When Better Letters Met Cliff Headford

Short documentary film about retired sign painter Cliff Headford (RIP), including archival photos.

When Better Letters Met Cliff Headford
Cliff Headford (RIP) during the filming of his short biopic.

On 4th July 2016 I received the following email in response to a book I was working on at the time:

I care for an elderly gentleman in Bristol, now nearly 96, who was a sign painter after the Second World War. He has recently been telling me the fab stories of this time when he took his ladders, paint etc on his motorbike sidecar and precariously hung on the sides of buildings painting, what you now call, ghost signs. One of his still survives on the side of the old Webs of Warmley bike shop in Warmley Bristol. This shop has been sold for development as flats but his sign is to be saved as a landmark of the Warmley high street. I wondered if it had made it into any of your publications… He would get such a kick out of that!
It is a large Raleigh Humber sign that he painted in early 1950s and thinks he got £18 for the job. Like his signs, he his slowly fading so if you know anyone who would be interested in his stories of the 1940s up a ladder, brush in hand, please let me know… Plus, he still has all his old ladders and gear… He never throws anything away! Thanks, Mrs Karen Gilmore

It was the first time that I’d found a direct connection between an existing ghost sign, and the person that actually painted it. This resulted in an ongoing email exchange with Karen, and an introduction being made to James Cooper of Dapper Signs, and his partner Katie. They were regularly visiting Cliff Headford by the time I managed to organise a trip out to Bristol with film maker Dan Bassett. The result is When Better Letters Met Cliff Headford, the first in what is intended to become a series of short films about retired signwriters.