Tag Archives: John Ward

It is not as easy nor as quick as you might think to build a squirrel feeder

Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award designer John Ward has occasionally been described in this blog as “mad inventor John Ward”.

There is a reason for this.

I have recently had some emails for him, cobbled-together by me below:


I have just finished construction of ‘Top Nut’, my latest squirrel feeder – as seen in Moulton-Seas-End (which is nowhere near the sea). It is based on Star Wars type stuff and cobbled together from all bits and bobs.

A few years ago now when I saw the squirrels we had running about in the garden I realised that a trail of nuts would lead their inquisitive minds to the pile of nuts or whatever I have built for them.

It has taken a week or so to get them to investigate Top Nut, but they are now getting used to it. 

I have taken some ‘grabbed’ photographs through the kitchen window so they’re not that clear. Now I know how Attenborough’s lot must feel sitting it out, waiting…

How did all this come to pass? I hear you ask.

The wheelbarrow we used in the garden had collapsed – it’s always the metalwork that rots or rusts through it seems. So what was left was the heavy duty plastic barrow part plus the wheel.

The more I looked at the shape, the more I wondered what it would look like upside down.

Inspired by what it DID look like upside down, the plan was to build another squirrel feeder – You can’t have enough squirrel feeders I always say, moreso as we live rural.

The barrow bit was cleaned and large holes cut into it based on when we get winds – it blows straight through – a lesson learnt years ago with the bird table that was blown over and basically destroyed… So that was sorted.

Next the ‘deck’ or floor was a discarded off-cut from a sheet of MDF, the miracle TV ‘makeover’ show product that seems to be used for just about everything in building anything in this day and age.

It was shaped to fit the upside down barrow bit leaving a narrow, half inch margin all round so that rain water can escape so as not to flood it – and it works very well I am happy to say. Tick the box marked ‘Forward Planning’ here.

I also applied five coats of waterproof vanish to seal it against the elements, which took over a fortnight, on and off, to allow each coat to cure or dry properly hence being waterproof (I hoped…).

Next was a stable but firm base. This was achieved by cutting an industrial type slotted racking support in half to make a ‘V’ shaped support, then welded to a metal plate to partly form the base.

This was bolted to an old office chair base that was being thrown out by a local company that I ‘rescued’ from their skip (with their knowledge – although they didn’t quite seem to believe what I was building).

To gain squirrel access to the craft, I made a ladder from a plastic PVC off-cut from somebody who was having new soffits (the bits that hold the guttering up) and double glazing put in. The treads are plastic packers as used in the building trade to even brick/woodwork up… cut down to scale and stuck on with superglue.

Next up was making the superstructure. The rear ‘motors’ are four old 35mm film slide projector reels, reversed then glued/screwed end to end.

They were then attached to two loudspeaker ‘horns’ to form the ‘motive power’ with the actual top being an old industrial size fluorescent plastic based light unit, cut in half and glued together to form the ‘upper hull’ section.

The various ‘wings’ on top are parts from a discarded electric buggy/wheelchair.

The ‘flight deck’ is made from an old desk ‘odds and ends’ tray cut in half and miniature ‘seats’ handmade using an old black imitation leather shopping bag for covering and inserted into small square type flower pots to form ‘bucket seats’ that are about to scale considering the size of our semi-resident squirrels – Sid and Shazz.

The controls are assorted colour beads and anything lying about. The ‘gear stick’ is based on a 1987 model British Leyland Maestro car. The ‘handbrake’ based on a Ford Sierra of the same era.

Between the seats at the rear is a scale model fire extinguisher. Should there be anything untoward happening on the flight deck, then this won’t make the slightest bit of difference, but it looks good!

The outside solar power and heat transfer modals are waffle plates – one per side – from a sandwich/waffle maker that somebody donated to the construction as they never used them as they only use the sandwich, toasty plates so they are brand new, unused.

The ‘front screen’ is an empty space with thin elastic threaded through drilled holes to form the ‘screen surrounds’ similar in appearance to WW2 planes.

The ‘Sid and Shazz’ sun visor – going back to the 1970s – where it was the thing to have the driver and passenger’s name in the sun visor over the windscreen – is a separate piece of Perspex with their names stuck on with letters from Poundland.

PS: in the first video, and possibly in a photo or two, there is a sign with ‘Painting by Carl’ on it.

He is the paint sprayer for a local engineering firm who was silly enough to ask if he ‘could do anything towards your project’ and so he sprayed the exterior of Top Nut in the machine grey you see.


John Ward is available to customise any totally insane projects you may have.

