Remember the old Goons song – I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas?
It’s as good a time as any to remind you how the song went.
“I’m walking backwards for Christmas across the Irish Sea, I’m walking backwards for Christmas, it’s the only thing for me. I’ve tried walking sideways, and walking to the front, but people just look at me, and say it’s a publicity stunt.”
I’ve no idea whether those lyrics appear on the Comedy Carpet, but there’s a fine irony in the fact that people walking backwards have cost us five slabs of carefully crafted comedic genius. Including the artist’s credit and a dedication to comedy legend Ken Dodd.
Alan Cavill, assistant chief executive for regeneration and culture at Blackpool Council, explains: “We have watched how people walk backwards on to the tram tracks while reading these five slabs, which is unacceptable.”
The council’s timing seems off. And the slabs broke. Blankety blank doesn’t even begin to cover it. Comedy carpet cracks up. You really couldn’t make it up. Even in a town which embraced Shared Space, the Emperor’s New Clothes of traffic calming, before seeing its failings.
Early April Fool? No chance. April 1 is marked by Comedy Carpet Live at the Grand Theatre which, thankfully, the community saved from demolition long ago. And at the last check, Doddy’s dressing room was still there, unlike his dedication on the Prom.
Becoming a laughing stock for having the temerity to tear up a substantial chunk of award winning artwork is, of course, a small price to pay for protecting backwards-walking pedestrians from putting their lives on the punchline and stumbling into our new generation of stealth trams.
But that risk should have been factored in before the carpet was laid and the red carpet rolled out to VIPs. And by the council. Not the artist. Yet the council holds the company responsible for the “risk assessment of the piece of art.”
Did we blame the godfather of Brit pop art Sir Peter Blake when thieves lopped off his Life is a Circus on the seafront on the grounds it was metal, and risk of theft should have been taken into account? No, the council took what was left into safe keeping, and talked of putting replicas in its place. I now look at art with new eyes. What becomes of the broken arted? Well, it’s my guess the Venus de Milo lost her arms on traffic duty in Athens. And the Great Sphinx of Giza is crumbling because of traffic pollution from pilgrims.
We drive through a town with distractions on every corner but don’t remove them to safeguard rubber neckers. Surely a barrier could have been built?
This town represents Progress yet takes a step back for every two forward. It’s not just the sightseers who are walking backwards.