Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Beano 4000!

DC Editor Adam writes… A few years ago I compiled a Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London for The Daily Constitutional looking at cartoon and comic book characters and creators and their history in our great city.

You can catch up with all the posts here:

Today I'm reposting Panel No.16 in honour of the Beano's 4000th edition out today. Congratulations to The Beano!

Panel No.16: Fleet Street

I daren't leave Fleet Street out of my Cartoon and Comic Book Tour of London – even though the national newspaper industry has long since abandoned its spiritual home.

Fleet Street as a metonym, however, is still going strong. And it doesn’t seem to want to go away. Twenty-first century TV and radio presenters still refer to the British press collectively as Fleet Street. To put this in perspective, The Daily Mail, one of the UK’s most popular papers, set up shop in Kensington as long ago as 1988. Yet Fleet Street as a moniker persists.

The nationals may have moved on, but any paper worth its salt still has a cartoonist – even though it was reported in UK Press Gazette (This blog was first posted Feb 2015: Ed.) that The Daily Express was keen to dispense with the services of their political cartoonist, news that broke back in January on the same day as the Charlie Hebdo murders.

The Express once had a phalanx of daily cartoons the envy of Fleet Street. Their strips included Rupert Bear and James Bond, and their political cartoonist was the famous Giles. No English home was complete without a copy of the Giles annual. 

Giles was a Londoner by birth, born Ronald Giles in Islington in 1916. His topical cartoons often featured the family that became his signature, headed by the doughty (and I always thought faintly sinister) Grandma. His collections are still published annually, some 20 years after his death, and can be bought in the bookshop at the Cartoon Museum.

The Daily Express is also the only British paper to publish a cartoon on its front page almost everyday since 1929 in the shape of the Crusader…

The crusader was the brainchild of legendary newspaper baron Lord Beaverbrook. Beaverbrook bought the Express in 1916 back when he was plain old Mr. Max Aitken.

The crusader was the emblem of his campaign for free trade between nations of the empire – an initiative he hoped would benefit his native Canada. In 1951 when Churchill was elected as Prime Minister, he disappointed Beaverbrook with his abandonment of traditional imperial policies. In reaction, The Beaver slapped chains on the Crusader – a gesture that was repeated when Britain was invited to join the Common Market (a forerunner of the European Community).

The Crusader remains the emblem of The Daily Express to this day.

A version of the Crusader, rather more battered and forlorn, represents our great satirical magazine Private Eye

(I blogged about Private Eye earlier in this series, see Panel 3).

It would be inaccurate to say that rumours of Fleet Street's death have been greatly exaggerated – no national newspapers are left here, and Reuters moved away in 2003. And since the journalists left, other despised and unpopular professions have since moved in with the arrival of the bankers and the lawyers. (How's that for an unholy trinity?) But there is one famous name left standing in the once infamous Street of Ink: D.C Thomson.

D.C Thomson is the publisher of the Dundee Courier, the People's Friend story paper and the famous Sunday Post. The titles are built into the fabric of its Fleet Street HQ…

The Sunday Post is published weekly in Dundee and features the legendary cartoon strips The Broons and Oor Wullie, originally drawn by the Lancashire-born artist Dudley D. Watkins – whose work can be seen at the Cartoon Museum in Bloomsbury (see panel 11 in this series).

Oor Wullie is Scotland's answer to Dennis the Menace…

…,while The Broons features a cartoon family that holds as dear a place in the hearts of Scots as Giles's family occupy in the affections of middle England…

(I have a theory about Wullie's hair: given that the creators and writers of The Simpsons plough such a rich furrow of Scottish wit with their Groundskeeper Willie character, even referencing Baron Ross of Marnock, the former Willie Ross MP in one gag – pretty nuanced stuff! – I'm prepared to stick my neck out and claim that Oor Wullie is the inspiration for Bart Simpson…)

Wullie & Bart. Separated at birth?

