Mike Peterson has mentioned the episode a few times, at the bottom of this column, at the top here, and toward the middle of this post. But here is Clive Goddard, chairman of the UK’s Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation (PCO), telling it:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A gallery of some of the art from The Great British Colouring Book is at the above link and includes art by Ed Willis Garcia, Martin Rowson, Kate Charlesworth, The Surreal McCoy, Tony Husband, Jonesy, Sarah Boyce, Adam Hargreaves, Posy Simmonds, Patrick Blower, Ros Asquith, and Royston Robertson.
And more is on the way:
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.
You can still donate to this project via 38 Degrees
Huzzahs to all involved!