Photograph courtesy of Mark Drinkwater
Daniel Lehan provided a fantastic modern day take on the rarely seen sandwich board man. For this event Lehan painted a sandwich board titled It's A Mad, Mad World with a collection of stories gathered from around the world, together with the invitation to Stop Me and Read One! By wearing these bonkers stories on his board, viewers are forced to consider whether madness is a normal state. What is normal? What is mad? Probably every edition of every newspaper contains at least one bizarre new story, but seeing a collection of them certainly focuses the mind.
Review of Bonkersfest by Mark Drinkwater - Art Disability Culture - August / September 2007
BonkersFest! was held on 2 June on Camberwell Green, South London. A free, annual one day summer arts and music festival featuring live music, theatre and poetry (including a performance by John Hegley), BonkersFest celebrated creativity, madness, individuality and eccentricity, and aimed to raise awareness of mental health issues.
For this event, I painted a sandwich board titled Its A Mad, Mad World with a collection of strange and bizarre new stories gathered from around the world, together with the invitation to STOP ME AND READ ONE!
As well as the stories themselves, I was taken by the strange conjunctions of words of the story headlines, which often had a strange 'Dada' like poetic quality. This was the first time that I had painted and 'paraded' such a sandwich board, being encouraged to do so by the artist Tracie Peisley.
While painting the board, I found a collection of books by Geoffrey Fletcher in the window of Shipleys on Charing Cross Road, and bought London's Pavement Pounders which described, and beautifully illustrated, the various people who had once earnt their living on the streets of London: buskers, match sellers, fortune tellers, pavement artists, and sandwich board men. Apparently during the 1950s there were long lines of hired men continually walking up and down Oxford Street, wearing sandwich boards.
I was interested in how people would react to the sandwich boards - would people be interested, stop, and take the time to read the stories ?
It turned out to be a strange experience standing and watching strangers as it were 'reading me'. Many people did engage with the work, telling me which of the stories they had heard of, and sometimes telling me other stories. I enjoyed these conversations and am thinking now of how to somehow incorporate these interactons in to the work.
I discovered too that I could enjoy the festival as an observer whilst wearing the boards. Standing to watch the Morris Dancers or Samba Band perform, acted as a focus, rather than a distraction to that event.