The riverside at Castlefields

The riverside at Castlefields

Thursday, 18 June 2015

From tomfoolery to tragedy

The Yongy-Bonghy-Bo and the Canoodling Gnus in a Canoe. What's the connection?
Allow me to explain.
Well, very few people remember it now, but there was a very silly American cartoon series that they used to show on television in this country on a Saturday morning.
It was called Tomfoolery and it was based on the poetry of Edward Lear, with some additional characters inspired by works of Lewis Carroll and Ogden Nash.
My brother and I loved it.
First broadcast in 1970, it featured characters such as the Yongy-Bonghy-Bo and the Umbrageous Umbrella Maker. Other regular characters included the Enthusiastic Elephant, the Fizzgiggious Fish, and the Scroobious Snake.
As I say, it was very silly - very silly indeed.
And all this came flooding back to me the other day as I was given a sneaky look round the latest exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery - a show entitled Beastly Machines.
Just like Tomfoolery, this show is also very silly indeed.
Being staged until July 12, Beastly Machines is the brainchild of kinetic sculptor Johnny White. Johnny’s sculptures are influenced by current affairs, media-stories, plays on words and comic artists such as Gary Larson and Steve Bell. They are lovingly handmade in his workshop in Derbyshire, often using found or salvaged objects and junk. Initially he used scrap components due to financial constraints but now he uses them for visual and ecological reasons too.
Highlights of the show include a six-metre-long whale which springs into life at the push of a button, a flying pig, the aforementioned two canoodling gnus afloat in a bright blue canoe, and Rover the hound who moves in and out of his kennel when you move a lever back and forth.
Johnny’s creations are humorous, imaginative, irreverent and sometimes very noisy and ‘Beastly Machines’ is a not to be missed exhibition that will capture the imagination of visitors of all ages.
In a nutshell, the exhibition is just a bit of - well - tomfoolery!
There is a total change of mood, however, as we come to another exhibition at Shrewsbury's wonderful museum and art gallery.
Because running throughout June is "The First Casualty of War Is Truth".
Andy McKeown and Maggie Love will this evening (June 11) be talking about their new media installation, which is being staged on the balcony of the art gallery. The installation, which commemorates the 5,286 people from Shropshire’s Roll of Honour who lost their lives during World War I, sets this heart-rending loss alongside the mass media, communications and propaganda of the day.
People are being invited to visit the exhibition and participate in the creation of a visual and audio record of the Roll of Honour by transcribing a single name from the list to a single handwritten Telegraph card and making a voice recording of that person’s name. A single unique voice for each name on the Roll of Honour. The completed cards will be placed below a continuous stream of names, to grow and develop throughout the residency.
Andy and Maggie will also examine the mass media of the era and its impact on the population during the conflict, stripping back historically from now to World War I, discarding technologies (and their impact) along a time line.

Phil Gillam’s gentle novel of family life, Shrewsbury Station Just After Six, is available from Pengwern Books, Fish Street, Shrewsbury, and from Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

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