Norman Thelwell saves the planet


Published in 1971, The Effluent Society by Norman Thelwell spoke about modern life and how the progress of humanity has led to us having an impact on the world. Many climate experts have struggled to instill the same love for our natural world that his work was able to. In his own words: ‘I was a sort of an unofficial country cartoonist, doing funny drawings that involved birds, cattle, pigs and poultry. One day I did a pony drawing and it was like striking a sensitive nerve. The response was instantaneous.’ Thelwell’s love for the countryside was front and centre in The Effluent Society and his opinions were quite forward-thinking. His words and art read as a hilarious but heartfelt message to look after the spaces we love and the world we live in, and in many ways predicted the issues that we face in 2023 and beyond.

The Cartoon Museum is celebrating this important work in 2023 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Thelwell’s birth and Methuen Publishing re-releasing the book over 50 years since it was first written. This year, The Cartoon Museum takes the torch that Thelwell was trying to pass on. There’s a fine history of cartooning being used for public messaging whether that be for health of the body, mind or planet. That’s because where some more scientific communication may be harder to decipher, cartoons are and always will be accessible and engaging.

The Museum has worked with a number of modern day cartoonists and environmentalists to create art and messages about what needs to be done to support climate recovery and carbon neutrality across Britain and the world, and will display their work alongside alongside a bounty of original Thelwell cartoons, plus some of his countryside watercolours and original art materials and references, to inspire the next generation of doodlers and “direct-actioners” to pick up their notebooks and make a change.

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