Cholera Commotions

(click to read Cholera Commotions online)

“Cholera is like tourists: they come, they annoy us, then they leave.”

Cholera Commotions is a comics anthology collaboration created by Berwick Academy students, Northumberland Archives, Museums Northumberland, Applied Comics Etc, Newcastle University and Printspot.

The anthology was created over three days in summer 2018 as part of a Learning Arc: Archives Education Group project. We began by exploring archive materials – and a nearby graveyard – to find about the history of cholera in Berwick upon Tweed. By day two we started planning a comics anthology to share this history with a teen/young adult audience, then on day three we created final artwork ready to be setup by Printspot’s graphic designer. Berwick Academy students made decisions at each stage of the project.

Come to our Cholera Commotions launch events as part of Berwick Literary Festival:
  • ‘From Cholera To Comic’ talk by Linda Bankier, Jane Miller, and Lydia Wysocki. Fri 19th Oct, 4-5pm, Holy Trinity Parish Centre, Berwick upon Tweed 
  • Cholera Commotions exhibition of artwork, The Guildhall, Berwick upon Tweed

List of chapters:

  1. Pablo’s Problem by Joe and Albie
  2. Bizarre Cures for Cholera by Katie and Amy
  3. Ode to Maysie by Aimee, Emily, and Jaimee
  4. CSI Berwick by Bobby, Jessica, and Alex
  5. From Lonely to Dead by Rebecca and Kaitlyn
  6. True or False by Jessica and Alex
  7. Curse of Queen Cholera by Abi, Jen, and Charley

Thank you to everyone who helped make this comic:

  • Abi, Aimee, Albie, Alex, Amy, Bobby, Charley, Emily, Jaimee, Jennifer, Jessica, Joe, Kaitlyn, Katie, Rebecca and Mr Bosanquet from Berwick Academy
  • Linda from Northumberland Archives, Jane from Museums Northumberland, and Helen (volunteer)
  • Lydia from Applied Comics Etc
  • Ulrike, Sara, Gillian, and Lindsey from Newcastle University
  • Kevin from Printspot



My MRI! Informing children about MRI scan procedures

Children have a right to be informed about and participate in decisions about their health and treatments. The Radiography team at the Great North Children’s Hospital identified a need to make their MRI scan information for children more accessible, with a focus on the process of having a scan rather than the technology involved. Here is the comic that evolved from that collaboration.

Project team:

  • Claire Watson and Hannah McDonald – Radiographers, Great North Children’s Hospital
  • Julie Anderson – Research and Innovations Manager, Great North Children’s Hospital
  • Lydia Wysocki – Education, Communication and Language Sciences, Newcastle University; Applied Comics Etc
  • Janice McLaughlin – Sociology, Newcastle University
  • Heather Wilson – Comic Developer, HeatherWilson Illustrations

Read more about this project in slides from our presentation at the British Sociological Association’s Medical Sociology Conference (Glasgow Caledonian University, 12-14 September 2018). medsoc presentation 11th sept 2018

The GNCH Young Person’s Advisory Group gave feedback at the very early stages of our project, and again when we presented a poster at YPAG’s conference. Read a PDF of our poster here.

This is our second project with comics creator Heather Wilson – you might remember her work from ‘Heartland’ in Asteroid Belter: The Newcastle Science Comic (2013). In My MRI, Heather’s skill in layering photographic images from the GNCH’s MRI scanner with colourful drawn elements helps connect the comic with the process of having an MRI scan. The three stories woven through the comic capture the variety of experiences and family backgrounds of young patients, and include plenty of space for children to add their own self-portrait and information to the comic.

Heather and Janice’s own previous collaborations include The Body Matters and Balancing your Studies. We are not responsible for the content of these external links, but they’re likely to be of interest to medical sociology and comics fans.

The next stage of our My MRI! project will involve feedback from young patients’ families. For this first stage of the project we gratefully acknowledge Impact Funding from Sociology at Newcastle University, and the goodwill of all project collaborators.



Freedom City Comics (2017)

Freedom City Comics anthology presents snapshots of the history of civil rights and politics on Tyneside. Each chapter focuses on a different era of the history of people and events in Newcastle and the North East. The 7 chapters are linked by the themes of freedom highlighted by Dr Martin Luther King Jr in his 1967 Newcastle speech:

“There are three urgent and indeed great problems that we face not only in the United States of America but all over the world today. That is the problem of racism, the problem of poverty and the problem of war…” Dr Martin Luther King Jr., Speech on Receipt of Honorary Doctorate in Civil Law, November 13, 1967, University of Newcastle upon Tyne

Made as part of Freedom City 2017, our 16-page comic is a collaboration between comics artist-writers and academic researchers:

The full digital comic is available FREE to read online . Look out for each standalone digital chapter, too.

