To Barry Norman, my unlikely hero

Standing at the Tories Out! demo in central this afternoon, I learned that journalist, broadcaster and film critic Barry Norman had died. And my heart hurt.

There aren’t many people out there who inspire me, but if it hadn’t been for that man my love of cinema – real cinema – might never have developed and certainly wouldn’t have come about as early in my life as it did.

For the whole of the 1990s, Norman’s BBC TV show introduced me to films, directors and ways of thinking about film that I might never have accessed otherwise. He inspired me to seek out great cinema, follow careers read histories of film. Many of my favourite films I learned about from watching his show and I grew up desperately wanting his job, which in turn inspired me to document my thoughts about films and later on about plays.

So many of my early life decisions were inspired by this secret ambition: I wrote about films for my French A level coursework and took a film course in my first year at university because I wanted to look at film differently, with a critical eye. I hated that course – and yet it changed my way of thinking and absorbing art forever.

Since then, I have read, watched, written, spoken and listened widely about film. None of Norman’s successors ever came close in my esteem. There might have been others more literary, but none has had the same profound effect on my intellectual life. He has always remained my favourite film critic.

Thank you, Barry. Thank you so very much.

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