V&A Dundee

A match made in Beanotown heaven

The creators of LGBTQ+ arts, culture, heritage and enterprise magazine Somewhere: For Us tell us about the cover for their second issue, a special collaboration with Beano Studios - featuring V&A Dundee!

Written by: Kathryn Pierce and Thomas Anderson-Thatcher

We were overjoyed to launch the first issue of our print and online Somewhere: For Us magazine in November 2020, both of us determined that a global pandemic wouldn’t hold us back. The reaction to our first issue was amazing and it quickly sold out – helped by the beautiful cover created by artist Monika Jurczyk. Issue Two, our LGBT History Month issue, followed suit in February 2021 and Issue Three in May 2021, just in time for Pride Month.

The magazine covers are a huge part of every issue. Each cover is a bespoke illustration that captures the time the issue is published and aims to celebrate the diversity of Scotland’s LGBTQ+ community; our famous landmarks and inclusive communities, and our rich arts and culture history. We collaborate with a new artist for each issue to capture a different perspective, approach and creative style.

Sections of an illustrated magazine cover showing Lawrence Chaney serving ice-creams from Lorraine Kelly's ice-cream van
Lorraine Kelly's ice-cream van features on Issue Three of Somewhere: For Us, illustrated by Amy Lauren McGrath

Back in September 2020 before we had even released the first issue, we already had big ideas for our debut year. Our first issue cover was set in a more urban Edinburgh old-town environment, so when we got to thinking about the second cover, it was important to us that another area of Scotland would be represented, and that the cover felt quite different to the first. Celebrating young LGBTQ+ people and comic books were also a focus of our second issue, so this helped shape our thinking.

Kathryn thought of Beano, and reminisced about the legendary Minnie the Minx, a character who played a big part in her childhood. She used to sneak a peek at her brother’s Beano and revel in Minnie’s anarchy – acknowledging now that Minnie was probably her first radical role model. We set about dreaming of a cover with her as a central part – maybe in a rainbow jumper for the first time? How awesome would that be? We quickly got on to contacting Dundee based Beano Studios to see what they thought of us using the character as part of the cover. They could only say no!

Minnie the Minx, for the first time in her 68 year history, would be bursting through the page in a unique rainbow version of her famous jumper.

We had also discovered that Minnie the Minx is illustrated by trailblazing artist Laura Howell, the first female artist to produce a regular strip in The Beano, which strengthened our resolve even further, and, within a couple of weeks, we’d already had some conversations with Laura, a freelance artist, who was excited about the possibility of creating a cover with us.

Minnie the Minx blowing some air horns
Radical role model Minnie the Minx - credit Laura Howell

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and to our surprise we got a response from Mike Stirling, Head of Beano Studios Scotland, who was really enthusiastic about the magazine. We were confident with the quality of the magazine design and the content, supported by a stellar group of writers from all over Scotland, and our designer Moira Daykin, so we didn’t hesitate to share these with Mike. Our content has something for everyone, including (and especially) young people. He liked what we put forward and a call was arranged to find out more about us and how we would like to use Minnie the Minx as part of the cover.

Thomas suggested we set the cover in Dundee, the home of The Beano, and having Minnie the Minx swinging into the scene having raised her flag to the top of the Discovery ship mast - a ship associated with research and adventure - and a group of young people being their most fabulous selves celebrating Pride and getting creative outside the iconic V&A Dundee building. We knew this could make for an unforgettable cover, especially as V&A Dundee is a place of inspiration and discovery, and one of our favourite places to visit.

Although our audience might be young, we never underestimate them. Pride is part of their lives, so we proudly support it.

Mike Stirling, Beano Studios Scotland

The discussion and design call was brilliant fun, and we did have to pinch ourselves a few times. We were over the moon that Mike and The Beano team loved our pitch and suggested we included some other Beano characters on the cover. We hadn’t been brave enough to suggest this ourselves, so it was pretty amazing to find all of a sudden the Beano family were joining our joyful Dundee cover youth group! Alongside Minnie the Minx, who, for the first time in her 68 year history, would be bursting through the page in a unique rainbow version of her famous jumper, joining in the fun would be Dennis and Gnasher, Timara the Time Traveller, Rubi and JJ! We were buzzing with excitement.

An illustration of Dennis the Menace holding a bucket of rainbow Pride paint
Dennis the Menace paints a TIE placard with his Pride paint

We were really impressed with the Beano’s strong commitment to diversity and this was really important to us. On working with us on the cover, Mike Stirling, Head of Beano Studios, said: “Although our audience might be young, we never underestimate them. Pride is part of their lives, so we proudly support it on our social channels and across beano.com with articles and quizzes for them to get involved or learn more about it if they wish. We also don’t underestimate the power of our brand to its fans. We’re guided by our commitment to our ‘Beanofesto’ and, more specifically, with what we publish as our ‘Kids’ Amendment’. This is a promise to help young people be heard and act. We aim to embody the same commitment: to be our best self; to be kind; to take responsibility; and to treat everyone the way we wish to be treated ourselves. Obviously, diversity and inclusion are a natural part of this, both in our own business and amongst the millions of fans we are lucky to connect with. Working on this cover was such an honour.”

It was so heart-warming and emotional reading messages from people sharing what it meant seeing their childhood heroes being such awesome LGBTQ+ allies.

We worked closely with artist Laura Howell and the cover quickly came alive. Seeing Laura’s creative process first-hand was a privilege and a real joy - she did a really amazing job and it was very special to be so close-up to her creative process.

A pencil sketch and colour illustration showing Minnie the Minx and a host of characters celebrating outside the Discovery ship and the V&A Dundee building
A development sketch and the full-colour cover illustration - credit Laura Howell/Somewhere EDI CIC, in special collaboration with Beano Studios

When we finally revealed the cover on Valentines Day 2021, the reaction was electric. It was so heart-warming and emotional reading messages from people sharing what it meant seeing their childhood heroes being such awesome LGBTQ+ allies. Beano was (and still is) such a big part of the lives of many of us who were brought up when being gay was illegal and during a time when schools were banned from promoting anything remotely LGBTQ+ positive – it’s important to remember that Section 28 was only repealed in Scotland in 2000.

Key to both of us and to our community and allies across Scotland, 2021 is the year LGBTQ+ inclusive education enters the curriculum in Scotland’s state schools, so celebrating the work of the TIE (Time for Inclusive Education) campaign in driving this forward was an important historical moment to acknowledge in the design. On the cover Dennis is holding his tin of Pride paint, ready to help create a TIE placard, and you just know he’s going to make a mess.

Black and white photos of Kathryn Pierce and Thomas Anderson-Thatcher
Somewhere: For Us creators Kathryn Pierce and Thomas Anderson-Thatcher - credit Jo Tennant Photography

We are still enjoying reading messages from our growing readership who are discovering us and the cover for the first time. We are also very happy to say that our collaboration with the Beano has not ended there. We produced a limited-edition print and poster, with a donation to TIE from every sale. There is also a special Beano cover colouring-in page in the issue, alongside insightful interviews with Mike and Laura.

And as we look forward, we are so excited by our cover’s legacy project. We will also be creating an opportunity for a young LGBTQ+ person who lives in Scotland and is looking to start a career in the arts sector, to work with us to create a special piece of art that will feature in a future issue. They will also receive support from the Beano team and some helpful tools to support them on their creative journey. Who knows where that will take them in the future? We certainly can’t wait to find out!