Giles Family at 75: Media and advertising

With all their fame and success, it’s no surprise that the Giles family leapt from their creator’s drawing board and into the wider world. In this blog post – the last in our series celebrating 75 years of the Giles family – we dive into the Carl Giles Trust archives (not, er, literally) to take a look at how Grandma and the gang have been used in media and advertising:

In this blog post – the last in our series celebrating 75 years of the Giles family – we dive into the Carl Giles Trust archives (not, er, literally) to take a look at how Grandma and the gang have been used in media and advertising:

What’s the tea, Grandma? 

Centre spread of Special 'T-Day Edition' of the Daily Express, celebrating the appearance of the Giles family in the Tetley Quick Brew adverts - Carl Giles, Daily Express, c. 1983 (Image ref: GAAD0021B)

Centre spread of Special ‘T-Day Edition’ of the Daily Express, celebrating the appearance of the Giles family in the Tetley Quick Brew adverts – Carl Giles, Daily Express, c. 1983 (Image ref: GAAD0021B)

Around 1983 – 1985, Carl Giles partnered with restaurant chain and food manufacturer Lyons to advertise their Quick Brew tea. The adverts starred Grandma and can be viewed here, here and here. (There is some debate regarding Giles’ agreement to these adverts.) Alongside Grandma, Mother and Father also had starring roles:

Colour advert for Lyons Quick Brew tea bags with Giles cartoon - Carl Giles, c.1985 (Image ref: GAPC0611)

Colour advert for Lyons Quick Brew tea bags with Giles cartoon – Carl Giles, c.1985 (Image ref: GAPC0611)

Colour advert for Lyons Quick Brew tea bags with Giles cartoon - Carl Giles, c.1985 (Image ref: GAPC0612)

Colour advert for Lyons Quick Brew tea bags with Giles cartoon – Carl Giles, c.1985 (Image ref: GAPC0612)

It was also possible to buy specially designed boxes of Quick Brew tea which had the Giles Family on. Here’s a closeup of the art Giles drew for this:

Colour proof of Lyons Quick Brew 500g tea bag packaging - Carl Giles, c.1985 (Image ref: GAP2166)

Colour proof of Lyons Quick Brew 500g tea bag packaging – Carl Giles, c.1985 (Image ref: GAP2166)

And for the true tea lover / Giles family aficionado? You could send off for a Giles family tea towel! Don’t think Grandma would like being used to clean up, mind you.

Tea towel featuring the Giles family for a Lyons Quick Brew tea promotion - Carl Giles, c.1986 (Image ref: GAX00006)

Tea towel featuring the Giles family for a Lyons Quick Brew tea promotion – Carl Giles, c.1986 (Image ref: GAX00006)

The Giles family reign over the land of Lyons Quick Brew came to an end in 1986; it was thought that they didn’t transfer from the cartoon into the ‘real world’ quite as successfully had hoped. The Carl Giles Trust archive holds a folder of correspondence relating to the Quick Brew campaign; you can read a summary of it here.

The Giles Family: coming soon to video near you!

Not all advertising campaigns were as successful (or as long-running) as the Giles/Lyons cartoons – some never even got off the ground. In this undated draft, the Giles Family were stars of their very own VCR systems:

Photocopy of rough draft for proposed advert for Granada video players featuring members of the Giles family; sent by Group X Advertising with request for Giles to draw the final version - Group X Advertising, undated (Image ref: GACS00593)

Photocopy of rough draft for proposed advert for Granada video players featuring members of the Giles family; sent by Group X Advertising with request for Giles to draw the final version – Group X Advertising, undated (Image ref: GACS00593)

Careful now…

As an artist, Giles was no stranger to public information campaigns – his work for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War, including a foray into animation – is one of the highlights of the archive we hold here at Kent. But did you know that the Giles family were also used in this manner? Here, George Jr and Stinker are attempting to warn everyone about the dangers of using machinery:

Part of cover cartoon in booklet 'Safe hands on the Land' - Carl Giles, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, 1956 (Image ref: GAPC0244)

Part of cover cartoon in booklet ‘Safe hands on the Land’ – Carl Giles, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, 1956 (Image ref: GAPC0244)

To the forecourt!

