Long live The Beano!

ON Wednesday I did something I hadn’t done since 1974. (No, not that, missus – as Frankie Howerd might have said. Cheeky.) I bought a copy of The Beano. Apologies to the newsagent obliged to administer smelling-salts when I wilted at the price: �1.35. You could have bought the shop for that 35 years ago, and still had change for the bus.

I was motivated to buy issue number 3,551 after a kafuffle blew up earlier in the week. The Beano Club is closed to new applicants, pending its move to a website-only operation. Apparently, publisher DC Thomson is trying to hook more members than the 10,000 folk aged seven to 70 paying �12.99 a year for treats like newsletters and a birthday card.

Like all mature institutions it seems The Beano is striving to find its natural place in the modern world. A child of the 21st Century might take easily to an online club, but those adult members who never grew up won’t. And I think even today’s kids get a thrill when an envelope bearing their name drops onto the doormat, containing bright objects they can hold in their hands and cram into their pockets. A click on a screen doesn’t offer the same sense of romance.

Khurram, from Leicester, writes on a BBC message-board: “I remember running down to the post office, buying a stamp and postal orders and sending it off. Then running to the front door every morning in anticipation until my goodies arrived.”

Al, from Chelmsford, adds: “I can’t see that an online club will offer the same nostalgia value.” Ah, that N-word again. It’s powerful. Even in the 1970s we rumbled Beano characters as anachronisms – we didn’t know teachers who wore mortar-boards, kids with catapults or bullies called Cruncher Kerr – but we enjoyed the essentially-warmhearted japes and the skirmishes with authority. It was and is mild and harmless fun, evoking a gentler yesteryear.

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At a time of economic and social uncertainty, and with many young people on their Xboxes happy to zap zombies in the face all day, we should cherish civilised whimsy. Let’s wish The Beano, and the new club, many more years of success.

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