Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Blackpool Comedy Carpet Launch: Monday 10th October, 2011

It was one of the weirdest days I can recall - joining my dear pal Andy Altmann (and colleagues from the company he co-founded, Why Not Associates) for the launch of
'The Blackpool Comedy Carpet'.
This huge typographic pavement, heading out to sea from the base of the Tower itself, is very probably the biggest public arts piece since the Angel of the North. Every step underfoot carries catchphrases, sketches, banter and blather from the town's – and our nation's – long history of comedy.

A crowd – defying easy definition – gathered at the Tower for a reception on the appropriately windswept and rainlashed day.
A day when you genuinely needed a laugh, actually.
The Grand Poobah of British Comedy, Ken Dodd, anointed the day with a handy tickling stick and raised an appropriate titter or two.

It's been a long old slog for Andy and his collaborator, artist Gordon Young - pretty much 5 years - but there it finally was.
And, having built it, they certainly came; members of the public, their children and dogs, amassed journalists with dictaphones and cameras. . . All began reading it and enjoying it as soon as they could step onto it.
Laughter and recognition and the rediscovery of the familiar as the brown seas thrashed the Lancashire coast.
I enjoyed long chats with comedienne Hattie Hayridge – currently touring as part of 'Rory Bremner and Friends' – and esteemed comedy biographer Graham McCann, author of books on Eric and Ernie, Frankie Howerd, Dad's Army and Fawlty Towers amongst others.
Splendid folk.

National newspaper coverage began that morning, and local and national TV news caught up as evening fell.
Having relished an increasingly surreal afternoon in the grandeur of the Tower Ballroom – and refreshed ourselves at the hotel beneath the Pleasure Beach roller-coaster – we repaired to the evening celebrations.
The last laughs were had back on the Carpet, beneath the monolithic Tower, in the early hours.
Design meets art meets cultural heritage.
Old friends and new faces – the end of something and the beginning of it, too.

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