Rupert Besley writes:
On the banks of the Tyne at Wallsend, downstream from Newcastle, is Segedunum, the large Roman fort that marked the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall. A century back, the space was crammed with terraced housing and rang to the sounds of shipbuilding in the Swan Hunter yard. It was here in 1906 that the Mauretania was launched, then the biggest moving structure ever made.These days the houses have gone and site cleared to reveal the foundations of the mighty garrison. Shipyard buildings have been converted to form a superb museum, impressive for its collection of Roman finds, its reconstructions and its many activities. The museum’s Viewing Tower is a welcome sight to those completing the 84-mile Hadrian’s Wall Walk from Bowness-on-Solway. And this summer, for all who like cartoons (that’s everyone, isn’t it?), there is one further attraction: an exhibition of Hadrian’s Wall in cartoons.
The museum exterior.
Many congratulations to all involved, notably the volunteer Friends of Segedunum who have so well researched, resourced and curated ‘Borderline Funny‘. With generous support from a variety of directions (including Lottery funding), they have put together a handsomely mounted show that includes contributions from a good few PCO members along with cartooning colleagues well known from Private Eye and Viz.Prominent in the exhibition, and rightly so, is the work of Roger Oram (1952-2016), an archaeologist who worked for 20 years at Segedunum and was also a spare-time cartoonist with an eye for satirical barbs.
One of the contributions from the children of Richardson Dees Primary School.
The exhibition spills over into the adjoining gallery with its cartoon contributions from visitors and local children, notably those from Richardson Dees Primary School in Wallsend, who worked on the project with Beano artist Nigel Auchterlounie.
Time was when printed publications had plentiful space for cartoons. Such outlets are shrinking fast, so it’s a most welcome thing that the enterprising folk of Tyne & Wear have done. A themed cartoon show makes an attractive add-on for any event or site – not just museums or places of interest: think sporting occasions, food fairs, professional conventions, local festivals, cultural happenings…
The PCO has regularly engaged with such undertakings, but the costs and logistical problems of such an exercise are really too much to expect one or two volunteers to manage. The task of assembling originals from all round the country, storing these, mounting, framing, hanging, insuring, supervising, handling sales and return despatch, is prohibitive, unless done in partnership with a gallery set up full-time for such activity.
Cartoon original by © Tony Husband
Top panel by Viz cartoonists © Graham Dury and Simon Thorp, courtesy of Dennis Publishing. Plus below cartoons by © K J Lamb and Clive Goddard.
At Segedunum they found another way through. Dispensing with originals (apart from the two generously donated by Tony Husband for fundraising purposes), they first obtained permissions and digital scans from the artists and then had these plus text printed by a local firm (to a very high standard) on to thick display board, cut to appropriate shapes. (A note advises visitors of contact details available to anyone interested in buying.) Still a way that needs money, hard work and much input from volunteers, but a very neat solution. Borderline brilliant, I’d say.
© Rupert Besley’s take on the theme.
List of contributors
The exhibition runs right until Sunday 22 September.