On stage with Fairport Convention, August 14th 2004 Photograph: Brian Marks
"Professor" Bruce Lacey, born 1927, remains one of Britain's great eccentrics. After completing his national service in the Navy he became established on the avantgarde scene with his performance art and mechanical constructs. He has been closely associated with The Alberts performance group and The Goon Show. He made the props and had an acting part in Richard Lester's The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film.
Ken Russell made a fifteen-minute film about him called The Preservation Man (1962), which linked Lacey to Chaplin (in a Keystone Cops-style sequence) and featured some of Lacey's nightclub act (knife-throwing/robots) and a lip-synched performance of 'Sleepy Valley' which Lacey had recorded with The Alberts. Along with The Alberts Lacey also starred in two short comedy films directed by the infamous pinup photographer George Harrison Marks. The films were Uncles Tea Party (1962) and Defective Detectives.
Lacey played a mad scientist in the feature film 'Smashing Time', but his most famous appearance on film remains George Harrison's flute playing gardener in the Beatles' feature film Help!. He also made and animated many of the props for Michael Bentine's "It's a Square World". Especially the flea circuses!
Lacey contributed to Jasia Reichardt's Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition in 1968 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, exhibiting a robotic owl and actors: Rosa Bosom and Mate plus a sex-simulator. He also exhibited his The British Landing on the Moon in Simon Chapman's 1969 Cybervironment Plus an experimental arts festival which took place at Aston University, Birmingham. Photographs of some of his mechanical devices can be found in Reichardt's book Robots (Thames and Hudson, 1978).
Lacey was a student at the Royal College of Art in the early 1950s. In the 1960s and 1970s, he was very active in the 'Happenings' culture; and was a visiting professor at Art Colleges from St Ives to Leeds. His mechanical statue The Womaniser (1966) is one of two pieces of his bought by the Tate.
Lacey's robots appeared on the Fairport Convention L.P. "What We Did On Our Holidays" in the song "Mr Lacey", written by Ashley Hutchings. The song is about Bruce Lacey and the noise of his robots (which he brought into the studio) contribute the 'instrumental break'. He toured England in the mid seventies with his children's SCI-FI theatre show and became involved in 'Earth Magic' with his then wife Jill Bruce, mounting a number of performance pieces and exhibitions. They moved to Norfolk and became part of a fair making network, Albion Fairs. Specifically he was responsible for running the "Faerie Fair" at Lyng in Norfolk in 1981 and 1982.
There was a major retrospective of his life and art at the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art in 1996.
A major survey of his work runs at the Camden Arts Centre from 7 July to 16 September 2012.
Now in his 80s, he lives in a farmhouse in Norfolk surrounded by a bizarre collection of his creations. In still very good health (which he attributes to being a lifelong hypochondriac) he is still working and performing, often at the Norwich Arts Centre. His latest project he calls 'vox humana exploration' using his voice through a series of effects to perform his own songs plus those of David Bowie, Rod Stewart and Queen.
- http://www.fairsarchive.org.uk/Site/bruce.html Interview
- http://burning-brightly.tripod.com/mrlacey.html "Mr. Lacey"
- http://www.camdenartscentre.org/whats-on/view/exh22.01 Camden Arts Centre Exhibition