The real Pram Town

The Talk of Pram Town is, at its heart, a book about family, and what that meant in the 70s and 80s, and about the potentially fraught mother-daughter relationship. But it is also a book about a single, special place. The town my father worked in for decades at Gilbey’s behind the giant glass windows and glimmering gin distillery, and where I went to sixth form for two brief, brilliant years.

‘They told us they were building this town for Jack and his master. Well, who wants to live on the boss’s doorstep, I ask you?’ (Laurence Clarke, Harlow joiner, Daily Mirror, 7th January 1955)

Born from the rubble of the second world war, Harlow New Town was conceived in the late 1940s by visionary architect Frederick Gibberd, who seized at the opportunity to ease London overcrowding and create his own socialist utopia in rural Essex: managers and workers living side by side, albeit in two classes of house: Standard One and Standard Two. Front gardens would be outlawed, and kitchens would instead overlook communal pathways, ensuring a sense of community and encouraging conversation. It would be, the architects declared, a ‘New Jerusalem’.

By 1951 the first citizens – almost all young couples – were being bussed in from North East London to their brand new homes in Mark Hall and, later, The Lawn, and the place was quickly dubbed ‘Pram Town’ by the press, for the burgeoning number of mothers – a symbol in itself of hope; of the future. But, by 1955, the daring experiment seemed to be failing when, under the headline ‘Snobland’, the same paper – the Daily Mirror – ran an article revealing that neither workers nor managers appreciated their proximity, while Len White from the Harlow Development Corporation admitted they’d ‘realised just in time it doesn’t work’ and declared that, from then on, they would be adopting a ‘segregation policy’.

But jump forward thirty years and, for this teenager in the mid-1980s, Harlow was a fat, enticing slice of air-dropped America: expansive avenues with numbers instead of names; brash and dank nightclubs on elevated walkways; all the pubs named after butterflies; and everywhere glamour, glamour, glamour. It seemed to me to be everything my Saxon market town was not: modern, multicultural, and with a music venue that hosted actual bands, as well as boasting fellow Essex boy and then cub NME reporter Steve Lamacq among its Saturday night crowd. So, while Jean may have been one of those doubting young mothers, and Connie desperate to run to London, I was as goggle-eyed as Sadie, and am thankful for my two very happy years spent there.

‘We don’t like it. The children are so noisy, rollerskating up and down the street all day. Then there’s the washing hanging out behind the Standard One houses. It isn’t a very nice sight, particularly when some of the washing isn’t even really clean.’ (Harlow manager’s wife, Daily Mirror, 7th January 1955)

The Talk of Pram Town is published by Pan Macmillan on 4th March 2021. You can buy the book here.

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Welcome to Pram Town

The lockdown-delayed novel is almost out in the world, and, while I can’t have the much-anticipated bookshop party with Twiglets and Wotsits and Panda Pops, I can still celebrate, and even better, with fellow Essex girl, Jenny Quintana, whose new book The Hiding Place shares not only strained mother-daughter themes, and the 1960s beginning, but a 17-year-old called Connie. Great minds, I believe…

Please do join us for our chat on Tuesday 9th March, and to raise a glass of warm Blue Nun or Piat D’Or. Tickets are £21 including the book, or £5 without, but that money goes to help the lovely indie bookshops that really need our custom right now.

You can sign up via this link.

And you can buy The Talk of Pram Town here.

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Sign for our bookshops… (free swag!)

As we head into lockdown 2.0, it’s more important than ever to support small businesses, and there is no small business more important to me than indie bookshops.

So, as part of the national #SignForOurBookshops I’m pledging a bunch of free swag to readers who buy their own books, or Christmas presents for others, through these brilliant stores, including:

– 50 personalised bookplates to people

– 50 personalised Worst Class postcards

– 50 personalised Queen of Bloody Everything postcards

All you need to do to get your sticky fingers (wash them first maybe) on one of these is to email me ( with proof of purchase.

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The Best Class in the World… sends letters

There’s something special about getting a letter. There’s something really especially special about getting a letter that says something fancy about you or something you’ve done. There’s something super duper special about 23 letters all saying something fancy and drawing highly accurate and hilarious pictures too.

Because here’s the thing – writing a book is fun, and seeing it on the shelf in a shop is funnerer, but hearing from someone who actually got that book off the shelf, paid with it with (possibly someone’s else’s) money, and then went home and read it and laughed until they were nearly sick, well, that’s the absolute bee’s knees about this business. So if you do like what you’re reading, and you have the time, and possibly drawing skills as top notch as these (which almost rival Rikin’s), please do get in touch. You can email me at or get your grown-ups to tweet me (@joannanadin). Or even better, send me a letter, just like Red Class…

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Sense and Sensibility (with bells on)

Firstly, a confession: until I came to be offered the opportunity to rewrite Sense and Sensibility, the closest I had come to Jane Austen was TV reruns of Mr Darcy emerging wet from a lake, and a reluctant trudge around her house with an obsessive friend. Not even my grandmother’s entreaties to the 13-year-old bookworm me that ‘it’s feminist, it’s funny’ could persuade me away from my pony novels and into the pages populated by the Bennets, the Elliots, the Dashwoods. ‘Too old-fashioned,’ I am sure I whined. ‘Too uncool,’ I am sure I thought.

Well, it may have taken more than three decades, but I quickly realised the folly of my own pride and prejudice, and have now eaten my ill-chosen words, for Austen is modern and relevant, as well as being funny and, yes, feminist. Though the world she paints is markedly different to our own, the heroines of Sense and Sensibility, Marianne and Elinor, are recognisable and endearing. We root for them in their endurance of the customs of the time, and in their pursuit by various men; we boo as Willoughby snubs the impassioned Marianne, and cheer as patient Elinor gets her Edward. There is something to learn here, about the predicament of women in the late Regency period, but more importantly, much to love. I hope you fall as hard for Jane Austen as I have done. Because there are many more treasures to read after this one.

