Tag Archives: Screaming Lord Sutch

Suicidal ‘Screaming’ Lord Sutch, as remembered by inventor John Ward

John Ward with some of the many Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards which he designed and made

Eccentric inventor and designer of trophies for the late Malcolm Hardee Comedy AwardsJohn Ward also writes a weekly column Ward’s World for that esteemed publication the Spalding Guardian.

Yesterday, they published a piece by him about anarchic politician and comic rock ‘n’ roller ‘Screaming’ Lord Sutch who committed suicide 20 years ago this week.

Perhaps that should have read ‘comic politician and anarchic rock ‘n’ roller’.

Screaming Lord Sutch holds the record for losing in UK Parliamentary elections – more than 40 between 1963-1997.

Since the article was published yesterday, there has been a lot of reaction and feedback.

John Ward tells me:


The key question asked is why he committed suicide.

Nobody really knows. In these cases, how can anybody be in a position to really know for sure? The recorded ‘verdict’ is one thing; the real reason only he knew.

He used to ring me at odd hours to talk about anything ‘daft’ or run ideas past me. The general feeling is he was a manic depressive behind the mask. (Think of Tony Hancock maybe?)

John Ward and Lord Sutch fêted by Time Life

On one occasion, he rang to ask if I knew we were both on the same page of a Time-Life book – part of a series titled Library of Curious and Unusual Facts – he pointed out he didn’t mind sharing the page with me!

Another time, he rang to ask if I was busy. He put the phone down at his end, then I heard things being moved about which lasted about five minutes or so. Then he came back to the phone to tell me he had moved his mother’s sideboard around, then her display cabinet which she had her china pieces in, then he proudly told me that he had had a ‘cabinet reshuffle’.

His mum (glad she and mine never mingled!!!!!) was a card in her own right.

I rang on one occasion to speak to him – they lived in the same house in Harrow – and, bearing in mind the many times I had spoken to her before, she asked:

“How do you know my David? Did you vote for him? How do you know I’m his mother cos you called me Mrs Sutch and he don’t have a wife you know, not now anyway…”

It was worse if you forgot the time of day and rang while he was in bed. Most days he rose after 1 or 2 in the afternoon – like most in the ‘show business’ as he would have got home in the early hours of the morning after a gig.

She would usually say: “My David is in bed – I’ll go and get him/fetch him – hang on.”

Then she would put the phone down on the table in the hall and you heard her go clumping up the stairs, stand at the top of the landing and then shout out: 

“David – are you still asleep or not?” (!) 

After a muffled reply from his door, it was then clump-clump-clump back down the stairs and she would pick up the phone and say:

“I think he’s coming down…”

Not 100% positive, mind – just ‘think’. 

This could take anything from mere minutes to hearing “Your tea’s ready and on the table” at my end before he came to the phone.

But, in fairness, he didn’t clump-clump-clump down the stairs.

It was so surreal it reminded me of The Goons with Minnie Bannister & Co…

“Is that you, Min?”

“Oh… You’re not sure?… I’ll ask you later then, when you know…”

I am glad I was in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ otherwise I would never have met this amazing and unique man.


John tells how he met Sutch in his Spalding Guardian piece.

The full version is online.

 This is an edited version…

(L-R) John Ward, James Whale and Screaming Lord Sutch were hit by a power cut and a blizzard


Initially I had no idea I would ever be meeting David Edward Sutch but we were both individually booked to appear on a late-night television chat show some years ago – rather inspiringly called The James Whale Radio Show – that went out late from (then) Yorkshire TV in Leeds, live on a Friday night.

We got on okay as we did the show, which suffered a minor power cut live on air due to a blizzard hitting the area, but we coped.

Afterwards, we eventually got back to our hotel at about half past one in the morning, going through snow drifts with our driver complaining he was cold though he had a fur coat on.

Back at the hotel, we realised there was no chance of getting a bite to eat at that hour but, as we had rooms opposite each other, we took our kettles out onto the landing, plugged in and then brewed up a cuppa each, nibbled on the small packets of complimentary biscuits as we chatted and put the world to rights – It always seems to work better sitting on a decent bit of floral patterned carpet and supping tea.

A few months afterwards, after phone calls and assorted meet ups, he made me his ‘Minster of Inventions’ as he was then the leader/instigator of the Monster Raving Loony Party.

For the life of me I could not work out why or how I had upset him so much that he would bestow such a title on me but, in fairness, I never asked.

Our ‘best’ achievement between us – his idea, my design – was a ‘Manifesto Muncher’.

