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.

10 Comments on “The Man Behind the Masquerade

  1. The wishing fish clock! A friend of mine told me of that once and I’ve wanted to see it ever since. It sounds so surreal and beautiful!

  2. Wow. I was doing some blog-hopping when I stumbled upon your site. You described the clock so beautifully that I want to visit this clock and catch a bubble or two. Goodness knows, I want to have my wishes come true. I wish I can watch the interview. He sounds like an interesting man. Could you write about it? I’d really appreciate it.

    • Have a look at
      In the Wikipedia article you will see a picture of the clock in Cheltenham.
      I see it all the time when I go into Cheltenham to shop, but I am still fasinated when it reaches the hour and plays the music. I remember when my children were very little in the eighties and used to jump up to catch the bubbles.
      As the years have gone by and they became too old to do this any more, I have seen many other small children excitedly waiting for the bubbles so they could make a wish.
      I look forward to the day when my children will have children and they will come to see our famous clock!

  3. Sorry about not replying sooner. Got caught up with kids and colds (Not a very good combination) . Thank you for the links, btw. I was slapping my forehead and thought, “Why didn’t I think of Wikipedia?” (That’s the result of having worked for an educational publishing company that has an “Avoid-Wikipedia-Like-The-Plague” policy.) Now, I feel sheepish.
    The clock is as wonderful as I imagined. You’re so lucky to live nearby. I’m off to read Kit Williams. Thanks for introducing him to me.

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