Reflections on the Great British Fish & Chips – Exhibition launch and new blog series!

Welcome to the first blog in a series relating to our new exhibition – Reflections on the Great British Fish and Chips. In the middle of Refugee Week, on Wednesday 22nd June 2022, we celebrated the launch of our exhibition and the fantastic work of our volunteer Research and Curation Group! Over a some delicious refreshments we were able to give visitors the first taste of the new exhibition in the Templeman Gallery.

View of the exhibition launch speeches with a group of people in an exhibition gallery at the Templeman Library

Attendees at the launch hearing from Basma El Doukhi, Karen Brayshaw, Beth Astridge and Tom Green

The original exhibition – The Great British Fish and Chips – was commissioned by Counterpoint Arts in 2021, in partnership with Canterbury Cathedral and Turner Contemporary, Margate. Reportage artist Olivier Kugler, and writer Andrew Humphreys, interviewed and illustrated the stories and experiences of fish and chips shop owners across Kent. They explored the history of fish and chips, Britain’s national dish, and discovered that it could not exist without global trade and migration.

Our hosting of this travelling exhibition also includes a display of items from the University of Kent Special Collections & Archives. The exhibition and display will be open until the end of September 2022.

Research and Curation Group:

This exhibition and display has been co-curated with group of volunteers who formed a Research and Curation Group. The group spent two sessions exploring the original material in Special Collections & Archives, selecting items that particularly interested them, and writing captions to describe their item and explain their selection for the exhibition.

Themes explored by the Research and Curation Group included attitudes to migrant communities in Britain today and in the past, immigration policy in the UK, the development of the fishing industry, the maritime history of places in Kent, and expressions of British ‘ownership’ of the seas in the past as expressed in our theatre collections.

Photography and hand-stitched dress:

We are also delighted to display photography by Rania Saadalah, introduced to us by Basma El Doukhi, our colleague and one of the project leads for this exhibition. Rania’s photographs use visual storytelling to share the stories of inspiring people living in the Palestinian Camps in Lebanon, and depict the preparation of foods such as falafel, ma’amoul, and traditionally baked breads, as well as fisherman at work. Through these images we explore how people and be brought together by sharing food, stories and cultural traditions.

Basma El Doukhi with a group of other people looking at the Fish and Chips exhibition. Basma is gesturing and explaining the photographs on the wall.

Basma El Doukhi explains the background to the photographs by Rania Saadalah

Look out for future blogs in this series in the coming weeks – with contributions from participants in the Research and Curation Group and from Basma and Rania. The blogs will describe our volunteer’s experiences working on the project, and provide images of the items alongside the captions used in our exhibition.

 

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

Giles Family at 75: The Birth of the Giles Family

On Wednesday 5 August 1945 the Giles Family appeared for the first time in the pages of the Sunday Express. The creation of cartoonist Carl Giles (1916-1995), over the course of the next 45 years they would appear in over two thousand cartoons in the Sunday Express and Daily Express. For many people his cartoons capture British life in microcosm, and the Family became a national institution. Giles became the most famous and well-beloved cartoonist of his generation: in 2000 he was voted Britain’s Favourite Cartoonist of the 20th century.

GA5732: Cover artwork for 13th Giles Annual, 1959

This is the first in a series of blog posts and social media posts celebrating 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. This first blog post will explore the origins of Giles the cartoonist and the birth of his Family.

Carl Giles: a brief biography

GAPH00392: Giles at Reynolds News

Ronald ‘Carl’ Giles was born in Islington, London, on 29 September 1916, the youngest son of Albert, a tobacconist, and Edith, a dressmaker. He left school at 13 and spent 5 years as an office boy in the animation studios of a London advertising agency. Giles never had any formal art training, but he began developing his artistic skills as an “in-betweener”, filling in the movement between key drawings. He also gained the lifelong nickname Carl, after the monster played by Boris Karloff in the 1932 release of Frankenstein, because of his short haircut. In 1935, he took a position at film producer Alexander Korda’s London Films, and worked on The Fox Hunt, the first British colour animation with sound. A near-fatal motorbike accident in 1936 left him blind and partially deaf in his right eye and ear, and he went to Suffolk to recuperate. He began submitting cartoons to newspapers and magazines and eventually became a regular with the left-wing London Sunday newspaper Reynolds News, including his first series ‘Young Ernie’.

