Grunts and grapples

I’ve seen this exhibition advertised for a while when walking past the local gallery, it’s just now I actually got round to going in to check it out, sadly, a week before its three-month stint.

Grunts and Grapples is a showcase of oldy-time wrestle mania during the golden age of British Wrestling from the 1950s to the 90s. From posters, photography, video, costume and other paraphernalia, it’s an incredible collection of delight and something of a history lesson on a bygone era.

Advertising the action. Produced by anonymous printers, earlier works consisted largely of type, but in time photographs were included.

The bold type and peculiar photography pulled me in and when I leave I wonder why don’t we see posters like that anymore?

The truth is that was made on the ‘cheap’, and all cheap design is designed with haste and to convey as much information as possible, but how is that different from today’s standards? The answer is it was restricted to the printing press and all the restrictions that follow, limited colour palette, font choice and medium.

Cheap design has moved on, it’s now digital which opens a whole pandora’s box of tricks, tools and techniques – sometimes, making a real dogs dinner of it – however, I don’t think it’s likely that ‘new cheap’ design is going to be shown in an exhibition in thirty years time, but I might be wrong, I look forward to seeing how 2050 view the early 2000s.

Promotional poster for the Grunts & Grapples exhibition at Tunbridge Wells Museum & Gallery

“Wrestling was a central part of British national life in this period with iconic figures such as Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy appearing in hundreds of UK town halls and theatres night after night as well as featuring on TV. The exhibition explores how the showmanship of wrestling drew on earlier traditions of public entertainment such as music hall and circus and how this informed the development of the cast of characters, storylines and audience participation unique to the sport.

“Through posters, photographs, souvenirs and costumes the exhibition reveals the origins of wrestling’s interplay of sport and spectacle and the development of personas. The portrayal of wrestlers as baddies (heals) or goodies (blue eyes) would be combined with prevailing social narratives of otherness and racial and sexual stereotypes.”

Grunts & Grapples