Exhibition at Bexhill Museum celebrates life of Spike Milligan

Yvonne Cleland and Julian Porter by the exhibition SUS-180305-123556001
Yvonne Cleland and Julian Porter by the exhibition SUS-180305-123556001

An exhibition at Bexhill Museum has opened, celebrating the centenary tribute to Spike Milligan.

During three months of research to produce the display, volunteer Yvonne Cleland frequently found herself reduced to helpless mirth by the late comedian’s humour.

Museum patron Eddie Izzard describes Spike as the ‘godfather of alternative comedy’.

The illustrated tribute on the west wall of the Egerton Road museum’s Sargent Gallery has been compiled jointly with curator Julian Porter.

Spike was born on April 16, 1918 in India where his father was serving in the British Army. He did his own military training while billeted in Bexhill from 1940 to 1943.

He later served in North Africa, where he met Harry Secombe, later to co-star with him, Michael Bentine and Peter Sellers in BBC radio’s The Goon Show.

Spike was badly affected by his experiences of the horrors of the battle of Monte Casino in Italy.

Source material has included the bound files of the Bexhill Observer, now in the museum’s safe-keeping; Adolf Hitler, My Part in his Downfall, the initial volume of Spike’s war-time memoirs, and valued assistance from Spike’s former manager Norma Farnes.

The book draws heavily on Spike’s part-hilarious, part-tragic memories of war-time Bexhill. The exhibition features maps and photographs of Bexhill at the time and Observer photographs of some of the post-war D Battery, 56 Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery reunions Spike held in the town, including the one in 1988 attended by royal Goon Show fan the Princes of Wales.

Naturally, a complete section is dedicated to the Goon Show whose episodes memorably included The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler of Bexhill.

The exhibition says: “Spike was multi-faceted – a comedian, actor, poet, musician, father and writer. Beneath the comic was a caring, sensitive, human being who tried to make humanity aware of the disasters it builds for itself through his work.”

Yvonne said of the exhibition: “One, it has been a privilege to do it. Two, I hope I have honoured him. Three, I haven’t laughed so much for a long time. I have been amazed how many scripts Spike produced.”