A week ago we lost the heart and soul of The Cartoon Museum.
Alison Brown passed away in the early hours of Thursday 14 January. She was in hospital recuperating from a short illness, before contracting COVID-19, complications from which led to her untimely death at just 39 years old.
Born in Newcastle, Alison studied photography at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design. She previously worked at the V&A and The Courtauld Gallery shop. Joining the Cartoon Museum in 2006, she worked with many of the current team for most of the intervening 14 years, and her passing is a devastating blow to the trustees, staff and volunteers. Alison played a huge part in the move to the new Wells Street site, packing up and moving most of the museum almost single-handedly and contributing eye-catching ideas for the new site. She was incredibly proud of the Museum’s move and reincarnation.
Alison was a cornerstone of the museum since she started as the Front of House Manager and was the first face many visitors saw as they came through the door, greeting them with a friendly smile, a shock of colourful hair, and her anarchic, self-deprecatory sense of humour. Over the years she brought wonderful events and exhibitions to life. A passion project for Alison, was ‘Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide’, the exhibition celebrated Kate Charlesworth’s graphic memoir and highlighted LGBTQ female comic artists, bringing diversity to the museum’s exhibitions and celebrating queer and female voices. Her ability to concoct themed cocktails for book launches and other events was legendary! She oversaw the museum shop, stocking a varied range of books and gifts, starting exciting new ranges, and created great opportunities for visitors to discover the next amazing artist (that they had never previously heard of) including new young artists, stocking the self-published comics of now-established artists such as Zoom Rockman, whose comic she started selling when he was 9 years old.
Alison was also the face of The Cartoon Museum at public events across the country, promoting the museum at festivals such as MCM, The Lakes Festival, Thought Bubble, and the London Film and Comic Con. Meeting the public and chatting about comics and cartoons, recruiting new museum Friends, and delivering the museum’s mission to entertain, educate and inform, Alison had the ability to make everyone her friend. Tributes from cartoonists and comic writers and artists have been numerous, but she is best summed up by her partner Allan, who wrote in the international comics new site Bleeding Cool:
‘She was the ray of light for everyone with the good fortune to know her … she was the kindest, happiest and most wonderful soul I have ever met.’
Alison will be much missed by the museum team, and by the extended comic and cartoon community. Thank you, Ali, for all the memories, and rest in peace.