The Man Behind the Masquerade

In 1979, the artist Kit Williams published a book called Masquerade in which Britain became a giant treasure map and the book was actually a riddle which readers had to solve in order to find and win the treasure. The first person to do so won a ‘golden hare’, which was buried in the earth somewhere. Masquerade proved so popular that the hysteria which followed drove Williams underground, where he has continued to create complex and beautiful art, but refuses to publicly exhibit. In his first interview in two decades, Kit tells his story before and after Masquerade.

However, here in Cheltenham, in the heart of the Costwolds, we have a piece of Kit Williams. It’s a clock in the centre of the Regent Arcade, which he designed. Poeple have come for miles over the years to see the famous Wishing Fish Clock. Over 45 feet tall, the clock features a duck that lays a never-ending stream of golden eggs and includes a family of mice that are continually trying to evade a snake sitting on top of the clock. Hanging from the base of the clock is a large wooden fish that blows bubbles every half hour while playing the song I’m for ever blowing bubbles. Catching one of these bubbles entitles you to make a wish, hence the name of the clock. Originally it was on the hour only – if anyone thinks this is wrong please let me know.

The Man Behind the Masquerade was shown on BBC Four tonight but you can catch it on iPlayer.