As It Happens

Why over 400 people named Nigel gathered at an English pub

Upon hearing that no newborn babies in the U.K. were named Nigel in 2016, Nigel Smith began to worry that the people with whom he shared a first name were a "dying breed." Instead of going into mourning, however, he decided to have some fun with it.

Not a single child born in the U.K. in 2016 was named Nigel, prompting the organizer to fret about extinction

Hundreds of guests attend Nigel Night at the Fleece Inn in Bretforton, Worcestershire, U.K. on Sept. 28, 2019. (Submitted by Nigel Smith)
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When he heard that no babies born in Britain in 2016 were named Nigel, Nigel Smith began to fret that the people with whom he shared a first name were a "dying breed."

"I thought that's a bit of a worry, really, because most of us are over a certain age," Smith told As It Happens host Carol Off.

Instead of going into mourning, however, he decided to have some fun with it. He owns the Fleece Inn, near Worcestershire, so he organized "Nigel Night" at the pub.

"We're going to die out soon, so it's important to sort of celebrate our Nigel-ness before we all pop off the planet."

Smith says 434 Nigels — including himself — joined in the festivities on Saturday to enjoy some music, food and celebrating their mutual "Nigel-ness."

It's believed to be the biggest gathering of Nigels in the world — though it's unclear who's keeping track of this unusual statistic.

Nigel Smith, owner of the Fleece Inn and organizer of Nigel Night. (@TheFleeceInn/Twitter)

All attending Nigels, ranging in age from seven months to 80 years old, were verified with an ID check, and handed a badge with their name on it. Other attendees were issued badges that read "Not Nigel" on them.

According to the U.K. Office for National Statistics, no boys born in 2016 were named Nigel. The name enjoyed a slight uptick with 11 new Nigels in 2017, and eight in 2018.

That number pales in comparison to the most popular name, Oliver, which saw 5,390 new additions in 2018. Other top boys' names over the last decade included George, Harry, Noah and Jack.

Smith said no women named Nigella attended the event. But he hopes to hold another gathering next year, and says Nigellas will be featured guests alongside the Nigels.

He admitted to hoping celebrity chef Nigella Lawson would have expressed interest in his event, but no such luck — this time, anyway.

"The whole thing was a ruse to get her here," he quipped.

'A name you need to grow into'

While the event attracted Nigels from all across the U.K. and beyond, Smith speculated that most of the attendees who shared the name are "pretty stoical about life," partly because they were likely teased as children for their name.

"Nigel's a name you need to grow into, I think," he said.

But he offered that they often have "quiet leadership skills," and cited numerous famous Nigels, such as boxer Nigel Benn, Formula One driver Nigel Mansell and actor Nigel Planer.

Nigel-themed beers were on tap during Nigel Night. (Submitted by Nigel Smith)

Farage a no-show

Among the visiting Nigels was local MP Nigel Huddleston. But Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party and arguably one of the most well-known Nigels, didn't show.

It's unclear whether Farage was aware of Nigel Night; Smith speculated that his absence may have been for the best.

"He's obviously a very divisive political figure and I think one of the things that made our Nigel Night work so well was that it was not about the politics," he said.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage was not among the attendees at Nigel Night. (Vincent Kessler/Reuters)

Smith didn't rule out the possibility that Farage's role in the 2016 Brexit referendum may have even played a part in the dearth of newborn Nigels that year.

"Despite the man, we are fighting back."


Written by Jonathan Ore. Produced by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin.

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