He used to throw other political parties’ written manifestos into it and it churned them out again in the form of toilet rolls – so at least the end product was something to go on.

Lovely sense of humour – Why can’t all politics be like this?

Even though he is no longer with us, the interest in him now, twenty years after his death, never ceases to wane although we live in an age where supposed ‘celebrity’ is seemingly an everyday commodity. No sooner do we get used to one supposed ‘celeb’ then another comes along.

But no sign of there being another David Edward Sutch so far – or even anything like him. And, like him or not, it’s a safe bet he will still be remembered in years to come.

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Comedian Malcolm Hardee’s two bids to get elected as Member of Parliament


Today is General Election Day in the UK.

Below are three extracts from the late Malcolm Hardee’s increasingly prestigious autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake (reviews HERE), published in 1996


Politics has never had any great effect on my life. I remember when I was a kid Labour seemed ‘common’ and the Conservatives seemed ‘not common’. That seemed to be the case.

When I was a kid, I remember a Mr and Mrs Minns.

On the left side of their bay window, they had a poster saying:

VOTE CONSERVATIVE

And on the right side:

VOTE LABOUR

I wondered how they got on together. They seemed very happily married.

Malcolm Hardee’s election reaction

I stood for Parliament in the very important Greenwich by-election in 1987 when Rosie Barnes stood for the SDP and Deirdre Wood was standing for the Labour Party. Everyone expected Labour to win in Greenwich but Rosie Barnes won.

I was supported by The Rainbow Alliance, who were loosely linked to The Monster Raving Loony Party. They linked up on this election and I met David – Screaming Lord – Sutch. He was broke and living with his mum at the time. He was ringing up from phone boxes trying to get his £500 deposit together.

The Rainbow Alliance was run by a peculiar old hippy called George Weiss. He had got a lot of money from his parents who were in the jewellery and silverware business and he’d blown it by gambling and betting on himself winning these elections, which he never did. I think he is convinced that one day he will win. He wanted computer-based referenda and Peace and Love all over the world. He always wanted to be a ‘personality’ but never managed it. His idea of humour was carrying a Gonk about – one of those stuffed toys that were popular in the 1960s.

George had come to the Tunnel Club which I ran and he wanted Jools Holland to run for The Rainbow Alliance in Greenwich. Jools didn’t want to appear to be a fool, so said he didn’t want to run but agreed to be my sponsor and Rainbow George put up my £500 deposit.

I ran for election under the banner THE RAINBOW ALLIANCE BEER, FAGS AND SKITTLES PARTY and we got an enormous amount of press and TV coverage because everyone thought it was going to be the last by-election before the General Election.

It was a good laugh, especially when I went to the count. The Great British public’s ignorance knows no bounds. It must be the easiest thing in the world to put an ‘X’ next to a candidate’s name. Some people had put ticks. A few had put marks out of ten. Some had voted for them all.

I got 174 votes. I beat the Communist Party. And I beat the National Front, which takes some doing because there’s strong support for them in the area.


In fact, Malcolm’s memory about the exact number of votes he received was – much like Malcolm – not exactly 100% dependable…

Numerical accuracy put on one side, Malcolm continued…


At that time, the comedy agent Addison Cresswell was very left wing and was handling all the Red Wedge tours. He phoned me up and went mad at me because I was standing. He thought I’d take votes from the Labour Party which might have an effect if it was a close-run thing. In the event, their candidate lost by a lot more than 174.

If I had thought more seriously about it, part of my Manifesto could actually have won it for me. This was Bring Charlton Athletic Back to The Valley. Charlton is the local football club and The Valley was their ground. At the time, they had to play at Crystal Palace’s ground. If I had got the whole of the Charlton Football Supporters’ Club on my side, I would have got enough votes to win it. Four years later, they did form a Valley Party for the local elections and they did get a counsellor in and did get Charlton back to The Valley.

My other Manifesto ideas were a cable car for pensioners to the top of Greenwich Hill (This has since been successfully suggested by the Millennium Committee)…Proper rides at the funfair and proper prizes….Bringing proper fog back to London for old times’ sake….And concreting the Thames so people can travel about easier.

I’ve always felt detached from politics because Government represents authority whether Labour or Conservative. The strangest thing I noticed, when I was in prison, was that prisoners always had a better deal under a Right Wing government. Parole came in under a Conservative government. One-Third and later One-Half Remission came in under a Conservative government. I also used to think that, when a Conservative government was in power, the prison officers themselves were happier and therefore the prisoners got treated better.