GAP2029: ‘Young Ernie’ strip, published Reynolds News, 12 November 1939

His work was instantly popular, and by 1942, he began attracting attention from other newspapers, and in 1943 signed up with the Sunday Express, which then had the highest circulation in Britain. The self-described “dirty leftist” was initially “thoroughly miserable” at the right-wing Sunday Express, until the increasingly large postbag of fan letters showed him the attractions of addressing a vast readership. By 1947 he was also working for sister paper the Daily Express, and settled into a routine of three single-panel cartoons a week (two for the daily and one for the Sunday).

Exempt from war service because of his motorbike injuries, in September 1944 he became the official war cartoonist for the Express and travelled to the European war zone several times, being present both at the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and the German surrender on Luneberg Heath in May 1945.

GAPC0466: “Hermann – you’ve left that verdammt door open again”, published Sunday Express, 3 October 1943

As the war in Europe ended, Giles realised that his cast of characters was rapidly diminishing. Giles had ridiculed the Axis leaders by presenting them as a dysfunctional family: his first cartoon for the Sunday Express in October 1943 had imagined Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and Mussolini as living a peculiar domestic life in Berlin, an idea to which he repeatedly returned. On Mussolini’s execution in April 1945, Giles later remarked, “I sure hated to see old Musso go […] he was half my bloody stock-in-trade”.

The Family arrives

The Giles Family was actively created as something to take the place of the ‘Axis Family’. The nominal focus of this new Family was one of his wartime soldier characters, returned to civilian life, and had its first recognisable appearance in the Sunday Express of 5 August 1945.

GA5447: “It’s quicker by rail”, published Sunday Express, 5 August 1945

A comment on the chaotic and unreliable state of the railway network in the immediate aftermath of the war, the Family is shown walking along a deserted railway line with thermos and bucket and spade above the ironic caption “It’s quicker by rail”. All the elements that made Giles’ work so recognisable and beloved are here: the fine rendering of the English countryside, the accuracy in depicting the signalling equipment, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it details like the child tumbling down the embankment, and, at the rear, a small black figure, so cleverly drawn that the eye is drawn towards her: Grandma.

GA0208: “If they give us an 11-hour day and a 4-day week, I suppose that means we’re going to have everybody at home for a 24-hour day 3 days a week.”, published Daily Express, 2 September 1947

In August 1947, the Daily Express ran a series of cartoons introducing the different characters to its readers. After that, as Giles recalled, “the Family took on a life of its own almost immediately”. As a cartoonist, Giles was an amused spectator rather than angry satirist. The Family proved a useful medium for commenting on post-war life, reacting to the confusion of world politics and a rapidly changing society.

The family are archetypally working class characters, a large, multi-generational household that are patriotic yet suspicious of authority. As the series progressed, they took on the attributes of a middle class household, with a car, caravan, yacht and foreign holidays. The family never aged, but their home, their hobbies and their dress reflected the changing British fashions and standard of living. The family’s common humanity had a wide social appeal.

The group of characters had achieved their final form by April 1950, when they were known as “Giles and Family”. By August 1951 this had become “The Giles Family”, and in November 1951, responding to “constant public enquiries”, Giles published “The Giles Family Tree”, explaining who everyone was (more of which in the next post).

GA0683: ‘The Giles Family Tree’, published Daily Express, 23 November 1951

Click here more information on the Giles Collection and the British Cartoon Archive.

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

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.