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The making of The Comedians’ Choice Awards at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe

I have mentioned the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards in the last couple of blogs. The actual trophies were designed and made by mad inventor John Ward who is particularly keen (via an email this morning) that I mention he lives in or near Moulton-Seas-End in Lincolnshire.

If you go to Wikipedia, you will find there is an article on Moulton-Seas-End currently illustrated with  a sole photograph (below).

John Ward clearly is, indeed, a man out standing in his own field.

Moulton-Seas-End, home of John Ward  (Photograph supplied by Kate Jewell via geograph.org.uk)

I suspect he may be trying to drum up tourist trade for Moulton-Seas-End, which is nowhere near the sea.

Having established specifically where he lives, onwards more generally to this year’s Comedians’ Choice Awards.

These, like the Malcolm Hardee Awards, are currently organised by the British Comedy Guide with trophies designed by John Ward but, in this case, there is sponsorship from London’s Museum of Comedy.

The Comedians’ Choice Awards were founded in 2014 and aim to help highlight “the amazing work of those at the Fringe who may well otherwise go unrecognised, as judged by those who understand their efforts the best: their peers.”

Every comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe is eligible to both cast a vote and to be voted for.

There is no panel of judges, no industry specialists. The performers themselves decide who wins. Voting is conducted during August via an online form administered by the British Comedy Guide.

The Comedians’ Choice Awards are presented in three categories:

BEST SHOW at the Fringe.

BEST PERFORMER – The best individual comedy performer at the festival.

BEST PERSON – “A person who the voter feels should get recognition for their contribution to this year’s Fringe. This does not need to be a performer; it can be anyone associated with the comedy industry at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, from reviewers to producers and venue staff.”

The Best Performer and Best Show winners and the Best Show shortlist nominees get invited to take part in a special Comedians’ Choice showcase season at London’s Museum Of Comedy in October.

This year, as a bonus, streaming platform NextUp Comedy will also record some of the Museum Of Comedy nights, with the performer receiving a revenue share.

The actual trophies, as I said, are designed and made by John Ward, who lives in or near the village of Moulton-Seas-End in Lincolnshire. He tells me:


John Ward, from Moulton-Seas-End, with the original Award

Before the Covid, if you recall we met up at Milton Keynes with the then ‘new’ Award that – unbeknown to me at the time – was then given in three classes and not one as I first thought.

Trying to replicate that one this year has been slightly chaotic… Since the Covid malarkey, things have been a bit fraught in acquiring the same materials in the making of.

The materials that went into making that Award are not readily available nowadays – blame the Ukraine business, the 3 Day Week, fluoride in toothpaste, wotever.

John Ward, resident of Moulton-Seas-End, crafting an Award

The new design is more handy for standing on a bookshelf, fireplace or to use as a door stop.

It’s in a mask configuration with the now standard ‘red nose’ being central, with a slanted ‘comedic eye’ on one side with the Comedy Guide emblem opposite making the twin ‘eyes’ as such with raised eyebrows.

The ‘grinning’ mouth has been chiselled out and filled with red ‘sparkly ripple’ type finish inserted and is not symmetrical but, as you look at it, there is a small curl on the left hand side at the top of it.

It is secured to the base with twin screws and a central wooden dowel so, in theory, there is not much chance of it falling apart… but, then again, they said the Titanic was unsinkable..

I have made nine of these: three for 2021 to give to the winners from then, three for this year 2022 and three for next year 2023, with each year being designated its own colour scheme.

The colours per year are: Gold, Silver and Bronze. This year, for 2022, it’s Silver.

Three years’ worth of The Comedians’ Choice Awards


THE COMEDIANS’ CHOICE AWARDS

2022 WINNERS

BEST PERFFORMER

Jordan Gray …performing in Jordan Gray: Is It a Bird?

Sharing the news on social media, Gray said: “This means EVERYTHING to me.”

BEST SHOW

Rob Copland: Mainstream Muck (Gimme Some of That)

In a nod to his unconventional show, when asked what it felt like to win, Copland supplied this statement: “\m/”.

BEST SHOW SHORTLIST

Ali Brice: I Tried To Be Funny, But You Weren’t Looking
Chelsea Birkby: No More Mr Nice Chelsea
Colin Hoult: The Death of Anna Mann
The Delightful Sausage: Nowt but Sea
Elf Lyons: Raven
Luke Rollason: Bowerbird
Siblings: Siblage
Shelf: Hair Stuart Laws – Putting Zoo

BEST PERSON

Martin Willis

He is managing director of show production company Objectively Funny. The company also produces and distributes the Small Book on Mental Health at the festival, to support performers.

Martin Willis said: “It is a massive honour to win an award like this, one that’s voted for by people involved in shows here. It means the world to be recognised by a community that I care so dearly about, and I’m incredibly grateful.

