Entertainment & Arts

Rik Mayall 'Bottom' bench unveiled in Hammersmith

Media captionWATCH: Fans gathered to welcome the unveiling of the bench

A roadside bench matching the one that featured in the opening credits of BBC sitcom Bottom has been officially unveiled in London.

It follows an online campaign by fans after the death of Rik Mayall.

The show's star said shortly before he died in June that he was sad to see the bench had been removed.

Now after a petition by 7,000 fans, Hammersmith Council has replaced it, with the inscription "In Memory of The Man, The Myth, The Legend".

Image caption Mayall's children watched on as the memorial bench was unveiled

Mayall, who was 56 when he died, had appeared in a string of hit TV comedies, including The Young Ones, Blackadder and The New Statesman and also starred in the movies Drop Dead Fred and Guest House Paradiso.

Fans who had campaigned for the return of the "Bottom bench" gathered to witness the official unveiling on Friday along with local and national media.

The opening credits of the cult BBC series show Mayall and his co-star Adrian Edmondson bickering and then attacking each other on the original bench.

The idea of having a memorial on that spot was inspired by a BBC interview, in which Rik Mayall described his disappointment upon discovering that the bench had been removed.

Image caption There is already an unofficial "blue plaque" close to the spot where the bench is placed

The memorial bench is situated at the junction of Queen Caroline Street and Hammersmith Bridge Road.

A tribute written by Mayall's Young Ones co-star Nigel Planer was read at the official unveiling, along with those from fans of the comedian.

The crowd also sang the theme to The Young Ones.

Dominic Vince, who worked with Mayall on The Last Hurrah, was at the event and described working with him as: "Absolutely wonderful. He was very warm. He was also a real perfectionist and very serious about his comedy."

Image caption Dominic Vince worked with Mayall on The Last Hurrah, describing the experience as "absolutely wonderful"

Actress and screenwriter Jaime Bird, 32, from West London, started the petition for the bench's return just days after Mayall's death.

She said she had been a fan since the age of four, after hearing him read George's Marvellous Medicine on Jackanory.

She described an "overwhelming love and appreciation for what he did" but she did not have huge expectations that her campaign would be successful.

"But within three days we had over 1,000 signatures. We had a lot of backing from celebrities. Bill Bailey was one of the first to sign it," she said.

Image caption "The Man, The Myth, The Legend" - the engraving was decided by fans and family

Asked why she felt the petition had gained so much support, Ms Bird said: "I think it's because he was so well-loved.

"The nation as a whole didn't realise how much they genuinely did love him and treasure him until that moment."

She said organising the bench proved difficult after the council expressed early interest, but that they eventually "got tired of hearing the sound of my voice".

Media captionHow Mayall missed 'Bottom' bench

Hammersmith and Fulham councillor Wesley Harcourt said the council was "proud of Rik Mayall's links to our borough".

"Bottom was set here, with the opening credits filmed on a bench in Hammersmith Broadway.

"That bench was later moved, so it seems right to put a new bench near the spot in memory of a great comic actor," he said.

Image caption Jess Horton, who donated the bench plaque, and petition organiser Jaime Bird, led the unveiling

The wording of the plaque was a group effort. Fans thought to use Mayall's own description of himself as a "Pan Global Phenomenon", while "The Man, The Myth, The Legend" was a suggestion by his daughter Bonnie.

"Equality, Opportunity, Wisdom, Freedom and Love" were listed by Mayall as the five mantras to live by at his honorary degree acceptance speech.

The final line - "Barbara: Love is the Answer" - was a phrase Mayall would often say to his wife, Barbara Robbin.

Fans of Mayall travelled from across the country to see the bench revealed for the first time.

Tommy Hayes, who came with Ashley Keegan from Northern Ireland said: "When anyone says Hammersmith to me, I just think of Richie and Eddie.

"They made so many people happy."

Image caption Mayall fans Tommy Hayes and Ashley Keegan travelled from Northern Ireland to see the bench

The beginning of each Bottom episode saw Mayall's character Richie sitting on the bench with his friend Eddie, played by Edmondson.

Setting the tone for the violent slapstick comedy that invariably followed in each episode, Eddie whacks Richie with his newspaper until Richie retaliates, punching Eddie in the groin.


Bottom

  • Bottom originally aired between 1991 and 1995 on BBC Two
  • Despite its cultural impact, there were just three series, each with six episodes
  • The success of the TV series led to five live stage shows which toured between 1993 and 2003
  • A spin-off to Bottom called Hooligan's Island was written but never produced. In 2013 Rik Mayall was reportedly interested in pursuing the project but Ade Edmondson resisted
  • The film Guest House Paradiso was partially based on Bottom and starred Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall playing very similar characters to Richie and Eddie, albeit with different second names

Mr Mayall once told the BBC that discovering that the original bench had been removed was the "worst journey" he had ever made.

"If you were to come to the end of King Street where it meets the big roundabout to get to the Hammersmith Apollo, you'd find that same bench on a traffic island - until one day they took it away and put a pelican crossing in its place.

"My old bench. Me and Eddie's old bench, that's what I miss the most," he said.

He also discussed the spontaneity of how the scene came to be filmed.

"There's a very clever man called Ed Bye who's a very talented director. He said 'Alright boys, we've got to get a title sequence together - come on, come on, come on'.

"We ran around looking for somewhere to take shots, and that's when we shot us on the bench.

"And they were just building this enormous building and there's Richie and Eddie looking out of the window of a half-built place, which is also in the opening sequence.

"So I think the history of Hammersmith is very much in the Bottom show."

It was this interview that inspired campaign organiser Jaime Bird to put a memorial bench in the same place as a fitting tribute for the comic legend.

Image caption Adrian Edmondson (right) had a "privileged" partnership with Rik Mayall that spanned three decades

There is already an unofficial blue plaque imitating English Heritage near where the replacement bench is placed, that reads: "Rik Mayall. 1958-2014. Punched his friend in the balls on a bench near this spot."

The plaque sits alongside a memorial site for Rik Mayall, which Ms Bird maintains along with five friends, collectively nicknamed "Rik's Angels".

Following Mayall's death from an "acute cardiac event" in June, aged 56, friends and contemporaries led the tributes.

Edmondson said times spent writing with Mayall were "some of the most carefree stupid days" he ever had, and that he felt "privileged to have shared them with him".

"And now he's died for real. Without me. Selfish bastard," he said.

Stephen Fry tweeted that he was an "authentic comedy genius and a prince among men".

Dawn French, who starred in the Comic Strip alongside Rik Mayall said she would "miss him enormously".

Rik Mayall was survived by his wife Barbara Robbin and their three children Bonnie, Rosie and Sidney.

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