(* Jeremy Briggs makes a welcome return as we continue our tour of places of note to British comics around the country.)
THE ANDY CAPP STATUE
After Desperate Dan (and Minnie The Minx and Dawg) in Dundee and Lobey Dosser in Glasgow, we continue our journey around the United Kingdom focusing on the few statues of comic characters.
Andy Capp was a northern working class character created by Reg Smythe for the Daily Mirror in 1957. Lew Stringer has an excellent history of the character over on Blimey! which I really don’t need to re-Capp here.
The history of the statue is somewhat tortuous. Let us remember that while the character of Andy is well loved he is also a layabout and, at times in the past, a sexist, heavy smoking, hard drinking, wife beating layabout at that. His name is so familiar to us now it can be easy to forget that it is a play on words, that he was created as a handicap for his long suffering wife Flo. So when the idea of a statue in Andy’s and Reg Smythe’s home town of Hartlepool came up, the PC brigade was not too impressed.
The long running plan for a statue of Andy started after Reg Smythe’s death in 1998, His widow Jean and Hartlepool’s then mayor backed the statue but the money required for it could not be raised. In 2002 there was another attempt and Shrewsbury based sculptor Jane Robins created a plasticine rough for the statue showing Andy propping up a bar with a pint in his left hand.
In April 2004 Hartlepool Borough Council endorsed plans to erect the statue, with the help of cash from the North Hartlepool Partnership single regeneration budget. By May 2005 however, while still having some supporters inside the council, the plan for the statue was off again as not being the best image for the town and supposedly with not enough support from residents.
But obviously that wasn’t to be the end of it. A year later in 2006 the North Hartlepool Partnership leafleted Hartlepool residents to see what the public reaction really was. Over 500 people responded to the leaflet with 77% of them being for it, and the statue was back on again, by this time costing £20,000.
The statue was finally unveiled on 28 June 2007 by Smyth’s widow Jean just before the 50th anniversary of the strip. Showing Andy propping up a bar with a pint in his right hand and with a small brass plaque reading simply “Andy Capp created by Reg Smythe”, it is located in Croft Terrace in the Headland area of Hartlepool beside the Harbour Of Refuge pub.
Despite the running antipathy to the statue, the Andy Capp strip has been a successful export for the Daily Mirror who have sold it to some 50 countries. Of course his name is changed as he journeys around the globe. In Italy he is known as Carlo, while in France the play on words of his name is totally lost in the direct translation into Andre Chapeau. Perhaps we should close on (and quickly draw a veil over) his German name of Willi Wacker.
(* Andy Capp is © Mirror Group Newspapers)