BETTY Bradford’s budgies are made of stern stuff. So’s the resident blackbird in her garden on Luton Road, Anchorsholme.
They are currently engaged in a face-off with some of the weirdest and wackiest scarecrows to ever grace a suburban street.
And if Betty’s budgies could talk – and boy can they tweet – they would twitter one message: get stuffed, scarecrows, you don’t frighten us.
And, take it from me, their creators have tried...
There’s a gimlet-eyed Queen. Her Majesty looking decidedly menacing thanks to the blue eyes behind a mask adorning a bejewelled regal body.
There are tributes to 15 corporate sponsors of the exercise – the team at the Golden Eagle, Sages Hardware, the Carlton Hotel, among others.
Two of Betty’s scarecrow dancers have already tripped the light fantastic with Britain’s Got Talent discoveries the Sugar Dandies at Blackpool Tower Ballroom. Word is, they were light on their feet.
Betty’s one of the stalwarts of Blackpool Civic Trust and organising a brand new event for Blackpool – a scarecrow festival.
It’s Civic Day tomorrow, and the elegant ladies of the very civil civic society have already stripped off to raise funds. Their naked calendar goes on sale tomorrow – under the heading Bare Attractions of Blackpool as each picture promotes a heritage venue or attraction.
The chairman herself, Elaine Smith, appears with a guitar covering her blushes at Stanley Park bandstand. “I’d have preferred a double bass – but it’s better than a trombone,” she says.
Betty braved Hiram Maxim’s Flying Machine at Blackpool Pleasure Beach with three other women, and four strategically placed cuddly toys.
And, of course, all appeared starkers on a tram recently, nearly stopping traffic on the Promenade.
Now Betty’s adding the finishing touches to the Marilyn Monroe scarecrow on the patio of her home.
It’s all decidedly surreal to newcomers to the Bradford household. Neighbours are now accustomed to Betty, husband Danny, and friends Peter and Rena Wright, and Steve and June Shepherd, lugging bodies from boots or back seats of cars.
Scarecrows are said to date back to ancient Egypt to deter quail from nicking wheat. Not that they bother Betty’s budgies.
Even the blackbird is brash enough to perch upon the scarecrow bar and give “Kevin” a quick peck. Make mine a pint of Woodpecker.
“No, they don’t really work as scarecrows,” Betty concedes.
Fellow trust members have been pressganged into service, too. They have turned up every Monday, armed with spoils from charity shops and remnants tray from haberdashers. A hat here, extra sparkles for Her Maj, additional stuffing, raffia, straw.
Indeed, the only thing to have really tasked the makers has been the tin man scarecrow. He’s prone to falling over with an almighty clunk when winds pick up – the only scarecrow capable of startlng Betty’s budgies into silence before noisy chatter starts anew.
So what’s it all about? Well, our civic trust don’t do things by halves. Tomorrow’s civic day starts a week of events. It starts at 11am in St John’s Square with entertainment, stalls, games – and that calendar on sale.
There’s a heritage treasure hunt Monday at 2pm, heritage quiz Tuesday night at the Rose and Crown pub in the town centre, free tours of the Winter Gardens and Stanley Park at 2pm on Thursday, and lots more.
But scarecrows, stars of myth, legend and some horrible Hollywood films as well as farmers’ fields, have really caught the imagination.
Local schoolchildren and community groups will add some 50 more scarecrows to the 85 in residence at Betty’s home before relocating to Salisbury Woodland, with runs parallel with the entry road to Blackpool Zoo. The area was planted in the mid-1930s as a public recreation area and shelterbelt for Stanley Park Golf Course.
Allotment holders have mucked in too. In all there’s likely to be at least 200 scarecrows, big and small, from the Queen down to Bertie Bassett.
The scarecrow festival will be judged next Friday afternoon, but opens to the public, free admission, Saturday and Sunday (June 30, July 1). Blackpool Zoo are offering use of some facilities, too.
Betty hails from Derbyshire, a county big on rural craft traditions, such as well dressings, and picked up the bug there. The couple make a point of visiting the scarecrow festivals at Kettlewell and Wray every year.
“I remember buying a scarecrow for £16 and thinking I could do better than that,” admits Betty. “The idea just grew from that.”
Her favourite’s the Dutch girl scarecrow. “I quite like Elvis too...”
Rumours of the king’s demise, it seems, were greatly exaggerated!
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