Blackpool council destroys section of Comedy Carpet

Artist Gordon Young and designer Andy Altmann say they are “shocked, dismayed and extremely angry” to learn that Blackpool Council has removed a section of The Comedy Carpet, the enormous, award-winning typographical artwork created for the town’s seafront.

Artist Gordon Young and designer Andy Altmann say they are “shocked, dismayed and extremely angry” to learn that Blackpool Council has removed a section of The Comedy Carpet, the enormous, award-winning typographical artwork created for the town’s seafront.

Almost 50 square metres of the £2.5 million artwork, which features jokes and catchphrases from comedians who have performed in the town, were removed by council workmen (see above) without consulting Young or Why Not Associates, who created the work. The plan below shows the 50 square metre area that has been removed, which includes the dedication slab that commemorates the artwork’s unveiling by Ken Dodd last year.

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A spokesperson for Blackpool Council confirmed to CR that the artwork was being altered due to issues relating to public safety. “We’re taking off four of the first slabs of the Comedy Carpet because they were too close to the tram tracks. For people to read this section, they’d have to step back on to the tram tracks, which just wasn’t safe,” said the spokesperson.

However, Gordon Young says that this issue was already brought up during the planning stages of the project and that he had offered Blackpool Council various design options to address it. “Last summer when the issue of the proximity of the tram tracks was raised we offered Blackpool a number of options to help address concerns, all of which could have been done been easily and at minimal cost before we finished installing the artwork,” says. “But the Council informed me that I should go ahead with the artwork as conceived.”

Young and Why Not Associates‘ Andy Altmann say they were not consulted over the move. In a joint letter to the council, written by project manager Juliet Dean, they say “We only happened to learn about this incident by pure chance; at no point did the council have the courtesy to get in contact with us either prior to undertaking the work or at any point since.”

“We have heard indirectly that the council’s original plan had been to turn the first row round, but that it was not possible to lift the slabs without damaging them,” the letter says. “We strongly refute this. The Comedy Carpet team have lifted the slabs on several occasions without any damage to them. It’s a question of using the right expertise and equipment. If the council ever had the intention to lift and reposition these slabs then they would have made it their business to contact us as this is clearly a specialist job, and also a requirement in the artist’s contract. Furthermore, we have been told that the slabs were removed using a jack hammer which leads us to believe that this was a wanton act of destruction by the council.”

Blackpool council workers sensitively amending the Comedy Carpet. Image: Blackpoolbeach

“I cannot believe the Council has done this,’ adds Young. “Not only have they ruined my artwork and removed the names of so many comedians whose work I wanted to celebrate, but they have even destroyed the dedication stone. It was a huge honour to have Ken Dodd unveil the Comedy Carpet. I am gobsmacked that the Council should treat him so shabbily.”

The Comedy Carpet as it is now.

CR subscribers can read our feature on the creation of The Comedy Carpet from our October 2011 issue here.

PS: Since posting this piece, we’ve learned that Blackpool Council has apologised to artist Gordon Young and Why Not Associates and all parties are now working together to find a solution to the problems outlined in the above blog post.

 

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