June - July 2011
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Art Wall Exhibit
The Bash Street Kids are a strip in the well-known and well-loved Beano comic-book. Beano began in the 1930s and the Bash Street Kids strip was created in 1954 by Leo Baxendale in Dundee, Scotland. It continues to this day, drawn by other artists following the Baxendale template. Beano included – and includes - other famous strips such as Denis The Menace, Despetrate Dan, Minnnie the Minx and Plug.
These five cut-outs on Tivoli's Art Wall, of four of the Bash Street Kids, with their long-suffering – and manic - Teacher, are vintage pieces made in the 1950s. Tivoli spotted them at the Tulkinghorn Gallery in Lostwithiel, Cornwall, 2010.
Inititially the strip was called When The Bell Rings, but its name chaged to the Bash Street Kids in 1956. The Beano Annual on display is from 1955 – the two appearances of the strip here carry the early title.
Readers who remember the 1950s may have memories of the especially keen pleasure afforded by comic-book reading when this form of popular culture was often deemed not only distastefully low-level, but even dangerous and morally damaging. Now of course strips like the Bash Street Kids seem dated, obviously slapstick and naïve – and curiously 'British'. Today comic-books, cartoons and graphic novels are celebrated in mainstream culture, with museums and galleries
devoted to them. Offshoots like zines – short runs of home-made productions of small illustrated magazines – are popular. All provide a distinct counterpoint to the increasing emphasis on digital media, including e-readers.
As regular readers of the strip will be aware, each of the Bash Street Kids has a distinct character, enabling him or her to partake in and to drive each of the narratives in a particular way. Danny, the leader, who sports a skull-and-crossbones on his sweater indicating his macho piratical nature, can also be quite crafty – for instance he became the leader by bribing the other Kids with a wine-gum each. Smiffy, described as 'somewhat stupid', is pretty simple, often confusing genders with nouns, eg. when Teacher calls the register, and class members are supposed to say 'present, Sir', Smiffy says 'Gift, Miss'. Toots, the only girl, has been called a 'typical tomboy' – in other words tough, like Danny, and not a wimpy wuss. In issue 3470 she claims she fancies Denis The Menace and so fires a valentine card at him using a toy rocket. On another occasion she disdains alliances with any of the boys from Bash Street claiming she prefers Winston the cat. Wilfrid resembles a tortoise with his green jumper reaching up over his nose and no neck. He is introspective and doesn't speak much at all until later issues of the strip. Last but not least, of the Tivoli Five, is Teacher of the Bash Street Kids of Class 2B. He always wears a mortar-board, not such a cool status symbol for today's teachers.
As well as long-suffering and manic, he is also a complex character and can shift from one mood to another with lightning speed – as can be seen in the second strip in the Beano Annual on display where he surprisingly rewards the misbehaving Kids with nuts when they inadvertently provide him with the clue to a crossword puzzle. Although naturally dominating himself, he is far more dominated by his wife, known as 'Mrs. Teacher'. It wasn't until the Beano Summer Special of 1978 that Teacher's name was revealed. Algernon.