Thank you to Zoe Read for telling us about your wonderful project.
In January of this year I finally got around to watching The Young Ones. It was on my radar for a while as I had already had 3 or 4 different people in the past tell me to watch it because they thought I’d like it, as I am into everything that’s 80s. I was already aware of Rik Mayall, that he was in it and a few things he had been in previously (Drop Dead Fred was a childhood favourite of mine) but I pretty much went in blind. I was already hooked by the first episode, dying in fits of laughter and telling myself “Why had it taken me so long to watch this?!” It was funny, shocking, relate able and most of all, silly. Ticking all my boxes for the kind of TV shows I liked.
As I got through this bonkers TV show, I couldn’t help but notice Rick’s badges. I am, what I would call, a badge fiend and do have an ever growing collection of badges already. I am one of those people who will tip out (with permission) any badge boxes I find in antiques and vintage shops, look at every badge and pick out the best ones. I love the weird, colourful, no context, vintage, political and funny, so it doesn’t surprise me that I took a shine to his badges like a magpie. Being stuck in lockdown 3 in the UK, I was climbing the walls trying to find something creative to do. Then I had the idea: why don’t I try and re-create these iconic badges for my collection?
So I began my research. I first researched screenshots, episodes, official photographs and portraits, gathering as many references as I could. But there were still some that were unidentified and from what I’d seen, previous cosplayers had filled the unidentified badges with a related badge to The Young Ones or a political badge that they imagined Rick would have. I then looked at my recently acquired Bachelor Boys book to see whether I could decipher any of the badges as there were a few close up portraits, most important being the front cover of the book. I did try and scan it to see whether it would help being able to zoom in on the detail but alas, it didn’t. I was already in contact with the lovely Andy Hollingworth who was showing me all of his awesome Rik Mayall and The Young Ones tickets and collection of things. From his incredible collection, he was able to help me out with some better quality close ups of Rick’s badges. (Thank you Andy!) Armed with my new found knowledge, I began making them.
Some of the badges required a bit of a creative licence as although I had some good references, those references could only go so far and some of the fonts were unrecognisable. I made the photoshop files all the same size, (to the biggest badge size), so they would all look fine when printed. I know Rick’s blazer badges kept getting added to as the two series went on so I decided to do all of them because why not?!
‘Mobilise for Labour democracy’ – This badge was arguably one of the most identified and known amongst Rick’s badges from my research. Probably because it’s such a big badge, it’s very easy to read! For the font, I had to find something similar and then draw over certain parts to make it more exact.
‘SDP LIB Alliance’ – Another fairly known badge from my research. This is probably the second quickest badge I made.
‘I’VE HAD ENOUGH’ – A previously unidentified badge. From my research, NO ONE had been able to work it out. As soon as I saw it, I couldn’t unsee it! (This was identified from Andy’s references.)
‘You can butter me up but you can’t have me for breakfast’ – This is the one I wanted the most out of Rick’s badges and I think sparked me to make them. It’s just the kind of badge I like wearing on my well covered badge denim jacket.
‘CANCER cures SMOKING’ – Another well known badge of Rick’s. This one was a pain to try and get correct funnily enough but it was a fun challenge. Still not 100% but it’s pretty darn close.
‘END APARTHEID TERROR!’ – Probably the most accurate badge out of the entire set. I found that a copy of this badge exists in the British Museum archives online (alongside a fantastic section on other political badges) so it was really helpful for getting it correct with the right colours and placements.
‘Beauty is only skin deep‘ – Ugly goes right through to the bone’ – A previously unidentified badge. Thanks to Andy again, using his reference, it took a bit of head scratching to figure out what it said. At first when I looked at it, I realised the badge was upside down on his blazer (helpful!) and I kept going back to it till I finally cracked it. Oh Rick, you dramatic sod. Of course you have a badge with that on.
‘WOMEN Live May ‘82’ – This was a challenge! It took several attempts to get the right angles but the end result looks great.
‘RESIST’ – The quickest badge I made. How very Rick.
‘NUCLEAR WAR NO THANKS!’ – Very similar to the well known yellow ‘NUCLEAR POWER? NO THANKS’ badge that was popular in the 80s. Of course Rick had to be different with a white badge.
‘RAF’ – (Red Army Faction) You can certainly learn a lot about a fictional character can’t you?!
Blue Peter badge – I didn’t make this one as I, probably much like Rick, had earned it when I was a kid. I’m still on the lookout for a vintage 70s or 80s one to make it more authentic as mine fastens differently to the one I know Rick has.
Because I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I really went the extra mile to get them all the right size. I used an old waistcoat (because I didn’t own a blazer yet), my own badge collection, a tape measure and the Bachelor Boys Book/reference photos. I went through my badges and found similar sized badges and pinned them roughly where they should be on the waistcoat. Once I was happy with the sizing, I measured them all, made a note for each one and then placed an order with a badge company. I was a little nervous about whether I’d got them right but they turned out perfect.
My costume shoot:
Of course, I couldn’t finish off this project without getting a blazer and shirt… and beret… and red strap ankle boots. I decided to say “why the heck not?!” and photographed myself in full costume. I hid all my shoulder length hair under the beret to give the illusion of short hair, leaving a messy piece at the front and pieces at the back to tie into the iconic plaits. I made myself look like I hadn’t slept for two days with eyeshadow and used lipstick to replicate spots.
They were all shot in my back garden as I thought the rough iron fence and in front of the gate with the house in the background made it feel like The Young Ones hovel. I took the majority of them on digital with a wireless trigger and tripod but I did also rope in my housemate to take some shots on Polaroid for me (I’m a sucker for polaroid but I thought it would make it look more 80s). I’m not very confident in front of the camera (I’m usually behind it!) but once I relaxed and brought in some props, I managed to get some good ones. I can safely say I’m nowhere near as good as Rik Mayall when it comes to facial expressions but I think I managed to get that grumpy, sucking on a lemon, probably about to insult Neil, look just right!
When the badges originally arrived and I’d pinned them all on the blazer, I took a step back and couldn’t help beaming from ear to ear. It’s almost like Rick had walked in and hung his blazer up. Rick’s blazer now hangs up on display in my bedroom and always makes me happy when I walk past it. This little project turned into something bigger than I was expecting and the badges and that silly little show has honestly got me through lockdown and kept me from going insane.
It’s the little things isn’t it?
You can find Zoe on Instagram
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