Hung, drawn and quartered – the caricatures of Ken Gill

edited by John Green and Michal Boncza
Paperback; 132pp; ISBN 978-0-9558228-2-7

They're fantastic! I knew Ken Gill drew cartoons, but I never realised his caricatures were so good.

Steve Bell, Cartoonist at The Guardian


Ken Gill was one of the leading lights of the trade union movement in the 1970s and 1980s, becoming the first communist elected to the TUC General Council (in 1974, with 7 million votes), and becoming General Secretary of the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union (MSF, now part of Unite) in 1988. Ken was voted the ‘Trade unionists’ trade unionist’ by his peers in a survey by The Observer in 1993. What better accolade could one ask for?

Tony Benn - caricature by Ken Gill

However Ken was renowned in trade union circles not just for his politics and commitment to working people, but for his perceptive caricatures of fellow union leadersand politicians with whom he negotiated. During the hours he had to sit through tedious meetings, he utilised the time to sketch those around him on anything that came to hand – the back of old agenda papers, serviettes or reports. Over the years this grew into a prodigious collection of portraits.

Ken's caricatures were so good that those portrayed were often keen to have them. He has a knack for capturing good likenesses and poked fun in a gentle fashion; they are rarely harsh or cruel. In that sense they reflect the man himself, who respects his fellow trade unionists and principled politicians, but deplores sell-outs, back-sliders and opportunists. Everyone knew Ken was a Communist but he was never dogmatic in his views and he recognised that true comrades do exist outside the Communist Party too. He felt perfectly at home with those on the left of the Labour Party who believed in socialism as he does, even if they may have differed on how to get there. This book offers a small segment of history as seen from the perspective of a leading trade unionist through the medium of caricature. The texts and anecdotes accompanying them are only intended as laconic complements.

Thatcher, Heseltine caricature by Ken Gill

I think this is a brilliant collection. Weirdly, I reckon the best is Bill Sirs.

Paul Routledge, Labour Editor, The Times

Ken Gill's caricatures are not what you would expect from a militant communist trade union leader. But then again you wouldn't expect a militant communist trade union leader to draw caricatures.

As caricatures they are affectionate rather than grotesque, but there's a confidence in the line which gives a brilliant insight into the confidence and determination of the man holding the pen, and the extent of his ability as an artist. Knowing that most of his caricatures were drawn on the spot, scribbled down in meetings, it is impossible not to be hugely impressed with Gill's drawings.
Morten Morland, Cartoonist at The Times