Bill Tidy: “Is there any news of the iceberg? Is at The Atkinson on Lord Street, Southport, from 8 June 2024 – 5 October 2024. Admission free

By Andrew Brown Stand Up For Southport 

A unique exhibition  dedicated to one of the UK’s greatest ever cartoonists is opening in Southport. 

‘Is there any news of the iceberg?’ by Bill Tidy MBE opens at The Atkinson on Lord Street, in Southport today (Saturday, 8th June 2024) and runs until 5th October 2024, with admission free. 

The prolific late cartoonist, TV personality and author, who sadly died last year, enjoyed many happy years living in Southport with his wife of 59 years, Rosa, and his family. 

This new exhibition pays tribute to the comic genius who gave us The Cloggies and The Fosdyke Saga, as well as countless other cartoons in national newspapers and magazines such as Punch and Private Eye.

Visitors will also have the rare opportunity to take home their own piece of Bill Tidy MBE memorabilia with unique and limited edition cartoons, signed prints, books, postcards and greetings cards available to purchase through The Atkinson. 

The exhibition will be officially opened by his daughter, Sylvia Tidy-Harris, and by Bill’s granddaughter, Scarlett Tidy-Jones; Nick’s daughter; who is visiting from near San Francisco in the US. 

Sylvia said: “It was devastating when Dad died. It was over a year ago, but it doesn’t feel like it. 

“I have a million questions I wish I could ask him, especially as we were going through his work, and I really wanted to ask him about what he had created. 

“He was so prolific with the art he made with cartoons, pictures, decorations on pottery, he was always drawing.

“He was so generous with people he met, especially with children. Whenever he was at events he was always happy to draw a picture for someone! There must be lots of people out there with a piece of Bill Tidy art that’s unique to them. 

“Dad was always drawn to the humour in things. 

“He used to get very angry about injustice and intolerance, and about untalented people who made it big for reasons that were beyond him. 

Legendary cartoonist Bill Tidy (left) in Southport in August 1983

Legendary cartoonist Bill Tidy (left) in Southport in August 1983

“He was a very generous, gentle and kind man. 

“I think he might have been the most prolific artist in the world! 

“He used to draw little cartoons for everyone he met. 

“He used to receive lots of cartoons drawn by children too, and he always took the time to reply to them and share his thoughts. He was always keen to encourage them to develop their talents. 

“He loved creativity in people. 

“He used to get very embarrassed when people said nice things to him. He could never take compliments well, he just enjoyed doing what he did.” 

Bill Tidy MBE and his family spent many happy years living in Southport. 

Bill and Rosa married and moved to Cavendish House in Ainsdale in 1960. 

They later lived on Carlisle Road and then Westcliffe Road before moving to the Midlands in 1985, so it was easier for him to travel and meet his work commitments throughout the UK. 

He died last year aged 89. 

The iconic artist, who was born in Tranmere in Wirral in 1933, is fondly remembered for his widely published comic strips. 

Deeply proud of his working-class roots in Northern England, his most abiding cartoon strips, such as The Cloggies and The Fosdyke Saga, were set in an exaggerated version of that environment.

He was famous for his regular TV appearances, on popular shows including Blankety Blank, Watercolour Challenge, Through the Keyhole and Countryfile.

He died with his two children, Sylvia and Rob, at his side, while his son, Nick, predeceased him. 

In 2000 Bill Tidy was awarded an MBE for ‘Services to Journalism’. 

Legendary cartoonist and TV personality Bill Tidy, who lived in Southport, is pictured presenting one of his cartoons at an event in Southport in July 1980

He was also well-known for his immense charitable work, particularly for the Lord’s Taverners,  which he supported for over 30 years. 

When in Southport he was always happy to support local causes through his artwork. 

His wife, Rosa, ran a business in Hoghton Street selling bespoke soft furnishings, curtains, bedding etc in the 1980s called Rosa Tidy’s Bottom Drawer. 

His son Rob became his full-time carer after his health declined following two major strokes. 

Sylvia described her father as the ‘UK’s best loved cartoonist’, and a ‘talented and very funny man’. 

