This hits hard. Alison Brown, who was the retail and front of house manager at London's Cartoon Museum since 2006 has died, after catching the coronavirus. She had been in hospital with a stomach infection last month and had been recuperating in a hospital ward. Diagnosed with COVID-19 on Friday the 9th of January, on Sunday she was texting friends about how she was feeling fine, but she died yesterday morning.
You know when people on the news say how wonderful someone was when they have died and you think, yeah, how come everyone is only wonderful after they've died? And that no one tells the truth about what they are really like? Well, then there's Alison. Utterly wonderful, a shining beacon of light, full of enthusiasm, self-deprecatory humour with an unloseable Geordie twang – everyone just loved her. No one I knew had a bad word to say about her, only good. It was always, always a joy to see her enter a room, or to be joined by her at the bar. She was a genuine ray of sunshine who lightened our lives, and always made the London Cartoon Museum somewhere you were genuinely welcomed. She was so proud of the renovation that the museum had undergone, and her role in its new location, its new exhibitions, galleries and mission. Her passing is being mourned by the British cartoon and comic book scene.
Alison Brown was also the face of the Cartoon Museum at many public events across the country, even around the world. She was a favourite at Thought Bubble, the Lakes, the London Film And Comic Con and MCM shows, where she manned the Museum stands, recruiting members and attendees and continuing the museum's mission to entertain, educate and inform about the rich history of the medium. People I have spoken to today have been in a state of shock, numbness of grief. No one seems to be able to quite believe it.
Born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (never losing her accent) she moved down south, studying Photography at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design. She worked at the Courtauld Gallery Shop and then at the V&A Museum Shop before joining the London Cartoon Museum in its former location back in 2006, where she has been since. She has been involved with so many exhibitions and dealt with so many creators, stars, attendees – and attendees children, loved by all. Here are a few tributes made on social media or to Bleeding Cool by just some of those who loved her.
Sage Kemp wrote "This morning unthinkable news reached me and gradually all of our close friends. My stalwart partner in crime, one-woman support system and positive spin on every dark moment is gone. No one could ask for more supportive, warm generous friend. I would have been lost without her over the last decade. No more hugs, no more conspiratorial giggling, or world domination Wednesdays messy magical mystery tours. The world won't be the same without you Alison Brown. F-ck Covid."
Mark Stafford wrote "Well. 'F-cking devastated' comes close. Was trying to find a photograph where Alison doesn't look goofy or deranged or obscured by one of the million friends she was hugging but realised that would be missing the point of her. The news is awful and the person I turned to when I had bad news is gone. Send your love and support to Al and Mark and Alison's dad if you can. I'm going to be a bit useless for a bit
Alison's brother Mark Brown told me "Alison loved comics and cartoons but she loved people even more. I feel lucky to be her brother and to see how much she meant to so many people across the comics world. She did the best swearing and the best jokes and now we're going to have to face the world without her in it. When you can, share a drink and remember how much she made you smile in a world full of bellends and arseholes."
And her partner Alan told me "I probably could say a whole essay about Ali. She was the ray of light for everyone with the good fortune to know her. I've had well wishes from people that are still great friends of hers from all walks of life, from her school, college, work, family, even from the local pubs, and, of course, the comics community, all greatly saddened by our collective loss, if you met her, you would end up being her friend for life. She was the kindest, happiest and most wonderful soul I have ever met and I'll love her with every ounce of my being forever. "
Zoom Rockman told me "Alison was like a kind Aunty to me and my little brother Ace, she started selling my comic for me when I was 9 years old and I'm 20 now- can't imagine the cartoon museum without her."
David Hine told us "Alison Brown was the face of comics in the UK. For almost fifteen years she has been at the front desk of the Cartoon Museum in London, meeting and greeting every visitor with a (sometimes long-suffering) smile. Her job description reads Retail and Front of House Manager, but she was so much more. She was involved in every aspect of the Museum and she seemed to know everyone in comics. She always had time for the artists and writers, the readers and fans and people who randomly wandered in off the street. She was wise and knowledgeable, funny, witty, supportive and generous to a fault. You only had to meet Ali once and it felt like you had been friends forever."
