saturday, 22 January, throughout the day at the library. Spin Off Theatre performing a free, specially written play for the Evolving English project and running short workshops suitable for all ages afterwards.

Sunday, 23 January, 11am – 4pm in the children's library. Stories and quizzes – Free activities for children including local storytelling at 11.30am and 2pm and a prize quiz.

Tuesday, 25 January, 1 – 2pm in the training room at the library. Recording Norfolk – sound archivist Jonathan Draper free talk about the work of the Norfolk Sound Archive.

An audio-visual presentation celebrating the English language and Norfolk dialect will show on the Fusion big screen in The Forum from 10am – 5pm, Monday to Saturday throughout the two weeks from January 17-29, and the library will be running a prize quiz designed to test entrants' knowledge of English and the Norfolk dialect. Forms available from the Heritage Department on the second floor of the library or Fusion. The winning contestant will receive �25 in book tokens and a framed photograph from the Picture Norfolk archive.

? Not part of the festival, but Friends of Norfolk Dialect are staging their pantomime Dick Squittington and his Ow Dorg at North Elmham Village Hall on Sunday January 16 at 2pm. Entry to this select event will be �3. More information at

?Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices runs at British Library at St Pancras, London until April 3. Admission free.

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