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Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite

  • Object:

    Poster

  • Place of origin:

    London (printed)

  • Date:

    October 2012 (printed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Dean, Peter (designer)
    English, Andy (wood engraver)
    Bignell, Graham (printed)
    New North Press
    TAG Fine Arts (printed)
    Jones & Crosskill (published)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Woodcut and letterpress

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Peter Dean and Hobby Limon

  • Museum number:

    S.4002-2013

  • Gallery location:

    Theatre & Performance, Room 106, case WE, shelf EXP

As a lifelong Beatles fan, the designer Peter Dean wanted to recreate the original poster that inspired John Lennon his 1967 song For The Benefit of Mr. Kite. Printed in Rochdale by Jones & Crosskill, the original poster advertised Pablo Fanque's Circus appearing in the town meadows in Rochdale in February 1843. Using a photograph of Lennon standing beside the poster Peter Dean deduced its measurements and design, and worked with the wood engraving artist Andy English to create the illustrations, and the printer Graham Bignell to recreate the typeface from his stock of antique font at his printing press, the New North Press in Shoreditch, where it was hand-inked and hand-pulled on an original Victorian 'Albion' press. This recreated poster was published in October 2012 by TAG Fine Arts in an edition of 1,967 to commemorate the 1967 release date of the album Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on which the song originally featured.

The original poster was bought by Lennon in January 1967 from an antiques shop in Sevenoaks, Kent, during a break in filming a promotional film at Knole Park for Strawberry Fields Forever. The poster advertised the 'last night but three' of Pablo Fanque's Circus at Rochdale, a Benefit performance for Messrs. William Kite and John Henderson, which meant that those performers took a percentage of the profits of that night's takings. Mr. Kite is advertised as being 'late of Wells' Circus', ie, Sadler's Wells in London, performing on his horse Zanthus and on the tightrope, while Mr. Henderson is advertised throwing twenty-one somersaults ('somersets') and leaping on a trampoline and over men, horses and fire. Pablo Fanque was William Derby (1796-1871) who grew up in Norwich and was apprenticed to the circus proprietor William Batty in about 1810. A talented equestrian, tightrope walker and acrobat, William Derby was Britain's first black circus owner in 1841, operating mainly in the north of England under his stage name Pablo Fanque. William Kite worked for Pablo Fanque from 1843 to 1845.

John Lennon told his music producer George Martin that he wanted a wash of sound on the track so that people hearing it: 'could smell the sawdust.' He took some of his lyrics verbatim, whilst others were changed in the interests of rhyme and scansion, including the name of the horse Zanthus which became Henry. 'Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal' became 'Pablo Fanque's Fair', taking place at Bishopsgate instead of Rochdale, and Mr. Henderson became 'the Hendersons': who would 'all be there/late of Pablo Fanque's Fair' replacing the original information that Mr Kite was: 'late of Wells's Circus'. The original poster for Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal promised entertainment in language that appealed to Lennon's sense of the ridiculous, including Mr Kite jumping through: 'a hogshead of real fire.' 'I had all the words staring me in the face one day when I was looking for a song' Lennon said. 'I hardly made up a word.'

Physical description

Printed letterpress poster advertising Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal at Town Meadows Rochdale, printed in black ink on white card featuring two woodcut engravings of a pole balancer balancing on his head, blowing a bugle, left, and a full-length image of a standing acrobat, right.

Place of Origin

London (printed)

Date

October 2012 (printed)

Artist/maker

Dean, Peter (designer)
English, Andy (wood engraver)
Bignell, Graham (printed)
New North Press
TAG Fine Arts (printed)
Jones & Crosskill (published)

Materials and Techniques

Woodcut and letterpress

Dimensions

Height: 49.3 cm, Width: 27.3 cm

Object history note

As a lifelong Beatles fan, the designer Peter Dean wanted to recreate the original poster printed by Jones & Crosskill of Rochdale advertising Pablo Fanque's Circus in Rochdale in February 1843 that inspired John Lennon in 1967 to write the song For The Benefit of Mr. Kite. Using a photograph of Lennon standing beside the poster Peter Dean deduced its measurements and worked with the wood engraving artist Andy English to create the illustrations, and the printer Graham Bignell to recreate the typeface from his stock of antique font at his printing press, the New North Press in Shoreditch, where it was hand-inked and hand-pulled on a Victorian 'Albion' press. The edition was published by TAG Fine Arts in an edition of 1,967 to commemorate the release date of the album Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on which the song originally featured.

The original poster advertised the 'last night but three' of Pablo Fanque's Circus at Rochdale which was a Benefit performance for Messrs. Kite and Henderson. Mr. Kite is advertised as being 'late of Wells's Circus', ie, Sadler's Wells in London, performing on his horse Zanthus and on the tightrope, while Mr. Henderson is advertised throwing twenty-one somersaults ('somersets') and leaping on a trampoline and over men, horses and fire.

Descriptive line

Reproduction of the 19th century circus poster Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite advertising Pablo Fanque's Circus, Town Meadows, Rochdale, 13 February 1843, the original owned by John Lennon and that inspired his 1967 song 'For The Benefit of Mr. Kite.' Designed by Peter Dean after the original, wood engravings by Andy English, printed by Graham Bignall, published by TAG Fine Arts. Limited edition poster 251/1967. Woodcut and letterpress, 2012.

Labels and date

The original of this reproduction poster inspired the seventh track on the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The song references the acts listed on the poster, although real performing horse ‘Zanthus’ becomes dancing horse ‘Henry’. Benefit nights entitled performers to a percentage of that evening’s takings. Circus owner Pablo Fanque (born William Darby) was the first black circus proprietor in Britain. [16/08/2016]

Materials

Card; Printing ink

Techniques

Engraving (printing process); Printing

Categories

Entertainment & Leisure; Posters

Production Type

Limited edition

Collection

Theatre and Performance Collection

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