“That being said, it cannot go unmentioned that in the history of this particular award the winner has always been a man. That fact speaks both of the demographics of the voters but also of what we actually see from behind the scenes. For an industry that is historically male-dominated onstage, there is a vast array of brilliant women that have made so much work possible in so many ways – technicians, producers, agents, venue programmers and people that do whatever job needs doing with care and gusto.

“I would like to accept this award on behalf of the Objectively Funny team that has worked so hard to make excellent things happen at this festival: Ellie Brayne-Wyatt, Maddy Bye, Kathryn Higgins, Olivia Phipps and Lois Walshe.”

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This year’s Malcolm Hardee Awards: It all ended in tears and a fight by a bus.

Highly unlikely to ever want to rest in peace…

Yesterday’s blog was about the travails of this year’s Malcolm Hardee Awards Show at the Edinburgh Fringe. The show was cancelled on the day (by the Award organisers) at The Counting House venue and then suddenly moved to another venue, Bob Slayer’s Blundabus: a double-decker bus. No reflection on the highly-esteemed Counting House.

Yesterday’s blog sort-of encompassed my philosophy of organising things… 

Anything that CAN go wrong WILL go wrong. 

And anything that cannot possibly ever go wrong WILL STILL go wrong.

The best thing is to prepare everything in advance to the last detail, organise everything with fallback positions and then, when the whole thing suddenly starts to go arse-over-tit despite all that, it is easier to manage the new chaos caused by one single unexpected disaster than have to sort-out this new and impossible-to-predict problem AND all the sundry could-have-been-foreseen-and-planned-for potential multiple problems.

You should plan for the foreseeable-knowns; you can’t plan for the unforeseeable-unknowns.

Malcolm Hardee also had a philosophy about First World problems: 

“Fuck it! It don’t matter do it? There are people starving in Africa. Not all over though. Round the edge – fish.”

I am in London. Three people have told me anonymously what happened in Edinburgh on Friday night/the early hours of Saturday morning .

One person, who had arranged to see the 11.30pm show at The Counting House with a group of people from London said: “I saw that the show had been cancelled and assumed that was the end of it. Wish I’d known that Bob had stepped in. Small venue though.”

Someone else, comic Giacinto Palmieri (who actually attended the re-scheduled 01.00am Blundabus presentation), opined: “A show that was so alternative that there was no show… Malcolm Hardee would have appreciated that.”

Apparently the awards were announced from a small stage in front of the double decker bus. When Jerry Sadowitz was announced as winner of the ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award, there was, I’m told, “a noticeable but small Boo! from the crowd”. 

After the Awards, a vivid verbal contretemps then ensued between two of the people involved in the show which, it seems, can best be described as a non-meeting of minds between, on the one side, ‘very tired & emotional’ and, on the other, ‘very irritated and Woke’. It all ended in tears, as such things are prone to do.

In yesterday’s blog, I wrote that an email sent to me at 02.59 on Saturday morning told me: “The news announcement (of the Award-winners) might be a little delayed… One bit proved quite controversial, so the judges are going to need a chance to decide on the wording first.”

It turns out this referred not to the decision on winners of the Awards but on the wording of the press release mentioning comedian Jerry Sadowitz. 

The press release was eventually issued yesterday afternoon. Here it is (I have added pictures):


For immediate release

MALCOLM HARDEE AWARDS 2022 RESULTS

The results of the Malcolm Hardee Awards 2022 have been announced during a ceremony at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The awards – handed out in the memory of comic, agent, manager, club-owner and prankster Malcolm Hardee – celebrate and promote the spirit of anything-goes comedy anarchy at the Edinburgh Festival.

This year’s winners are:

COMIC ORIGINALITY

Two thirds of The Flop: Dan Lees (left) and Cammy Sinclair (Photo: Stephen O’Donnell)

The Flop: A Band Of Idiots (Dan Lees, Tom Penn, Cammy Sinclair)

Comedy trio The Flop – Dan Lees, Tom Penn and Cammy Sinclair – performed their show at The Banshee Labyrinth at 10:10pm between the 6th and 20th August.

Their brochure blurb explains: “60 minutes, 12 notes and three idiots. Musical mayhem and expert clowning from the greatest band in the whole world… ever.”

Mr Chonkers was also nominated in this category.

Ivor Dembins without Edinburgh Council’s rubbish men (Photograph: Stephen O’Donnell)

CUNNING STUNT

Ivor Dembina

The 2022 Cunning Stunt prize goes to comedian Ivor Dembina, for his reaction to the Edinburgh bin collection strike, promoting the growing piles of uncollected rubbish as performance art.

 

ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID

Sadowitz: offensive future millionaire?