The Giles Family were so popular during Giles’ lifetime that it’s hardly surprising everyone wanted in on the action – including car companies. In 1973 Giles was approached by the advertising manager of Renault cars asking him if it was possible to incorporate the Giles Family into their next campaign. Whilst we hold a draft of the work Giles produced in response it’s unclear if the art made it into the real world:

Sample colour artwork advertising Renault cars - Carl Giles, c.1975 (Image ref: GACS00008)

Sample colour artwork advertising Renault cars – Carl Giles, c.1975 (Image ref: GACS00008)

Off the page and onto your screens?

Here’s another fact about the Giles family you may not know: there were talks to bring them to the land of television, in the form of an animated comedy series. It was never actually produced but we hold a draft script and an opening sketch…

Drawing of opening scene of draft script for an episode of an animated comedy series about the Giles Family - James McClure, undated (Image ref: GACS00775C)

Drawing of opening scene of draft script for an episode of an animated comedy series about the Giles Family – James McClure, undated (Image ref: GACS00775C)

Front page of draft script for an episode of an animated comedy series about the Giles Family - James McClure, undated (Image ref: GACS00775A)

Front page of draft script for an episode of an animated comedy series about the Giles Family – James McClure, undated (Image ref: GACS00775A)

Page 1 of draft script for an episode of an animated comedy series about the Giles Family - James McClure, undated (Image ref: GACS00775D)

Page 1 of draft script for an episode of an animated comedy series about the Giles Family – James McClure, undated (Image ref: GACS00775D)

Page 2 of draft script for an episode of an animated comedy series about the Giles Family - James McClure, undated (Image ref: GACS00775E)

Page 2 of draft script for an episode of an animated comedy series about the Giles Family – James McClure, undated (Image ref: GACS00775E)

A long day’s work = time for the pub

We’ve shared this image on our social media already but we couldn’t resist posting it here for posterity: when you get so famous your creations wind up on a pub sign, you know you’ve made it. Here’s Grandma and Natalie the cat adorning a pub in Islington, Giles’ birthplace in 1973:

Black and white photo of the sign for 'The Giles' pub, which includes a picture of Grandma and Natalie the cat - 30 October 1973 (Image ref: GAPH00069)

Black and white photo of the sign for ‘The Giles’ pub, which includes a picture of Grandma and Natalie the cat – 30 October 1973 (Image ref: GAPH00069)

Grandma forever!

It wouldn’t be a blog about media and advertising without mentioning one of the most famous incarnations of the Giles Family: the statue of Grandma in Ipswich unveiled in 1993. News of the statue made it into the local press and Giles was there at the opening ceremony:

Article entitled 'No joke, grandma, Ipswich is set to honour Giles', about the proposed Giles statue in Ipswich - East Anglian Daily Times, 6 June 1981 (Image ref: GAPA0075)

Article entitled ‘No joke, grandma, Ipswich is set to honour Giles’, about the proposed Giles statue in Ipswich – East Anglian Daily Times, 6 June 1981 (Image ref: GAPA0075)

Colour photo of the unveiling of the Grandma statue in Ipswich, featuring actor Warren Mitchell , Giles, the sculptor Miles Robinson, writer and friend Johnny Speight, and Andrew Cameron (Express Newspapers) - September 1993 (Image ref: GAPH00430)

Colour photo of the unveiling of the Grandma statue in Ipswich, featuring actor Warren Mitchell , Giles, the sculptor Miles Robinson, writer and friend Johnny Speight, and Andrew Cameron (Express Newspapers) – September 1993 (Image ref: GAPH00430)

Colour photo of Grandma statue with sculptor Miles Robinson - East Anglian Daily Times, September 1993 (Image ref: GAR-F-S-460-2)

Colour photo of Grandma statue with sculptor Miles Robinson – East Anglian Daily Times, September 1993 (Image ref: GAR-F-S-460-2)

What else is there to say (other than – go and see the statue for yourself)? Thank you always, Carl Giles, for the amazing Family. May your legacy continue!

