A closer look at an ambitious typographic project from the people who brought us the Comedy Carpet

The Comedy Carpet in Blackpool has quite rightly been one of the most celebrated public art and design projects in recent years, showing that public work need not mean bland, and that art need not be exclusive or elitist.

Created by artist Gordon Young and designer Andy Altman of Why Not Associates, the 2,200m2 work in front of Blackpool Tower typographically displays jokes, songs and catchphrases from throughout the ages by more than 1,000 comedians and comedy writers. It’s a tough act to follow for the team, but it’s given it a damn good go in the form of a new installation in London’s docklands area, Trading Words.

The piece is again based on the ground, and is created from granite as an ongoing piece that over the next few years will reach a whopping 300m in length. Instead of gags, the piece will display a list of cargo goods that have made their way through London’s docks over the past 400 years including Dragon’s Blood (a red resin dye) or Bear’s Grease (a 19th Century hair-loss treatment).

Young says: “The lists and inventories of items, which had crossed the site over the past centuries, are so lengthy that they seem to stretch into infinity and beyond! They came into existence because every word had a value attached. Andy and I distilled the words into a confection which made us curious and think of them as a poetic representation of this immense tide of things from all over the globe which happened to accumulate in this spot in East London.’  


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