Jerry Sadowitz

Originally scheduled to play just two shows at the Pleasance’s EICC venue as part of his national tour Not For Anyone, cult comic and former Hardee protégé Sadowitz made national headlines when his show was unceremoniously axed after its first night, with Pleasance claiming both “[we are] a venue that champions freedom of speech and we do not censor comedians’ material,” and “the material presented at his first show is not acceptable… this type of material has no place on the festival”. Coherent, much?

Judges explained: “Ironically, after being cancelled, Sadowitz is seeing a huge increase in ticket sales for the show’s tour, and is now adding a date at the 3,600+ seater Hammersmith Apollo in November.

“The Million Quid is getting closer for the most unlikely of reasons.”

*** *** ***

The usual, anarchic awards show was not able to take place this year, but a results ceremony was held at Bob Slayer’s infamous BlundaBus venue at 1.00am this morning.

The winners each receive a specially made trophy designed by inventor John Ward.

This year’s judging panel was Marissa Burgess, Kate Copstick, Bruce Dessau, Jay Richardson, Claire Smith and Ian Wolf.

The Malcolm Hardee Awards have run since 2005, the year of Malcolm Hardee’s death. They ended in 2017, however having been ‘much missed’ at the 2018 festival, they have now been revived by British Comedy Guide, with the blessing of original organiser John Fleming and the Hardee family.

Find out more about the awards and previous winners at:
https://www.comedy.co.uk/hardees/

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Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe – organising anarchy

ITV’s Tiswas – Good clean family fun

I was a researcher on the final series of anarchic Saturday morning ITV children’s show Tiswas. It had been going for years at the point and everything ran fairly smoothly. It was broadcast live usually for 2-3 hours. I remember at least a couple of the live shows ran for 4 hours. I think the series I worked on ran for 39 weeks of the year. 

Because it was allegedly for young-ish children (and university students) all the items were very short because of their short attention span. The only long items were cartoons (about 7 minutes long) and live pop songs (about 3 minutes).

Everything else tended to be I guess no longer than around 30 seconds. 

On a live TV show – with guests, children, rock bands, cameras and crew in the studio, with anarchy being the format and with water, custard pies, electric cables and people moving all over the place all the time on the studio floor – this was a recipe for disaster.

The trick was to have one meeting early in the week with representatives of all the technical and editorial departments involved to pre-spot potential problems… and an editorial meeting late in the week to iron out the detailed practicalities.

One week, at one of these meetings, the producer lamented that everything ran far too smoothly on-screen. It was an ‘anarchic show’ but so well-planned that nothing ever actually went too wrong. How could we add in some genuinely unplanned chaos?

The answer was, really, that we couldn’t. Because the only way to run anarchy on stage or in a TV studio is to plan it carefully in advance, with fall-back positions, and then fly by the seat of your pants. You plan for as many possible contingencies as you can and then it is easier to cope with the ‘impossible’ things that actually happen on the day.

Which brings us to the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe. I used to run them but no longer do – so, when things go wrong, I can comfortably sit back in London and observe from afar.

(L-R) The 2022 ‘Million Quid’, Comic Originality and Cunning Stunt Awards, designed by John Ward

The format is that there are (over the years) 4-6 judges who decide on three Awards – Comic Originality, Cunning Stunt and ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’. In the past, the Short List of nominees was announced around Tuesday of the Fringe’s final week and the Awards were decided by the judges at Friday lunchtime, then announced and presented during a live 2-hour stage show just before midnight in the ballroom of The Counting House venue, which is part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival.

This involved me getting a taxi down to Leith as soon as the winners were decided… to get the names engraved on the three Awards… and rushing down again around teatime to collect them before the evening show. Meanwhile, acts for that night’s show would be dropping out or changing arrival times or causing creative chaos in sundry ways. 

During the show, acts would also not arrive at all or arrive an hour late or whatever. It was like juggling spaghetti. (Another thing I occasionally included in the show.)

Oh the joy of it all…

The ballroom had a 150 seating capacity and we got in trouble one year because too many people had been standing round the edges of the 150 seated audience. The fire regulations did not allow this.

The next year, we had officials counting numbers in and out of the room. With all seats occupied, no-one was allowed in unless someone went out. This meant, if you went out to the toilet, you might not be able to get back in again. I did wonder if some people just ‘did the necessary’ in situ rather than leave. If so, I suspect Malcolm would have approved.

Action-packed Russian Egg Roulette at the 2012 Awards

The live show was a Hardee-esque variety show of bizarre-as-possible comedy acts plus, in later years, a competitive Russian Roulette contest with eggs (organised by the World Egg-Throwing Federation) in which comedians smashed eggs against their forehead in a knock-out contest to find out which was the sole hard-boiled egg. It was messy.

