Not far from where I live there is a talking pedestrian crossing. I guess it was given a voice in response to people getting flattened by buses or something. As it happens, somebody has uploaded an audio recording to this miraculous and ridiculous thing we take for granted as the internet, so rather than explain further I can simply invite you to listen here.
I remember seeing this road safety initiative announced in the local paper when it was introduced a few years ago. Instead of using the default, authoritative female voice used on others of its kind, to raise public awareness at this particular crossing they’d enlisted a local celebrity to record the message. Did you recognise the voice from the recording?
That’s right, it’s Ozzie the Owl, the mascot of the local football team.
Here follows a transcript of the exact conversation in the local council office that led to this decision, as I imagine it in my head:
– Julie’s told me to find a local Hillsborough celebrity for this traffic light thing. Any ideas?
– I’ve got to find a local celebrity to record this traffic light safety thing in Hillsborough. I’m thinking that guy from that police thing? The one who was in Aliens?
– Big black guy, got that funny name. Karry, Karaoke something.
– Kele Okereke?
– That’s him.
– You mean Bloc Party front man Kele Okereke?
– No, not him. You know who I mean, the guy in that new Aliens film and on that show, the boxsets, he’s got that funny name.
– Prometheus? The Wire? Idris Elba?
– Idris Elba, that’s him. What about him?
– You want to get Idris Elba to record the voice for a pedestrian crossing in Hillsborough?
– Yeah. He’s from Sheffield.
– No. Dominic West, also of The Wire, he’s from Sheffield.
– Where’s Idris Elba from then?
– I don’t know.
– Well what about this other bloke then? Think he’ll be up for it?
– Dominic West?
– Do I think The Wire’s Dominic West will be up for recording a traffic light message in Hillsborough?
– Yeah, why not?
– Why not? Many reasons… I thought you were looking for somebody from Hillsborough.
– He’s from Sheffield.
– Not Hillsborough?
– How do I know?
– Good point. Okay. Erm. Sheffield. Sheffield. Famous Sheffielders…
– Hillsborough! You’re looking for famous Hillsborough people!
– Oh yeah. Hillsborough. Hillsborough. Hillsborough park. Hillsborough… library.
– Hillsborough library? Who? What celebrity? That’s a thing, not a celebrity.
– Hillsborough. Hillsborough Leisure Centre?
– You’re just saying things in Hillsborough! What do you mean Hillsborough Leisure Centre?
– Leisure centre.
– That’s a thing! A leisure centre is not a celebrity.
– The boss or somat.
– The boss of the leisure centre? The boss of Hillsborough Leisure Centre?
– Is a celebrity?
– Kind of.
– What’s his name?
– So he’s not a celebrity is he!
– Jessica Ennis! She’s a celebrity. She’d be good. Is she from Hillsborough?
– Look, the only person I can think of, and technically he lives in Stannington but it’s as close as I think you’re going to get, is Bobby Knutt.
– Who’s that?
– Bobby Knutt. Eyup Knutty? The pantomime guy. Never see him at the Crucible when you were a kid?
– Which pantomime?
– All of them. Eyup Knutty. Moustache, curly hair. I’ve seen a picture of him some- there look, poster, Puss In Boots.
– Bobby Knutt? Is that who that is? Didn’t know he did pantomimes. Thought he only did science programmes and that?
– No… no, I think that’s Dr Robert Winston. They do look similar actually, I’ll grant you. But no, quite different men.
– And he’s from Stannington?
– Bobby Knutt is, yes. He lives there, or he used to. Don’t know if he’s from there. He’s local though.
– Where’s Dr Robert Winston from?
– We need somebody from Hillsborough though.
– Yeah… I know. But as I said, he’s as good as you’re gonna-
– Wednesday? What?
– Of course. Can’t believe we’ve forgot Wednesday. Sheffield Wednesday. SWFC. A player from Sheffield Wednesday! We can use one of them. Yeah!
– Well, yeah, hang on. Are any of them actually from Hillsborough?
– Probably. I don’t know.
– Chances are very few, if any, are actually from around here. They might play here, and live here, but they’re not from here.
– The manager then?
– Again, probably moves around a lot. And he’s not exactly a celebrity either.
– Well, there’s got to be someone. SWFC’s famous.
– The only thing that’s permanent is the mascot, the Owl.
– Ozzie the Owl!
– Yeah, but obviously-
– Perfect, yeah! Ozzie the Owl. Of course!
– Well no, cos he’s jus-
– We’ll get him, he’ll do it.
– Yeah, but… he’s just a bloke in a suit.
– Yeah, we’ll get him to record it.
– Yeah, but then it’s just a bloke.
– He can do it in the suit.
– Yeah, but it’s… it’s a recording.
– It’s still Ozzie the Owl though.
– Well, Ozzie the Owl doesn’t… it’s not real is it, it’s just a suit.
– It’ll be reyt, he can record it in the suit can’t he.
– Yeah… but… it’s just a man’s voice. It’ll just be a man’s voice. It’s probably not even the same man who does it every week.
– It’s fine, it’s perfect. Famous, celebrity, local, famous footballer.
– He’s not a footballer. He’s the mascot. Just a bloke.
– It’s fine. I’ll tell Julie now, tell her what you think.
– No… hang on… I don’t-
– It’s perfect! I knew you’d be able to think of someone.
– I didn’t, I haven’t. It’s just a bloke.
– Julie, we’ve decided who it should be.
– No… Not we. It’s just a bloke.
– Ozzie the Owl. Yeah, I know, perfect!
– It’ll just be a bloke’s voice…