*  *  *

I stood for Parliament again in the 1991 General Election and put up my own money because you get a free mailout to every constituent in the borough. That’s about 42,000 people in Greenwich. I simply selected the addresses of people who might turn up to Up The Creek and got a mailout to about 10,000 people for nothing. Normally it would cost £2,500 in postage alone; it only cost me my £500 Election Deposit which I lost by standing.

*  *  *

I’m thinking of running for Parliament again and think I have a bit of a chance this time. Someone once called himself the Literal Party at a by-election and he didn’t lose his deposit because a lot of people voted for him thinking he was the Liberal Party. He had used the same typeface as them on his election literature. He got loads of votes. Nearly got in. The real Liberal candidate complained because he reckoned he would have got in if this bloke hadn’t ‘stolen’ his votes.

So I’m going to call my party Old Labour.


In fact, despite writing the book in 1995, Malcolm (and I) got the date wrong. The General Election was in 1992 not 1991. There is a BBC News clip on YouTube of that 1992 Greenwich election result being announced, with Malcolm reacting behind the officiating electoral officer.

 

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The Eccentric Party: is it a surprisingly sensible choice for the General Election?

I proudly wear an Eccentric Party rosette

I very proudly wear an Eccentric Party rosette

When I chatted to comedian Al Murray in this blog last year, he told me he was writing a book about medieval fools.

“Fools were very important,” he told me, “because they spoke the truth. There are examples of them giving the king bad news because no-one else dared. The fool had a licence to speak truth to the powerful.”

And now, of course, Al – and/or his comic creation The Pub Landlord – is standing for Parliament in the General Election next month. The fact Al also has a national tour to publicise is, I am sure, totally coincidental. Al Murray is no fool.

Nor, it seems, are members of the new Eccentric Party.

Yesterday afternoon, I went to see them launch their latest Parliamentary candidate in Uxbridge.

Lord Toby Jug. leader of the Eccentric Party

Lord Toby Jug. leader of the Eccentric Party

The Party leader is Lord Toby Jug.

“I was named Toby Jug,” he told me, “by our late great spiritual leader, Screaming Lord Sutch. I was in his Monster Raving Loony Party for 27 years and contested four General Elections.

“But the Monster Raving Loony Party has been pulled in different directions. I wanted it to stay true to the founder, Screaming Lord Sutch, which was getting a serious message with a bit of fun. Whereas now they’re middle aged men in fancy dress more concerned with standing in a local pub reading the jokes out of the Beano and using them as policies. But I wish them well. That’s life.”

The Eccentric Party’s policies include:

  • putting super glue in lip balm to fight obesity
  • a 10% phone bill discount for people who stutter

The Monster Raving Loony Party says: “the reason for Toby’s dismissal from the party is his continued personal attacks on members of the party and on other groups while claiming to be representing the Loony Party.”

Yesterday, Lord Toby Jug told me: “I left because they didn’t like my stance – as told to national newspapers – on Nigel Farage and UKIP. I said UKIP claimed to be fruitcakes, loonies and crackpots but that’s our area. They tried to nick our Holy Grail of loonies. Another reason I left was because I met Nigel Farage and some of his sick-you-fonts and I thought they were closet racists and decided that should be put in the public domain. UKIP are far too eccentric, far too potty. Extremists.”

Some of the Party in Uxbridge High Street yesterday

Some of the Party parade in Uxbridge High Street yesterday

“You’re standing for Huntingdon,” I said. “Was that (former Prime Minister) John Major’s constituency?”

“It was, yes. Now it’s Jonathan Djanogly’s, a Conservative, a very wealthy man. They live in a different world. The only Tory worth voting for is a lava-tory. These people who live in mansions are nothing to do with the ordinary people.”

“You consider yourself a normal person?” I asked.

“Compared to them, yes,” said Lord Toby Jug. I’ve met many politicians over the years and they’ve asked me to join their so-called sensible parties and I’ve said No because I would lose my whole identity as an independent free thinker and eccentric.”

“Why,” I asked, “did they want you in their party?”

“They wanted some of the publicity I got.”

So why is Chris Dowling standing – the man the Eccentric Party were launching yesterday – the Eccentric Party candidate for Uxbridge & South Ruislip?

Spot The Loony - Chris Dowling and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls

Play Spot The Loony – Chris Dowling and the Labour Party’s Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls

“I’m standing, basically,” he told me, “because I’m a musician, a singer-songwriter. I’m doing this for publicity. With my £500 deposit, I’m going to get more publicity than you can shake a stick at – just by standing against Boris Johnson. Also, I stood against Boris as a Monster Raving Loony Party candidate for Mayor of London. I played guitar with Screaming Lord Sutch for ten years. Now the Chairman of the Monster Raving Loony party is standing in this constituency so I’ve jumped ship and gone with Lord Toby Jug.”

