Nearlyology: Finding artistic inspiration in life’s ‘what ifs?’

Chris Meade

Chris Meade - Credit: Archant

Picture walking into your local Waterstones, perusing the rows of paperbacks until the walls start to close in and picking out a decidedly underwhelming thriller in a “buy one, get one half-price” deal. Now picture A Night of Nearly event in Crouch End with readings from a book in progress, live music and suggestions from the audience for the next instalment.

This is what “transmedia” writer, poet and comedian Chris Meade is offering and it’s shaking up the fiction world as we know it.

The 58-year-old Crouch End resident is a member of the Nearly Society: a humorous way of thinking called Nearlyology which celebrates the things we very nearly do in life – the brushes with fate, the close shaves and the burning desires.

“We have all sorts of Nearly stories coming in. I think people associate them with negative experiences or chances you regret not taking, but actually we look at them in a different way,” Meade says.

“For example, one guy talked about how he nearly moved to the Bahamas, but he didn’t and then he met his wife.

“One of the craziest ones we’ve heard is someone nearly serenading David Cameron and Jack Straw on Downing Street.”

Interactive project

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Meade’s digital novel, What Didn’t Quite, is a compilation of these Nearly incidents and is an interactive project, gathering anecdotes from locals at feature readings, posting the work in progress online and even performing in a band – in which the comedian sings and plays the ukulele.

You would expect nothing less from the man who has previously been director of the Poetry Society, Booktrust, and if:book UK, a think tank exploring the future of the book.

Born in Hampstead and now married with twin sons, Meade is currently doing a PhD in digital writing at Bath Spa University and raves about it: “There was a lot of fuss and nostalgia about the old world of books being left behind, but we’re always thinking of new and innovative ways for fiction to move forward.”

The irony of having his own Nearly incident is not lost on the digital writer – a book he had published by Penguin in 1989 about a radical pensioner called The Thoughts of Betty Spital: Pensioner, Activist and Radical Granny, was picked up by BBC producers to be turned into a sitcom.

“The producers were really on board with it, saying how much they liked it. Next minute they said, ‘Sorry, we’re interested in another project.’

“So I can officially say I was nearly a writer of a BBC sitcom.”

Find out more about Chris Meade’s project at