Clive with the colouring book hot off the press

Clive Goddard writes:

Back in July 2023 cartoons hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, had ordered the removal of children’s cartoon murals from the walls of two migrant centres in Kent. The colourful, cuddly Disney characters were apparently sending out the wrong message to unaccompanied children arriving in the UK from war zones, oppressive regimes, religious and racial persecution and extreme poverty. Mr Jenrick preferred that they should be greeted by blank white walls just in case they thought they might be welcome here. 

This mean-spirited, pettiness, evidently aimed at pleasing his ‘base’, rightly earned him a huge amount of public criticism from across the political spectrum; it was even too cruel for foghorn based TV personality, Nigel Farage to stomach. 

Guy Venables colouring in.

The news quickly reached the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation where cartoonist Guy Venables offered to go to Kent and paint some nice new murals; an offer which was politely declined due to the political sensitivity of the matter. It appears you can’t just turn up at a government run detention centre with pens and paint and brushes and do something nice for kids. They would probably have been painted over again anyway costing the taxpayer even more money. Guy talks about the project here in The Metro.

Double decker bus © Nick Newman & Britannia © Harry Harrison

It was at this point that the PCO’s treasurer, Amy Amani, came up with the idea of creating a colouring book which could be distributed free to migrant children. It was a simple but brilliant idea. Our membership included over 100 professional cartoonists from all corners of our national newspapers and magazines (it’s a few more now). We already had the talent in house but the difficult bit was going to be getting past the gatekeepers and putting the books into the hands of migrant kids.

The book at the Sanctuary in Chichester…

…and a cartoon being coloured in by one of the asylum seeker children who have recently arrived in the town.

This was when we partnered with those nice people at 38 Degrees who approached their million strong group of supporters, crowd funded the printing costs and organised the tricky matter of the book’s distribution. They also sourced small packets of crayons to accompany the book (they’d be useless without them) and liaised with the Refugee Council who checked the contents for anything inappropriate which might need replacing. Even Glenn Marshall toned down his terrifying teeth and noses. (Ed; How very dare you!)

Fry-up © Ed Willis Garcia

Sheep © Martin Rowson

Scotland and Nessie © Kate Charlesworth

We knew that the book’s content had to be apolitical. Cartoons mocking Jenrick would guarantee it never reached its destination and the usual online suspects would start howling about soft-touch Britain and woke cartoonists trying to be nice to vulnerable children! I mean, how dare we? So a theme was decided; it would be called The Great British Cartoon Book and it would be full of lovely, non-inflammatory drawings of all things British; our culture, our weather, our history, cricket, football, wildlife, double decker buses, fry-ups, sheep, picnics, the Loch Ness Monster and sitting on the beach in the rain. Who could possibly object to that? Well, a few idiots did but who cares. They’d object to anything.

Afternoon tea © The Surreal McCoy

Countryside © Tony Husband

Football © Jonesy

Picnic © Sarah Boyce

Artwork from the PCO membership quickly came in. We had drawings by Kipper Williams, The Surreal McCoy, Tony Husband (now sadly no longer with us), other Private Eye regulars including Banx, RGJ, Jonesy, Boyce, Kerber, Guy and Birch as well as editorial cartoonists from The Guardian, the Evening Standard and The Sun, comic artists from Viz and the Beano. A brilliant depiction of Britannia (with a pigeon) by South China Morning Post cartoonist, Harry Harrison, was chosen for the cover art and Nick Newman’s bus cartoon for the back page.

At the beach © Adam Hargreaves

Wildlife © Posy Simmonds

All the above are excellent cartoonists of course but we were under no illusion that they constitute household names so to get the press interested we sent the brief out to as many famous artists and illustrators as we could find email addresses for. Work soon came in from Adam (Mr Men) Hargreaves, Posy Simmonds, Quentin Blake, Ralph Steadman and even Terry Gilliam. Celebrity names get the press interested. They’re still coming in, too.

Local transport © Patrick Blower

The first print run is now finally done and should be arriving in children’s hands imminently. Work is nearly complete on a second ‘bumper edition’ of the Great British Colouring book which we hope to have available for purchase in early December, just in time for the Christmas buying frenzy. Over half the proceeds will go to migrant charities.

Stay tuned to find out how you can order your copy soon. And let’s hope these books and their little packets of crayons can bring more joy to some vulnerable kids than a freshly painted white wall.

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: You can now buy your own copy of the book here. (Ed)

Children © Ros Asquith

History © Royston Robertson

Thanks to all who worked to make this happen and to all the cartoon contributors.

You can still donate to this project via 38 Degrees

Here’s the story as we originally broke it.

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