Because we’re lucky enough to live in London, we’re blessed with so many places to visit. We like to think we’re pretty well travelled, but we had not visited The Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury until just a few weeks ago.
The reason for our visit was a cartoon workshop which was being run for kids. This appealed to Robert, who signed up for a two-hour long workshop on jokes. As I was taking him anyway, I decided to spend some time looking around the museum itself. After all, it recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, so I felt really rather late to this one…
The Cartoon Museum looks pretty unimpressive from the outside (it’s a small building situated in a quiet backstreet not far from Tottenham Court Road), but it has the most fantastic shop which you come to as you walk in. This is full of comic books, posters (all very good value) and the most wonderful array of greetings cards. I had to stop myself from buying more and more as so many of them made me laugh out loud.
However, I soon realised that I couldn’t spend two hours in a shop, so I paid £7 to enter the actual museum (under 18s are free).
It’s a small space, with a downstairs that’s often dedicated to an exhibition. You aren’t allowed to take specific pictures of cartoons, only general views, but suffice to say that there were some brilliant cartoons on show.
When I visited, earlier this month, the exhibition was of cartoons by Martin Honeysett, whose work often featured in Private Eye and The Oldie, and they were fantastic – clever and funny. It wasn’t very busy, which is a shame, but I don’t think this is a place you would come up on by chance.
I also looked in at the Mel Calman gallery which contained a potted history of cartoons through the ages, from political satire onwards, and dating back hundreds of years. There are many original cartoons and caricatures (lots of them brilliant) and including some by George Du Maurier and John Tenniel. William Heath Robinson is there too, of course, as are some very recognisable names – Steve Bell, Gerald Scarfe and Ronald Searle.
It was lovely to walk around and I did learn something, but also didn’t take too long and I think it could have been a bit more interactive or innovative, as it was basically lots of words on a billboard and then the cartoons on the wall (though they were great). I wonder if there could have been something cleverer done with the presentation, or more contributions/thoughts from the cartoonists themselves.
I don’t think this would really entertain children, although the huge pile of comics on a table just outside this gallery certainly would (Robert didn’t want to leave after his workshop, as he just wanted to stay and read old copies of The Beano).
I then went upstairs (past a huge cutout of Rupert Bear!) where there was a display containing a real mixture of cartoons, comics and graphic writing. I enjoyed going round here, but actually would have liked to have seen more. For example, there was one framed picture from the comic Bunty, which I really liked many, many years ago. It would have been great if there had been the space to have a while section on comics like these, but the space isn’t huge and there is so much to fit in – including original artwork showing Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx and Dan Dare. There are also some American interlopers, with cartoons from Garry Trudeau and Charles Schulz, and a space for children (and maybe adults!) to draw, as well as more contemporary comics to read.
And what of Robert’s workshop? He enjoyed it but didn’t love it – I think he wanted to do more jokes and drawings of his own, rather than be led by the instructors. But it was certainly something different to do in the holidays and it was most enjoyable to discover yet another asset to London.
Robert’s workshop cost £10. There are more workshops on in May half-term, so take a look. You are welcome to leave your child while they are there, so you could have two hours to go for a coffee/shopping etc!
I thought £7 was a little steep for adults as my visit didn’t take very long, but I understand that the Museum needs to make money and appreciate that children are free. But it was a fun place to visit, good to get away from the hustle and bustle of London for a couple of hours. And I did laugh a lot!
The Museum runs regular exhibitions and talks, for adults as well as kids.
More days out in London