Ginger Meggs has taken over the Museum of Sydney. Australia’s longest running comic about a jolly larrikin and red-haired boy with boundless enthusiasm continues to entertain us to this day. This temporary exhibition is lots of fun and something that the whole family can enjoy.
Meggs first appeared as Ginger Smith in 1921 in Sydney’s Sun newspaper. He was created by James “Jimmy” Bancks and eventually this character got his own cartoon where he had adventures with his girlfriend, Minnie Peters, romantic rival, Eddie Coogan, enemy, Tiger Kelly and more. This exhibition looks at how Bancks always had a fondness for drawing and how this little character has evolved and remained relevant after almost 100 years.
There are plenty of comics on display including 34 Ginger Meggs annuals and Sunbeam books as well as lots of “final artworks” for the strip. The comic was originally hand-drawn and transferred to bromide (a photograph) and sent to the newspaper printers with a colour guide. In the 1990s this process changed when the then animator of the strip – James Kemsley – adopted digital technology into the production process.
All five of Ginger Meggs’ “fathers” – i.e. the cartoonists drawing him – are acknowledged here from Bancks the creator to Rob Vivian who was uncredited for his work with Ginger. Lloyd Piper would draw the comic for ten years but it was James Kemsley who made significant improvements to it and saved the comic. Jason Chatfield was the youngest person to hold the post (at age 26) and he has brought Meggs into the 21st century (the character now has Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as a phone app).
The memorabilia on display includes postage stamps, a redheads matchbox, crockery, statues, chairs and dolls. There are two rare things in particular, including the unfinished final comic strip by Bancks himself and a letter from Patricia Bancks to Ron Vivian to express her gratitude at his work in taking on the role from her late husband. It is a real treasure-trove of stuff.
The individuals attending this exhibition are also treated to some rare videos including a road safety message from 1951 where Bancks and Ginger Meggs teach young children how to safely board a bus, cross the road and ride on the street. They can also hear the “Ginger Meggs” song by John Francis “Jack” O’Hagan who also wrote the tune, “Along The Road To Gundagai”. Parents and kids can also watch a video by Chatfield who explains how to draw Ginger Meggs from scratch and then they can have a go at it themselves as well as practicing colouring in their own comic strip.
The Ginger Meggs exhibition is a fun and informative look at a comic that has received a personal congratulations from a prime minister, been immortalised in artworks by Martin Sharp, had poet Mary Gilmore dedicate something especially to him and met Sir Donald Bradman. The lovely little red-haired larrikin holds a special place in the hearts of all Australians and this exhibition establishes why he is such a well-loved character. In all, this is an exuberant and spirited tribute to someone who’s nearly 100 years old but is really just a boy at heart.
Originally published on 27 July 2015 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/reviews/ginger-meggs-australias-favourite-boy-museum-of-sydney-exhibition-open-until-8-november-2015
Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com