Tributes poured in from famous faces including Harry Potter star Miriam Margolyes who said that Mr Tidy was a ‘very special man’ who ‘will never die’. 

Composer Tim Rice said: ‘Bill will be missed not only for his great talent but for his warmth, wit and wisdom.’

Staff at Casa Italia restaurant on Lord Street in Southport celebrate the venue’s third birthday party in September, 1981. The Grossi family, which owned the restaurant for many years, were joined by cartoonist Bill Tidy (right) to cut the cake.

Bill Tidy started his cartoonist career when he sold a sketch to a Japanese newspaper in 1955, the same year he left the Royal Engineers branch of the Army. 

As his work became more well-known and began finding spots in the likes of the Daily Sketch and The Daily Mirror.  

Over the course of his career, he wrote 20 books, and illustrated 70. 

He drew the popular cartoon strip The Cloggies in Private Eye from 1967 to 1981, before going on to draw the Fosdyke Saga strip, which ran in the Mirror newspaper from 1971 to 1985. 

So popular the Fosdyke Saga was that it became the subject of a BBC 42-part radio series from 1983. 

He spent his final years living in Swannington, Leicestershire. 

On his website, he said: “I have always been able to draw. From the mess of my earliest memories, I can still recall images of my first attempts at drawing cowboys I’d seen in comics and at the cinema.”

Writing, aged 84, he added: “I still take childish delight in what I do. I will never stop drawing and I still can not stop myself from doing crazy things like illustrating horseboxes, ceramic pots and vases. And I am still working undertaking commissions for bespoke cartoons and the odd Private Eye gag.  My characters range from Tripe magnates to the ferocious Folk Dancing Cloggies to Keg Buster who has been the champion of Real Ale for over 40 years. Think of it, Beer, Sport, Food and Family! What more do I need?”

Sylvia said: “Dad was very famous for his Northern humour. 

“Because of the North-South divide in the country, he was perhaps not as celebrated as he might have been had he been a London based artist. 

“He was very observant. He loved things like clog dancing, which inspired the cartoon strip ‘The Cloggies’. 

“Eric Ackroyd was a fantastic character. He let fresh air into his smoke factory so the coughing choir would lose their coughs. 

“There will be a real variety of his work that people can enjoy at the Atkinson. 

“As well as many of his cartoon strips, we also have a lot of his gags. 

“Dad enjoyed engraving things too. He loved engraving gags onto the bottom of people’s glasses so people saw the joke when they finished their drink. 

“Dad loved lots of subjects, such as history, archaeology and sport. 

“One of his big regrets in life was that he never got to go and see the Pyramids in Egypt. 

“We have some of Dad’s air fresheners which he drew on and called ‘kill pong’. 

“We have some of the rude pottery which he decorated, similar in style to the Ancient Greek pottery, which fell out of favour in the more prudish society values of the 18th and 19th centuries, when they used to smash any pottery like that that they found. 

We have some of Dad’s pens and his colouring pens on show. 

“He wrote and illustrated so many books. 

“He was commissioned to work on the History of the Dinosaurs for the Natural History Museum, just after the Jurassic Park movie came out. 

“The drawings he created for the Natural History Museum were bought by Steven Spielberg. 

“He created all these funny drawings about why the dinosaurs might have died – they died of boredom watching cricket and things like that. 

“And of course we remember him as Bill Tidy – our Dad. 

“He was such a brilliant Dad to grow up with. He taught us so much, about fossils, about dinosaurs, about world countries. 

“Dad loved living in Southport. 

“Mum was the great love of his life. They were married for 59 years! Mum was really hoping to reach 60 years so they could get their congratulatory telegram from The Queen. 

“When Dad was presented with his MBE from Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen said to him ‘Not enough people laugh!’ 

“She spoke with him for so long that she had to be chivvied along. 

“People loved his works from all walks of life.” 

 

  • Bill Tidy: “Is there any news of the iceberg? Is at The Atkinson on Lord Street, Southport, from 8 June 2024 – 5 October 2024. Admission free.
    Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-4pm (closed Sundays and Bank Holidays). 

  • For more about Bill Tidy’s work please visit billtidy.com

 

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