I never booked the nominees or upcoming winners of the Awards to perform in these variety shows in case their acts were so bizarre the audience hated them…

I stopped organising the Awards in 2017 after ten years. 

There were no Awards in 2018 because I couldn’t find anyone to take them over – and nor could a top UK PR who tried to find sponsors for them.

They returned briefly in 2019 organised by the British Comedy Guide and then, of course, Covid hit. So there were no Awards in 2020/2021 although, in 2021, when there was a sort-of Edinburgh Fringe, Will Mars was given a Cunning Stunt Award.

The Awards re-started ‘properly’ this year, with the Edinburgh Fringe re-emerging from Covid.

The winners were due to be announced last night (Friday) during a live show in The Counting House at 11.30pm.

I am totally uninvolved in the Awards now but, as a courtesy, I am kindly kept in the loop by email, so I know roughly what is going on. 

On Thursday evening at 21.28, there was talk of cancelling the Friday show because “it wasn’t felt there were enough original acts here to put on a show and we’ve left it a bit late to organise a good show even if there were… (We) should be sending over the results and pictures that you can use in your blog first thing tomorrow”.

And, indeed, yesterday, Friday, the Counting House show was cancelled and moved to the upper level of former Award-winner Bob Slayer’s Blundabus venue (a double-decker bus), to start after midnight, around 01.00 .

I woke up this morning to an email sent at 02.59 telling me: “The news announcement (of the Award-winners) might be a little delayed… One bit proved quite controversial, so the judges are going to need a chance to decide on the wording first.”

Around 15.10 this afternoon, the Awards were finally announced: 

COMIC ORIGINALITY: The Flop.

CUNNING STUNT: Ivor Dembina & the Edinburgh bin collectors.

ACT MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A MILLION QUID: Jerry Sadowitz.

The phrase “in light of the present unpleasantness” has been used on Facebook.

At the time of posting this blog, I know no more that you, dear reader.

I suspect more will follow in a further blog… AND IT DOES, HERE


Malcolm Hardee drowned in 2005. Karen Koren of Edinburgh’s Gilded Balloon venue produced this tribute at the time…

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After the publication of yesterday’s blog, a sudden visit from a policeman…

John Ward got bothered, bewildered and gob-smacked by the response to his judicious thoughts…

Yesterday’s blog was largely inventor John Ward’s column for last week’s Spalding Guardian newspaper.

It was about his absurdly comic experience of jury service and the chaotic randomness of the alleged English ‘justice’ system.

Yesterday evening, I got this email from John Ward


A policeman appeared here in his nice shiny police car late this afternoon to ask if I would autograph the page with my column – in his wife’s copy of the Spalding Guardian. 

He told me she reads it every week but she is going to raffle this particular one off at a summer fayre in June (“all being well, virus permitting”) and “it will be worth more autographed”. 

I like her confidence!

The irony being – considering this week’s topic – that she sent her hubby who is a PC.

He was a nice chap.

He told me they will let me know when it’s happening nearer the time – and he added that his wife does a nice range of home baked cakes….

Could this be seen as bribery?  

The things I would do for a walnut cake…

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Jury dis-service?… The English legal system… court with its trousers down.

Inventor and Malcolm Hardee Award designer John Ward has a weekly column in the Spalding Guardian newspaper. Earlier this week, he sent me a copy of this week’s piece, subsequently published.


Years ago I received a letter requesting my presence for jury service at the local Crown Court on a given date, so I informed my boss why I would not be at work then and possibly for a few days after depending on how the case/trial proceeded, so plans were sorted to cover for me.

I popped in a few days later and told my mum, of the people for the people, about it as she sat slooping tea in the kitchen with her friend Viv, who suggested I “might see Margaret Lockwood there”: about that time the actress Margaret Lockwood was starring as a lady barrister in a weekly TV drama called Justice.

Mum said it was unlikely as I was to be there for ten in the morning and Margaret was covering the ‘late shift’ as she came on at nine o’clock in the evening but only did an hour’s worth before the News at Ten came on.

Sorted then.

I arrived on Tuesday as requested and went through the formal procedure as a juror – this induction has possibly changed over the years – and all went well as we selected twelve were given a rundown of how things went.

On going into court, fellow juror ‘Miss Marple’ (or ‘Miss Know-it-all’ who was to sit next to me in the jury box, sadly) complained the seats were too hard and felt she “might not last the day” due to her “problem”. Ron, another juror, muttered that her problem might be she was a ‘moaning Minnie’ so no cure there then.

Seeing one person enter, Miss Marple remarked that he was “a wrong ‘un, quite shifty looking – You can tell by their ears you know.” 