You can buy Broons & Oor Wullie books and merchandise direct from D.C Thomson here:

The Broons strip was famously parodied as The Broonites written by Fountain & Jamieson for Private Eye magazine, to poke fun at our former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The artwork is by the excellent Henry Davies, who works for The Beano and has also drawn for the official Broons! (He shares great cartoon related stuff via his Twitter feed @BeanoArtist and you can buy his originals direct from his website.)

You can subscribe to Private Eye magazine at

As a child growing up in Scotland it was always a race to get to the copy of The Sunday Post before my father. If my father got there first he would pore over the comics for what seemed like AGES, chuckling away while I stood jealously by.

Oor Wullie and The Broons have appeared in The Sunday Post since 1936 and it is claimed that Watkins, along with David Low, was listed as an enemy of the Third Reich for his satirical portraits of the Nazi leadership – see our earlier post for more on that topic.

Mr. Watkins was also the creator of Desperate Dan for The Dandy (here's Dan on a first class stamp)…

… and worked for the legendary Beano – again, the last man standing of the classic British comics, and a periodical of which I remain an avid reader…

When the D.C Thomson offices closed last year (2014) for a makeover, they chose neither the Sunday Post nor the Evening Telegraph to brighten up their windows, but pages from The Beano…

Here's a map to Fleet Street and D.C Thomson's HQ…

Footnote… I call by D.C Thomson on my Publish & Be Damned walking tour, which looks at the history of journalism in Fleet Street. I'll often bring my Broons and Oor Wullie annuals along for you to look at at… as long as you promise not to hog them for as long as my dad.

You can also book my Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of Westminster as a walking tour – available in both one and two hour versions. Click the email button at the foot of this post to enquire.

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Thursday, 15 August 2019

The Kensington Playlist

DC Editor Adam writes…

I’m out and about in Kensington today leading the Old Kensington tour for London Walks. You can join me every second Thursday at 2pm meeting at High Street Kensington tube. 

My Kensington tour is not one of my themed music tours - but I always consider the musicians and music of an area when researching any walking tour. I believe it helps me get inside the DNA of an area.

I've been compiling a Kensington playlist – it's a work-in-progress, I'm always on the look-out to update it, but here's what I've got so far. I hope it will help YOU get inside the DNA of this fascinating part of London.

There’s only one possible starting point in Kensington. Hubert Parry and his most famous piece, Jerusalem.


We swing by Hubert Parry’s former residence on the Kensington tour…

The second piece is, perhaps, a little more off-the-beaten track.

I’ve been listening to the music of 20th Century English composer Sir Arthur Bliss (1891 - 1975) lately - inspired by Tom Service’s excellent BBC Radio 3 programme & podcast The Listening Service. Download & listen here:

My Bliss-binge, combined with the changing of the seasons - Kensington always wears her seasonal plumage well – brought me to Bliss’s The Approach of Autumn from his ballet Adam Zero (1946).

Bliss wrote the piece while resident in Kensington, at 15 Cottesmore Gardens where he lived during the post war period.


Adam Zero was premiered at Covent Garden in 1946 with Constant Lambert conducting. Lambert was also a sometime Kensingtonite, residing at 42 Peel Street from 1929-31. The piece is melancholy and intensely dramatic, dominated by pensive woodwind and nagged by chilly strings. I love it…


Bliss was appointed Master of the Queen’s Music in 1953 and in this capacity he composed pieces for the funeral of Winston Churchill and the investiture of the Prince of Wales.

In 1936 he composed the score for the early British sci-fi film Things To Come (based on H.G Well's The Shape of Things To Come). Here's the trailer with Bliss's histrionic score wonderfully at odds with the stiffly posh actors…

Bliss is represented elsewhere on the London landscape with a blue plaque in Hampstead.


Killer Queen by Queen…

Freddie Mercury lived in Kensington (see map below) and worked with Queen drummer Roger Taylor on a stall at the old (long-gone) hippie hangout Kensington Market.

