Frankophilia! An exhibition of fans’ artwork of Frank Sidebottom

By Simon Poole

Now if I was to say that I’ve visited Salford Museum many many times, you might think to yourself “now here’s a bloke with bit of culture”. Well I’ll be frank with you (sorry) and let you know that these so called many many times have actually accrued over the last four decades, with the vast majority of them occurring in the first ten years of my life when my parents would drag a petulant child (me) around the galleries.

Since those days, which I’d guess that my Mother and Father are glad are over, I have indeed visited several times off my own back. All these later in life occasions have been for music related exhibitions and my next stopover will loosely fit into this bracket too.

On the 17th of November the Chapman Gallery will be flinging its doors open for Frankophilia!, a multi-media ode of an exhibition celebrating fans’ artwork of local legend Frank Sidebottom. Suzanne Smith from the Arts Development team at Salford University is currently liaising with over forty artists in her attempts to bring this new exhibition to life. While chatting with her over a coffee she admits to me that she never had the pleasure of seeing Frank Sidebottom live, but after Chris Sievey’s short battle with illness she went online and discovered how amazing both of these two totally separate characters were. The more she looked into Sievey’s work, the more she was taken aback by it and describes his work as genius and prolific. These types of compliments are usual from fans of Sidebottom/Sievey, but when hearing them from someone who knows her art, is does slightly put me on the back foot.

Being from Salford myself, I practically grew up with him regularly appearing on the four television channels that were available at the time, so to see him through someone else’s eyes has let me in on a side that I had never really noticed before. During our chat she brings to my attention that in 2007 Sidebottom held an exhibition called ‘CHELSEA Space Is Ace’ at the much accredited CHELSEA Space at London’s Chelsea College of Art and Design, which was attended not just by his fans, but also by highly respected people from the art world, such as Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller and Bob and Roberta Smith (I’m informed at this point that Bob and Roberta are in fact the same person, art people eh!). To top this off a bloke called Matthew Higgs (a famous artist and curator) put the exhibition at number three in his top ten exhibitions. See it here

When I saw the tag line for Frankophilia! said ‘an exhibition of fans’ artwork’ I wrongly presumed that it would just be from the fans of Sidebottom the character himself that most of us from the this part of the country may have taken for granted as just the chap with a big comedy head, but how wrong I was. Many of the exhibits that are on show are from genuine artists themselves and not just the Frank fanatics, who I might add at this point that some are fanatical to the point of extreme.

As some of you may be aware an online debate started recently due to the fact that the famous Christmas display at Selfridges had seemingly ripped off Sievey’s comic creation without permission or consultation. When this was brought to their attention they decided to admit their error and offered to credit Sievey in the display and also offered ten grand to his family. Now for some strange reason that may only be apparent to some ‘fans’ this was an insult to his legacy and started to have a go at his still grieving family and partner Gemma Woods by leaving more nasty and hurtful comments online, which I find truly despicable, in fact probably even more so than what Selfridges did.

As time has passed over the last few months and the word has spread of the Frankophila! exhibition, Smith has been inundated with offers of more artwork than she originally expected and is now having  to make room to ensure as many pieces are included as possible. She admits that she is now drowning in a sea of all things Sidebottom, which is a clear marker to the amount of people that still have a massive affection for this local character that was taken to many people’s hearts over the years.

Frankophilia! will run from 17th of November until the 18th of December.

Chapman Gallery
Chapman Building
University of Salford
Salford, Greater Manchester
M5 4NT

Here is a list of some of Suzanne Smith’s favourite pieces that will be appearing at Frankophilia!.

  • The Kettlewell Scarecrow by David Wright. 
  • Ian Kinghorn’s work including a copy of the tealight holder, and a possible Laurel and Hardy/Franksidebottom Kama Sutra study.  (at the time of writing this they have not yet arrived, but Smith is hopeful they will show in time)
  • Paul McCaul’s plasticine Frank made for his animation ‘Life in a Northern Town’ and his Christmas Tree Topper (Frank in a Santa outfit for the top of the tree)
  • Emily Birch’s appliqué cushion made as a present for her boyfriend years ago.
  • Gemma Woods’ beautiful, beautiful Frank pumpkin head.
  • Matt Littler’s Frank football trading cards


More info here

Frankophilia Facebook group!/group.php?gid=139648652747390

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