He turned out to be the prosecuting counsel.

After the preliminaries were sorted as to who was who and what might be what, battle commenced in the form of the first witness for the prosecution being called and a slight hint of the pantomime to unfold in more ways than one.

He was sworn in and was asked his profession to which his head swivelled all around as it was quite obvious the term had got him stumped. The clerk to the court then said the court wanted to know what he did for a living, to which he smiled and said he was “a pint spire” much to everyone’s amazement, Judge included.

He was asked three times with the same response, until the judge requested he write it down and this duly happened. It was then handed up to the judge and he then read out the man was “a paint sprayer” to which the witness then said: “I fed fo the flurst tome didn’t I!?”

Thus was the start of the high comedy to follow over the next few days as we heard assorted accounts of the case. As possibly the late Eric Morecambe might have paraphrased it: “All the right evidence but not necessarily in the right case”.

The case we were sitting on seemed to have references to other ‘events’ that related to another criminal case as the defendant seemed to have had quite a colourful past if some details quoted, or inferred, were anything to judge by. It did leave a lot of questions – or cases – unanswered but, hey oh, we battled on regardless.

Day two arrived as well as Miss Marple but she was now armed with her purple velvet cushion to sit on.

The basics of the case revolved around the defendant and his then friend a.k.a The Pint Spire who together removed various building materials from assorted areas to build a large extension to a house, doubling its value. But, during all this happening, they fell out (another story worthy of a Carry On type film) and so The Pint Spire reported him or – as the defendant said in the box later – “He bladdy grassed me up!”

The falling-out seemed to hinge on the defendant’s wife and her alleged involvement with The Pint Spire but the details – or, rather, what we were told in court – seemed to relate to another case entirely, so we were partly confused with even the Judge’s eyebrows seemingly doing a rumba at various times.

So we were instructed to disregard certain things said.

The prosecuting counsel had tried to sweep it away by saying there “might well have been a liaison between the couple” as Miss Marple whispered to us: “It means a ‘leg-over’ in French”. The judge overheard and raised an eyebrow.

Finally it came to Friday morning with the Judge summing up. I was amazed that, while I thought he was nodding off at times, he had actually handwritten down everything said in court from day one and even mentioned the confusion over The Pint Spire’s profession.

This took about an hour or so to hear as we were then instructed to go away and come back with a verdict but he would only accept a ten to two majority if there were any doubts among us.

So off we went to the jury room to debate the case.

Miss Marple got her knitting out of her bag, then click-clacked away with the needles as she said her vote was “He’s guilty, that one” (maybe it was his ears?) as she wanted to finish a sleeve off.

British justice at its best. – The defendant was guilty as somebody wanted to finish knitting her jumper sleeve.

Due to assorted elements of the case, we arrived with a three to nine majority, so word was passed through, then we were given ‘extra time’ but by now the clock was ticking by. 

It was now ten past four – as, out of the woodwork almost, came ‘Miss Takkan’, the quiet juror, whose voice we had not even heard since her being there.

She was ‘one of the three’ but now wanted to change to Guilty.

When asked what had brought this change about, she said that she was some miles from home and might not make it in time if we were in a stalemate as she wanted to see “my fave soap Crossroads at 6.30”.

So we had the ten to two result.

The accused got a fairly light sentence (we all thought so) by way of a fine.

Miss Marple didn’t finish her sleeve, but hopefully Miss Takkan got home in time to see Benny and Amy Turtle on Crossroads. 

I never saw Margaret Lockwood but then she did the nine to ten shift anyway.

(… CONTINUED HERE …)

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A word with a Ward, Award-maker, leaves worried BBC journo wordless

Dapper designer John Ward, earlier this week, wearing one of his many professional hats…

A couple of days ago, I posted a blog about this year’s Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for best publicity stunt at the Edinburgh Fringe. The trophy itself – as with all Malcolm Hardee Awards – was designed and made by mad inventor John Ward.

Dr David Weeks’ academic analysis…

Among John Ward’s many other accomplishments are writing a weekly column – Ward’s World – for the Spalding Guardian newspaper and ‘starring’ in psychiatrist Dr David Weeks’ 1995 academic book Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness.

Yesterday, I got an email from John Ward:

“A BBC Three Counties Radio bod rung me up just now – asked me about the Malcolm Hardee Award and asked was I willing to do an over-the-phone interview later today.

“Then he asked me if I had any connections with Edinburgh other than the Awards side. 

“I said: My psychiatrist lives there (as in David Weeks) and then things seemed to get sort of quiet and he said he would ‘get back to me later’.

“I have heard no more.”

Obviously the BBC has to ‘up’ its reporters’ inquisitiveness.