Colour photo of Giles at the unveiling of the Grandma statue in Ipswich - East Anglian Daily Times, September 1993 (Image ref: GAPH00429)

Colour photo of Giles at the unveiling of the Grandma statue in Ipswich – East Anglian Daily Times, September 1993 (Image ref: GAPH00429)

We hope you’ve enjoyed this series of blog posts about all things Giles, You can view more details about the Carl Giles Trust archive through our catalogue and when we’re open again why not come and view some of this incredible material?

Giles Family at 75: Political and Social Commentary

This is the third in our series of blog posts celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Giles Family, drawing on the riches of the Carl Giles Archive, which has been part of the British Cartoon Archive since 2005. This series is in lieu of a physical exhibition in our Gallery space, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As mentioned in earlier blog posts, the 20th century saw huge changes to society on both politically and socially. Over the course of their 46 year existence, the one thing that didn’t change fundamentally was the Giles family: everyone remained the same age, with the same characteristics and the same roles within the group. This stasis allowed Giles to use the family to explore social, cultural and political changes in ways that other editorial cartoonists could not: the reader already has a shared knowledge of the people within the cartoons and how they will behave, much like in our own families. This blog post will explore some of the ways in which the Giles family reacted to key UK events in the second half of the 21st century. We could write an entire series of blogs on how Grandma et al discussed British society – so here are some of our highlights.

The Giles family and women

The 20th century saw great shifts to women’s roles in society – from getting the vote in 1918 to the development of the contraceptive pill in 1961, feminism and equal rights have constantly been fought for and their impacts discussed. The 1970s saw the growth of the Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM), a group which demanded equal rights, equal education and careers, free contraception and abortion and free childcare. 1973 was a crucial year for feminists: the first WLM conference was attended by over 600 women, the UK Rape Crisis network established, and Brixton Black Women’s Group and Virago Press were formed. This discourse did not escape the Giles family – especially Grandma, who decided to stage her own protest:

"Is that the plumber? I think my Grandma has sprung a leak in her Think Tank." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 27 September 1973 (Image ref: 25147)

“Is that the plumber? I think my Grandma has sprung a leak in her Think Tank.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 27 September 1973 (Image ref: 25147)

Like many British families, gender roles are frequently discussed in the Giles family – but it’s clear who’s really in charge. This 1979 cartoon sees women attempting the Christmas shopping and discussing what to get their husbands; although not directly about the Giles family, Grandma can be seen causing mischief in the background:

"Her husband knows exactly what he wants - whatever she says he's going to get." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 14 August 1979 (Image ref: GAA344150A)

“Her husband knows exactly what he wants – whatever she says he’s going to get.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 14 August 1979 (Image ref: GAA344150A)

While Giles’ cartoons never ventured into the risqué, it would be impossible to ignore sexuality in all its many forms. In the top image, George Junior finds a world better than Santa; in the lower, Giles responds to a reader comment asking what women dislike about men – the answer is joyfully predictable:

"This beats all your Father Christmases." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 11 December 1956 (Image ref: GAN0166)

“This beats all your Father Christmases.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 11 December 1956 (Image ref: GAN0166)

"Yes - I think we can do something about that" - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 13 August 1974 (Image ref: 26618)

“Yes – I think we can do something about that” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 13 August 1974 (Image ref: 26618)

Women also played crucial roles during the Second World War and after. Alongside the Women’s Voluntary Services (formed in 1938), women also wanted to play an active part in defending their country. Although not initially permitted to join the Home Guard, the Women’s Home Defence was formed in 1941. Here, the Giles Family are debating about the long-term wisdom in this decision – but who wouldn’t be scared of Grandma having access to weapons?!

"Vera, that M.P. who said that women Home Guards were a 'glorious gift for comedians and cartoonists who are just about exhausting the subject of the Home Guard' was dead right" - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 29 November 1951 (Image ref: GA0686)

“Vera, that M.P. who said that women Home Guards were a ‘glorious gift for comedians and cartoonists who are just about exhausting the subject of the Home Guard’ was dead right” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 29 November 1951 (Image ref: GA0686)

The Giles family and War

Like many British families, Giles’ characters all interact with the aftermath of the Second World War in different ways. It is assumed that Father fought in the Second World War, but Giles never clarifies this: the only hint we get is in a cartoon from May 1950. Father is pictured reading a paper whilst his son George (also in army uniform) brings him tea. However, there’s an implication that (true to his nature) Father never actually does any work of importance whilst he’s on duty – the action is happening elsewhere:

