A free exhibition of Frank Sidebottom archives and the man behind the mâché, Chris Sievey, has opened at Manchester Central Library.
The exhibition will include key artefacts telling the life story of the cult comic character and his creator, the Greater Manchester-born writer and musician Chris Sievey.
Sievey, who died in 2010, was known for fronting the band The Freshies in the late 1970s and early 1980s as well as his comic persona Frank Sidebottom, but kept his identity as the man beneath the giant papier-mâché head as a closely-guarded secret.
Under the guise of Sidebottom, Sievey made regular appearances on North West television and radio throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, even becoming a reporter for Granada Reports. Later, he presented Frank Sidebottom’s Proper Telly Show in B/W for Channel M.
The exhibition has been co-curated by Steve Sullivan and David Arnold, respectively the producer and art director of a new documentary – “Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story”.
It will be open in the library’s interactive Archives+ Centre until the end of April and will include selections from Chris (and Frank’s) many notebooks, diaries, home movies – and, of course, the actual head donned by Sievey when he transformed into Frank Sidebottom.
The archive – which has been transferred to the Archives+ Centre to be safely stored, preserved and made accessible to fans – includes hundreds of hours of music and movies on formats ranging from audio cassette to VHS videos and reel-to-reel tapes.
All of which has been painstakingly explored to support the making of “Being Frank.”, which will be released nationwide on March 29.
Film-maker Steve Sullivan, director of the documentary, said:
“When I was growing up in Lancashire during the 1980s, Frank Sidebottom was a local folk hero. He seemed dangerous and edgy, but also fun, silly and definitely fascinating.
“Several years after Chris died, I emailed his brother Martin, to ask if anyone had thought about making a documentary about the man beneath the mâché. Martin said he’d recently cleared Chris’ house and there were 100 boxes of his personal possessions – if I wanted to haul it away and try to make a film out of it, then I was welcome to try.
“Soon, I was discovering all these different phases of Chris’ hidden life in Manchester. And the more I dug, the more I realised he had documented it all. I was able to piece together the details of his life – well, these two lives, Chris Sievey’s life and Frank Sidebottom’s. Frank’s own fictional life was extensive.
“For someone who died too young, Chris achieved so much with his work that it’s still staggering to me.”
Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Schools, Culture and Leisure, Councillor Luthfur Rahman, said:
“The Chris Sievey archive is being permanently preserved at Manchester Central Library’s Archives+ Centre, so that this creative cult hero can be studied and celebrated by the many people who continue to take inspiration from his comic career.
“Thanks to its specialist facilities and dedicated exhibition spaces, Central Library is the perfect place to both store important archive materials and to present them to the public. We hope that fans of Chris Sievey and his much-loved character Frank Sidebottom will love this opportunity to explore his archives.”
Bobbins: Frank Sidebottom and Chris Sievey will run until April 30 at Manchester Central Library and is free to the public.
Also published on Medium.