Town tips its Capp to man behind cartoon character

Reg Smythe, creator of Andy Capp.
Reg Smythe, creator of Andy Capp.

The life and work of the man behind the Andy Capp character will be put on show in his home town next month.

The free exhibition at the Museum of Hartlepool will make the double milestone of the 60th anniversary of the first time Andy Capp appeared in the northern edition of the Daily Mirror and what would have been the 100th birthday of cartoonist Reg Smythe.

Andy Capp, who first appeared in print 60 years ago.

Andy Capp, who first appeared in print 60 years ago.

The display, 60 Years of Andy Capp, will tell the story of Smythe, who was born in Hartlepool in 1917.

It will also look at his relationship with the town and the evolution of Andy Capp over its history.

The work-shy, working class character was a world-wide hit and at the time of Smyth’s death in 1998 was syndicated to 1,700 newspapers in 52 different countries and read by 250million people globally.

Many of the objects on display at the exhibition have been kindly donated to the Hartlepool Borough Council operated museum by Smythe’s family.

The exhibition not only allows us to celebrate Andy’s popularity but also gives us the chance to get to know a bit more about the quiet man from Hartlepool who brought Andy to life.

Anna Dobson

For the first time since the donation, the public will have the chance to see his pre-Andy artwork, drawing equipment and family photographs which give a rare glimpse into Smythe’s life growing up in Hartlepool.

Councillor Kevin Cranney, chairman of the council’s Regeneration Services Committee, said: “Reg Smythe enjoyed a remarkable and award-winning career and it is fitting that we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first publication of Andy Capp in this way.

“Already the exhibition has received national recognition and I would encourage people young and old to visit this free exhibition at the Museum of Hartlepool to learn more about a man who really put Hartlepool on the worldwide map.”

Anna Dodgson, the council’s cultural officer, said: “We are so pleased that the Smythe family have been so generous in gifting the Museum of Hartlepool with this enormous archive of Reg’s work.

“The exhibition not only allows us to celebrate Andy’s popularity but also gives us the chance to get to know a bit more about the quiet man from Hartlepool who brought Andy to life.”

The exhibition forms part of Cleveland College of Art and Design’s Festival of Illustration and will also explore Smythe’s drawing style and will feature a number of original cartoons from across the decades.

Two of the three men currently producing the Andy Capp strip, Lawrence Goldsmith and Sean Garnett will be delivering a talk at the Festival of Illustration Symposium on Saturday, June 3, 9.45am at Hartlepool Art Gallery.

For more information visit http://festivalofillustration.com/