The full printed comic is available to pick up FREE at libraries, cultural venues, and other events around Tyneside as part of Freedom City 2017. More info and venues list:

We’re also working on a learning framework to support schools and other groups to use this comic.

Press release:

Olaudah Equiano - Patrice Aggs, working with researcher Brycchan Carey

Joseph Cowen - Mack Chater and Ian Mayor, working with researcher Joan Allen

Ellen Wilkinson - Sha Nazir, working with researcher Matt Perry

DIY Comic (2017)

We worked with Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books in preparation for their 2017 exhibition Comics: Explore and Create Comic Art at Seven Stories.

Overall, the exhibition features process and final artwork by a mix of old and new comics creators, with a huge focus on supporting children to make their own comics. Our contribution was in two parts:

  • designing and making the DIY comic, a ‘have a go’  for young visitors to use in the gallery and take home to continue making their own comics (see more here) (free download of the DIY comic, notes for adults, and gallery guide activities on the Seven Stories website)
  • working with the Learning and Participation team at Seven Stories to develop workshops to be delivered in-house as part of their schools and public offers, and training Seven Stories’ front of house Storycatcher staff to deliver these.

Comic Swap (2017+)

Comic Swap is a postal comic swap for children’s comics-making clubs. It’s co-organised by us and Hannah Sackett.

Read more on the Comic Swap blog.

The first swap (2017) was hosted by Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books. Six comics clubs took part from all around the UK: Bath, Dundee, Gateshead, Gloucester, Newcastle, and North Yorkshire.

The 2018 swap involved eight sets of amazing comics – from Dundee, Newcastle, Oxford, Bath, Essex, London and Sussex.

Future swaps are being planned…

Comic Swap logo designed by Josh

FaSMEd comic (2016)

HandsReading FaSMEd_Banner

The FaSMEd project invited us to work with children at George Stephenson High School in Killingworth, Newcastle upon Tyne, as part of their larger European research project. Their team is investigating Raising Achievement through Formative Assessment in Science and Mathematics Education – working with teachers on new-style maths and science lessons.

What does all that have to do with comics? We set up a lunchtime comics club, making comics as a way to reflect on these new-style lessons.  Each child planned and made their own one-page comic, presented as part of an anthology with more information on what FaSMEd is about.  Read the anthology online here.

Here’s what the FaSMEd team wrote about this mini project in their newsletter:

“Research at its very best is all about trying out new ideas and the team at Newcastle University have been trialling an innovative approach to eliciting the views of students who take part in research projects. Over a period of 4 months eight students, who had taken part in FaSMEd maths lessons, worked with the Newcastle team and Lydia Wysocki, researcher, and founder of Applied Comics Etc. During weekly lunchtime sessions the students learnt about comic making and then used this knowledge to create their own individual comic strip. They were asked to choose an aspect of their FaSMEd maths lessons that they had found interesting and enjoyable and use this as the focus for their work. The final comic strips were then put together in one comic which also included contextualising information i.e. examples of the maths activities, images of the comic making process as well as quotes from the students about their views of the FaSMEd activities.
On Tuesday 21st June 2016 the printed comics were presented to the students, their maths teacher Jen Heslop and the Deputy Head Teacher Tracey Anderson. The delight and pride of the students at seeing their work published was clear to see and they all took the opportunity to take home several copies to show their families.”


The Right To Learn: Workers’ Educational Association (2016)

Unboxing 'The Right To Learn' comic at the WEA's project launch party

We worked with comics creator Terry Wiley to create ‘Philip Anthony Brown: The Right To Learn’, an 8-page comic about a key lecturer in the history of the Workers’ Educational Association. Read it online on the WEA’s website, and look out for printed copies at Workers’ Educational Association: North East events.

WEA members researched the life of Philip Anthony Brown as part of their Heritage Lottery-funded project The WEA in World War I. They approached us to make a biographical comic that works both as a standalone comic, and as a part of their commemorative edition of The Highway.