Buy the book here

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Welcome to 4b: The Worst Class in the World

Worst Class in the World coverSchools might be closed for most of us, but for one long-suffering teacher, Mr Nidgett, the classroom is packed with shenanigans. That’s because he’s in charge of 4b, who are LITERALLY The Worst Class in the World, at least according to headmistress Mrs Bottomley-Blunt (who makes a noise like a horse when she is annoyed, which is a lot).

Worst of all (in her eyes) are our heroes Stanley Bradshaw, who is fond of footling, fiddle-faddling and shilly-shallying, and not too fond of work, and his best friend Manjit Morris, who wants to be the first human boy to swim faster than a shark, as well as the first human boy to do a lot of not very possible things. The thing is, Stanley doesn’t think they’re the worst class in the world. Manjit doesn’t think they’re the world class in the world. I don’t think they’re the worst class in the world. They’re just having fun. Something we all like to do.

The first in the brand new series is out today, with two madcap adventures in each book including the smelly death log, ghost pigeons, a hamster skeleton, and plenty of sick.

You can buy the book here, and watch me chat about it on Youtube here.

And if you want to let me know what you think about it, you can email me at

  • A Summer Reading Challenge 2020 pick

‘More fun than a barrel of monkeys! A hilarious and hapless cast who I hope to see a lot more of. Perfect for youngsters to read again and again.’  (Claire Barker, author of the Knitbone Pepper series)

‘A modern Bash Street Kids, only with heaps more ha-ha, and lot more heart, this is guaranteed to make you LOL in class. For a little book, it makes a big impression.’ (Snort)

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The BEST (Deputy) Headteacher in the World

In memory of Mr PettWhenever I write a new book, I get the luxury of choosing who to dedicate it to. My child, of course (several times, as she has a habit of checking), my friend’s children, and my friends as well. But when I finished writing The Worst Class in the World, I had someone different in mind to thank. Someone who reminded me of both lead teachers in the book – the fearsome Mrs Bottomley-Blunt, who thunders down corridors in pursuit of foolish children, and the loveable Mr Nidgett, who secretly believes his class are the best of all.

You see, when I was at school, eighty bazillion years ago (yes, there were dinosaurs), our world was ruled not by our headmaster, Mr Cousins, who was so invisible we weren’t actually sure he existed, but by his deputy, Mr Pett.

Mr Pett was very much visible. He would appear from behind lockers, around corners, as if from nowhere on the school field to make sure you weren’t footling, shilly-shallying, or generally doing anything stupid. We lived in fear of his roar: ‘You, girl!’ But here’s the thing: we also adored him. He couldn’t resist a joke, at his or our expense, and he took great pride in helping those of us who needed a little extra push to reach our potential. Mr Pett

Very sadly, Mr Pett died not long ago, to an outpouring of memories from his former students. I like to think he’d be proud of me now (and be satisfied he was right in giving me that detention). I hope he can see how appreciated he was with a whole book dedicated to him, and his best moments inspiring a whole series.

The Worst Class in the World is out tomorrow, May 14th 2020. Dedicated in memory of Nigel (Nick) Pett. January 13th 2019.


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A Penny (Dreadful) a day…

Isn’t the world weird? The prospect of being holed up in our homes is daunting, especially for those of us with kids. Mine’s grown now, but many years ago, she was a menace, who would have destroyed the house in a matter of days with her shenanigans and tomfoolery. In fact, she was so small and sneaky, I wrote a whole book series about her and her friends. And to entertain you and your smalls, I’ll be reading a story a day from the seven-books series, from Monday, for the next however long it takes.

Click here to go to the Youtube channel

And click here to buy the book

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‘Hull, Nadin!’

Let us set aside for a moment that the University of Hull’s barrel of ‘notable alumni’ was small to start with, and is now very much scraped, and appreciate that I have wanted to do this for more years than I care to remember. Piffle to the Emmy nomination, this is me living the literal dream.

And you can watch me not make too much of a tit of myself on Boxing Day at 20.30 on BBC2. *presses buzzer* Hull, Nadin!

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And another one…

2020-2021 is a busy book year for me, but this one is a biggie. Second adult novel, set in Essex in 1981 and featuring Grifter bikes, Charles and Di, Panda Pops, a Welsh Elvis impersonator, a fake Marc Bolan, and the failed socialist dream of the new town.

From the back cover…

Connie always had big dreams, but they’ve never quite panned out, so somehow, instead of Mick Jagger and a Paris flat, she’s ended up with an Elvis-impersonating boyfriend, a two-up two-down in Leeds and a day job on the checkout at Morrisons. Apart from her beloved daughter Sadie, it’s not much to show for nearly thirty years on the planet.

Jean hasn’t seen her good-for-nothing daughter Connie since she ran away from home to make a name for herself aged seventeen and pregnant, but in the wake of the Royal Wedding, Jean gets a life-changing call: could she please come and collect the granddaughter she’s never met?

For Sadie, eleven, home has always been a movable feast but, when the unthinkable happens, she’s sent to Essex to live with grandparents she didn’t know existed. After an attempt to track down her father fails, she begins to realize that so-called Pram Town might be her most permanent home yet.

We all know how Charles and Di turned out, and Jean and Sadie are hardly a match made in heaven – but is there hope of a happy ending for them?

Written in Joanna Nadin’s trademark dazzling prose, The Talk of Pram Town tells the story of three generations of Earnshaws, the secrets that shaped their decisions, and how, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got . . .

Out in April 2021, but you can pre-order here.


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