"1939 - and here he is winning his second war." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 5 January 1950 (Image ref: GA5392)

“1939 – and here he is winning his second war.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 5 January 1950 (Image ref: GA5392)

Even when the War is over, its ramifications live on through the Giles family – much like it did for Giles himself, who noted that his political views had been forever shaken by what he saw at the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in May 1945. As families readjusted to life after soldiers came home the Giles family echoed this divide as seen here in February 1946:

"So, I bring him to see the sea for the first time and he says he'd sooner see a good air raid any day" - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 21 February 1946 (Image ref: GA0089)

“So, I bring him to see the sea for the first time and he says he’d sooner see a good air raid any day” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 21 February 1946 (Image ref: GA0089)

Here we can see that some of the Giles family have taken a much-needed visit to the seaside (it’s never stated exactly where they live but we assume it’s in the suburbs around London). However Father is less than impressed with the views from the beach, as Mother notes – domestic life lacks the excitement and thrill of air raids experienced by parts of the country during the Blitz.

For many families the end of the war didn’t mean a complete shift back to everyday life – in Britain rationing continued in some forms until 1954, with certain goods becoming sparser after 1945. Rationing was a real concern for many families and of course the Giles family also struggled:

"Dad said he expects you and Auntie Minnie'll soon cane our extra ounce of marge for us." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 16 January 1948 (Image ref: GA0240)

“Dad said he expects you and Auntie Minnie’ll soon cane our extra ounce of marge for us.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 16 January 1948 (Image ref: GA0240)

 

Despite the war’s end being seen as a new start for many, some things never changed domestically and the Giles family reflected this. Much like New Year’s resolutions, some promises were just made to be broken:

'VE Day 1945: "Now it's over, I'll get some leave and repair that gutter and put a couple of boards in that fence." VE Day 1985' - Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 5 May 1985 (Image ref: GA4798)

‘VE Day 1945: “Now it’s over, I’ll get some leave and repair that gutter and put a couple of boards in that fence.” VE Day 1985’ – Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 5 May 1985 (Image ref: GA4798)

If you’re interested in how cartoonists explored the Second World War in particular check out our blog post about VE day through the British Cartoon Archive.

The Giles family and welfare

The question of how (and to what extent) the government should care for its citizens has been at the heart of society for hundreds of years. In the UK’s post-WW2 era one of the most significant developments – the creation of the NHS in July 1948 – affected everybody, largely for the better. Giles frequently supported the NHS and local hospitals (he created a book they could sell in 1975) so it isn’t surprising that the Giles family pop up in medical contexts from time to time, even if it’s not for obvious reasons:

"You lot aren't here to bring me comfort and joy - you're here to save your blooming light and heating at home." - Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 23 December 1973 (Image ref: GA3239)

“You lot aren’t here to bring me comfort and joy – you’re here to save your blooming light and heating at home.” – Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 23 December 1973 (Image ref: GA3239)

The NHS has constantly been on politicians’ agendas; one of the early debates related to how much to charge patients for prescriptions. In 1952 the Conservative government introduced a charge to be paid by everyone who needed prescribed medicine but the cost doubled over 12 years, so in 1964 this fee was abolished by the Labour government. Whilst in theory this may seem a generous move it also allowed people to avoid paying for everyday medicines (such as painkillers) by getting their GP to prescribe them:

"Off come the health charges - back come all Vera's aches and snuffles." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 5 November 1964 (Image ref: GAN1268)

“Off come the health charges – back come all Vera’s aches and snuffles.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 5 November 1964 (Image ref: GAN1268)

Of course, welfare extends beyond medical matters and into the world of work and wellbeing. The miners’ strikes of the 1970s and 1980s impacted many families across the country. As ever, Giles never explicitly used his artwork to make a political comment but the Giles family said what many people thought:

"That was very rude to tell Aunty that a couple of weeks at the coalface would make her think differently about the miners' strike" - Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 6 March 1983 (Image ref: GA4507)

“That was very rude to tell Aunty that a couple of weeks at the coalface would make her think differently about the miners’ strike” – Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 6 March 1983 (Image ref: GA4507)

