Comedy Carpet Launched
10th October 2011
Categories: Press Releases - Latest
There was laughter and happiness all round in Blackpool today as Gordon Young’s Comedy Carpet, one of UK’s biggest ever pieces of Public Art, was unveiled by the legendary comedian Ken Dodd.
One of over 1,000 comedians and comic writers featured on the mammoth artwork Dodd’s many catchphrases, jokes and songs (including Happiness) are now immortalised in concrete and granite at the foot of the Blackpool Tower.
Created as part of the major regeneration of the Promenade, The Comedy Carpet was commissioned by Blackpool Council with part of a £4m grant from CABE’s SeaChange programme. Blackpool has been investing in a major redevelopment of the famous Promenade and the unveiling of The Comedy Carpet follows the recent re-opening of the iconic Blackpool Tower with it’s stunning glass viewing platform.
Artist Gordon Young has been working in the public realm for over 20 years creating pieces that mine rich seams of social history, engage communities and extend the relationships between art and architecture.
His works are not shown in galleries but in everyday places – pavements, benches, walls, steps - where people come across them in their day to day lives. They transform functional places into evocative and provocative spaces. Five years in the making and 2,200m2 in size, The Comedy Carpet is his most ambitious work to date.
At the heart of all Gordon’s Young’s work is language - words that entice, fascinate and on The Comedy Carpet, amuse. Titter ye not, Just Like That, Oooo-er matron, Nudge, Nudge Wink, Wink, Oh Betty! Suit you sir, Yeah but no but, What’s on the stick Vic? , in The Comedy Carpet Young has created a giant “giggle map” immortalising the UK’s favourite comedians and comic writers from the Hey Day of Music Hall to 21st century stand up.
When he was asked to make a work for the new headland Young was immediately inspired by the inside of Blackpool Tower - the fantasy Viennese ballroom, the Arabesque circus, the Art Nouveau foyers – and wanted to bring this wonderful 'over-the-top ness” out of doors. The new art work also had to reflect to the scale and quality of the new headland on which it was installed. But why comedy? and why a carpet? “Blackpool occupies a unique and important place in the social history of Britain,” says Young “Comedy in all its guises is a big part of who we are; it has its own history and a very important place in that history is Blackpool. “
“I’d been looking at photographs of stars and the Blackpool Tower was a recurring backdrop to the photos - Eric and Ernie in deck chairs, Ken Dodd, Les Dawson, Peter Kay and more. It soon became obvious that Blackpool had been a magnetic chuckle point for the nation,” he adds. “I also wanted to create something built with really the high craft standards seen in Blackpool’s historic architecture – the Winter Gardens, library and of course the fabulous Tower. So I thought, a quality carpet that shows how Blackpool can still do posh.”
Councillor Graham Cain, Blackpool Council’s Cabinet member for Tourism and Culture said: “This magnificent work is all part of the continuing regeneration of Blackpool. It’s a truly unique work of public art at one of our resort’s most famous locations. “We look forward to using the Comedy Carpet as an amazing performance and events space. We give particular thanks to our funders who share our vision of ensuring Blackpool is truly a resort for the 21st century.
“There’s already a huge amount of interest in the carpet and I’m looking forward to seeing people enjoy it once it’s officially open.”
THE COMEDY CAPRET From Mae West to Matt Lucas: over 1,000 comedians from over 100 years
The Comedy Carpet features over 1,000 comedians from Music Hall to the current day the majority of whom have performed in Blackpool. It both represents those that have performed in the town, including foreign greats like Mae West, Danny Kaye and W.C Fields as well as the very few British stars who were unfortunate enough not to tread its boards such as Peter Cook and Spike Milligan.
A collaborative artist, Young was inspired and supported in researching the content for the carpet by Blackpool-based comedy expert, Barry Band and historian and writer Graham McCann, and on the typography and layout by leading graphic designer Andy Altmann of Why Not Associates.
Five years in the making: one of the most complex pieces of Public Art ever commissioned At first sight, the Comedy Carpet looks as if the text is painted, but in fact each of the 160,000+ letters has been individually cut from 30mm solid granite or cobalt blue concrete, arranged into over 300 slabs and then cast into high quality, gleaming white concrete panels.
The letters range in size from a few centimetres to over a metre so viewers can enjoy it both close up and from the glass viewing platform in the Blackpool Tower Eye.
The scale and incredibly complex nature of the work meant that Comedy Carpet team even had to set up its own bespoke studio to make the artwork. After several months of research with input from chemists and engineers the Comedy Carpet team devised new techniques and recipes for production including a special mix to produce the hardest and whitest of concrete and the perfect blue that won’t fade.
The process of making each of the 320 slabs involved many complex stages from cutting, sorting, fettling, and laying out each of the letters, to a 3-stage casting process, curing, trimming, grinding and polishing. And that’s before it was transported to Blackpool for the installation on the headland.
Game for a laugh? Find your favourite comedians on the Comedy Carpet.
The Comedy Carpet is divided into strips dedicated to different comedians and writers from the stage, TV, radio, film and records.
At the centre of the carpet are five strips, each consisting of 10 slabs, which include material from some of the most significant comedians of all time: Morecambe and Wise, Ken Dodd, Les Dawson, Frankie Howerd and Tommy Cooper.
The southern square celebrates contemporary comedians, famous double acts, television and radio programmes and includes one that showcases Barry Humphries, Tony Hancock, Spike Milligan, and Peter Kay.
The northern square (nearest the new Festival House) includes a strip dedicated to Monty Python and one to The Two Ronnies. Regional and international comedians are showcased in this section as well as celebrated catch phrases and a pre-war historical section.
On the western square (nearest the sea) are strips dedicated to Billy Connolly, Peter Cook and Victoria Wood along with more television references, further celebrated catchphrases and recent history.
Around the edge of the carpet are the names of hundreds of comedians, writers, double acts and groups that have graced the stage in Blackpool over the last 100 years or who are of national significance.