Dartmouth Connections - Simon Drew, Illustrator and Cartoonist
What did you do before moving to Dartmouth?
I was born in Reading and was educated at Bradfield College in Berkshire before reading Zoology at Exeter University which was my first connection with the West Country. After graduating I taught Biology for five years in Sussex before my wife Caroline and I decided we would seek a shop so that I could be paid for drawing all day long! That was my true ambition in life and really always had been but my teachers had pushed me towards the sciences at school and I was a very obedient child! After many months of searching we found the shop in Foss Street and that was 29 years ago.
Where do you get your ideas from?
That’s the question I am so often asked and the facetious answer I suppose is from everywhere! I’m always on the look out and one day it might be a pictorial thing and I want to do stripes or another day it might be a word I want to twist, so it’s both words and visual inspirations.
How many books have you produced?
Twenty five, which is roughly one a year since I wrote and illustrated the first. That was ‘A Book of Bestial Nonsense’, which appeared in 1986. Apart from one which I published myself they have all been published by ACC who are based in Suffolk which is a privately owned company run by a lady named Diana Steel who has got to know Dartmouth and since bought a home here. My work is sold in most English speaking countries and I have been very lucky to be invited to book signings in many wonderful places all over the world – in fact I have a day drawing and book signing in Fortnum & Mason’s later this week.
Do you feel integrated into the Dartmouth community as an ‘incomer’?
I’d like to think I have put roots down here far more than anywhere else or would have done anywhere else. Dartmouth has such history and I didn’t realise until I got older that history was important to me. To be living in, working in and using such old buildings and walking along such old streets is wonderful. In fact when I see them lifting the old granite kerbstones when undertaking street repairs I do make sure they don’t replace them with concrete ones! I do think it is a fabulous town and obviously apart from the history the most important thing about it is the people. That’s what makes Dartmouth a special place because it’s big enough to have a lot going on and stay alive during the winter months but also small enough to know a lot of people as I do especially running a shop. I do feel a sense of permanence. I have no plans to move on.
Are you working on any current projects?
Well yes, on-going really. Twenty eight years ago this street was pretty quiet and I have photographs which show it on a sunny summer’s day with not one ‘sole’ [sic] in it. Also, there was not a single flower in it. So Caroline, myself and Sue Kendal who has worked here for twenty two years together with Cliff Mason (who used to have the tobacconist shop) who is much missed and his wife Val got together and encouraged all the shop owners in Foss Street to put flower displays outside their shops. So, for the first few years we bought the pots and flowers and put them outside all the shops for which the owners gave a contribution and gradually each shop took over doing their own. So now we encourage the new shops as they change hands to take on the ‘tradition’. The other Foss Street tradition is The Great Easter Egg Hunt which takes place on Easter Saturday and I think this year will be the twenty second year I have organised it. We have been donated eggs by Marks and Spencer and Sainsburys and Simon Drew Galleries will donate the rest. It is great fun and all children should persuade their parents to bring them to participate!
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside your work?
As writing and drawing are the loves of my life I have to say not many however when I go on holiday I do like to sit down with the Guardian cryptic crosswords. I do also support the Flavel Centre and enjoy attending the various offerings there and also I am a supporter and campaigner for Castle Cove. As an active fundraiser I, along with others, are trying to get that back to some semblance of how it used to be in Victorian times when hundreds of people would use it from the town to sit and enjoy the views and swim. So if anyone reading this wants to donate to the Dartmouth Castle Cove fund I can point them in the right direction!\
First Published April 2009 By The Dart