“Have you any policies?” I asked.

“When I stood last time,” Chris told me, “in Barking, against Nick Griffin of the BNP – I stood with no policies at all. This election, I’m standing on one policy: the virtual Parliament.”

“Eh?” I asked.

“MPs have robbed us for so many years now with their expenses and all that. We should leave them all in their own constituencies and do it all on Skype and online. They can have video conferencing and that would negate all their expenses. Politicians are always saying they want us to make cuts, so let’s start with them.

“I mean it when I talk about a virtual Parliament. It would save millions of pounds each year to have them in their own constituencies – where they should be anyway – instead of coming down to Westminster and sponging off of us.

Didgeridoo Pete, Minister of Didgeridoos

Didgeridoo Pete, Minister of, yes, Didgeridoos

“Almost everything is already online now. Why not have government online as well? You watch. In a few years time, what we’re talking about now is not going to be that far-fetched. We phoned up a video-conferencing firm and asked how much it would cost. There are 650 MPs and we could do it for less than £1,200 a year each. Online in their constituencies, debating everything. They don’t need transport to London and hotel expenses every week.”

“Automatically,” I told him, “I am thinking that’s a ridiculous idea but, of course, in 50 years time, there may not be office blocks – most people may work from home.”

“We’re always ahead,” said Lord Toby Jug.

“I was a Raving Loony for years,” said Chris, “and there are already five Raving Loony policies that have come to fruition:

  • Passports for pets
  • All-day pub-opening
  • Scrapping the 11-plus
  • Votes for 18-year-olds (it was 21 at the time)
  • Commercial radio

I asked: “Doesn’t commercial radio pre-date the Monster Raving Loony Party?”

“No,” said Chris. “The Monster Raving Loony Party has been going 50 years.”

Screaming Lord Sutch (in hat) (Photograph by Colin Dale, Radio Sutch)

Screaming Lord Sutch (in hat) in his heyday (Photograph by Colin Dale, Radio Sutch)

“Since 1963,” said Lord Toby. “It started as the National Teenage Party.”

“Some of the policies,” I said, “don’t sound that loony.”

“The policies ain’t that loony,” said Chris.

“We want more money spent on mental health,” said Lord Toby Jug.

“To have less of it?” I asked.

Lord Toby Jug ignored me. “That’s a very serious subject,” he said. “The same with addiction.”

“Diction?” I asked, genuinely surprised.

“Addiction,” said Lord Toby Jug.

“Even though this is still the greatest democracy in the world,” said Chris, “the political system in this country is outdated and it needs to be revamped. I’m gonna win by a landslide majority here.”

“Against Boris?” I asked.

“Yeah. He’s a bigger loony than I am.”

“I do wonder,” I said, “who is going to be next Mayor of London. Because people voted-in Red Ken, who was a bit eccentric, then Boris, who is more eccentric. They seem to vote for interesting people to be Mayor of London, not for parties.”

Njambi doorsteps London Mayor Boris Johnson at Westfield, Stratford

Boris – a future Prime Minister? (with comic Njambi McGrath)

“Sooner or later,” said Chris, “Boris Johnson will be the Prime Minister of this country.”

“I think so too,” I agreed.

“Everything I’ve seen about Boris Johnson,” said Chris, “he’s just seemed a buffoon and I quite like that about him.”

“Well,” I said, “he’s a buffoon who, at one time, was simultaneously editing The Spectator AND being an apparently quite good constituency MP AND being a TV personality on things like Have I Got News For You. He’s no fool.

“Red Ken – eccentric – Boris Johnson – eccentric – Maybe you should not be standing for Parliament, but as Mayor of London. “

“Well,” said Chris. “I went for that last time, but there’s so much red tape involved and you have to put up £10,000, because they don’t want the likes of me and you there.”

“£10,000?” I said, shocked. “It’s only £500 to stand as an MP! But you’re quite serious about the politics…”

“Not really,” said Chris.

“Well,” I added, “in an anarchist way.”

“Yes, in an anarchist way,” agreed Chris.

“It’s not a case of winning,” said Lord Toby Jug. “It’s a case of standing and putting your policies forward. “

“But a lot of people won’t do it,” said Chris. “It’s like they’re sofa referees: you watch the football and you shout at the TV screen but you don’t play. At least we stand up and do it.

