Meet a Member: Vincent Franklin

Following the release of his (very appetising) book, Menus That Made History, I caught up with 26 member Vincent Franklin. If you think you recognise him, you probably do. Not only is he the Creative Director at Quietroom, he’s also an actor and has starred in all sorts – from The Thick of It to Gentleman Jack.

We’ll be meeting a new 26 member each month. If you’d like to feature, or nominate another member, drop me a line at Don’t be shy.

Tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from and what do you do?

I was born in Keighley, the home of racism, and brought up in Haworth, the home of the Brontës. Then, when I was nine, we moved to Kilnsea, a village with a population of 39 that sits precariously on the thinnest part of Yorkshire — a spit of land that pokes out into the North Sea and on rough days with high tides gets cut off from the mainland. After a couple of years, my mum and dad regained their sanity and we moved to Bradford. Where I think they lost it again. For the first twelve years of my life we lived over or next door to restaurants that my dad owned and ran. So writing a book about menus was probably inevitable.

I have a portfolio career – portfolio being latin for ’not quite good enough at any one thing to make a living at it’. I graduated from Bristol University and then studied acting at the Old Vic Theatre School, and have worked as an actor ever since. But I’m also the Creative Director at Quietroom, which is packed with 26 members. We use words to help people make better decisions about their future. So we cover everything from pension freedoms and taxation, to climate change and diabetes. If it’s complicated, a bit unloved, but really important, we like to get in there.  

Where did your love of words come from?

My love of words (if I have one) comes from debating and storytelling and a brief spell as a stand up comedian. I like jokes and wit and passion and argument, so give me Donne and Blake over Keats and Wordsworth any day. I know that’s heretical. Sorry. With Menus That Made History, a book I’ve just written with Alex Johnson, it’s more about the stories than the words. We didn’t reject any menus because the food wasn’t good. We only rejected them when we couldn’t find a good story hidden away in the sundries. 

What made you join 26? How long have you been a member?

Andy Hayes introduced me to 26, 7 years ago. I love the collective projects with lots of voices.

Have you been involved in any 26 projects?

I have only been involved as a reader.

What’s your ideal scenario for writing? (A coffee shop? Quiet retreat? With or without music? What do you do to get yourself in the right frame of mind?)

I like what I’m writing to fill my vision, so I quickly learned that sitting in front of a big old-fashioned desk top computer was much better than tapping away on a lap top. And silence makes me panic, so I listen to music (with no lyrics). But I work best in short bursts. The most important thing for me is to be able to stop every twenty minutes, walk away, and make tea that I probably won’t drink. I should have been a smoker. In that five minutes waiting for the kettle, my brain starts editing and improving and finding a new angle on things. And then I can go back.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m not working on anything at the moment. My excuse is that I’m filming various things and don’t have time. But that’s just the excuse of a lazy and disorganised man. We’ve been asked to do a follow-up to the menus book, so there’s mention of research around the corner. After that, there’s a story about the industrial revolution and body snatching that I’ve been playing around with for while and I need to settle down to.

Could you tell us about a piece of writing you’re particularly proud of?

I’m not proud of anything I’ve written. I just look at my work and see where it could be better or where it’s actually shit.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I don’t write anything inspiring, so I don’t need it. But for me, the story, like the devil, is in the detail. 

Menus That Made History: Over 2000 years of menus from Ancient Egyptian food for the afterlife to Elvis Presley’s wedding breakfast is available now. – Vincent Franklin and Sophie Gordon

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