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LOVE & DISASTER

Me & Chris & Frank


FRANK SIDEBOTTOM’s UNAIRED TV PILOT ‘CELEBRITY SLEEPOVER’ WILL BE SOON AVAILABLE ON A VERY SHORT RUN OF DVD’s WHERE ALL PROCEEDS GO TO THE MEMORIAL STATUE FUND. I WAS ASKED TO WRITE A FEW WORDS TO BE INCLUDED IN THE PACKAGE AND THOUGHT IT WOULD BE NICE TO PUT THEM UP HERE...


My older brother was always a huge Frank Sidebottom fan.  Early memories of watching him trying to freeze frame a VHS of the Shed Show on the very split second you could just about make him out in the audience.  He'd been to see him live too; his trophy was a torn up Little Denise that Frank had then discarded which he painstakingly put back together with sticky tape.  It still takes pride of place on his study wall.


I had been working for Manchester's TV station at the time for a few years and was just about starting to head up the channel’s music programming department, sometime in 2006.  I was chatting to a baffled security guard on reception who was currently wondering where to direct a package that was simply addressed to "Channel M, Andy Cranes' Bedroom, Urbis".  The childish scrawl on the package somehow rang a distant Casio keyboard, I commandeered and took it back to my desk to investigate. 


The package contained Frank's new stop frame animation 'Frank's World' and a phone number.  As far as I was aware Frank had gone underground for a good few years so to dial the number supplied and hear those oh-so familiar nasal tones on the other end from the first hello was a delight.


Over the following years, Chris (and Frank) became a firm friend and we had great fun making some real anarchic, ‘off the wall’ TV whilst I learnt my craft - something you genuinely see so little of nowadays.  Together we recorded two series of his 'Proper Telly Show', the now legendary Channel M test cards and he made an almost a daily/weekly guest appearance on the music programmes. 


I look back with nothing but fondness on this time, the budgets would often never surpass two figures - let alone three, but the ridiculous ideas, opportunities and experiences would flow on a weekly basis.  From having to wrestle a bemused David Soul or Emma Bunton back on to set to finish a show, the reenacting of Tiananmen Square using Subutteo fingers with Bradford Cox from the band Deerhunter, gate-crashing a Simon Pegg and Nick Frost press conference or levitating Andy Crane on an ironing board in 3D - it was always surreal fun.


Filming the pilot for Frank Sidebottom’s Celebrity Sleepover was great and Mike Joyce was such a good sport.  The idea was to use the pilot to convince less ‘knowing’ celebrities to take part in future shows and produce a full series, using the obviously ‘semi-staged’ pilot to lull celebrities into a false sense of security where they invite Frank round to their houses and we would subsequently let rip.  They would have never met Chris.


There were quite a few other elements to the show (animation etc) that took a bit of time but then the department was closed due to the downturn in 2009 and I was made redundant.  We were promised that we could return in a couple of weeks time - once the dust had settled, to finish off the show but we found the hard drive where the project had once resided had been wiped.  Around the time of Chris’s death, I got a call from Phil Bulleyment who was the sound engineer for all the shows.  He reminded me that I’d once passed him a video file for him to use as reference when doing the sound design – he’d stumbled across it on one of his portable drives and this is version that exists today.


In the earlier days, I would sometimes receive some of Chris’s ideas with a bit of skepticism but soon learnt that he was in-fact, always right. In this short time, Chris truly touched my life, he taught me to just go for it - to trust in yourself and your ideas no matter how stupid and ridiculous they seem.  Chris was taken too soon, he had so much still to do but even in death... you can’t hold Frank back… “They’re making a film about me you know, that’s good isn’t it” he once told me... and indeed they are.  Frank was never in any doubt that he was a megastar, neither was Chris... like I said… he was always right.


Dan Parrott – Having mostly stupid ideas since 2006 and loving it.