Yesterday I joined a day long coach trip to Bedford organised by the Zabludowicz Collection titled Last Stop for the Good Old Times. The tour supports the current show at the gallery by Andy Holden. M!MS stands for Maximum Irony Maximum Sincerity, an artist group co-founded by Andy and four friends in 2003. The group created a manifesto which states “Let us not be ironic about our sincerity, let us be sincere about our irony.” “M.I!M.S is about the willingness to be lied to and the will to believe! It’s about the intense sadness of our unrealistic dreams, and the intense joy of our desire for them.” “M.I!M.S celebrates the ridiculous…!”
This year M!MS created a newspaper re-affirming their mission statement and was delivered to 90,000 homes across Bedfordshire. The show is a combination of objects, collections, drawings, paintings, writing and performances, including a film which re-creates the original M!MS group meeting in Poppins Restaurant using young Bedfordian actors. Holden continues to collaborate with his friends John Blamey, Roger Illingworth, James MacDowell and Johnny Parry regularly performing as The Grubby Mitts and other guises under the Lost Toys record label.
Last Stop For The Good Old Times
Before embarking on the tour our group was given an introduction to the show by Zabludowicz public programme curator Kelly Large. Then snack-bags (packet of crisps, bag of Haribo StarMix, can of Lilt) were handed out and we set off on the coach to Bedford with Andy’s brother Jim giving an overview of Bedford’s history, local landmarks and locations of key moments in the M!MS story.
The Panacea Museum
On collecting Andy from his home we arrived at our first location – the Panacea Museum. The Panacea Society was a Victorian religious group who believed that the second coming would be in Bedford and that Bedford itself was the original site of the garden of eden. Its inspiration was the teachings of the Devonshire prophetess Joanna Southcott (1750 – 1814). The Panacea Society bought a group of houses on Albany Road and believed their leader Mabel Barltrop would give birth to a messiah. A central purpose of the Society was to persuade 24 Anglican bishops to open Southcott’s Box of Sealed Writings and to this end they ran adverts in the national press. The box remains un-opened in a secure Bedford location. Since the death of the last resident member in 2012, the Panacea Society ceased to exist as a religious community and organisation.
Poppins Restaurant was the location of the first M!MS meeting. We chose form a menu of classic Poppins meals then assembled for group photos outside before walking to the next location – the John Bunyan Museum and Meeting House.
Simon Munnery and Cardington Hangers
We rejoined the bus and travelled to Cardington Studios – enormous 700ft long hangers which housed the R100 and R101 airships in the inter-war period. The space is now used as a film set notably by Christopher Nolan for the Batman series and Inception films. En route we were treated to Bedford comedian Simon Munnery’s repertoire of Bedford themed jokes, followed by a song in tribute to the R101’ers.
Roger Illingworth of Buzzard Lope
Too soon it was time to get back on the coach for the return journey to London. M!MS co-founder Roger Illingworth of Buzzard Lope played a few songs from his new album, some Grubby Mitts tracks and led the bus in a sing-along. Andy gave a reading of the last sentence of every book in Bedford children’s library.
A fantastic day which saw wind, rain, sleet and snow turn to blue skies on arriving in Bedford. An emotional roller coaster, veering from maximum irony to maximum sincerity to both at the same time. Sincere thanks to Andy, Andy’s friends, Andy’s family, M!MS and everyone at Zabludowicz Collection.