London’s Cartoon Museum gets a permanent new home

Cartoon Museum 2019

London’s Cartoon Museum has announced it has secured a new, permanent home in the centre of the capital, just as it launches its 50 Glorious Shows! exhibition, marking 12 years in its current home on Little Russell Street.

The new Cartoon Museum, which is due to open in January 2019, will be based on Wells Street, just north of Oxford Street in Fitzrovia, ten minutes walk from the current location, near Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road tube stations.

The opening of 50! Glorous Shows! the Cartoon Museum's last exhibition at its Little Russell Street home. Photo: Richard Sheaf

The opening of 50! Glorous Shows! the Cartoon Museum’s last exhibition at its Little Russell Street home. Photo: Richard Sheaf

The opening of 50! Glorous Shows! the Cartoon Museum's last exhibition at its Little Russell Street home. Photo: Richard Sheaf

The plans were revealed to the public at the opening of the 50 Glorious Years! exhibition for the first time, where it was also announced the Museum would close its doors at its current Russell Street address in September, the move prompted in part by a 100 per cent impending rent rise which threatened its future.

(The Museum is perhaps the only such establishment in Britain where its rent is its major cost).

Plans for the new Cartoon Museum in Wells Street, London

A design for the new Cartoon Museum in Wells Street, London

A design for the new Cartoon Museum in Wells Street, London

Plans for the new Cartoon Museum in Wells Street, London

Plans for the new Cartoon Museum in Wells Street, London

The Museum team are keen to hear supporters and visitors ideas and suggestions for developing the new venue which will open next Sring (2019), a move that will cost around £1 million.

The Museum has signed up for a 25 year lease, at a peppercorn rent – which is a major boon for the Museum whose current building costs have often proved a major focus for fund raising and whose lease ended this year.

The new space is a blank canvas, measuring 4,200 square feet, about the same size as the current museum, and in the large basement of a new building developed by Great Portland Estates. It has a separate street level entrance, and is serviced by a lift and stairs, and has decent height ceilings.

Anita O’Brien will remain as the Museum’s curator, but joining the team this month is Becky Jefcoate as director, moving from the Museum of London.

Cartoon Museum director Becky Jefcoate. Photo: Richard Sheaf

Cartoon Museum director Becky Jefcoate. Photo: Richard Sheaf

“Wells Street is in a very vibrant area near the cross section with Mortimer Street, populated by young professionals and students from Westminster University,” notes Cartoon Museum chairman and cartoonist Oliver Preston, who has been instrumental in the efforts to secure the new premises. “It’s close to the BBC in an area that used to be home to the rag trade.

“Since inception we have thrived as a metropolitan museum, attracting visitors from all over the world, but we do have especially strong local support from volunteers, Museum Friends and visitors in London – and, of course, tourists.”

A display from the Cartoon Museum's much-praised

A display from the Cartoon Museum’s much-praised “Inking Woman” exhibition, now the focus of a new book published by Myriad Editions

The Museum’s Board of Trustees have chosen architect Sam Jacob of Sam Jacob Studio to design the new space, in a style they feel will convey the excitement and vision of the whole team behind the project. His past projects include work for the V&A, London’s Design Museum and the London Design Festival.

This is very exciting news and a great new development for a popular Museum devoted to cartoons and comics, which will open in 2019.

Cartoonist Steve Marchant

Cartoonist Steve Marchant

“All the galleries will be on the same level, accessible by a lift or a short flight of stairs,” notes award-winning cartoonist and caricaturist Steve Marchant, who has worked with the museum for many years.

“I went to see the place a few weeks ago and I was blown away by the size of it. Imagine all of our current floor space, plus the amount taken up by the opening on our upper floor, all on one level. And a bit more.”

The whole building where the Museum will be located has been recently renovated, Steve notes, with a restaurant on the ground floor and offices above.

“We will be working on with a team of architects and builders to convert into galleries, a shop, office space and a bigger classroom.

“It’s not the first time we’ve moved,” Steve points out. “When I first got involved with what became the Cartoon Museum, it was a gallery on the ground floor of an office block behind Euston Station. Then it was in a similar space in Farringdon before moving to empty shop premises in the Brunswick Centre near Russell Square. And after about five years we came to Russell Street.”

In the meantime, do get along to the Museum’s current location and check out 50 Glorious Shows! which celebrates what the Cartoon Museum has achieved in its first twelve years.

The current Cartoon Museum, in London's Little Russell Street. Image: the Cartoon Musuem

The current Cartoon Museum, in London’s Little Russell Street. Image: the Cartoon Musuem

There will also be a ‘Comic Creators Day, for Comic Creators’ in July, and the usual talks, events and kids’ classes will continue at the current location, right up until September.

“We’re not finished here yet!” Steve Marchant enthuses.

50 Glorious Shows! runs from 28th March until 2nd September 2018 at the Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London, WC1A 2HH, Tel: 0207 580 8155 Web: | Facebook | Twitter

Our thanks to Anita O’Brien and Steve Marchant for their help preparing this story, and Richard Sheaf for photographs and additional reporting

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The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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