Of all the Queen songs that I could have chosen – surely Bohemian Rhapsody is the most obvious choice – I have gone for Killer Queen. Why? Well it has all the elements of a great Queen song. The words are histrionic and witty. Freddie Mercury's star-studded lyric paints a vivid and outlandish picture of glamorous excess. Syllabically, it is so tightly packed that it almost functions as an additional rhythm instrument.

Musically it's highly contagious, real earworm stuff. It's a great pop song length - i.e. not too long (which is not always the case with Queen). Finally it has great rock elements among all the theatricality - Brian May's solos here are, I think, among his best, so clipped yet passionate – along with those lush vocal harmonies.

Freddie Mercury's former home in Kensington remains a place of pilgrimage for fans from all across the globe…

… although the shrine pictured here was removed in 2017…

Freddie lived in Logan Place, Kensington.

Step forward songwriter and actor Michael Flanders 1922-1975.

In his day, Flanders was regarded by many as the finest English lyricist and librettist since W.S Gilbert. His partnership with Donald Swann created some of the most beloved English comic songs of the 20th Century – The Gnu and The Hippopotamus (commonly known after its refrain of mud, mud glorious mud) among them.

Flanders was educated at Westminster School – at the same time as Peter Ustinov and Peter Brook – and Christ Church, Oxford. He left the latter to join the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve but contracted polio in 1943 and, as a result, used a wheelchair for the rest of his life. One of his less-celebrated achievements was his campaigning to make theatres more accessible.

His debut with Swann under the billing Flanders and Swann, with their revue, At The Drop Of A Hat, took place in 1959 at the now demolished New Lindsey Theatre Club, Kensington Palace Gardens Terrace. It transferred to the Fortune Theatre in the West End for 759 performances before transferring to Broadway.

For my Kensington Playlist I've chosen A Transport of Delight from the Fortune Theatre recording of At The Drop Of A Hat - mainly because of its very London-y subject matter (a London bus) but also because of a reference in the intro by Flanders to Tony Armstrong-Jones, the soon-to-be husband of Princess Margaret. Keeping up my Kensington theme, the couple would reside at Kensington Palace.

Flanders lived at 1a Scarsdale Villas, Kensington from 1953 to 1962 - briefly sharing the house with Swann. A Blue Plaque marks the spot…

A little bit of pop to close this first instalment… Singer Alma Cogan joins Hubert Parry, Arthur Bliss, Queen and Flanders & Swann on the Kensington Playlist. 

Her plaque can be found on High Street, Kensington…

The brightest British star of the pre-Beatles era, Alma Cogan enjoyed chart success with her breezy, traditional pop tunes from 1954 to 1960.

Her cheerful style (she was billed as “The Girl with the Laugh in her Voice”) took her to Number 1 with Dreamboat in 1955 and an appearance on the fabled Ed Sullivan Show in 1957.

Her Blue Plaque is on the apartment block where she lived and staged her legendary showbiz parties. On any given night at 44 Stafford Court, High Street Kensington one could run into Lionel Bart, Cary Grant, Michael Caine or Noel Coward.

Lennon and McCartney were no strangers to Alma's famous parties – Alma and The Beatles first met at rehearsals for TV's Sunday Night At the London Palladium in January 1964. Lennon nicknamed her Sarah Sequin. Rumours persist that the two had an affair.

Alma was one of the first ports of call for McCartney when he composed what would become Yesterday. Beatle legend tells us that the song arrived to McCartney in a dream, and he wasn't completely sure if the song was perhaps a "borrowed" melody from another, older tune. In checking it with Cogan – an expert in the field of showtunes and American Songbook – the singing star seems to have assumed that the Beatle was offering her exclusive recording rights to the song. While she did go on to record the number (along with Ticket to Ride and Eight Days A Week) she was just one of many. It's often said that Yesterday is the most recorded pop song of all time.

