Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation rallies to create children’s colouring book after asylum centre mural whitewash

Members of Britain’s Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation are creating art for a very special Children’s Colouring Book, in response to a government decision to whitewash Mickey Mouse murals from an asylum centre prompted a storm of protest.

We’re told that contributions are also welcome from non-members, too.

As widely reported in national media, cartoons of Disney characters were destroyed at two children’s asylum reception centres, after an order from the Minister for Immigration Robert Jenrik, on the grounds that they were “too welcoming”. It’s a decision even Nigel Farage has described as “mean”, and that’s polite compared with some of the comments we’ve seen online!

A petition protesting the decision, calling for their restoration, has gathered over 100,000 signatures in protest. The petition organisers have also made a Freedom of Information act request, to find out how much this mean-spirited “cover up” has cost.

Having crossed into the realm of cartooning, the government action also attracted the attention of the PCO, prompting cartoonist for the Metro and member Guy Venables to approach one of the centres, offering to repaint new murals for free – and was quickly joined by numerous other cartoonists wanting to help.

The PCO promotes the work of its members and champions the cartooning arts across the board and around the world, and organise and support exhibitions and festivals. They also stand up for, and have campaigned on behalf of oppressed artists. (All before breakfast).

“Unfortunately, but inevitably, Guy was given a firm ‘Thank you but no’ from the centre itself” explains PCO chair Clive Goddard in a post on the PCO blog, “and, as it is run by Jenrick, there’s little hope of doing anything without the help of the staff, who would be risking their jobs.

“It appears you can’t just turn up at a government run detention centre with pens and paint and brushes and do something nice for kids.”

However, the idea had gained a lot of support, publicity and momentum. Guy’s story had been picked up by The Independent and he was also interviewed by James O’Brien on LBC. The Wall Street Journal had contacted the PCO for comment.

Mickey Mouse degree © Guy Venables
Mickey Mouse degree © Guy Venables

“Campaigner, Rima Amin had begun collaborating with us through her online petition to save the murals. The The Cartoon Museum is also getting involved. Campaign group 38 Degrees had offered to help us with crowd-funding but … we had hit a dead-end, so we needed to think of something else.

“The idea to create a children’s colouring book came from Amy Amani, the PCO’s treasurer, and has quickly been taken up as a good Plan B. The book would be given free to the kids while other copies could be sold to raise funds. We’ll also need to supply some crayons, of course, so we’re looking for help sourcing those.”

The PCO are asking its many members and other artists to donate something suitable. (A4 black line drawing at 300dpi jpeg). The drawings should, of course, be clearly drawn so that areas can be coloured in and ideally relate to the theme of “Life in Britain” or “Welcome to Britain”. Anything to do with British life, history, culture, wildlife, famous people, places etc.

“Think of it as an antidote to cartoonishly evil men in suits obliterating art to appeal to the public’s baser instincts,” says Clive.

“Although the book will include an explanation of its origins, the drawings themselves should be child-friendly and non-political,” he emphasises. “It’s for vulnerable kids after all. And it’s the least we can do.”

You can read the full PCO statement about this project from Clive here on the PCO web site. Send your cartoons by WeTransfer or other sharing methods to Clive via – make sure you include some indication it’s a contribution to the Children’s Colouring Book in any e-correspondence. If you can help in any other way, then contact Clive via the same address

UPDATE 22nd November 2023 – you can buy a copy of the Colouring Book here

The PCO is online at | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Guy Venables is online at | Twitter

Follow Clive Goddard, PCO chair, on Twitter @GoddardBooks

With thanks to Glenn Marshall

Cartoons Not Cruelty

The team behind the protest on are also working on another, separate Cartoons Not Cruelty project, after teaming up with the campaign group City of Sanctuary UK and adding them as a co-signatory to the petition. Dedicated to creating a culture of welcome within communities, they inspired children at primary schools in Birmingham who had the idea of drawing welcoming cartoons in response to the government’s action. 

“We’re asking for you to join them in this action by drawing something to welcome children too!’ say the petition team. “Don’t worry about making it perfect. It just needs to be something that reflects the type of welcome you think these children deserve.

The campaign will use these drawings to Inspire the Government, show these images to them when the team do their petition delivery and have meetings. They will be examples of the types of welcome we should be giving to children arriving in the UK. They also hope the cartoons will create impact and keep up the pressure on government. 

“We are thinking of ways to share these welcoming messages and images with those who will benefit from them,” say the team, for example, “By sharing them on social media and encouraging others to join our campaign.”

To help, please: take a photo of your drawing – or with you and your drawing;  email your photos to (It’d be great if you could include a line on who drew the pic and why this matters to you so they can share it in a caption).

Do note that if you are sending photos with children please remember to give the team parental consent in any email.

If you’d like to take an action to help, please see this post and consider drawing a cartoon for the campaign

Petition: Restore cartoons at children’s asylum centres!

Follow the Cartoons Not Cruelty campaign on Instagram

Restore Cartoons at Children’s Asylum Centre – Campaign Hub

Categories: Comics, Creating Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Events, Other Worlds

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