THE sun was shining on a blissfully warm evening and we were, Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry told the assembled throng outside York Museum, lucky he was there.

"I'm not often out in this weather because, as Boy George once said, 'heat is the enemy of drag'," he explains dressed in a summery outfit of floral dress, orange tights and lime green platform shoes topped with blonde wig and more slap than a cosmetic counter.

Perry and his constant companion Alan Measles - one of the most famous teddy bears in the world having had his own question on BBC1's Pointless quiz show - cut the red ribbon to launch York Museum Trust's contribution to the Connect 10 Museums At Night national celebration.

The giant teddy bears picnic resulted from a record 5,500 people voted for Perry to come to York for the Connect 10 Museums At Night, organised by Culture 24.

On the night the public could search for bears from the Trust's collections and bears made by York College students scattered around the galleries and gardens. Other activities included making clay bears, making costumes and dresses for your bear, and listening to bear themed tales in the storytelling area. York Observatory visitors could find out how to spot the Great Bear in the night sky.

The main attraction - and an event for which tickets were snapped up within minutes - was Perry in conversation with psychoanalyst and psychotherapist Valerie Sinasonor in the Tempest Anderson Hall. Alan Measles rather than Grayson Perry found himself in the psychiatrist's chair (well, perched on Perry's knee) as his background and behaviour were probed.

At least this was the real Alan Measles. A stunt double was used for his show at the British Museum. He's been by Perry's side since young Grayson was three, named Alan after the boy next door and Measles because Grayson had the illness at the time. As Grayson's now 54, Alan's somewhat dishevelled appearance can be excused. Like the rest of us he's getting on a bit.

"The only thing that survived from my childhood was Alan Measles," explained Perry. "Through all the adventures I had he was one scrap of material I managed to keep hold of through all the moves and disruptions because he was talismanic of a huge part of me."

Alan became the ruler of the land or a teddy bear god as a blog once suggested. He was a character deep-rooted in Perry's sub-conscious. Alan's role has changed over time as Perry has changed. "He carried who I am now, then. He's a powerful, powerful thing," he says.

At home, he sits on his throne on the top of Perry's desk. He doesn't come out to play often these days. "He's the first thing I would rescue in a fire," Perry says, then adds hastily, "after my daughter."

His transvestism makes him a very public figure, but he can still enjoy the luxury of being anonymous. Out of drag he looks like "another scruffy middle-aged man" that you wouldn't give a second look in the street.

He takes questions from the public with the proviso "as long as you don't ask me my favourite colour". The first person asks if it would be okay to give Alan Measles, who remains silent throughout the session, a letter they've written to him. "It would be okay but he can't read though," says Perry.

He's come to terms about parting with his art work. "You get used to it. I realised my job as an artist is to give bits of myself to other people. And I can always make new stuff."

Someone was concerned about Alan's future when Perry dies. The artist's reply was short and to the point, "I am not worried because I will be dead. Posterity is not something that obsesses me particularly."