"I often heard it said that people didn't appreciate just how important she was in the comics community. The truth is that it was said so often that after a while you came to realise that we all did appreciate her and I like to think that Alison knew it too, because after having a bevvy or two with her you tended to tell her how much you fucking loved her. She also had a wickedly efficient bullshit detector. She could squint her eyes and look right through you. I can almost feel her giving me the look right now. No bullshit, Ali. A wee bit sentimental maybe, but I reserve the right to be misty-eyed and soppy today. You are irreplaceable and unforgettable. So long, pet and thanks for all the cocktails."
Jessica Martin wrote "I am shocked and upset fo find out that the wonderful Alison Brown has passed away. In the comics community, she was known as the shining presence at the Cartoon Museum where she managed the shop and ran lots of terrific events. She was very kind to me and I will never forget her. RIP beautiful girl."
Hannah Means-Shannon told us "I knew Alison Brown more by reputation and conversation about her than personally for many years, but I had the great pleasure of finally speaking to her and going to the pub with her and many other people in early 2019. First, she showed this American around the Cartoon Museum in London with great pride, practically going through it item by item in case I had any questions that she might be able to help me with. I understood then more clearly, from her passionate and kindly approach, what a driving force she was behind the comics community in London and in the UK."
"Hers was the kind of force that moved like a lively river, never slowing or deviating from its course. I know a lot of people who found a great deal of strength not only in her personality (which was invariably a lift to those around her), but also in her consistency throughout the vicissitudes and changes in the comics industry. As you might predict, even during the COVID pandemic, Alison was trying to raise money for the museum and keep it on track for weathering these massive global challenges."
"As overly modern as it may sound, I actually got to know Alison more deeply through social media because I got more of a window on her daily life, the things she loved that went well beyond comics, and the people who she uplifted. I'm really grateful for that time I spent online with her as much as I am for getting to know her in person. I'm sure that her many (many, many) other friends would caution me against portraying her as in some way ideal or perfect in her generosity and compassion for others, but I'll risk their judgement by saying that she was a very nearly perfect human being, about as perfect as a person can be while still keeping their feet firmly planted on the ground. It's inestimable to try to fathom how much she will be missed or the ways in which her impact will only become clearer in future years."
Ram V told us "I'm shocked and saddened to hear of Alison Brown's passing. Alison was one of the first people I met after moving to the UK and introducing myself to the comics scene in London. She was always incredibly kind and welcoming. I hadn't known her for very long but her passion and love for comics was apparent in our interactions and I've witnessed first hand the work she did with the Cartoon Museum. She will be missed. My condolences and thoughts are with her family and friends."
Tony Lee wrote "Alison Brown, manager of The Cartoon Museum in London, who for the last couple of years had ran a children's area at LFCC for us, teaching kids how to draw with a selection of artists. She was an amazing person, always happy to help with whatever you needed, and I can't believe she's gone."
Krent Able wrote "Shocked and saddened to hear my friend Alison Brown has passed away. Genuinely kind, generous, sensitive and funny..a lovely person. I am going to miss her hugs and cheeky face. Sending love to her friends and family and her colleagues at The Cartoon Museum"
Gosh Comics tweeted out "We're devastated to hear of the passing of Alison Brown. One of the friendliest, most welcoming members of the London comics community. She'll be greatly missed. Condolences to her family, friends and all at @Cartoonmuseumuk"
Nigel Parkinson wrote "Very sorry to hear of the death of Alison Brown, mainstay of @Cartoonmuseumuk
at such a young age. Her dedication, enthusiasm and straight-faced mickey-taking will be sorely missed."
Lew Stringer wrote "Shocked and saddened to hear that Alison Brown of the London Cartoon Museum passed away today. Far too young. A lovely, warm person and well liked in the UK comics community. My condolences to Alison's family and friends."
Chris Thompson wrote "I got to work with Alison many times over the years + she truly was the best. Not long before lockdown I was enjoying her gin concoctions at the Cartoon Museum + I've been looking forward to when we could do it all again."
As I said to a friend yesterday, in language that I think Alison would have appreciated, "in a world of c-nts, Alison was the anti-c-nt." Here's a little video of the Cartoon Museum when it reopened a year-and-a-bit ago, with Alison at the front desk, giving me a little intro.
And from when they were still moving in.
We will miss you, Alison, very much. Our thoughts go our to her partner, family and many, many, many friends who loved her so.