On a wet and windy October day in Blackpool, comedian Ken Dodd unveiled what has been called the region’s vertically challenged answer to the Angel of North. Although, apart from their northern locations and poignancy to the areas in question, these two angels are very different. One – a stonyfaced, stellar and all-watching force to be reckoned with (with a twang of a Geordie accent), and the other a non-stop joker with a side interest in typography.
The installation in question is Blackpool’s Comedy Carpet which lies below the town’s famous tower. Constructed of granite and cobalt blue concrete – making the carpet more of a hard flooring (size 2,200 square metres); it features catchphrases and jokes from over one thousand famous comedians, including Frankie Howerd, Tommy Cooper, Morecambe and Wise and Dodd himself – all whom performed at Blackpool at one point in their careers, and now forever immortalised in the hallowed comedic grounds of this £4 million project, in its 160,000 individually cut letters. No Hollywood Boulevard, but the respect and adulation to these smile-inducers is very much the same; and you cannot help being amused by a site that pays homage to feeling good.
The carpet is the work of artist Gordon Young in collaboration with Why Not Associates. It forms part of the major regeneration of Blackpool’s Promenade – its humour no doubt adding to promised “social regeneration” and local laughter lines, while its cross shape linking Blackpool Tower to the beach and other parts of the Promenade. Ultimately this plan has the benefit of the carpet being readible from all sides and above, so expect giggles all round. The carpet also has the intended use as a stage for future performances and events, with the hope that these activities live up to what lies beneath. However, the carpet really celebrates the best of Blackpool – its over-the-topness, frivolity and fun. As Young himself put it, the carpet plays on Blackpool’s role as “magnetic chuckle point to the nation” and recognising and rewarding that really makes me smile.
The comedy carpet is currently nominated for the Design Museum’s designs of the year.