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Phil Evans: poet of the pub

Added: Wednesday, April 16th 2014

Phil Evans


Phil Evans' art (Guardian Obituaries, 28 March) was a toxic mix of a ribald sense of humour, a contempt for the capitalist system and a deep empathy for working people. I still vividly recall the first cartoon he drew for Socialist Worker. It showed a rent collector addressing a tenant: "You have rats? But madam the council has strict rules about keeping pets."
His main contribution to the paper, as Murray Armstrong recorded, was the strip Our Norman, a young factory worker at war with management and the foreman. One memorable strip had just one frame, showing Norman and his mates cavorting around the factory singing "Do-ron-ron" while the foreman groaned "I hate Fridays."
His work proved controversial. One branch of the International Socialists passed a pompous motion calling for the strip to be withdrawn on the grounds that "there's nothing funny about the class struggle". Phil, on the other hand, thought it was hilarious.
Phil illustrated three of my books, Best Pubs in London, Best Pubs in East Anglia and the Great British Beer Book. His sketches for the London book in particular were small masterpieces, depicting not just the buildings but the remarkable characters on both sides of the bar. His drawing of Dirty Dick's in Bishopsgate is framed and hangs on my wall. The pub appears to be on the point of collapse and brilliantly captures the tragic history of the building that was used by Dickens for Miss Haversham's house in Great Expectations.
Phil deserves a retrospective exhibition of his work to mark his great contribution to the socialist cause.
Dirty Dick's