Comedian Tez Ilyas returned to his old school ahead of the release of his new book The Secret Diary of a British Muslim aged 13¾.

Tez was back at Witton Park Academy, which features heavily in his debut book that retells his life growing up in nineties Blackburn

Beginning in January 1997 we follow Tez as he deals with school, home life and friendship. An eventful and at times hilarious trip to Pakistan is thrown into the mix too.

“The school has changed a lot since I was here, though it still has that familiar feel to it.” said Tez as he stepped back into the building again. “I do still come here to take part in presentation nights.”

Tez’s new book is a fascinating insight into British teenage angst, although he was keen to get away from some of the stereotypical notions about Muslims and about his hometown of Blackburn in particular.

Tez said: “I wanted to write authentically, so I wrote the book in the voice that I would have spoken in at the time. 

“It is from the perspective of a child and my experiences as a kid, but it is in many ways a universal story. Things like school, football and getting into trouble.

“Also, growing up, there was nothing like this book for me, so it’ll be great for teenagers now to read and find out what life was like for their parents in the nineties, you know before social media.”

His cast of characters are essentially a large extended family and lovable group of friends and he spends much of his time hurrying from one part of Blackburn to another. And while there are apt descriptions of streets, alleyways and favourite shops in his hometown, it could also be any urbanised area in Britain.

He is able to discover a funny moment in almost any situation – even the time he finds himself at the wrong end of a beating.

When he does venture further afield like a trip outside town, it’s a groundbreaking moment.

He said: “As a child you tend to spend all your time in three or four places. You are just visiting houses and playing football.

“Take for example when we head off to Preston for Eid. Even now thinking back I couldn’t figure why that was such a big deal. It is only down the road but as a child it is a big deal.

“Even when I do eventually leave the town for university, I wanted to go some place within touching distance of home.”

Tez has starred in his own Channel 4 show The Tez O’Clock Show, in hit sitcom Man Like Mobeen, had his own BBC Radio 4 series Tez Talks, and appeared on Live at the Apollo and as a panellist on shows such as Mock the Week and The Last Leg. 

In his book though he comes across as someone who is very insecure about what he can accomplish. He has a vast number of hang-ups and we meet a Tez who certainly isn’t the confident and brash comedian we see on stage.

This Is Lancashire:

Tez Ilyas with Saffan, Imaad, Kayla, Sana and Motunrayo as he returned to  Witton Park Academy. Tez old school Witton Park High was torn down and re-built.

Among other things he admits several times is that he was wasn’t the best footballer and describes one moment where he manages to score an own goal and felt it was so spectacular ‘he felt like applauding it himself’.

He goes on to tell of winning a trophy managing a team consisting of his childhood friends. “I was never good at football. Some people were bad and got better. But I didn’t.

“The New Bank Bulls (named after New Bank Road) were just a bunch of friends who got together and who were ‘not a team’ at the beginning of the season. Yet, we managed to win the league and I have to say it was a proud moment for me to manage them.

“No matter what anyone says it is one of my greatest achievements.”

As well as the funny moments where Tez uses his array of Punjabi vocabulary to effectiveness there are some more serious moments when he deals with death anniversaries and racism. Here, we meet a teenager who does not fully understand what has just happened and like many others that age may simply be trying to find a way to get through that period in his life.

Tez’s Blackburn is a place full of hope and as he gets older, he still finds it difficult to leave the place of his birth. It is as if he we have to prise Tez away from his family and friends. Yet he must leave, and he does just as the world is about to deal with the events of September 2001.

Twenty years later and one year on from the lockdown Tez said it had been a difficult time for everyone when things have changed so intrinsically. He will begin his tour which was cancelled last year. Tez is also back on stage for the first time on May 19 at the Hot Water Comedy Club in Liverpool.

He said: “The first lockdown was something I could handle as I guess the weather was getting better. The second time round things were a lot tougher.

“Like many others in my profession I was basically out of a job. Hopefully, things can get back to normal and we can all get back to doing things we love best.”

The Secret Diary of a British Muslim aged 13¾ is out today (Tez’s birthday!)