On Saturday I attended the Altrincham Festival ‘the biggest free show in Trafford’ being a fan of Frank Sidebottom I had often heard of this event. Chris Sievey/ Frank Sidebottom was a regular supporter of the festival and before his untimely death last year it had been his intention to organise a ‘Frank’s Army’ that was to consist of fans wearing their own versions of his famous paper mache head marching through the streets of Altrincham. To pay respects to the great man and raise awareness of the campaign to have a statue of Frank erected in Timperley friend and fan Paul McCaul organised the first Frank’s Army March. All that was required was that fans attended on the day with a Frank head or mask. So on Saturday 2nd of July we all convened St Margaret's road in Altrincham ready for the Altrincham Festival Grand Parade Frank’s Army March!After an early start and a 115-mile drive I arrived in Altrincham complete with Frank head and trademark showbiz pink tie where I met other fans many of which I had only previously ‘met’ online each one supporting an impressive Frank masks and heads! After a quick get to know you the parade started and we embarked on the streets of ‘Alty’! Leading the front was organiser Paul wearing his military regalia brandishing his Little Frank baton followed by a beautiful camper van with Frank’s puppet pals peering out the windows. Attached to the top of the van were speakers that played the familiar tune of “guess who’s been on match of the day” which was to be our marching theme. Just behind was Chris Sievey’s son Harry with a megaphone who provided the vocals to interact with the crowd.
As you can well imagine, vision isn’t terribly good when wearing a Frank Sidebottom head, you can only see through a small hole in the centre of the pupil in fact I could only see clearly through the left eye but what I saw was marvellous! Streams of people smiling and cheering as we walked by! Frank’s soldiers with collection buckets accompanied us on each side as the crowds clapped and cheered us! This experience was all new to me but I was compelled to be ‘in character’ when I saw the response of the crowd (I say ‘in character’ I waved and gave the thumbs up!) I couldn’t help but smile inside my mask as the response of the people of Altrincham was so endearing and then we marched into Timperley, the home of Frank Sidebottom where the atmosphere was astounding! Its residents cheered with delight as they acknowledged their lost son as we walked by all the familiar landmarks of Timperley. Last time I had been to Timperley was on Frank’s tour where he had advised us of when it was safe to cross the road and now we were marching through the middle of it! I was having a wonderful time and I was rather disappointed when our 3-mile march ended at the festival grounds!
The festival itself was huge! Hundreds of people weaving through rides, amusements and stalls! But there was one stall in particular I wanted to find and that was the Frank Sidebottom Statue Fund stall!Frank was without a doubt an ambassador for Timperley, So a dedicated team of fans, family and friends formed a committee to fund raise monies to get a statue of Frank Sidebottom erected in his beloved village. The stall had several bits of official merchandising ranging from t-shirts to fridge magnets with all proceeds going to the statue cause. I bought The Big Shorts ‘Let's Get A Statue For Frank’ CD and a fantastic Frank Sidebottom art kit. Having explored Altrincham’s amazing festival and chatted with my fellow contributors it was time to say goodbye to Altrincham and make my way back home. I had an amazing time and I doff my paper mache head to the organisers. If you weren’t able to make it, be sure to visit the statue fund site! Every donation gets Timperley ever closer to achieving its statue.
*UPDATE* Franks Army won the best new entry award!
© Arfon Jones 2011. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.