You might not know the name, but you’ve almost seen the work of Liverpool-based artist and writer John Minnion if you’ve browsed periodicals and newspapers over the last 30 years.

Minnion worked as an illustrator for the likes of The Times, The Guardian, New Statesman and The Listener for nearly 25 years, drawing politicians and other popular characters.

Having moved to Liverpool, he has subsequently published Pool of Life: The Story of Liverpool in Caricatures, as well as books on those considered undesirable by Adolf Hitler and a caricature guide to 20th Century composers.

Now Minnion will be presenting four very different evenings of graphics, music and history at the Quaker Meeting House. The pictureshows will make use of illustrations, music and graphics and take in subjects as diverse as Gustav Mahler, Margaret Thatcher and Liverpool itself.

We caught up with the artist to discuss what we can expect from the shows – a real mix of culture, entertainment and history – which are coming to the Quaker Meeting House over the course of this month.

SevenStreets: Tell us more about the Liverpool pictureshow

John Minnion: Yes, it’s the most orthodox of these four pictureshows, the one I have presented most often, to various groups around Merseyside.

It’s called A Paddle in the Pool of Life and it’s really just an extension of the book – dipping into the city’s history by highlighting these larger-than-life personalities who carry the Liverpool story forward – King John, William Roscoe, Jesse Hartley, Captain Johnny Walker, the Beatles, the Bishops (that’s Worlock and Sheppard, not John Bishop), Kitty Wilkinson and many more.

The caricatures seem to work well when projected nice and big, and the versatility of PowerPoint means I can add music, video footage and the like to make it more of a show.

SS: What’s your favourite thing about Liverpool?

My favourite thing about Liverpool is its history. If I had arrived here at the age of, say, 32, I would have been looking first and foremost to experience the city. Arriving as I did at 52, I really wanted to understand the city. So I set myself to learn about its remarkable history.

In fact, I got so wrapped up in it that I wrote a book, Pool of Life which tells Liverpool’s history through the stories of 150 of the city’s great individuals. For each person, I drew a caricature, wrote a mini-biography and related it to the unfolding story of the city.

Being aware of Liverpool’s history adds a dimension to everything you experience in the city. As your train passes through Edge Hill Station, you know that the whole world’s passenger railway network actually started from here.

You come out into a Saturday night party atmosphere and know that it has always been a party city because ships were constantly unloading their crew of sailors who had been cooped up for weeks and wanted to spend their wages on fun.

You see reminders of the past everywhere: the Bombed-out Church, the little drinking fountains in the walls… and that’s before you’ve even reached the docks. My favourite thing in Liverpool is probably Calderstones Park, which I walk around at least once every day. The dog makes me do it.

SS: Was the 80s a particularly good time to be a political caricaturist?

JM: Definitely. The Thatcher era was so vivid; it was all about villains, which is what makes life good for cartooning. And Thatcher and her henchmen – think of them: Norman ‘Polecat’ Tebbitt, Geoffrey ‘Dead Sheep’ Howe, Michael ‘Tarzan’ Hesletine… and a cowboy actor in the White House. Marvellous material!

Actually, my second pictureshow (on 12 November) in the series is the Mrs Thatcher Story, and I’ve dug out a load of my New Statesman drawings to use as a basis. We hated her at the New Statesman, of course, but in London we didn’t experience Thatcherism in the visceral way Liverpool did.

But I’m not doing a diatribe: the facts can speak for themselves. And the facts are most interesting to revisit, thirty years on. She casts a long shadow.

SS: Are any caricatures easier or more difficult to draw than others?

Yes. Some people have very bland faces, there’s nothing to get hold of. Standard good-looking people are no fun to draw; plastic surgery and botox just makes things worse. On the other end of the spectrum there are faces where it seems nature has already done much of the caricaturist’s work.

SS: Tell us about the venue you’ve chosen for the pictureshows – the Quaker Meeting House

Quakers have a poignant historical connection with Liverpool. Remember, it was the Quakers who first started to organise moral objection to the slave trade in Britain. Eight of the dozen founder members of the national campaign for Abolition were Quakers.

So Liverpool Quakers like the Rathbones were viewed as traitors in this city, which relied on the Slave Trade for its prosperity, yet at the same time they were respected merchants, pillars of the community.

The Quakers have a new, smart Meeting House building round the back of Radio Merseyside, with several rooms that are used regularly by community groups. It is also a good choice as a venue for small events like mine: a very comfortable and peaceful place in the heart of the city, to invite people to on a winter’s evening.

The biggest room has a stage and a piano, so my final pictureshow Ox On The Rooftop (29 Nov) will be in there, because it’s a combination of animation by me and live music played by the wonderful Albanian pianist Mirsa Adami.

Mahler: His Music, Life, Wife and Times
7.30pm, Saturday 10 November
Quaker Meeting House

Where There Is Discord: The Mrs. Thatcher Show
7.30pm, Monday 12 November
Quaker Meeting House

A Paddle In The Pool Of Life: The Story of Liverpool in caricatures
7.30pm, Tuesday 20 November
Quaker Meeting House

Ox On The Rooftop: Piano recital with animation
7.30pm, Thursday 29 November 2012
Quaker Meeting House

Goto for more information and booking details

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