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.
Mad inventor and Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award designer John Ward has a varied life. For the last six years, as well as all his other surreal duties, he has written a weekly Ward’s World column of around 1,200 words for the Spalding Guardian newspaper.
John Ward toiling over his weekly Ward’s World column for the Spalding Guardian…
Today, I got an email from John about reaction to that column:
Following on from my Ward’s World column last week about scammers ringing to tell people that their internet will be closed in 24 hours unless… blah… blah… “but give me your card details and I can sort it” tosh… I have heard of two ‘near misses’ and one who sadly fell for it – all being elderly, which comes as no surprise I suppose.
But the best reaction so far is…
My phone rings on Monday morning…
I am speaking to Andrew, who informs me he represents something called the Lincolnshire Rural Crime Prevention and Awareness Forum. He said he had read my piece online and was quite impressed with it.
He pointed out that the ‘Forum’ bit in the long convoluted title might be changed to ‘Panel’ (as in wooden maybe?) as this was to be brought up in their next meeting of minds.
However, while he thought my column was written ‘tongue in cheek’ (I begged to differ on that), he also thought it would be ideal – subject to my agreement – to reproduce in a new free quarterly county magazine that is in the throes of being put together before being sent to print.
So far so good.
However, the more we chatted, the more it seemed that he would not be ‘terribly’ happy to include the segment mentioning Argos, as this was ‘advertising’ plus, due to the length, it would have to be cut down “of course”.
I pointed out that the Spalding Guardian didn’t have any problems with printing it.
Plus, Andrew said, they could not pay me “of course” as I would be “donating it” for their use “of course”.
I asked him in return if he knew the date when slave labour was abolished or are they still pursuing this line of employment?
The term “of course” was beginning to grate a bit by now I must confess. But, if nothing else, I feel sure, if he gives up what he is doing now, a career at the BBC awaits him… based on some of the ordeals I have suffered with assorted individuals employed there over many years.
By now I was wondering if he was going to ask me for my bank card details but the next bit was quite something.
Would I object to it appearing without my name?
I responded with “Why not go the whole hog and reproduce Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens but leave out the author’s name… You would be on safe ground there as he is now dead.”
Andrew’s pause was acceptable…
… before he asked: “Who is dead?”
After another of his acceptable pauses, he said he thought I was being flippant.
John often gets unusual telephone calls…
So I pointed out that, if I read it right, he/they wanted me to ‘donate’ my writing efforts, for him or A.N.Other to edit as they saw fit, leave out assorted ‘segments’ that didn’t pass their standards plus I was not even going to get a mention, credit-wise, as the original author!
I asked him how much he would like me to donate to their cause and I bade him farewell with an old Russian sounding greeting – with the second word being “off”…
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.
(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.