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13 November 2014

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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > Entertainment > Theatre and Culture > Visual Arts > Dave Follows - the cartoonists' cartoonist

Dave Follows self-portrait

Dave's own vision of his studio!

Dave Follows - the cartoonists' cartoonist

The characters drawn by Stafford-born Dave Follows are famous all over the world. And, when Dave died in 2003, his fellow cartoonists determined that the man himself should be remembered through tributes

See a cartoon on the page - laugh out loud, or even just smile - and you'll have made someone's day.  And that person is - the person who drew that cartoon.
Corny and cliched maybe - but true, nonetheless.
And Dave Follows made so many people laugh.

In North Staffordshire, many people laugh with and love "May un Mar Lady" - a comic strip written in Potteries dialect about a slob and his long-suffering wife.
It is published in North Staffordshire's own paper, the Evening Sentinel.

BBC Radio Stoke listeners remember the cantankerous "Owd Grandad Piggott" - and it was Dave Follows who put a face to this character.
OGP creator Alan Povey said: "He's got his own style and I wanted him to create me the character I write about - which he did, admirably, and it was just like I imagined him."

Dave also saw his "Creature Feature" syndicated in newspapers worldwide. He drew around 5,400 strips for this - an output admired by his colleagues.

Born in Stafford

Stafford-born cartoonist Dave Follows lost his fight for life in 2003, but his wonderful characters and his prolific work continue to raise even the most involuntary grin among those who see it.

Dave's working life began on the factory floor and he actually started working as a full-time cartoonist in the early 1970s.
Many of his friends remember how his boss tried to put him off achieving his dream…
As Dave's friend Noel Ford put it:  "Dave had been promoted off the factory floor to be a progress chaser.  By this time he'd already started to sell his cartoons part-time and he really wanted to go full-time - and his work performance went down. His boss took him to one side, took him out on the factory floor and said he'd noticed Dave's mind wasn’t on the job any more. He asked him what he wanted out of life and Dave said he wanted to draw cartoons. The boss then gestured to all the stinking machines clattering away and said: 'Dave, that's all pie in the sky. This is your life.' How wrong that man was!"

Dave Follows in his studio

Another vision of Dave in his studio

But it was not straightforward even then. Noel also remembers that Dave had to strat and do it the hard way: "Dave was due to do a strip cartoon about "The Last of the Summer Wine" for the Daily Star. But on his very first day working full-time as a cartoonist the paper rang and said the deal was off.  Dave said he sat there and cried. And his wife Audrey came in and said: 'There's no use sitting moping, get on with it and be funny!'".

Dave was hugely prolific in his work - and yet loved to go out and meet friends too.
Thanks to everyone who has supplied their photos of Dave, and let us use his cartoons in this gallery of pictures...

Tributes from his peers

The man who made North Staffordshire smile - in the words of his fellow cartoonists…

"Dave's contribution to the world of cartooning was signficant.
As well as his internationally acclaimed 'Creature Feature', Dave's cartoons for his local audience were beautifully crafted observations of Staffordshire and its people, complete with a local dialect - Dave was a one off."
Graham Fowell (Chairman Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain)

"He was a natural, but I'm sure he did work at it…you want to be seen as a 'cartoonist's cartoonist' - and that's what Dave was."
John Roberts (President of FECO UK Federation of Cartoonist Organisations)

"He was modest. I don't think I know anyone more modest than Dave when it came to cartooning.  That came to light when we did a trip to New York and one of the American cartoonists said: 'Is that Dave Follows? I just love your work!' Dave spluttered through it then came up to me and said 'That was really embarassing - he must've mistaken me for someone else'"
Noel Ford

"Dave was one of the most unassuming and modest of craftsmen who was probably the only person on God's earth who genuinely had no idea as to why his work was held in such high esteem. He would giggle like a little kid and get all flustered when anybody paid him a compliment or gave him an award."
Paul Hardman 

"The business of cartooning has radically altered in the last five years because of technology. We thought Dave would be a great luddite because he was a very matter-of-fact fella - but he took to it like a duck to water! Radio-controlled pens on a tablet, that's how we work now."
Steve Chadburn 

