The Frank Sidebottom Exhibition

Frank Sidebottom exhibition set to launch at Manchester Central Library

A free exhibition of the Chris Sievey and Frank Sidebottom archives will open to the public at Manchester Central Library on Friday 1 March.

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, who died in 2010.

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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 dedicated primary exhibitions space 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.

Sievey created Frank Sidebottom in the 1980s but kept his identity as the man beneath the giant papier-mâché head as a closely-guarded secret.

Being Frank The Chris Sievey Story still 8
Being Frank The Chris Sievey Story still 8 – Frank Sidebottom – photo credit Phil Fletcher

The archive – which has been transferred to Manchester Central Library’s 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.

It has been painstakingly explored to support the making of “Being Frank.”, which will be released nationwide on Friday 29 March, with a special preview showing at HOME, Manchester on Friday 8 March.

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.”

The new exhibition is the latest to be held within the Central Library’s exhibition space, following on from previous displays featuring everything from Manchester’s rock music heritage to the expeditions of the legendary Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.

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.”

Frank Sidebottom

Frank Sidebottom was a performer in a papier mâché head. Or he was a real person. It rather depends on who you talk to.

To his legion of devoted fans, he was a living, breathing cartoon character who existed in the village of Timperley, in Greater Manchester.  Frank was always 35 years of age.

He allegedly lived with his mum and kept secret from her his fantastic showbusiness career – a career that took in regular TV appearances, playing Wembley Stadium with Bros, releasing records, videos, books, art exhibitions, and eventually having his own television show.

Aided and hampered by a puppet effigy of himself, Little Frank, Frank Sidebottom was a national treasure in the UK, a living folk hero, part Robin Hood, part mythical creature.

Hardly anyone knew who was inside this mysterious comedian’s fake head, his true identity being a closely guarded secret.

Chris Sievey

Chris Sievey (25 August 1955 – 21 June 2010) was an artist, musician, songwriter, comedian, computer games inventor, stop-motion animator and illustrator from Greater Manchester, England.

He is best remembered, if remembered at all, as the front man of post-Punk band The Freshies, who had limited commercial success during the late 1970s/early 1980s.

Their biggest selling single, I’m In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk failed to break the UK top 40 singles chart.

His career was marked by absurd attempts at self-promotion, a desire to work outside the mainstream, and philosophy of amusing himself at the expense of commercial decisions.

His career was discontinued and Chris disappeared from public sight around the same time that Frank Sidebottom first appeared during the early 1980s.

Steve Sullivan

Steve Sullivan has been an independent filmmaker for twenty years and lives in Wales, UK.

As a writer, director, producer and editor, Steve has made numerous short films combining live action, animation, documentary and music video.

His best known short is A Heap of Trouble (2001), a musical starring nine naked men.

It won the Grand Jury Prize at the Montreal Comedy Festival, a BAFTA for Best Short Film, and was selected for International Critics Week at the Cannes Film Festival.

David Arnold

Witnessing Frank Sidebottom perform somewhere in the region of 200 times, David has been an obsessive fan of Frank for over 30 years.

In 2005, David became close to Chris/Frank when he was offered the roles of Frank’s roadie/driver and bass guitarist for ‘The Oh-Blimey Big Band’.

Due to years of continued fandom, David was able to act as a consultant to the documentary and has built up a substantial personal collection of Sidebottom/Sievey memorabilia, some of which can be viewed as part of this exhibition.

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