PLAYING FOR TRUMPS
By Janet Kelly
When people who have ‘made it’ are asked what they can thank for their transformation, few people would cite cancer, near poverty or isolation.
But then author, illustrator, publisher, satirist and general ‘cool guy’ Mike Dicks isn’t your average Joe Public!
''Facing an illness that stopped me from working actually got me to do what I love. I can only thank it for bringing me to Brighton and making my life meaningful,'' Mike has just launched the first edition of his Brexit comic – a ‘tongue in cheek but possibly fist-in-face’ look at the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.
With characters including the Reverend May and her Brexit Bunch, David Dealin’ Davis and Boris “Captain Brexit” Johnson, the first of the monthly publications was launched in Hove this week – to national and international acclaim and a public crying out for more.
Based loosely on the classic 1960s children’s TV programme Trumpton and the Beano comic it came about after Mike successfully raised enough money through crowdfunding to get the title off the ground. It is also a further extension of his hugely successful Facebook page, The Trumpton Establishment, which he set up mainly so he could write a joke every day.
''Even when I had a job I liked I still just wanted to make a gag about politics. So I had to find a way to make it pay.''
The Brexit comic isn’t the first time that the former TV producer and digital expert rubbed the edges off the pomposity of politics.
It is widely believed his ‘Show Your Rump to Trump’ campaign – which culminated in a plastic bum being presented to a full size cut out of the POTUS on regular occasions through social media and also TV’s The Last Leg – has resulted in the US President’s decision to give a visit to the UK a ‘miss’ for the time being.
He also hit the headlines when UKIP MEP, David Coburn, thought that Mike had set up a fake account representing his party – when he was just making jokes about Nigel Farage and his friends.
''He urged his 9000 Twitter followers to complain about my account and get it shut down. The opposite happened and my hobby site went from having a few hundred followers to 20,000 in the space of a few weeks.''
Since then, Mike has built a following on Facebook and Twitter of nearly 50,000 followers and published a book about Donald Trump called Mr Trump Goes To Washinghton and now his Brexit Comic has sold out of the first print run of 2,500 copies after an article about it appeared in the Observer – with the strong likelihood each and every one will soon become a collector’s item.
''I’m not printing any more of the first edition but new ones will be coming out monthly, with more value and more pages, '' he said, not only that but Mike is now rubbing shoulders with the likes of John Cleese and Hugh Grant two of the backers of the Byline Festival which will be held this Auguust Bank Holiday in Pippingford Park, Nutley.
He – and his –Trumpton community has been invited to set up a ‘Trumpton Village Fete’ at the four day festival of writing, music, politics and comedy– including pub singers, knobbly knees competitions and of course a number of people acting out very significant extracts from the Trumpton era.
''We’re aiming to put on a traditional village fete, with a twist and there will be a mixture of great bands and comedians, debate and workshops as well as funny vegetable contests and father/daughter beauty pagents,'' said Mike.
If it all sounds like he is keeping very busy, then he is. ‘Finding humour in lots of things is keeping me cheerful.’
Although Mike see’s Brighton as his creative home, there is an irony in that one option for treating his ‘skirmish’ with cancer could involve moving to Portugal or Finalnd and taking advantage of the current freedom to seek medical support anywhere in the EU – while it lasts.
‘That opportunity could all change with Brexit, which is one subject not quite so funny.’
While Mike might flirt with the idea of a move away from Brighton, it would seem the City has captured his heart and also given him a new lease of life – and work.
Within a short time of him settling into his flat in Hove he acquired a dog called Scrabble, who soon became inspiration for a number of cartoons – some of which now adorn the side of a Brighton and Hove bus. His ‘Mike and Scrabble’ books, alongside a cartoon publication about Donald Trump, have been sell-outs.
''But as any author will tell you, it doesn’t make you any money,'' said Mike, who added that it might have been Scrabble’s negotiating terms that let him down.
''I let her do all the talking which may well have resulted in a contract very much skewed to her own demands rather than mine.''
Thankfully a mixture of activities and projects now keep him gainfully employed and his first forays into art, including various depictions of the locality now for sale in local galleries, have given him strong roots – and a loyal following only too willing to help him further up the rungs of success.
''I’m constantly amazed at the support of people in Brighton. Their open generosity and genuine desire to help others on their way to do what they want to do is heart-warming.''
The next Brexit comic is available at Descience.shop/collections/trumpton-brexit at a cost of £4. Further information about taking part in the Byline Festival can be obtained by joining The Trumpton Establishment on Facebook or Twitter– where your ability to join in with the jokes will form the main admission criteria.
''Our gang is self-regulating. Those who are silly enough to join in, do. Those who think we are very silly, don’t - which suits me fine.''
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