They should have been even more interested by the mention of a psychiatrist and should also have asked the obvious question: “If you live in the middle of England, why do you have a psychiatrist in Scotland?”

John Ward is also featured (among many other appearances) in the 2015 documentary film A Different Drummer: Celebrating Eccentrics by Academy Award winning director, John Zaritsky.

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A DIY guide to getting and making an Edinburgh Fringe comedy award…

This morning, a month after this year’s cut-down-by-Covid Edinburgh Fringe finished, the 2021 Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award winner was announced. Yes, a month after it finished. 

The late Malcolm Hardee outside his childhood home

Alas no attempt was made to link the fact that the Award and the dead-but-impossible-to-forget comic Malcolm Hardee himself are both late.

Normally, there are three Malcolm Hardee Awards but, with no Fringe last year, with Covid still stalking the land and with staggeringly fewer shows at the Fringe this year, it’s a miracle there was any award at all.

As for the lesser Fringe awards… There were no Edinburgh Comedy (aka Perrier) Awards at all this year. And the eponymous TV channel did not attempt to award any prize for ‘DAVE’s Best Joke of the Fringe 2021’.

Fittingly, then, the winner of the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award this year was Will Mars, who announced his own ‘(Some Guy Called) DAVE Joke of the Fringe 2021’.

A cunning stunt indeed.

The TV channel’s annual prize is awarded after multiple allegedly top comedy industry professionals assiduously scout for jokes to nominate a shortlist and the final winner is decided by an allegedly carefully supervised public vote. 

This year, Will Mars just got together a few gags from people’s shows and then wandered up the Royal Mile in Edinburgh trying to find anyone called Dave who would pick a winner from the bunch.

Surprisingly, finding someone called Dave turned out to be almost as difficult as picking a winner.

The chosen winning joke was Masai Graham’s:

“I thought the word ‘Caesarean’ began with the letter ‘S’ but, when I looked in the dictionary, it was in the ‘C’ section.”

The shortlist of other jokes – inexplicably Caesar-centric – which Will had got together included:

Adele Cliff: “The Roman emperor’s wife hates playing hide and seek because wherever she goes Julius Caesar.” 

Ben Clover: “Getting a caesarian is dangerous in Russia. If they open you up and find a little girl, they open her up to see if there’s another.”

Ivor Dembina: “My therapist told me, ‘A problem shared, is a hundred quid’.”

Sameer Katz: “I think Chewbacca is French because he understands English but refuses to speak it.”

Leo Kearse: “Marvin Gaye used to keep a sheep in my vineyard. He’d herd it through the grapevine.”

Will Mars’ own: “My grandparents were married for forty years, but everything took longer back then.”

Tom Mayhew: “Me and my ex were into role play. I’d pretend to be James Bond and she’d pretend she still loved me.”

Rich Pulsford: “I don’t know what you call a small spillage from a pen but I have an inkling.”

The trophy for the one-off 2021 Award itself was designed and crafted by mad inventor John Ward, who has designed and made all the previous trophies.

But you can’t just knock-off a Malcolm Hardee Award in a minute or two. Oh no. Oh my dear me, no. Quality counts.

You need raw materials and then you have to decide what the fuck to do with them…

Once you have ’em, you have to shape ’em and craft ’em…

Then, if you’re talented like John Ward, you have to tart ’em up into a final trophy…

John Ward (he’s the one on the right) with the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award 2021

John Ward told me: “It’s basically Malcolm’s bonce, with real imitation hair, plus the specs mounted on an ‘H’ shaped base for Hardee.

“I used a BAFTA type theme but tried to take the piss out of it with the silver (on the right) symbolising the bland year and half it’s been with Covid and the golden ray of laughter (on the left) is pure (if that’s a suitable word) Malcolm with a hearty grin.”

“With real imitation hair?” I asked. “From where?”

“From a fabric shop I patronise for such things…”

“Such things?” I asked.

“I use it to make wigs and I buy it by the yard as you never know when you might run out of the hairy stuff…” replied John.

Here is a reminder of John Ward.

Here is Will Mars’ typically non-promotional speech accepting the 2021 Cunning Stunt Award…

 
And here is the base of John Ward’s trophy…

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A fond memory of eccentric – and very noisy – comedy performer Chis Luby

John Ward made the Malcolm Hardee Awards

Mad inventor John Ward is a man of many parts, many of them going spare. He designed and built the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award trophies and I have occasionally booked him on TV shows. 

One was in 1988 on the weekly ITV series Prove It! Participants had to ‘prove’ they could do something bizarre.

