Ginger Meggs is quintessentially Australian. A loveable, red-haired larrikin and young boy who has a gang, loves playing cricket and gets up to all sorts of mischief. The comic strip is Australia’s longest-running and most popular one and has had a total of five different men drawing this young boy’s different hijinks and adventures.
The Museum of Sydney recently discovered an excellent collection of creator, Jimmy Bancks’ original comic strips. These form the basis of the upcoming exhibition, Ginger Meggs: Australia’s Favourite Boy along with other priceless pieces of treasure and memorabilia. The AU Review sat down with the Museum of Sydney’s curator, Anna Cossu to learn more about this affable lad with the flame-coloured hair who has played cricket with Sir Donald Bradman, been dubbed “Peter Pan” by an Australian Prime Minister and bore witness to a Royal Tour, no less.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? For example what is your role and how long have you been working in this capacity?
I am a Curator; a fantastic job where I have the privilege to look after three significant museums in the CBD: the Museum of Sydney and the historic buildings of Susannah Place Museum and Justice and Police Museum.
How did the Ginger Meggs exhibit come about?
The exhibition came about when a wonderful collection of Jimmy Bancks’s Ginger Meggs strips came to light. When I explored the history of Ginger Meggs I discovered that not only was he Australia’s longest running comic strip (94 years old this year) but that these strips are a wonderful insight into Australia’s popular culture.
The exhibit features original comic strips and can you tell us about some of the highlights from this exhibit?
One of the highlights will be a display of all thirty five of the Ginger Meggs Annuals. These inexpensive and popular comic books were published from 1924 to 1959 and reproduced the pick of the year’s comic strips. Visitors to the exhibition can also see Jimmy Bancks’s last Ginger Meggs strip. It is the comic strip Bancks was working on the night before he suffered a fatal heart attack; the strip’s last panels are unfinished. The exhibition also features original artwork from all of the artists who have drawn Ginger Meggs from 1921 to today and a fun collection of memorabilia from little handmade children’s chairs, to a delightful 1950s breakfast set, from 1930s promotional material to handmade dolls that won first prize at The Royal Easter Show in 1962.
Are there any special events or talks that will coincide with this exhibit? If so, can you tell us about these?
On the opening day I will be doing a tour of the exhibition for Sydney Living Museums members, so a great time to become a member and be part of this tour and enjoy the ongoing benefits of being a member and supporter of all of our museums.
Why do you think people should visit this exhibit?
The exhibition has been designed to offer something for all ages. People who grew up reading Ginger Meggs will enjoy rediscovering the trials and tribulations of the mischievous Ginger and his gang, and comic lovers of all ages will be thrilled to see and be inspired by original artwork and the historic film footage of Bancks drawing Ginger. Everybody can be a cartoonist and try drawing Ginger Meggs.
Ginger Meggs has gone through various incarnations over the years. Why do you think he holds such a special place in our hearts?
The characters, setting and storylines Bancks created in 1921 were instantly recognisable by Australian children (and adults) and each of the successive artists have continued to keep Ginger relevant and up-to-date. Ginger is also an ordinary kid, not a super boy with magical powers – he doesn’t always win, he has everyday adventures though he does end up in all manner of hilarious predicaments.
Can you tell us an interesting fact or two about Ginger Meggs that we may not be aware about?
In 1940s Australian Prime Minister John Curtin dubbed Ginger Meggs Australia’s Peter Pan and Australian poet Dame Mary Gilmore wrote a poem in honour of Ginger’s 21st birthday. All the artists who have drawn Ginger Meggs have included real people and events in their strips. In the 1930s Ginger meets his cricket hero Don Bradman, in 1950s Ginger and his gang are excited by the Royal Tour and in the 1980s Ginger meets the contemporary cricket hero Geoff Lawson.
Ginger Meggs has achieved some wonderful things from crossing the Harbour Bridge to playing cricket. What would you like to see him do next?
I would like to see Ginger celebrate his 100th birthday.
Are there any other exhibits at the Museum of Sydney you’d like to tell us about?
Until 9 August families can combine a visit to Ginger Meggs: Australia’s Favourite Boy with a visit to the Toys through Time exhibition also on at the Museum of Sydney. They can also pick up a Kid’s Trail that guides children through the key exhibits of the museum.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers of The AU Review about the Ginger Meggs exhibit or Museum of Sydney?
The Museum of Sydney is a great place to discover the stories of Sydney and its people.
Originally published on 15 July 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/interviews/curator-anna-cossu-tells-us-all-about-australias-favourite-son-ginger-meggs
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