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s 21 years in power are remembered by many for the reforms she made to the welfare state, privatising nationalised industries and weakening trade union power. The Giles family did not escape Thatcher’s gaze – as Stinker hypothesizes when watching Grandma:

"Mrs Thatcher would certainly give Grandma's State Benefits a radical overhaul if she knew they all went on Lester Piggott yesterday." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 6 June 1985 (Image ref: GA4810)

“Mrs Thatcher would certainly give Grandma’s State Benefits a radical overhaul if she knew they all went on Lester Piggott yesterday.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 6 June 1985 (Image ref: GA4810)

As mentioned above, we could write a whole series on how Giles discussed political and social matters – hopefully this blog has given you a taste for exploring through our Giles Archive even more. Two quotes below sum up, for us, the popularity of the Giles family:

“A Giles book of cartoons is also a day by day, week by week record of English history as it. happens. Look at the cartoon and look at the date and you will find you are living recent history over again.” (Nathaniel Gubbins, Introduction to the Third Giles Annual, 1948)

“As I grow older…there tend to be more and more mornings when you look through the newspaper and realise that the only credible figure left in British public life is Grandma.” (Dennis Norden, Introduction to the Thirty-Fourth Giles Annual, 1980)

What are your favourite memories of the Giles family? How did they reflect (or impact) your political and social views over the years? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

References:

Tim Benson, ‘Giles’ War’ (2017)

BBC, ‘WW2 People’s War: Girls in the Home Guard’, https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/40/a4036240.shtml

BBC, ‘The cost of being sick’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/61404.stm

British Library, ‘Sisterhood and after: Timeline of the Women’s Liberation Movement’, https://www.bl.uk/sisterhood/timeline

Print Works: Part Four – Working in the Print Industry

Special Collections & Archives has been working with Appletye – an artists’-led organisation based in Margate – to support their mission to record the Isle of Thanet’s rich printing heritage. In lieu of a physical display in Spring 2020 these guest blogs by Dan Thompson and Dawn Cole are our virtual equivalent – we hope you enjoy!

There were a variety of jobs in the pre-digital printing industry, meaning works like the Thanet Press employed large numbers, and needed specialist suppliers so supported small printers, bookbinders, and other trades locally. The key jobs, as a compositor laying out type, proof reading pages, or working with the machines, were highly skilled. 

A printer’s apprenticeship lasted seven years, and involved study at an approved college as well as practical work at a print works. Locally, apprentices studied at Thanet School of Arts and Crafts, Canterbury College of Arts, or Maidstone College of Arts where they learned layout and design, typography, and to lay out lead type letter-by-letter.

From the 1950s, the print industry underwent radical changes, from traditional ‘hot metal’ letterpress printing to lithographic, and then computer typesetting and digital printing.

For print workers, that meant constant adaptation and learning new skills.

Things Caxton probably wouldn't understand: the evolution of the printing press

Things Caxton probably wouldn’t understand: the evolution of the printing press

“Printing’s changed more than any other trade. It’s changed from a room full of hot metal to an office job, but you need the same experience and expertise.” Jim Bellamy, Thanet Press

A larger print works like The Thanet Press was inevitably about more than the job: it became a place where couples met and got married.  Workers joined amateur theatrical groups, footballs teams, or showed with the horticultural society. And people created their own welfare state, through strong unions and paying into the ‘sick club’. It was common to find siblings working alongside each other, or generations of the same family working in print together.

We'll claim the record for being the first blog to mention printers and football in the same post

We’ll claim the record for being the first blog to mention printers and football in the same post

However, the print industry was old, established – and very male. The unions wouldn’t allow women to operate the printing presses, and they were kept to jobs in the bindery, finishing and stitching or stapling print jobs. 

“The bindery had about twice as many women as men working in it … It was a very companionable environment.” Pat Davies, Thanet Press

About the Print Works project:

Print Works is a year-long project from Appletye, an arts and heritage organisation. The project explores the history of the print industry on the Isle of Thanet, taking inspiration from two former companies and the heritage of the sites they occupied at Thanet Press, Union Crescent, Margate and Martell Press, Northdown Road, Cliftonville. At the heart of the project are archives from the two Margate firms, recording the stories of the people who worked there and the work they did.

