Last Saturday’s brief expedition into Blackpool was an odd experience. Last time I was there I was c. 11 years old. I remember the vintage trams, cold evenings, cheap B&B, freezing beaches, fish and chips.
This time it was warm and the trams are brand-new beasts.
I’m not sure it is my kind of place, at least on a Saturday evening when I had to encounter unmentionable horrors, tasteless bars and lots of drunken youth.
Still, I got to see Blackpool Tower, two piers, the promenade, the trams and a brief wander on the beach.
I also met some friendly herring gulls who flew away from my lens.
There were two principal memorial dimensions I experienced. First, was the Blackpool War Memorial. Second, was the Comedy Carpet.
The Comedy Carpet is a monumental pavement, commemorating comedians living and dead. It is situated immediately opposite the Blackpool Tower is a huge montage of quotations on the pavement, in cross-shape. It includes some of the best lines from over 1,000 comedians, over 80% of whom had performed in Blackpool.
Names of the Living and the Dead
It is 2,200 m2 and contains over 160,000 letters. Around the edge were some names of the long-dead and the recently dead. The names include the Lancashire comedian Victoria Wood CBE who passed away last month, adjacent to Norman Wisdom, Mike & Bernie Winters, and Barbara Windsor. The living rub shoulders with the dead through these texts.
This is a clear example of how honorary inscriptions to celebrities morph into memorials to the dead. How the living seamlessly join the dead. Indeed, in this memorial, Victoria was already honoured as timeless and ‘of the dead’ before her sad and early death this year.
Spiked to Death
Then I came across within the Comedy Carpet a representation of the most famous comedy gravestone in the history of the universe. The great Spike Milligan’s.
Of course this is not a representation of a real memorial, this is an imagined memorial, one that we might imagine he wanted to have. This is because Spike’s actual grave was not permitted to bear the English translation ‘I told you I was ill’, only the Irish.
The original also had a cross upon it. Moreover, it was moved from one location to another, no longer over his grave but instead over his wife’s grave.
So what we meet in Blackpool is a legendary grave: a memorial joke.
Hence, it is both cenotaph and ‘komodiataph’. If there is no other word for a comedy tomb established in the literature, then perhaps this might serve…