John now writes a weekly column for the Spalding Guardian newspaper and today he remembered fellow eccentric Chris Luby. Here are some of his memories:


The late Chris Luby was absolutely brilliant at ‘noise impressions’ such as a WW2 spitfire starting up, going down a runway and into battle, trains on the underground that to the untrained ear sounded very real plus many more.

I first met him some years ago when we both appeared on an ITV telly show called Prove It! presented by Chris Tarrant

We both recorded the pilot show plus both appeared in the first episode while I appeared in the whole series on a thirteen week basis presenting assorted inventions and gadgets.

Chrises Tarrant and Luby

Day one was rehearsal day with everybody involved getting to know each other, then going through our paces plus a studio run-through, then – all those still breathing – off to our designated hotels for a clean-up before dinner.

I was on the same table as Chris (Luby) for dinner/supper and it was an experience sitting there, looking at the menu while hearing about The train now leaving platform whatever… and going through to Kings Cross station, with all the assorted sounds and voices.

He sat there, menu covering his face, making these noises and, apart from the fact they were ‘spot on’ and very realistic, my thoughts were: “Does he ever stop!?”

He was doing his impression of whatever plane it was as the waiter came over to us to ask if we were ready to order. I said we would, just as soon as my companion came in to land.

The look on the poor waiter’s face was a classic as he didn’t know what was going on but then nor did I… but I was learning – I hoped.

The first night we spent in the lounge bar area of the hotel and, yes, he carried on going like a good ‘un with his assorted impressions of objects and people.

Eventually it was off to bedtime and I did sleep very well all things considered as it had been a really long day.

So imagine being woken up the next morning by what sounded like a detachment of the Grenadier Guards at the bedroom door, ‘marching on the spot’ outside.

I know I had asked for an alarm call but this was pushing it a bit.

I then heard what could be called a sergeant major’s ‘rallying call’ or “Git ‘art of bed, you ‘orribel little man!!!” as it dawned on me (well, it was by then daylight) it could be only Chris Luby. 

Does he ever stop? I asked myself.

Chris Luby – N0-one ever slept in HIS shows

His initial appearance had him in a Coldstream Guard’s uniform, coming through the middle of the stage curtains, making the sounds of a marching regiment… hobbling on crutches as he had broken his leg a week or so beforehand.

Culture didn’t come any better than this.

He used to perform about a twenty minute act consisting of assorted ‘sounds’ or noises, many military based and he made a decent living from it on the comedy circuit.

Sadly there is not much on the internet about him apart from the fact he passed away in January 2014 following an accident at his home when he tumbled downstairs.

That ended the life and sounds of ‘The Man of Many Noises’.

He wasn’t what you might call a ‘mainstream’ entertainer but anybody you mentioned his name to in ‘the show business’ always broke into a smile as they all seem to have a Chris anecdote.

He was one of those unique but talented people that, once met or seen, never forgotten.


SoundCloud has an audio clip of Chris Luby impersonating an RAF fly-past at the legendarily raucous church funeral of Malcolm Hardee in 2005…

…and YouTube has a clip of John Ward (though sadly not Chris Luby) on Prove It!

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The four elderly women who robbed three banks… trying to get arrested…

(Photo by Maxim Hopman via Unsplash)

I received an email today from Malcolm Hardee Award designer John Ward. He said: “My friend Alan sent me this. He’s not sure if it’s fiction or fact…”


There were these four women who, although retired after long successful careers, found themselves living in less than acceptable flats and having little or no money to enjoy life with. 

Then one day, after reading the daily paper, one of them suggested that they needn’t continue to live hand to mouth and why not rob a bank. Then they would get caught and spend the rest of their lives in comfort, where everything was there for them.  

At first they thought it was a joke but then, after a while, they thought: Why not?

Because they all had specialist knowledge – in planning, research and stage make-up – they planned to rob a large bank in a month’s time.  

The day came and they were all disguised and had managed to get some guns (not real ones) and did the deed.  

However, they got away with a huge amount of money and did not get caught.  

They were not sure what to do next, then decided to go for it again and robbed another bank, again collecting a huge amount of money. 

The police could not find this gang who ‘dressed as and pretended to be old ladies’ (!) and put more resources into finding this ‘smart’ gang of clever thieves.  

The ladies robbed one last bank and had enough to live comfortably for the rest of their lives. 

They were never caught and the story only came out when the last lady alive was able to write it all down and have the book published after her death.


Presumably this story is untrue because – apart from anything else – there would have been some publicity about a non-fiction book with that story.

But there is (I think) an urge to WANT to believe it’s true.

And I am not quite sure why.

We are talking three bank robberies, presumably terrifying bank employees.

Why the need to WANT to believe it? The psychology of the reader is far more interesting than the psychology of the supposed robbers. 

Or is it just me?

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