“This is not the usual thing you see when 1970s packaging gets searched for – things like Spangles packs and old fonts for Mars Bars do not feature. This is much more extreme,” says Jonny Trunk on his latest book, Wrappers Delight.
Within its pages are more than 500 full colour examples of confectionary-based nostalgia trips, from Beatles themed sweet cigarettes to Planet of the Apes gum to Lord Toffingham lollies, there really are some obscure items in the book.
Its author, Jonny, is a bit of a polymath when it comes to niche UK culture. In the mid 90s he created a record label that issues lost music, releasing soundtracks from cult films such as The Wicker Man and Kes. He has also taken shows to the Edinburgh Fringe, broadcast across a number of radio stations, published many books and even got involved with the Smallfilms archive too. Unsurprisingly he is a big advocate of people inventing their own jobs, and fuelled by his mantra of “what can I do next?”, Jonny is proof that it can work.
On this project in particular, Jonny came across this collection while working on one of his many other projects – this time it was looking for flexi discs at a friend’s father’s. “I went to meet Robin to look at the flexi discs and maybe buy them, and saw his father’s (John Townsend) collection of things. Basically a five bedroom house full – and I mean full – of ephemera from the last six decades,” he says. “Everything from 80s phonecards, supermarket recipe cards, terrible Manchester pub and club flyers, drinks cans etc. I suggested (as I was thinking “what can I do next”) that he let me loose on his father’s collection and I’d see if I could make a book.”
Whilst curating the book, which is published by Fuel, Jonny gained an insight into John Townsend’s life and the heartwarmingly noble ideology that underpinned his extensive collecting. “From the many conversations I’ve had with his family, it seems like John (who died in 2015) was collecting because he wanted this stuff saved for the future. Until his death he was out everyday collecting bag loads of things from Manchester town centre,” explains Jonny. “However ephemeral it was (a badge for an ice cream company, a token from a petrol station, 2000 different labels for seaside rock) he thought as it was printed it should be kept for future generations to see. He started MICE Club (Modern Information Collectors Exchange) and their motto was 'collecting seriously just for fun'. It was all about the printed object, nothing more.”
Aside from the impressive nature of the collection, the designs themselves have so much to say about how the approach to branding and packaging has changed over the years - and not necessarily for the better. “The most obvious thing to note is illustration. Everything in the Wrappers Delight book has been drawn by an artist. This includes invented fonts, wacky pictures, fascinating graphic styles and brilliant techniques,” says Jonny. “This isn’t something that really happens in the same way these days. The last time I spoke to a contemporary confectionary packaging designer (last year), they said their latest job was to make a classic chocolate bar look bigger, even though it was about to be made physically smaller.”
It is difficult to imagine that we will look back at modern wrapper designs as classics, however much of the beauty of Wrappers Delight lies in the nostalgia that it induces - something that is not out of the realm of possibility for modern designs to one day elicit. Jonny however does feel that design standards in the industry have declined over the years: “ I think many designs were better back then, certainly more inventive and more crafted. But equally I do see good modern design these days.”
Jonny’s favourites from the collection include the “hypnotising” Mickey Mouse Barrat sweet cigarettes, the George Best gum wrappers and the “unfeasibly rare” Walls Ice Cream paper bag: “In the illustration the mother’s head is missing (because of the Walls Logo) which I find bizarre every time I see it. Or don’t see it…” he says.
The book also features a foreword by Jarvis Cocker, who is an old friend of Jonny’s: “I’ve known Jarvis for many years. He’s a fan of lots of strange nostalgia so I thought I’d ask him. His favourite is the sweet tobacco.”
Now that the hard work is done and the book is published, we ask Jonny if he has any other projects in the pipeline. “Always.” he replies.
GalleryAll images from Wrappers Delight
About the Author
Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.