Russell Brand says Don’t vote,” I prompted.

“Yeah,” said Chris. “But Russell Brand is a prick.”

Lord Toby Jug added: “He is to politics what King Herod was to babysitters. Politicians are just actors to get publicity for themselves and will do absolutely anything and lie about anything to get your vote. We ain’t like that. We are an honest political party. Peace and love through the medium of humour. There’s enough hatred in the world. We’re very lucky to live in this democracy.”

“We are,” agreed Lord Toby Jug.

Joshua Francis, Eccentric Party’s Minister for Ovine Philosophy

Joshua Francis, Minister for Ovine Theology

The Eccentric Party are recording a campaign song this Friday – Eccentric Guitars, written by Joshua Francis, their Minister for Ovine Theology. It will be released on iTunes and YouTube, probably next week.

They are also having a fund-raising party this Saturday at their party HQ – the Crown & Treaty pub in Uxbridge.

I have a suspicion that the Eccentric Party knows how to party.

And, lest we forget, to quote Al Murray: “The fool (has) a licence to speak truth to the powerful.”

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British political party promises 15% off phone bills for people who stutter

Al Murray - future MP

Al Murray – future MP? Or scuppered by bureaucratic rules?

Politicians? Comedians?

Eddie Izzard seems to keep saying he may or may not stand as Mayor of London.

And Al Murray – brighter than most politicians – has said he is standing in the upcoming General Election.

But will he?

Lord Toby Jug, leader of the new Eccentric Party of Great Britain (a protégé of the late lamented Screaming Lord Sutch’s Monster Raving Loony Party) says:

Lord Toby Jug launches his new party

Lord Toby Jug is on the look-out for floating voters

“Al Murray may end up crying in his beer. His Free United Kingdom Party (FUKP) has not yet been registered with the Electoral Commission nor approved. It takes 30 days and, if it sounds similar to other parties’ names, he will have to find another name.

“It took me four months to register my party; they deemed my previous names too similar to other parties. Al won’t be doing much canvassing in South Thanet either, as he’s on tour – and will be doing a gig in Dartford on election night. I personally think it’s a massive publicity stunt to promote his tour.”

Lord Toby Jug’s new Eccentric Party includes, as its Chairman and Minister For Inventions, Sir Dusty Wells-Fargo – otherwise known as mad inventor John Ward.

John Ward with some Malcolm Hardee Awards for Comedy

John Ward with some Malcolm Hardee Awards for Comedy

John designed the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards. and was previously Minister for Inventions in Screaming Lord Sutch’s Monster Raving Loony Party.

Already-announced policies of the new Eccentric Party include the nationalisation of public toilets, building taller buildings for higher education and getting dental charges capped. Their controversial immigration policies include putting giant photos of Russell Brand, Katie Hopkins and Jeremy Clarkson at airports to discourage people from settling in Britain.

An inaugural Eccentrics Party meeting was held two days ago at Party HQ –  the Oliver Cromwell public house in St Ives, Cambridgeshire. I am told it was “packed to the rafters with prospective candidates and party members from all over the UK.” The new party’s policies were discussed.

I quote from the minutes of the meeting:

The Eccentric Party launched yesterday

The very first members of the Eccentric Party & some seagulls

We will stop alcohol abuse in our cities and town centres by introducing an unhappy hour with one drink for the price of two to stop drunken yobs making them no-go-zone areas at weekends. 

All swimming pools will be drained once a week for all non-swimmers.

We will make the British climate more temperate all year round by tapping into the natural resource of hot air around Westminster.

We will paint Britain’s sea limits so that British fish know where they are at all times.

15% off of phone bills for people who stutter.

The Eccentric Party launch

The Eccentric Party’s literal launch on the River Great Ouse

TV Debates… All participants in the TV debates will be made to wear suits colour-coded to their party. David Cameron will be in a sober-looking midnight blue suit. Ed Miliband would wear a pillar-box red suit. Nick Clegg would be in canary yellow. The Green Party’s Natalie Bennett would be in bilious green. And Nigel Farage of UKIP would wear the purple-and-yellow stripes of a seaside entertainer. This solution will allow viewers to easily differentiate the parties without reference to their confusingly similar policies.

It was discussed that fuel tanks in motor vehicles would be converted from accepting gallons to the now poplar litre versions over a slow phasing-in period.

Approaches would be made to the Heinz food company to change their product range to Heinz 60 as opposed to the present Heinz 57 so as to go to the nearest square figure as this would help with auditing processes and saving a small amount of ink.