It was great to work with comics artist-writer Terry Wiley  again for this project. Following discussions with the WEA he settled on a line art style similar to his work on True War Stories No.1: Thomas Baker Brown. The content of the comic was led by biographical research by WEA members, then Terry’s writing, artwork, and design brought the comic to life.

Gertrude Bell: Archaeologist, Writer, Explorer (2015)


Born in Washington New Hall in what was then County Durham, archaeologist Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) had a remarkable life. She travelled round the world twice, investigated archaeological sites through the Syrian Desert to Asia Minor, and became a powerful force in Iraqi politics. Gertrude established the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, and served as the Honorary Director of Antiquities in Iraq.  

Gertrude Bell: Archaeologist, Writer, Explorer uses digital comics as entry points to original archive materials. The online-digital-hyperlinked comics are all free to read online: 

The seven digital comics by cartoonist John Miers present snapshots of Gertrude’s life and work. Click on the circular hotspots to see the photos, letters, and other artefacts that inspired each comic. These original materials include digitised artifacts in the Gertrude Bell Archive, and other collections of key sources.


Your feedback will help as we continue to develop this project with the School of Archaeology at Newcastle University.‌‌ Please fill in our short reader questionnaire. Phase 2 will support people who aren’t archaeologists or subject specialists to further explore the Gertrude Bell Archive, with these comics as a starting point.

Look out for our printed preview version, too!  Of course the hyperlinks are only in the online comics, but the printed preview has more detail on where in the world Gertrude lived and worked.


We’re grateful to young people from the Newcastle Young Archaeologists’ Club for their help in refining these comics. We went on site at their summer dig at Derwentcote Steel Furnace, for feedback on drafts of each comic and opinions on art style. Then in autumn 2015, YAC tested our hyperlinked comics and helped us decide what could be developed further as phase 2 of this project.

Gertrude Bell: Archaeologist, Writer, Explorer is a collaboration between:

This project is supported by Newcastle University’s Institute for Creative Arts Practice

Please note that we are not responsible for the content or reader-friendliness of external archives and websites.

True War Stories (2015)


For this project we worked with the Thomas Baker Brown Archive, Newcastle University Library Special Collections Education Outreach team, and artist-writer Terry Wiley.

Thomas Baker Brown was a man from North Shields, Tyne & Wear, who served as a signaller in World War I. His son donated his archive to Newcastle University Special Collections, and we have used the letters, documents, and artefacts in the archive to better understand his WWI story as a ‘typical Tommy’ from our local area.

Thomas’ story forms the heart of this project. His archive includes original comics
from WWI, so we used comics as a method to help local high school students understand how archives help us write history. Visit the True War Stories education outreach webpage to read and download free comics:

  • True War Stories No.1: Thomas Baker Brown, a 12-page biographical comic written and drawn by Terry Wiley
  • Draw More Comics: The Thomas Baker Brown World War I Comics Anthology, an anthology of local students’ comics based on archive materials
  • downloadable panel templates, archive resources packs, and a how to draw guide to use alone or with students


Spineless: The Newcastle Science Comic (2015)

Spineless: The Newcastle Science Comic is our 16 page, 7-creator comics anthology created in partnership with Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle, as the childrens exhibition guide to their Spineless exhibition about invertebrates (minibeasts, bugs, beasties…) in summer 2015.
We’ve printed 20,000 newsprint copies of Spineless (and a full digital version: go to the Newcastle Science Comic blog and click the cover image on the right of the screen).

Panel 1 of our Spineless cover comic by Jess Bradley

Each chapter of Spineless-the-comic supports a section of Spineless-the-exhibition, and was created as a collaboration between comics creators and the exhibition’s guest curators. Both the comic and the exhibition are free.

We’ve published Spineless with a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence. This means you can share the comic (physical and digital versions) with others as long as you credit our project, but you can’t change the comic in any way or use it commercially. We hope this will make it easy for children, adults, teachers and other professionals to read and share Spineless – and, of course, ensure that the science research and natural history can be credited back to GNM: Hancock’s guest curators!


The exhibition runs from 1st August- 1st November 2015. Spineless is our second Newcastle Science Comic title, following Asteroid Belter which was created as part of the 2013 British Science Festival (and still available to read free on our Newcastle Science Comic blog).

Here are our top team of Spineless contributors and the minibeast habitats in their comics:

Make sure you visit Spineless at the Great North Museum: Hancock to pick up your free copy!  We’ll also be running some Spineless comics-making workshops later this summer.