Dave joined four other cartoonists training future hopefuls in his art. Apparently, he was an inspiring teacher …
"I'll always remember Dave saying to me: 'I can teach you all about cartooning Andy, but the one thing I can't teach is how to be funny - that bit's up to you.'"
Andy Gilbert (cartoonist who was one of Dave's pupils) 
"To see him helping the people, he'd take what they saw as a difficult problem and with a few strokes of the pen and his unassuming manner, he'd sort it out.
He had that beautiful knack of simplifying things and making them understandable"
Steve Chadburn

"Dave had more catchphrases than Bruce Forsyth.
"'It's doing mi head in!'  /   'Nice! Very nice!'   /  'The best ten quid I've ever spent!'   /   'I could murder a pint!'   /   'I wish I were ten/twenty/thirty years younger!'"
Pete Dredge

"His kind, generous, modest and sensitive nature, love of a good pint and his pipe, and an obstinacy that could drive you nuts!"
Steve Chadburn

"Dave was such an unassuming fella - he hadn't got an unkind bone in his body.
All of us are non-smokers - but he insisted we sat in the smoking area when we went out for dinner.
We didn't mind 'cos he was Dave - it was a sign of respect that we'd put up with it. I can't imagine me doing that for anyone else."
Steve Chadburn

- but was not so fond of business meetings...
"Dave would always turn up agenda,no pen,no paper. In truth he hated meetings and would take every opportunity to talk about his beloved garden or his dog or any other subject other than the business in hand.
If the meetings showed any sign of running late Dave would get very irritable as this would impinge on his Sunday routine back home and as soon as the meeting had finished you wouldn't see him for dust."
Pete Dredge

The cartoonists' cartoonist

The Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain is one organisation aimed at promoting their work - and, more importantly, boosting social contacts within what is often a rather solitary professional life. Dave was a very active member!
Here is just one of many anecdotes... "Dave had organised a cartoonists' tour of the Potteries and was very fretful as this all fell apart at the first hurdle when the buses failed to arrive to take us all from the hotel to a reception at the Sentinel offices.
Dave was beside himself and wanting to make contact with a taxi firm to bale us out. "Has any one got a mobile?" he shouts.
John Witt, one of the cartoonists, told him to calm down and just take over the phone as John had already contacted the firm. So he handed Dave the handset which he put to his ear - and spent some considerable time trying to contact someone before realising that he had been handed a television handset.  Of course in the true spirit of Dave, this absolutely made his day and immediately calmed him right down."
Paul Hardman

Last Days

Dave lost his battle against cancer on October 17 2003.
But his friends remember his strength of character in his final months.
"Towards the end he said: 'Tell Noel I want him to talk at the funeral - and tell him to make it bloody funny!'  He could be a grumpy old bugger, but he was very dry…he was very funny."
Noel Ford

"His last laugh on Noel was to get him to do the eulogy - 'cos Noel would rather stick his hand in the fire than stand up and speak in public." Steve Chadburn

"I rang up Dave asking for an interview for the Feco newsletter 'The Foghorn' and he said: 'Before I go, you mean?'    And, when I rang him back about two or three weeks later he was very busy, but he said: 'No, no, I must do it because I may not be here next week'. I was amazed at his inner strength. He never really complained, Dave."
John Roberts

"You can't do better than remember somebody for being a genuine person - a good family man, a successful career as a cartoonist from a humble background - and modest with it - generous and popular socially and professionally."
Terry Christien


Dave Follows (October 3 1941 - October 17 2003), left his wife of 38 years Audrey, and sons Darren, Steve and Chris.

Emma Carson (a fan and grateful pupil)

last updated: 23/12/2009 at 08:32
created: 03/04/2008

Have Your Say


Rob Brock
I had the good fortune to share offices with Dave at the Moathouse in Stafford town centre - where he sat at his drawing board and grand old desk, smoking his pipe. When he'd written or drawn something funny he would laugh out load, very loud, I could hear him two floors up! We spent and wasted some great times there.

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