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Masked Singers, New and Old

Back in the Spring, in the early days of the Pandemic and lockdown, a new entertainment show hit our TV screens – the Masked Singer (TMS). This show, based on a Korean original, featured celebs singing in outlandish mascot-style costumes, whilst other celebs tried to guess their identities. We covered this phenomenon in our Spring Newsletter and, as we come to Christmas, and a curtain-raiser on the second series is being broadcast on Boxing Day, we thought we'd revisit the topic as part of our retrospective.

We do have a range of mascot-style outfits, but not too many because they are impractical in many respects: Aside from being hot and heavy, viability is limited and, without the hi-tech that allows the celebs on TMS to communicate, you can't speak, let alone eat and drink – you're in a sort of soft padded prison. Like many aspects of costuming, they can look great but bring their own problems: You usually need a minder, not only to make up for the lack of visibility – you can't easily see where you are walking – but to prevent you tripping over small children who want to hug the big furry- whatever. But it's the itch that's the worst: It's not until you are inside a 'suit' and your hands are 'outside' that you realise how much you take the ability to deal with an odd itch with an absent-minded scratch for granted. The golden rule is that, like any costumed entity, you have to stay in character, and in a mascot you find whole new levels of tolerance. Back in the day, when the Wombles were at their peak, several small children were traumatised when a Womble in a live show took off his head before he was properly out of sight.

Talking of the Wombles, (and repeating a story we told in the Spring), they, of course, were well ahead of the game in masked singing, actually clocking up a number of chart hits. As with the Masked Singer programme, few knew who was in the costumes, and the Wombles’ music maestro Mike Batt has revealed that, on one occasion, the members of Steeleye Span (known for Christmas hits All Around My Hat and Gaudete) filled the furry outfits.

Just for the record, for reasons of copyright and the problems of practicality noted above, we do not have any Womble outfits in our collection. However, mindful of the Wombles' pioneering environment work, and how costuming can make a good visual news story, we have been known to do some insect-related Litter Bugs for a Telethon!


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