Comic Creators

Comic Creators

A comic Creator giving a talk in front of a crowd at The Cartoon Museum
Comic Creator Jamie Smart giving a talk at The Cartoon Museum. Credit: The Cartoon Museum

Heritage Grants

Holborn and Covent Garden
The Cartoon Museum
The Comic Creators Project helped the London-based charity to diversify its audience by expanding its collections and events programme.

The project

The Comic Creators project was run by The Cartoon Museum in London; a venue that promotes cartoon art collections. The purpose of the project was to develop a representative collection of original British comic art.

Through a programme of exhibitions, events and workshops, the aims were to:

  • conserve and provide access to Britain’s cartoon and comic art heritage
  • encourage participation in and raise awareness of cartoon creation
  • support new work by cartoonists and comics artists

The organisation 

The Cartoon Museum, run by a small team of staff and a Board of Trustees, is a registered charity in central London. The museum champions cartoon and comic art, highlighting its value to culture and society. Works include cartoons, caricatures, comic strips and animation.

Currently the museum has a collection of over 6,000 original cartoon and comic artworks, and a library of over 8,000 books and comics.

People viewing a piece of comic book art
Visitors at the museum viewing Woodrow Phoenix’s graphic novel She Lives. Credit: The Cartoon Museum

During the Comic Creators project, the museum moved near Oxford Circus and reopened in July 2019. The new site was redesigned, taking inspiration from the language of cartoons and comics.

The funding 

In late 2014, the Cartoon Museum was awarded £164,000 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Prior to the project, the museum tended to focus on political cartoons and did not have collecting budget for British comic art. Funding was required to increase the volume and significance of comics in the cartoon museum’s collection. This would then allow the museum to engage and forge relationships with collectors and comic creators.

The results 

Funding for the Comic Creators project produced many positive outcomes for the Cartoon Museum. More than 400 comic art pages were acquired, around three-quarters of its wish list. This exceeded the 100 items that were estimated at the application stage of the project.

These new comic collections attracted an average of 22,000 people pre-2015. The number of visitors then steadily increased year on year to between 28,000–32,000 – prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdowns.

The Cartoon Museum exhibited the new collections and ran various events and workshops. Relationships with the comic creators were strengthened, as they were very keen to support the project and accompanying events.

Meeting our outcomes 

Comic artists gave staff at the museum the confidence to fully plan and manage the 2000AD ‘Future Shock’ exhibition at the Museum in 2017. This enabled them to better interpret and explain heritage, by developing permanent comic art displays. One volunteer was even offered a permanent job because of the social media skills they developed on the project

The public learnt more about heritage from various events – about 50 school class workshops were ran each year. Plus, there are free online resources on the museum’s website to learn how to create cartoon characters.

School girl showing her own comic book art
Winners of comic strip competitions were able to display their own art in the Comic Creators gallery. Credit: The Cartoon Museum

A wider range of people engaged with heritage, as a result of the project. Laydeez do Comics is the first woman-led comics forum in the UK. They champion that comics are a powerful tool to question and challenge global issues.

The future 

The Cartoon Museum have secured their position as the premier venue in London and indeed Britain for comic art exhibitions.

James Bacon, Forbidden Planet International

Our grant enabled the museum to acquire pages of British comic art from every decade since the late 19th century. It markedly improved the Cartoon Museum’s standing in the comics world. Plus, it helped form strong relationships between key producers and collectors, such as the publishing company DC Thomson. James Bacon, from Forbidden Planet International, said: "The Cartoon Museum have secured their position as the premier venue in London and indeed Britain for comic art exhibitions."

Top tips 

Various recommendations for similar projects have emerged from Comic Creators: 

  • The public events held at the Cartoon Museum brought fans and creators together in a more intimate setting. It is recommended to run these rather than large events, as well as involving artists and curators to share skills.
  • Future projects should try and appeal to wider or different audiences. The project helped establish comic art at the Cartoon Museum, rather than just political cartoons. This has completely changed its reputation, making it more popular.
  • Comic Creators benefited from a project manager, who spent two days a week working at the museum. However, due to the ambition and success of the project, the Cartoon Museum recommends that this should be a full-time role. Don't underestimate the amount of funded time a project curator needs to organise exhibitions and events.