John Ward and Rev Pedro Perrnackerpan

John Ward (left) and the Very Reverend Pedro Perrnackerpan

This motion was carried although the Very Reverend Pedro Perrnackerpan wondered if it was possible to enquire at the same time if they were considering manufacturing tins of beans on toast as his grill was in need of repair as the gasman had missed three appointments so far.

Guest speaker Baron Giles Fromhome of the St Ives and Huntingdon District Mountain Climbing Club was present to enquire as to the Party’s feeling about handrails being fitted on the local mountains and, after much discussion, it was agreed in principle that this would be possible but only on the left hand side going up, due to lack in resources. But it would be possible to use this facility coming back down by walking backwards though using caution with respect of possible bumping into those going up.

Lord Toby Jug’s letter to the papers

Lord Toby Jug’s letter to the newspapers was much admired

The Party Leader, Lord Toby Jug, was congratulated by the honourable members on having letters printed in the Independent, Daily Mail, and Daily Mirror, giving his unique take on the Battle of South Thanet… Murray v Farage.

Copious amounts of jelly and ice cream were then consumed before legendary politician and party leader, Lord Toby Jug, took to the stage and told all prospective candidates to return to their constituencies and prepare for government.

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New documentaries released about mad eccentrics: inventor John Ward and dangerous art performer Ian Hinchliffe

John Ward with small but effective fire engine

Mad inventor John Ward with small but effective fire engine

Last week, I mentioned that mad inventor John Ward had built probably the smallest fire engine in the world (it is for small fires) based on the chassis of a 3-wheeled Robin Reliant car.

As there is only one Robin Reliant Fire Engine and he owns it, John decided to start an Owner’s Club for himself (why wouldn’t he?) and drew up a membership form. He tells me that, at the last event he attended (yes, he attends events), he signed-up two other members to the club.

He told me this morning: “It is not hard to see how governments get in.”

Further joy, he tells me, was unleashed on his already happy body by picking up a copy of Classic Car Weekly newspaper yesterday to find they have added his Reliant Fire Engine Owners’ Club to their listings.

Not surprisingly, John Ward features in a new feature-length documentary: A Different Drum: Celebrating Eccentrics. It also features the late and much-lamented Screaming Lord Sutch, Canadian pianist Glenn Gould and one Sarah Winchester, who built a 158-room mansion to house the ghosts of those who died as a result of her husband’s inventions.

The movie premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival this week (it gets a second screening later today) and this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith went along to see it.

“It is a good movie,” she told me this morning. “Long, but interesting and funny.”

She attached a photo of a man, a woman and a duck on stage.

Director John Zaritsky with duck lady and duck this week

Director John Zaritsky with Duck Lady & Bobby at premiere (Photograph by Anna Smith)

“In the pic,” she said, “is the director, Academy Award winner John Zaritsky, and Duck Lady, who is another eccentric in the film. I have seen her often, over the last thirty years, doing her gig on Robson Street in Vancouver with her fortune-telling ducks, The duck in the pic is called Bobby. Since I am not that interested in ducks or fortune-telling, I had never interacted with her. But I stood and took this pic for your blog after the screening and held Duck Lady’s hand getting down the stairs from the stage. Bobby the Duck spoke a bit during the screening, but was declining interviews afterwards.”

Director John Zaritsky won an Oscar in 1982 for his documentary Just Another Missing Kid. He also won a Cable Ace Award in 1987 for Rapists: Can They be Stopped, a Golden Gavel Award from the American Bar Association for My Husband is Going to Kill Me, a Robert F. Kennedy Foundation Award for Born in Africa, and a DuPont-Columbia Award in 1994 for Romeo and Juliet in Sarajevo.

An interesting range of documentaries.

Which brings us to Hinch, a documentary he did not direct.

Last night, I went to Hackney Wick in London to see the DVD launch screening of this further leap into eccentricity.

I was a little surprised to see myself credited on the back of the DVD’s cover for supplying some film clips used in the production.

But I think this is a fair glimpse into the state of my memory.

Ian Hinchliffe in mud & rubble outside Riverside Studios

Ian Hinchliffe in mud & rubble outside Riverside Studios (in a still from Hinch: A Film About Ian Hinchliffe)

Hinch: A Film About Ian Hinchliffe does exactly what it says on the front cover. It is a film about the late performance artist Ian Hinchliffe, who has occasionally turned up in this blog before.

In July 2011, one of my blogs mentioned the occasion when he set fire to his own foot at the ICA.

