A Boat full of Muppets, and an Attic full of Puppets

A few years ago I made a silly bet with a friend of mine who is a TV director. Nothing unusual in that. However, the bet was that I could not compete in a rowing race across the North Sea in Viking longboats. It was basically an Oxford vs The Other Place race for 500 miles from Ribe in Denmark to Harwich in England vie Heligoland and all sorts of odd places. Needless, and with a hint of smugness and pride, I somehow managed to keep up, and we thrashed the Tabs by about 10 hours. The programme went out on Channel 4 in about 2007 and attracted 4 million viewers, who I am sure were pleased to see me slogging my guts out.

Anyhow, this same directing chum has a new cunning plan… a documentary about marionettes and memory, melancholy, and mirth. It is the story of a 93 year old magical puppet master who played to the crowned heads of Europe. Here’s the spiel:

Frank Mumford is 93 and a “half” years old he’s lived in a tiny flat in London’s Notting Hill Gate since 1946 surrounded by the memorabilia of a life well lived.  Frank’s not your ordinary garden variety 93 year old. He’s special, not only because of his strong independent lifestyle, living alone as he approaches 100, but also because Frank and his late wife, Maisie, created one of the most glamorous Marionette variety acts to ever grace the stage.

In the late 1940’s and 1950’s they played prestige venues all over Europe, including the Moulin Rouge, Paris,   London’s Savoy Hotel, and the Sporting Club, Monte Carlo. He performed for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Prince Rainer of Monaco, was given a gold cigarette case by General Franco, dined with Jean Cocteau and joked with Josephine Baker.  This remarkable documentary tells Frank’s story. The past, present and future, it’s a tale of princes and puppets, bitter rivalries and betrayal, of joy and tragedy.

And here’s the rub: They need lots of cash to pay off those pesky French authorities, and facilitate this brilliant project. Their fund raising page tells me that they are nearly half way towards their target, so please do chip in what you can; its a deliciously odd project that would not get made without our help!

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Filed under Oxford: The Perspiring Dream, Timology

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