Using the Print Works archive:

The Print Works archives include hundreds of examples of material printed in a pre-digital age, including much related to Margate, Broadstairs, and Ramsgate. It includes print for seaside hotels, entertainment venues, and tourism businesses.

The archive also includes documents relating to working in the print industry in the 20th century, from apprenticeship indentures to certificates from a print factory’s Horticultural Club. There are documents relating to design, typography, and the move from analogue processes like typography to digital design and print.

The archive is new, so includes primary material not used before in academic research. It is held at a studio in Margate. For more information email dawn@appletye.org

Exploring mental health through artists’ books

This week (18 – 24 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week and there are some great conversations being had online. It’s great that talking about mental health is being supported more and more in everyday life too – all of us have mental health, just like we have physical health and the two often go hand in hand.

Archives can be places to explore how health has been described and medicine developed across the years. However they are also places to capture what life is like now and record lived experiences (see our call for donations relating to the current Coronavirus pandemic). This is also the case with our Prescriptions: Artists’ Books collection. We’ve written about these wonderful objects previously (see posts here) but today we want to share some of the books that explicitly relate to mental health.

All the images used in this post are copyright of Egidija Ciricaite.

Inside : An artists’s work: living with depression (Yvonne J. Foster, 2013, PSC34)

Image of pages from 'Inside : An artists's work: living with depression' by Yvonne J. Foster

Image of pages from ‘Inside : An artists’s work: living with depression’ by Yvonne J. Foster

Many of the artists’ books in our collection seek to deepen dialogue between patients and medical staff, and this work is one example. Here, Foster explores how it feels to live through a breakdown using altered photographs and scribbled images. Foster is a Brighton-based artist focusing on miniature works; you can view her website here.

No mind (Gaby Berglund Cárdenas, 2014, PSC28)

Image of 'No mind' by Gaby Berglund Cárdenas

Image of ‘No mind’ by Gaby Berglund Cárdenas

 

Mindfulness and meditation are often discussed in relation to mental health; many have found such techniques help to manage anxiety and depression. Cárdenas lived in South Korea whilst studying for a Masters in Fine Arts; whilst she was there she explored Buddhism and the role meditation has within the religion. For Cárdenas writing the phrase “no mind” became a way to quiet her brain and body. This piece is composed of an antique spool, around which Nepalese paper is wrapped; holding the object also makes you aware of the fragility of the work. Today Cárdenas lives in Sweden; you can find more of her works here.

Protecting my mind (Gunilla Åsberg, 2015, PSC41)

Image of 'Protecting my mind' by Gunilla Åsberg

Image of ‘Protecting my mind’ by Gunilla Åsberg

Asberg worked alongside a psychologist over several months to record the experiences of women dealing with stress-related illnesses, and this book records their stories. On the right-hand side of the book, Åsberg uses text from Swedish health and safety regulations but the fourth category is her own work, written to highlight the lack of mental health protection in employment legislation. You can view more of Åsberg’s art here.

Mind maps: The cumulative (hidden) experiences of the life of Penny Alexander 2016 (Penny Alexander, 2016, PSC36)

Image of 'Mind maps: The cumulative (hidden) experiences of the life of Penny Alexander 2016' by Penny Alexander

Image of ‘Mind maps: The cumulative (hidden) experiences of the life of Penny Alexander 2016’ by Penny Alexander

Alexander began creating artists’ books after her experiences of postnatal depression. This book, filled with pages of typewriter art, draws direct correlation between the experiences of everyday life and our mental wellbeing. Adams explores this correlation further by juxataposing maps of where she’s lived throughout the work – again highlighting the physical importance of place and self to health.

The book of common prayer (Sophie Adams, 2016, PSC6)

Image of 'The book of common prayer' by Sophie Adams

Image of ‘The book of common prayer’ by Sophie Adams

Common prayer books are traditionally found throughout the Anglican Christian world and contain forms of service, daily prayers and Bible readings. Here, Adams has transformed the book – using folding, not cutting – so that when it is spanned open the word ‘prozac’ can be seen. Prozac – or fluoxetine, to use its medical name – is an antidepressant drug used to treat many mental health conditions. Antidepressants frequently rank among the most prescribed medications in both the US and UK; they help many people to recover from illness but can also be indicative of the state of society’s mental health. By using folding patterns to create the word, Adams also explores the repetitive actions that can also be calming in periods of anxiety. You can see other works by Adams here.

