In this new blog series, the Cartoon Museum would like to offer a space for our active volunteers to share a bit about themselves. Our volunteers help us run the museum on a day to day basis. They make sure that we present our best side to the public. They are friendly, knowledgable, and artistic and they are always ready to help our visitors navigate the museum. So let’s get to know them a little bit better, shall we? Today is the turn of Richard Pope, a regular contributor to this blog and a veteran volunteer.
I’ve always enjoyed cartoons, but only started taking a real interest when I was working as a safety adviser in the mid-1980s. In those days we used videos to get the safety message across, and because they were expensive I asked for a lockable cupboard to keep them in. When the cupboard arrived it was large, painted a very pale grey and extremely boring, so I started enlarging cartoons from Private Eye, Punch and various other magazines and putting two of them up on the cupboard each week. Another pair went up the second week, then in the third week the first two would come down and two new ones would go up, and so on. After a while people would come up to my desk and, when I asked if I could help them, would say “Oh no, I’ve just come to look at the latest cartoons.”
I can’t remember exactly when I joined the Cartoon Arts Trust, but I think it must have been some time in the 1990s, about 10 years after the Trust was founded. I remember going to several events in various different venues, including one in Chelsea Old Town Hall (I think) before the Trust started using an empty shop in the Brunswick Centre as its gallery. Then in 2006 it moved to the present site; not an ideal building but you can certainly pack a lot of cartoons into the displays. What I’ve always enjoyed about the displays and exhibitions are the very detailed captions, which help you to put the images in context – particularly when the image is an old one and the story behind it might otherwise be lost.
After I retired at the end of 2007 I was able to visit the museum more often, and since autumn 2012 I’ve been an occasional volunteer, working mainly on Fridays about twice a month. A number of entertaining things have happened while I’ve been at the museum, and I’ve included some examples below.
Mostly I’ve been in the gallery or in the shop, but I am not worried about what I do as it all helps support the Museum’s staff. In January 2015 I was suffering from a cough and sore throat that left me only able to whisper; I warned Kate, who organised the volunteers, that I wouldn’t be able to talk to people, thus ruling out the usual tasks of manning the till or working in the galleries. She asked me to go to the B & Q near Finchley Road underground to collect 5 litres of Farrow and Ball’s Down Pipe (dark grey) paint to tidy up the skirting boards in the gallery before the next exhibition started a few days later. She checked on the internet, which showed that the branch had the paint in stock. When I got there, the paint wasn’t in stock after all. Kate sourced the paint at Farrow and Ball’s shop at Islington and two 2½ litre tins were put aside for me. When I reached the shop I was royally treated by a helpful woman there, who not only gave me the paint but, when I said I was planning to return to the museum by bus, put the tins into plastic bags – because bus drivers can refuse to carry you if the tins aren’t in bags. So my quick trip to Finchley Road turned into a 4-hour underground, walking and bus marathon! I sent a copy of the attached cartoon to the lovely lady at Farrow and Ball, who put it up in the shop’s staffroom. To me this demonstrated that Farrow and Ball do have a sense of humour, which you would have guessed anyway from their way-out paint names. Besides Down Pipe their paint names include Mole’s Breath, Savage Ground, Dimity, Wevet, Dimpsey, Nancy’s Blushes, Pale Hound, Churlish Green, Teresa’s Green, Borrowed Light and Plummett.
One day in February 2015 I was given the job of wrapping up an aluminium ramp which had been made for use in the museum, so that folk in wheelchairs could descend the 2 steps from the hallway into the main gallery. Unfortunately the ramp didn’t fit, so had to be collected by the makers and altered. Somebody very tidy-minded had already thrown away the original wrapping. I gathered loads of bubble wrap and old cardboard boxes from the glory hole and, with help from another volunteer, thoroughly wrapped up the ramp. The end result was very untidy but Sarah took a liking to it, saying that it reminded her of a cardboard robot. She insisted on having it placed next to her desk so that she could admire it during the day.
When volunteering at the Museum in September 2015, I found a large quantity of beautifully-iced and very tasty cake on offer in the kitchen. When I asked about this, I was told that Anita the curator and Steve the resident cartoonist had found a wedding cake, all wrapped up in a fancy box, abandoned in the street outside the museum one morning when they got to work. When they opened the box they discovered the cake inside and, both being extremely slim and hungry types, they started to eat it – and share it with us volunteers. Nobody suffered any ill-effects as a result. There are many wild guesses as to why such a rich and tasty cake should have been left in the street; there may even be a sad story behind it.