A free exhibition of the Chris Sievey and Frank Sidebottom archives will open to the public at Manchester Central Library on Friday 1 March.

The exhibition will include key artefacts telling the life story of the cult comic character and his creator, the Greater Manchester-born writer and musician Chris Sievey, who died in 2010.

The exhibition has been co-curated by Steve Sullivan and David Arnold, respectively the producer and art director of a new documentary – “Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story”.

It will be open in the library’s dedicated major exhibitions space until the end of April and will include selections from Chris (and Frank’s) many notebooks, diaries, home movies – and, of course, the actual head donned by Sievey when he transformed into Frank Sidebottom.

Sievey created Frank Sidebottom in the 1980s, but kept his identity as the man beneath the giant papier-mâché head as a closely-guarded secret.  

The archive – which has been transferred to Manchester Central Library’s Archives+ Centre to be safely stored, preserved and made accessible to fans – includes hundreds of hours of music and movies on formats ranging from audio cassette to VHS videos and reel-to-reel tapes.  

It has been painstakingly explored to support the making of “Being Frank.”, which will be released nationwide on Friday 29 March, with a special preview showing being held at HOME, Manchester on Friday 8 March. 

Film-maker Steve Sullivan, director of the documentary, said: “When I was growing up in Lancashire during the 1980s, Frank Sidebottom was a local folk hero.  He seemed dangerous and edgy, but also fun, silly and definitely fascinating.

“Several years after Chris died, I emailed his brother Martin, to ask if anyone had thought about making a documentary about the man beneath the mâché.  Martin said he’d recently cleared Chris’ house and there were 100 boxes of his personal possessions – if I wanted to haul it away and try to make a film out of it, then I was welcome to try. 

“Soon, I was discovering all these different phases of Chris’ hidden life in Manchester.  And the more I dug, the more I realised he had documented it all.  I was able to piece together the details of his life – well, these two lives, Chris Sievey’s life and Frank Sidebottom’s.  Frank’s own fictional life was extensive. 

“For someone who died too young, Chris achieved so much with his work that it’s still staggering to me.”

The new exhibition is the latest to be held within the Central Library’s exhibition space, following on from previous displays featuring everything from Manchester’s rock music heritage to the expeditions of the legendary Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.


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