Cumulatively these books help to show not only the diversity of mental health but also the strength of responses to it. Recording and making work in response to periods of mental illness can, for some, be an act of healing in itself. The books in Prescriptions also serve to challenge and improve relationships between treatment-giver and treatment-receiver; however they also contribute to opening up dialogue and removing stigma around lived experiences. They can inspire responses and new approaches to mental health – whether with you to create your own art or with generating empathy and understanding on any scale, be it individual or wider.

If you’d like to see images of these books or the rest of the Prescriptions collection these can be viewed through LibrarySearch; you are welcome to view these items in our Reading Room when we open again. For more information about the research being done at Kent relating to artists’ books (including the book which accompanied the 2016 exhibition of these works at the Beaney museum in Canterbury) please click here.

The University of Kent has many resources that can help if you’re concerned about your mental health; see the guide for students and staff wellbeing pages

Print Works: Part Three – The Martell Press

Special Collections & Archives has been working with Appletye – an artists’-led organisation based in Margate – to support their mission to record the Isle of Thanet’s rich printing heritage. In lieu of a physical display in Spring 2020 these guest blogs by Dan Thompson and Dawn Cole are our virtual equivalent – we hope you enjoy!

Two Thanet schoolboys had already caught the addictive whiff of printer’s ink, oil, and paper that you find in any pre-digital printworks, from their father Norman, co-founder of publishers The Graham Cumming Group and owner of printer Westwood Press. Norman Martell printed town maps for councils, and diaries for clubs and societies, selling advertising in them to cover costs and generate a profit. 

So when his sons Charles and Henry Martell found a printing press at their school, St Lawrence College in Ramsgate, they started to print for themselves.

And when they unwrapped their Christmas presents in 1962, they found that their dad had bought them an Adana which could print an area up to about 20cm by 12cm. Adana printing machines were made between 1922 and 1999. Aimed at the hobby market, they were widely used by small, commercial printers and thousands of their vertical platen presses are still in use, often in the hands of artists and designer-makers.

Charles & Henry Martell’s original Adana, seen here in situ but now in the Print Works archive.

Charles & Henry Martell’s original Adana, seen here in situ but now in the Print Works archive.

From that small Adana, the Martells got to work printing calling cards, letterheads and other ‘social stationery’ and were paying tax by the age of 16. They learned as they printed, rather than through a formal apprenticeship.

In 1967, the Martell brothers had built enough business to move from working at home to opening their first print works, in Fitzroy Avenue, Margate, and in 1969 they took over a stationery shop on Northdown Road, Margate.

Advert printed by the Martell Press

Advert printed by the Martell Press

35 years later, the brothers employed around 30 people. The printworks had expanded into three units at Hopes Lane, Ramsgate and the shop had more than doubled in size after being destroyed by a fire in 1982.

For both sides of the business, local guesthouses, hotels, and tourist attractions were essential.

“I used to zig zag down the road collecting orders from all of the guest houses,” Henry remembers, “We did everything from menus and business cards to theatre programmes and postcards.” 

Advert for Goodwin Sands Fashion Show, printed by the Martell Press

Advert for Goodwin Sands Fashion Show, printed by the Martell Press

As tourism faded in Thanet, so did Martell’s trade until only the Northdown Road shop remained, selling stationery and offering basic design, printing and copying services. The shop closed in 2017.

Using the Print Works archive:

The Print Works archives include hundreds of examples of material printed in a pre-digital age, including much related to Margate, Broadstairs, and Ramsgate. It includes print for seaside hotels, entertainment venues, and tourism businesses.

The archive also includes documents relating to working in the print industry in the 20th century, from apprenticeship indentures to certificates from a print factory’s Horticultural Club. There are documents relating to design, typography, and the move from analogue processes like typography to digital design and print.

The archive is new, so includes primary material not used before in academic research. It is held at a studio in Margate. For more information email dawn@appletye.org

Print Works is supported by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.