Pictures from an Exhibition: The 2002 Bristol Dan Dare show

Back in 2002, Bristol’s Museum and Art Gallery played host to a Dan Dare exhibition, the same year that saw the launch of the short-lived animated series. 

One visitor, John Leslie Sinclair, has kindly shared some of his pictures of the event with downthetubes.

The exhibition was one of a series that began in 2000, organised by top Dan Dare fans David Britton, Nicholas Hill and Howard Smith to mark 50 years since Eagle was first published on 14th April 1950. The response, they recall, was tremendous, right from the first event at the Atkinson Museum in Southport.

Eagle Exhibitions was created in November 2000, as an informal, non-profit making group, offering nostalgic, educational and fun exhibitions for all ages and to introduce a new generation to Eagle. The exhibitions ranged from a single display cabinet to the whole floor of a museum or gallery, as was the case in Bristol. 

The team worked hard on the project, despite many battles with some venues exhibiting the material that, reading archive posts on a Dan Dare fan group, must have been very draining.

That the team created exhibitions still fondly remembered to this day is evidence of their success against the odds.

“It was a great show, only marred by some mislabelling and a distinct lack of publicity,” John recalls. “As you can imagine, I’m a huge comics fan and I saw nothing about it in any of the comic shops in the area, and in fact only stumbled on it returning to the car after visiting the Bristol Forbidden Planet which was only two minutes away!”

Talking to the BBC at its opening, Bristol Museum’s Sandra Stancliffe described Dan Dare as Britain’s first space hero.

“What’s often forgotten is that, unlike now, the British had a very active space programme at that time and Dan Dare promoted and celebrated it.”

Noting the Eagle‘s origins and aims, Sandra also pointed out Dan Dare wasn’t the only new role model when the comic strip was launched in April 1950. 

“Dan’s colleague Professor Peabody was female, highly intelligent and articulate,” she commented, “radical casting for a woman at the time.”

One surprise for Sandra was just how much Dan Dare merchandise had been released in the 1950s and 60s “We think it’s a modern phenomenon, that dates from Star Wars, but they were at it long before,” she pointed out. “Jigsaw puzzles, cosmic ray guns, socks, belt buckles…”

John took a picture of Sandra’s favourite exhibit: a replica of the Dan Dare studio, where artist Frank Hampson and his team worked long hours developing the character and stories. 

“It’s a fairly accurate representation of the conditions the artist Frank Hampson worked in,” she felt, “a really messy studio, the most high tech thing is an angle poise lamp. Paper and paint all over the place!”

Read Sandra Stancliffe’s interview her on a archived BBC page

• There’s more about the Eagle Exhibtiins here on AntiqueHistory, including the limited edition souvenir booklet for the first exhibition in Southport 

All photos copyright John Leslie Sinclair

Categories: British Comics, Exhibitions, Features

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