Bert Hackett was born in Birmingham on 28 June 1933, and attended the Birmingham College of Art from 1949 to 1952. After National Service in the Royal Navy he lectured at Hornsey School of Art, and worked for ten years as a graphic artist on the Manchester Evening News - as he recalled, "someone fell out of a window, and...it was my job to draw the dotted line on the picture". Hackett then returned to Birmingham, and set up a graphic design business in partnership with Graham Gavin. They supplied editorial material to newspapers, including a strip cartoon on the life of Winston Churchill, co-written with Harold Evans.
In October 1966 Hackett began drawing political cartoons for the Birmingham Post. As he later recalled, "Graham came back to the office in great excitement to announce we had been invited to produce a daily cartoon": "Frankly I was against the idea. The prospect of having to sit down with a blank sheet of paper at a fixed hour every evening...seemed a terrific hurdle." He was persuaded to take it on, but at first shared the work with Gavin, cartooning on alternate days. This gave rise to the signature "Gemini", which Hackett continued to use after Gavin dropped out in 1974. By this time he was working alongside Colin Whittock, the editorial cartoonist of the Birmingham Post's sister paper, the Evening Mail.
Hackett and Gavin's appointment at the Birmingham Post co-incided with the Aberfan disaster, and the editor ruled that the paper would carry no cartoons that week. However, he has since provided the paper with five cartoons a week for fifty weeks a year, and by 1996 had produced more than 7,000. As a colleague explained, his working day "begins around 5.00pm with a careful listening to the day's news...Then it's on to the bus and into the newsroom at the Post & Mail." Arriving around 6.30pm he looked at the news schedule, and tried to produce two or three roughs to show the editor. As Hackett admitted, "if there's nothing on paper at 7.00pm, then I begin to worry." The editor made a quick choice, but, as Hackett explained, "an editor's idea of what makes a cartoon can differ markedly from a cartoonist's": "The journalist usually assumes the cartoonist must be looking for a funny story. In fact the trick is to make fun out of something which is not immediately funny at all." Hackett returned to his desk to complete his cartoon in time for the deadline of 9.30/10.00pm.
Hackett has also provided cartoons and illustrations for the Manchester Evening News, Northern Echo, Sunday Times, Illustrated, and Graphics. But he remains loyal to the Birmingham Post - as one reader wrote to the paper in 1998, "I must congratulate you in keeping your resident cartoonist out of the clutches of the London broadsheets for so long."
- Dennis Ellam "Drawing Inspiration from Our Daily News", Birmingham Post, 10 June 1994, p.11.
- Chris Upton "The Gemini Years", Birmingham Post supplement "Gemini: the first thirty years", 21 October 1996, p.3.
- Dennis Ellam "Making a medium-fine point of life and art", Birmingham Post, 16 November 1996, p.39.
- Birmingham Post, 24 February 1998, p.14, "Village Hedge Row Rumbles On."
- Birmingham Post, 6 September 2005, p.3, “Bert’s Turn to Finally Make the News.”
back to top