The number I've added to the Kensington Playlist is Alma's only UK No.1 from 1955 Dreamboat – being representative of her breezy style.

 A Londoner through-and-through, she was born in Whitechapel as Alma Angela Cohen to Russian Jewish immigrant parents and lived in Kensington for fifteen years until her death, at the age of 36 from ovarian cancer, in 1966.

Here's the playlist so far…

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Tuesday, 13 August 2019

The Daily Constitutional London Library No.10: Bespoke – Savile Row Ripped & Smoothed

Welcome to The Daily Constitutional London Library

In this ten-week series of posts I've been drawing in literary fiction, popular fiction, graphic novels and non-fiction to create a reading list as disparate and inspiring as London itself. 

The 10 titles are linked in so much as each one features at least one London location – each post will also featured a map to one of the locations.

Last instalment (for the time being) brings us to Savile Row…

No.10. Bespoke – Savile Row Ripped & Smoothed

By Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson walked into Huntsman of Savile Row as a callow teenager looking for a job. He left nearly 20 years later as one of the bespoke world’s most respected tailors having learned the trade from suit makers of the old school.

Where he learned to write so well is not a matter of record, but the proof of his ability can be found on every page of his autobiographical account of a working life on one of London’s most famous streets.

His insider’s tale opens up Savile Row tailoring to the layman with wit, affection and not a little drama.

His pen portraits of the irascible old tailors who toughened him up as a young apprentice are vivid and memorable. His discreetly gossipy revelations of the foibles of arguably the most demanding clientele in London make the reader feel that the cost of a bespoke suit would be cheap at twice the price.

Three tales are woven into the narrative. There’s Anderson’s own coming-of-age story, that of a boy from St Albans who dreamt of being a footballer and who almost blundered into his calling on The Row. It is the work of a seemingly very down-to-earth man whose easy charm and self-effacing wit wins the reader from the off.

The history of Savile Row is the next strand, and Anderson’s delight in the famous old street is infectious. The art of the tailor is the third and potentially most difficult strand. But such is Anderson’s love of his craft, combined with his gift to relate a tale, that the technical details of cutting, measuring and making a suit become more fascinating with every page.

In 2001 he set up his own business on The Row. Richard Anderson Ltd was the first new house to be set up on Savile Row in 50 years.

Each Savile Row tailoring house has its own distinctive style. But I doubt if any of them will ever write a book about The Row that is half as good as this one. No London bookshelf is complete without it.

Richard Anderson, Savile Row…

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Thursday, 1 August 2019

The Ashes 2019

DC Editor Adam Scott-Goulding writes…

The Ashes 1st Test begins at Lord's today.

Test? Ashes? Baffled? Confused?

Here are five handy facts to keep you afloat this summer when the conversation turns to all things cricket.

1. The earliest recorded reference to the game dates from the reign of King Edward I (1239 – 1307) when it is believed the game was known as ‘creag’.

2. The first County cricket match (Kent v. London) took place in 1719 – in London, at Lamb’s Conduit Fields in what is now Bloomsbury.

3. Cricket legend has it that the game killed an heir to the British throne. Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales (above), a cricket nut, died prematurely in 1751 – some say as the result of an injury sustained on the cricket field. (His son became King George III in 1760.)

4. England v. Australia is the third oldest international sporting fixture in the world (next to the England v. Scotland (1872) and Scotland v. Wales (1876) football fixtures). The first test series took place in season 1876-77 in Melbourne, Australia, and ended in a 1-1 draw.

5. The Ashes is so called because of the urn that acts as the “trophy” for the series. In 1880 Australia emerged from the Oval victorious. The Sporting Times published an obituary for English cricket stating that “the body [of English cricket] will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.” The urn is rumoured to contain the ashes of a burnt bail (the small piece of wood that must be knocked from the top of the stumps by the bowler to get the batsman “out”). The great anomaly is that even when Australia wins The Ashes, the trophy remains (no pun intended) at Lord’s Cricket Ground.

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