In 2006 artist Gordon Young approached typographer Andy Altmann of Why Not Associates with a mad idea.

Blackpool City Council were redeveloping the seafront and they commissioned Gordon to create a piece of public art. Gordon’s proposal was to pay homage to Blackpool’s music hall and entertainment heritage by creating the country’s first Comedy Carpet. The carpet would sit right outside Blackpool Tower, covering an area the size of a football pitch, and contain the history of British comedy - in granite, set in concrete.

Andy took up the challenge and the resulting work took five years from conception to installation. It covers 2,200m square of Blackpool seafront, cost £4 million, and features 160,000 individually cut letters spelling out famous comedy one liners cut from black and red granite, and cobalt blue concrete. It is one of the largest works of public art ever commissioned in the UK and is a unique piece of public design. 

The carpet, funded by a grant from Cabe's Sea Change programme, features gags from the likes of Ken Dodd, Les Dawson, Morecombe and Wise, Frankie Howard, Tommy Cooper as well as comic performers and writers from the days of music hall and variety to the present day. Since it’s arrival it has won stacks of awards, been visited by millions and filled endless pages of photo-sharing websites.

But how do you go about researching, designing and actually making a project like this on such a massive scale?

We invited Andy Altmann to share what went into creating the Comedy Carpet - including a history lesson on Blackpool’s saucy seaside culture, choosing typefaces, opening your own concrete factory, working with Harry Hill’s dad and a sprinkling of Tommy Cooper gags. 

All slides are copyright to Why Not Associates 

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Feature — 24/03/2014