TBB Talks to … nathan bryon about his puffin book of big dreams

Actor, writer and author Nathan Bryon releases a new children’s story based on Notting Hill Carnival.

The Puffin Book of Big Dreams is a new collection of short stories that have been released the by world’s biggest children’s book publisher Puffin to mark its 80th Birthday. Tom Fletcher, Jacqueline Wilson, Malorie Blackman, Jeff Kinney, Humza Arshad, and many more will feature alongside 40 new and imaginative stories, poems, and illustrations.

One of the contributing authors to this collection is actor, screenwriter, playwright, turned author Nathan Bryon. The West London creative is best known to viewers for his role in Some Girls & Benidorm. He’s written for critically acclaimed Cbeebies’ animation Rastamouse, BAFTA award-winning Swashbuckle, and on all three series of BAFTA nominated Apple Tree House Cbeebies alongside BAFTA winning Gigglebiz. If that wasn’t enough Bryon has a one-man show under his belt, toured his plays, and has had a number of short films that he’s written, starred, and directed in which have played at numerous film festivals.

In 2019, he secured a 3 picture book deal with Penguin Random house. His first book Look Up! (June 2019) was the number 1 picture book from a debut author and illustrator in 2019, On the Sunday Times Bestseller list, and Won the overall Waterstones Children’s book prize in 2020. Clean UP! The follow up was published in July 2020. Illuminated has just optioned the book to develop into a TV series.

Now, his latest story ‘Carnival‘ has been added to The Puffin Book of Big Dreams, we caught up with this hyper-talented creative to find out more about his processes …

Please introduce yourself …

I’m Nathan Bryon and I’m an actor, writer, and author. I’m half English and Jamaican. Born and bred in the greatest place in the world, Shepherd’s Bush.
Please share one word or sentence which best describes your life right now…

Forever learning, forever feeling under qualified, forever audaciously pushing through it all.
Tell us about the Puffin Book of Big Dreams?

The Puffin Book of Big Dreams is a collection of stories by some of the best authors and illustrators in the world published by Puffin celebrating Puffin’s 80th birthday. It’s amaaaaaaazing!
You’re a West Londoner, what are some of your fond memories of Notting Hill Carnival?

So many, so gutted that it was cancelled this year. My best memories are linking up with my G’s before pre dranking and pouring up all our rum cocktails. Doing a Saving Private Ryan mission in the carnival trying to find the friend who you have lost and not giving up until you find them, but still stopping at every speaker and bussin’ a two-step! Also my first time at Rampage. So many; so many!

Image from 'Carnival' by Nathan Bryon | Illustration by Selom Sensu
Image from ‘Carnival‘ by Nathan Bryon | Illustration by Selom Sensu

Looking at such a vibrant event through the eyes of two young boys really gives Notting Hill Carnival a refreshing spin in contrast to some of the more negative stories associated with it. When creating the story for Carnival did you start with an age in mind or did you go with the flow of the story?

I knew I wanted to tell a story about twin bros with afros – I generally have a visual of a protagonist in my head. This story was illustrated by the brilliant Selom Sensu so I started there, then just flowed with the story. Carnival for me has never been negative and I hate any negative talk about it, so I was never going to tell a negative story about it. It’s the most magical time and I wanted to tell a story about brotherhood and having the best time with your bro at the best day England has to offer.
I love the way you thread your skills within this industry from acting, to screenwriting, to being an author, but which came first and where are you most comfortable?

Acting came first, and I promise I’m not just saying this, but I am most comfortable in none of them, to be honest. I’m just trying a thing until someone catches me out. I’m forever balancing discomfort from job to jobs and just putting on a forced smile until it’s finished. I sometimes moan to my girlfriend that I just want to be comfortable and know I’m good at one thing, but I’m lying. I have the attention span of a fish, so I will always be trying new stuff.

Just the other day I was like, I want to make some more comic books. Then I was talking to my mate about doing a photography exhibition where she takes the pictures and I try and thread a story through all the images and maybe even take some photos. I was even like I’ve got a concept for a pop song and started having some conversations about how the hell I do that, have I even written a song? No! But it may be fun. But really and truly I love the discomfort. It wakes me up, [it] means I’m flexing, trying stuff, thinking in new ways, and making mistakes.
I can’t go without mentioning the mind-blowing success of the Look Up! series you collaborated on with Dapo Adeola… how are you guys feeling and what’s been the most rewarding reaction to the books, and you guys in general – not sure I could have predicted a few years ago that two British black men would be behind some of the biggest children’s books in the UK and that the character would be a cute little black girl with big dreams ...

It’s been the most surreal amazing experience. From start to finish working on Look Up! with Daps and the Puffin team has been creatively joyous, so to see it being awarded and enjoyed so much is a huge honour. Daps and I are over the moon for our first outing of a book. Seeing young black children’s responses to the book makes me so happy. I’m so happy Rocket has taken this world by storm and can’t wait to share more of her journeys with the world.

What’s your hope for representation in the literary world?

That we don’t have to talk about it anymore because it’s done, it’s happening. The shelves show it.

What’s next for you with your other skill hats on

I’ve co-created and co-written my own Sky 1 series called Bloods with the comedy genius Samson Kayo and we start filming that on Monday, I am so excited to share that with everyone next year. And of course, more books with Daps and the Puffin team, and hopefully a few more bits and bobs along the way.

Getting to know you …

A book you have to have in your collection – no matter where you are: Some self-help book, lol. 

A song/album that your friends associate with you: Lil Wayne – A Milli 

A film / TV show that reminds you why you’re in this business: Call My Agent 

The first play you saw and what it meant to you: Maybe a panto, and I love panto. I want to write one, panto is the most important thing about theatre.

What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week?

Sad – I had some anxiety about everything and nothing and that stressed me out 
Mad – Gerald Butler’s white saviour antics and the pictures of him feeding children somewhere in Africa. Allow it! 
Glad – Being on set of my TV show watching it all come to life! 

The Puffin Book of Big Dreams featuring Nathan Bryon’s story Carnival is available to buy now. Find out more here.

Read an excerpt of Carnival here.


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