In July this year, another mentioned the occasion when he went to roadworks in a street outside the Riverside Studios in London, removed his clothes, jumped into a muddy trench and began to build a giant penis with the mud. Police were called. Film of the incident is included in the new DVD.

The blurb for last night’s screening gives a fair idea of Hinch…

Ian Hinchliffe (1942-2011) was a performer who could bring a sense of menace, unpredictability and absurd humour into any creative arena. Hinchliffe hated the bland: life to him was an adventure and he pursued it with an insatiable, dangerous and playful delight with little distinction between on and off stage. His impromptu performances took place in the street, on public transport systems, in social clubs, art centres/laboratories, theatres, summer festivals, pubs, once in a consecrated church and, God help us, even the odd art gallery.

Ian Hinchliffe in the 1980s

Ian Hinchliffe in 1980s – genius, bully, fisherman or drunk?

Last night’s screening was followed by a live discussion on (I quote) “whether Hinchliffe was a performance genius, social terrorist, formidable artist, musician, bully, fisherman, entertainer or an irritating drunk.”

In truth, he was a bit of all those.

The DVD was produced by Ian Hinchliffe’s friends Roger Ely and Dave Stephens.

Last night, Roger Ely said of Ian:

“We had a big bust-up because he tried to throw me out of a car going at about 70 miles an hour. Ian and I had come back from a very successful two month tour of North America and Canada and we were doing three performances at the Oval House in London. The first two were awful, dreadful. He tried to throw me out of the car at 70mph because he was annoyed that the third performance had actually worked.

“I first met him in 1973. He was about to be beaten up by a whole crew of people at Leeds University. His performance was causing a riot – a load of what Ian called ‘rugger buggers’ were out. Insults and fists were flying.

“You couldn’t get two more opposites than me and Hinch. He taught me so much. I was a ponced-up public schoolboy working with this kid from Huddersfield. That kind of battle – and it was a battle – continued throughout our relationship and kind of came to a crunch with him trying to throw me out of the car. I suppose it was a scenario about control. We didn’t talk to each other for five or six years, but we made up. I made the film because I didn’t want to see his legacy disappear.”

Released yesterday: an art absurdist captured - Ian Hinchliffe

Released yesterday: an art absurdist captured

Roger’s co-producer Dave Stephens added:

“There is a kind of gap in the art history of Britain. When you go into places like the Tate Gallery, you often find the conceptual kind of art is very heavily recognised, quite rightly so. But there is a gap – the whole period of the 1970s, where there was a tie-in with overlaps between theatre and performance art – which is not really being acknowledged.

“It is almost like the thing you hide under the carpet – It doesn’t fit into any brackets. One of the problems is that, with people like Ian, they didn’t give a shit whether they were called artists or theatre people or whatever. What they were interested in was actually being creative – creating whole new visions for people to look at and often taking those out into places which were never recognised as art venues.

“In a way, what our film is about… is trying to package something which is unpackagable so it becomes palatable for people to then start finding a place for it. One of the problems is that (almost) nothing was ever recorded in the 1970s – almost intentionally never recorded.

“Nowadays it is like (artist) Richard Long goes for a walk in order to record the walk. We went for a walk to have a walk and we wanted people to come with us. We didn’t care if nobody had a record of that, because it was remembered inside them.

“And that does not quite fit into art history. What is inside people can get kind of lost. So, for me, what the whole purpose of this film has been about is building a package that can re-introduce some of what is being lost.”

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Filed under Art, Eccentrics, Movies, Performance

One man can change the world with a bullet (or six) in the right place….

(A version of this blog was also published in the Huffington Post under the title What Links Dead Comedian Malcolm Hardee, Gangster Mad Frank Fraser & a British Political Sex Scandal?)

My local handyman (who is a very interesting person; he was at university – UCL, London – with the mother of Kate Middleton, our possibly future Queen) came round to mend my side gate yesterday. He was telling me he hated reading Charles Dickens and could not understand what people see in Dickens’ writing.

“Just caricatures,” he fumed. “Just caricatures. But,” he continued, “Horace Walpole is worse. “The Castle of Otranto is utter shit yet people thought it was a great piece of writing at the time and they thought Horace Walpole’s name would be remembered. Now, quite rightly, no-one remembers him except dusty academics. He’s a footnote. Who knows which ‘famous’ people’s names are going to survive from the 20th century? It’s pot luck.”

Also yesterday, Bill Alford sent me a Facebook message telling me he had posted on Flickr ninety-five… count ’em that’s ninety-five… photographs he took in the years 1985-1987 at the late Malcolm Hardee‘s legendary – nay, notorious – seminal alternative comedy club The Tunnel Palladium.

