Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Donald Rooum: a biographical history.

DONALD Rooum (born 20 April 1928) is an English anarchist cartoonist and writer. He has a long association with Freedom Press who have published seven volumes of his Wildcat cartoons. In 1963 he played a key role in exposing Harold Challenor, a corrupt police officer who tried to frame him. Biography[edit]Donald Rooum was born in Bradford. He registered as a conscientious objector but was pressurised by his family into doing two years military service, starting January 1947. A resettlement grant following his discharge allowed him to study commercial design at Bradford Regional Art School from 1949 to 1953. Rooum's portrait by Frank Lisle, one of his lecturers of the time, is in Wakefield Gallery. From 1954 to 1966 Rooum worked as a layout artist and typographer in London advertising agencies, then as a lecturer in typographic design at the London College of Printing until 1983. He studied life sciences at the Open University from 1973 to 1979, and was awarded a first class degree in 1980. He was elected Member of the Institute of Biology (incorporated into the Society of Biology in October 2009) and became a chartered biologist in 2004. Rooum says that he first became interested in anarchism in 1944 when he visited Speaker's Corner in London while on a Ministry of Food scheme which used schoolboys to pick hops in Kent. He subscribed to War Commentary, thus beginning a connection with Freedom Press which has continued for over sixty years. During that time he has been a writer for and an editor of Freedom, the name to which War Commentary reverted after the end of the Second World War. In 1949, Rooum began to raise his profile in activist circles, participating in the annual anarchist summer school.[1] The working title of Frank Lisle's 1952 portrait was The Anarchist. Rooum became an outdoor speaker Market Street, Bradford, then at Speaker's Corner. In the long-running feud between Vernon Richards (long-time editor of Freedom, described as 'The anarchist weekly until the early 1960s) and Freedom on the one hand, and Albert Meltzer and Black Flag on the other, Rooum sided with Richards. As to his theoretical position as an anarchist, Rooum stated: "The most influential source is Max Stirner. I am happy to be called a Stirnerite anarchist, provided 'Stirnerite' means one who agrees with Stirner's general drift, not one who agrees with Stirner's every word." An Anarchist FAQ reports that "From meeting anarchists in Glasgow during the Second World War, long-time anarchist activist and artist Donald Rooum likewise combined Stirner and anarcho-communism." In 1952, Philip Sansom invited Rooum to draw a regular cartoon strip for The Syndicalist and he contributed Scissor Bill. The name derived from an IWW name for a bosses' yes-man. From 1960, his cartoons started appearing in such outlets as She, The Daily Mirror, Private Eye and The Spectator. Rooum has had a long relationship, with interruptions, with Peace News, his first work appearing for them in 1962. Originals of his cartoons for Peace News up to 1971, together with some for The Spectator, are stored at the British Cartoon Archive. In 1974, Sansom invited Rooum to provide a cartoon for a monthly magazine he was working on,Wildcat. Rooum created a character of the same name. Wildcat ceased publication in 1975 but in 1980, when Sansom was again working on Freedom, he persuaded Rooum and the editorial collective to revive the Wildcat comic strip, which has been a feature ever since.

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