31 May 2013

Beanotown comes to Southbank

I was at the Southbank for something seriously arty and with an hour or so to fill before kick-off I went for a little wander and found myself in Beanotown.

I was in the Queen Elizabeth Hall and looking for a different way out I noticed an image of Dennis the Menace  at the bottom of some stairs and so down I went.

The stairs took me to an external door which I went though to be confronted by a collection of Beano related signs, including a street sign informing me that I was in Bash Street in the London Borough of Beanotown.

Turning round to face the QEH again I saw the entrance to the Beanotown exhibition underneath the concert hall.

Obviously I went in.

Making sure that you knew what you were in for, just inside the door was a large "Beano" sign with copies of all of the Beano Annuals behind it. You can carbon-date me by knowing that as a boy I had the annuals just above the "B", that is the one with the lollipop and those to the right of it.

Obviously that is not the last time that I read the Beano regularly. That was when I was at university and my main reason for stopping at that time was because of the amount to space taken up by a sizable comic that arrives every week.

The exhibition was carefully designed for families with games and drawing for small children, books to read for the older ones and a good collection of old strips for the parents. There was also a fair amount of commentary about them to explain something of their context and creators.

I read most of these but, conscious of the limited time before curtain-up, I had to skim through most of them and will have to go back for a proper look. Luckily the exhibition is open until 8 September so getting back will not be a problem.

It was interesting to note, as the commentary did, that the Bart Simpson blackboard lines may have been suggested by a Dennis the Menace story.

Memories came flooding back, as I am sure that they were meant to and it was wonderful to see the full range of Beano strips on display including my favourite adventure stories Billy the Cat, Q-Bikes, General Jumbo and The Iron Fish. I was not the only small boy who really wanted a flying fish with water cannons.

For the discerning collector there were original art samples, Beano toys and the opportunity to have your photo taken dressed as a Beano character. I am not sure how I can get through the Summer without giving that a try.

I loved Beanotown as a boy and now I can love it again.

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