In among the early photos of Keith Allen, Clive Anderson, Phil Cool, Jenny Eclair, Harry Enfield, Jeremy Hardy, Ainsley Harriott, Jools Holland, Eddie Izzard, Phill Jupitus, Josie Lawrence, Neil Morrissey, Mike Myers (yes, that Mike Myers), Vic Reeves, Jerry Sadowitz, Screaming Lord Sutch, Squeeze and many others at Malcolm’s Tunnel Palladium, there is a photo of a trendy-looking gent captioned Johnny Edge.

All ninety-five… count ’em that’s ninety-five… of Bill’s photos are interesting – a nostalgic flashlight on an earlier comedy era – but the photo of Johnny Edge was the one which interested me most because I never met Johnny Edge.

I only knew of him by reputation.

He died almost exactly a year ago, on 26th September 2010.

He was just an ordinary bloke living in south east London, whom most people had never heard of yet, when he died, he merited very lengthy obituaries in the Daily Telegraphthe Guardian and the Independent.

In that sense, he was a bit like Malcolm Hardee.

Most people in Britain had never heard of Malcolm Hardee but, when he drowned in January 2005, such was his importance to the development of British comedy, that he merited near full-page obituaries in the Daily Telegraph, the Evening Standard, the Guardianthe Independent and The Times – indeed, he managed to get two obituaries in the Evening Standard and two in the Guardian.

Malcolm had told me tales of Johnny Edge coming to his comedy clubs and, when I showed the Flickr photo to a friend who worked at Malcolm’s later comedy club Up The Creek, she immediately recognised him:

“Oh yes. I recognise him. He was a regular. He always seemed to me to be on his own. I didn’t know who he was, but other people seemed to know him and treat him with respect, like he had been in known bands or something, He looked ‘reggae’ and he held himself well, maybe just because he was older and quiet. He seemed nice. I think if he had been in a rock band I would have heard which one, which is why I wondered how people were familiar with him… Now I come to think about it, maybe Malcolm always put his name ‘on the door’ so he got in for free. Logically, I think that is highly likely.”

When Malcolm had told me about Johnny Edge being a regular at his clubs, I could feel the slight thrill he had in being able to say he had met and, to an extent, known him.

Johnny ‘Edge’ was a nickname. He was actually Johnny Edgcombe. What he did in 1962 was the catalyst that triggered the Profumo Scandal in 1963 which played no minor part in bringing down the Conservative government in 1964.

Edgecombe had fired six shots at osteopath Stephen Ward’s mews flat, where Edgecombe’s ex-girlfriend Christine Keeler was hiding.

Malcolm’s barely-contained thrill at having a link with Johnny ‘Edge’ was the same thrill I could sense in him when famed 1960s South London gangster Charlie Richardson came to a party on Malcolm’s floating pub the Wibbley Wibbley. It is the same thrill some people feel if they have an even tenuous link with the Kray Twins.  I have heard more than one stand-up comic joke about the TARDIS-like capacity of the Blind Beggar, seeing as how most of the population of East London appears to have been in the pub the night Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell.

It is the thrill of one or two degrees of separation from important historic or society-changing events.

Malcolm had three degrees of separation from the Krays, which I think he always cherished and which is mentioned towards the start of his autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake (now out-of-print, but currently available from me via Amazon at  the remarkably reasonable price of £49.99 + p&p).

When Mad Frank Fraser, the Richardson’s ‘enforcer’ was shot in the thigh during a fight at Mr Smith’s Club in Catford, he was eventually left lying in the front garden of Malcolm’s aunt Rosemary and uncle Doug. The shooting was part of the bad blood and linked events which led to the shooting in the Blind Beggar which brought the Kray Twins and, to an extent, the Richardsons down.

Links within links within links.

To an extent, I share Malcolm’s thrill with one or two degrees of linked separation from national, international or parochial history. Everything and everyone is inter-linked.

Malcolm never met Mad Frank Fraser. I have and I am glad to have met and chatted to him a couple of times: the man who once lay bleeding in Malcolm’s aunt and uncle’s front garden.

Links within links within links.

Once, Mad Frank told me he worried “a bit” what people would say about him after he was dead, because what people are seen as being is ultimately not what they are but what people write about them in retrospect.

A butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazonian jungle really can change the world. Ordinary unsung individuals can be part of the chain that creates historic events. Or, to quote anti-hero Mick’s line in Lindsay Anderson’s trendy 1968 film If….

“One man can change the world with a bullet in the right place…”

Or six bullets.

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