MGM 2007 - Grunty Fen Exhibition & Rhubarb Festival At Burwell Museum

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 04 May 2007
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a photograph of a man wearing glasses flat cap and false buck teeth holding his lapel which is covered in badges

Dennis of Grunty Fen - soon to have his own corner at Burwell Museum of Fen Edge Village Life. © Christopher South

During Museums and Galleries Month 2007 24 Hour Museum is picking out some interesting museum, gallery and heritage events from its listings ... here's a man with a dirty mac who's looking forward to the 2007 Rhubarb Festival.

Fact and fantasy get a bit mixed up out on the fens. Already a much-loved icon for East Anglians, Dennis of Grunty Fen has become a comedy cult that is outliving its creator.

Pete Sayers died in 2005 but for a host of fans he lives on as the dreadful Dennis, the cunning, stubborn, irritable, squalid, quirky, defiant, self-confident, scornful and supremely triumphant fenman who shocked and entertained on radio, TV and stage for 20 years.

Now Dennis has his own corner at Burwell Museum of Fen Edge Village Life - opening for Museums and Galleries Month 2007 on May 7.

A recreation of the dilapidated railway carriage in which Dennis has spent his entire life with his aged granny will serve as a place of pilgrimage for people who still see Dennis as more real and more representative of reality than what they read in the newspapers.

a photo of a man wearing a flat cap and dirty mac waving two large pieces of rhubarb around in front of a group of amused onlookers

Dennis gives a demonstration of Rhubarb semaphore. © Christopher South

BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s Christopher South, who wrote the Dennis scripts and worked with Pete Sayers until his death, has contributed the vocal yokel’s disgustingly dirty mac, cap and flannel trousers to the museum.

“This is one of those exhibits where visitors shouldn’t get too close,” he suggests. “You might contract the green flux, a disease which has plagued Dennis and his family for generations.”

Meanwhile, Christopher is happy to admit he is flummoxed by fans who sometimes know more about the vast Dennis saga than he does.

“There are people who study the tapes and CDs and remember every detail of every character we created over the years. They can easily catch me out. We had about 100 characters in the end and it’s hard to remember every detail.”

“People remember the Grunty Fen songs, too. It’s lovely to hear people humming Ladder to the Moon or the Rhubarb March.”

a photo of a man wearing a flat cap and dirty mac holidng two large pieces of rhubarb in front of a group of amused onlookers

Rhubarb ... rhubarb ... © Christopher South

And it is the Rhubarb March that will be much hummed on Bank Holiday Monday May 28 when the first Grunty Fen Rhubarb Festival for many years will be held at the Burwell Museum.

Under the slogan 'Go on, force yourself' the festival has classes open to all-comers and will cope with all matters rhubarbian, from rhubarb poetry to rhubarb semaphore (a system for sending messages across the fens long before mobile phones came in and much more reliable).

Just turn up on the day with your rhubarb and the organisers will tell you what to do with it. Mr South will also give a lecture on the history of the long-lost rhubarb forests of the fens which were wiped out by greedy dinosaurs but not before they had made a valuable contribution to fen fertility.

And the museum caterers will serve rhubarb and custard teas. One word of warning to the ladies: if you visit the Grunty Fen Rhubarb Festival at Burwell on May 28 you risk getting named as Miss Rhubarb. Go on, force yourself.

This is just one of the hundreds of listings featured on 24 Hour Museum for Museums and Galleries Month 2007. To discover more just enter MGM into the search box on this page or see the What's on Page to search by date or place.

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