After five months of closure, May saw us finally re-open the museum to the public! It has been
lovely to see visitors back in the galleries laughing away, and getting stuck into our new exhibitions.
Our new In-Focus exhibition, Natasha Natarajan’s FML Comics, has enthused countless visitors – many of whom are being introduced to Natasha’s work for the first time, with copies of her book steadily disappearing from the museum shop’s shelves. It has been a pleasure to work with Natasha and to share her amazing work and stories. Throughout June we are hosting a series of events where Natasha and a collaborator will take up residence in the gallery for a day allowing visitors to see their live drawing, and in the evening they will chat about the day at an online event. You can buy tickets to all the events from our webshop.
V for Vendetta: Behind the Mask has received a very positive reception; as noted by The Times: ‘at a time when masks and protests have become so much a part of life, this new show at The Cartoon Museum feel apt’; and by Down The Tubes: ‘A really strong re-opening show from the Cartoon Museum’. That the exhibition has managed to find some visibility in the press in an incredibly crowded marketplace is a success in itself – opening a major new exhibition alongside 200 other London museums reopening with their own new exhibitions is far from ideal!. Alongside the incredible original artwork by David Lloyd and loans from Warner Bros from the 2006 film, the exhibition culminates in a series of co-created placards. The placards are original pieces of art, co-designed with people who have been involved in real-life protests. V for Vendetta: Behind the Mask draws together themes about protest, anarchy, and ‘taking control of your own destiny’. The co-designed placards bring the exhibition into the real world, looking at the stories of real people and their experiences, allowing visitors to make the connection between the story of V for Vendetta and themselves.
Building the V for Vendetta and FML Comics exhibitions was, if as busy and stressful as ever, also a joy – the museum has a very small staff team and are supported by an incredible and dedicated team of volunteers, who painted walls, produced set dressing, cleaned artwork, made text labels and even made some of the placards on display. I always say we are a small, close family team – this was exemplified by my mother-in-law, June, hanging artwork with the exhibitions team until 8pm, and my seven-month old baby, Etta, visiting to help out in her own unique way (making everyone smile and happily waving around pieces of discarded paper). Talking to volunteers who take part and hearing their pride in contributing to such a great exhibition in a visible way really underlined the amazing opportunities a small museum can offer that a larger museum can’t.
Visitors have also been able to enjoy the new display of comic art, hung recently in the Clore learning studio. With much of the permanent exhibition consisting of historical cartooning, we felt it was important to find a space to dedicate to comics. The walls of our Clore learning studio – newly painted a fetching red colour by the team – now feature approximately 5% of our comic art collection, including wonderful early Beano and Dandy pages, alongside pages from iconic comics such as Watchmen and Judge Dread.
Despite the long closure, now we are back on site we have been working hard to meet our new neighbours in Westminster. The Life Under Lockdown project, funded through the generosity of Westminster Council and our amazing members and supporters, started in the June half-term and the young people involved have been drawing some incredible one-page comics detailing their experiences of lockdown. We can’t wait to share them with you all! We will also be involved in some fantastic community projects coming up in the summer, starting with the team taking part in the Church Street Festival over the bank holiday weekend, an upcoming partnership with Mousetrap Theatre welcoming new families from across London to the museum for the first time, and a new series of classes for MIND, a partner we have worked with for many years to support people experiencing mental health issues to creatively explore issues and feelings through cartooning.
Finally, we were very excited to see our name among the nominees for the 2021 Museums & Heritage Awards, where we have been shortlisted for Fundraiser of the Year, alongside five other fantastic museums. Wish us luck at the awards on Thursday 1 July!