The Birthday Supper

The highlight of the Society’s year is the annual Johnson Birthday Weekend in September. The celebrations of Johnson’s birth include a wreath-laying ceremony at the statue of Johnson in Lichfield’s Market Square on the Saturday morning, and a special Johnson service in Lichfield Cathedral on the Sunday morning. Another important element of the celebrations is the Birthday Supper, held on the Saturday evening in the grand surroundings of Lichfield Guildhall, which is attended by civic dignitaries and by admirers of Johnson from Lichfield and around the world. During the Supper a new President of the Johnson Society is installed.

Because of the ongoing situation with Covid, on 18 September 2021, in lieu of a Supper the Society held an al fresco Birthday Tea, in the grounds of Lichfield Cathedral School; we are most grateful to the school, its staff and students for their hard work and support with this event. The school is housed in the former Bishop’s Palace, a building redolent with Johnsonian connections.

In the course of the Birthday Tea, we installed as our President for 2021–2 Posy Simmonds, the famous cartoonist, who is perhaps best known for her work in The Guardian.

Born in Berkshire, Posy studied at both the Sorbonne and the Central School of Art and Design in London. Her career as a cartoonist began in 1969 with a strip for The Sun, followed by work for The Times and Cosmopolitan, before moving to The Guardian in 1972. In 1977 she started a weekly comic strip for The Guardian, unusually for the time, simply dubbed Posy, which ran until the late 1980s, and was collected into a number of books. Posy was named cartoonist of the year in 1981 in the British Press Awards.

She subsequently provided comic strips for Harper’s Magazine in the United States and both wrote and illustrated a children’s book about a cat called Fred: this was made into a film which was nominated for the Academy Award for Animated Short Films as well as for several BAFTAs. In the late 1990s Posy returned to The Guardian with a new cartoon strip, Gemma Bovery, which updated Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. It was also turned into a graphic novel and made into a feature film in 2014, directed by Anne Fontaine.

A later series for The Guardian, titled Tamara Drewe, produced in 2005–6, was published as a book in 2007 and also made into a feature film, directed by Stephen Frears, in 2010. Among her other activities, Posy drew illustrations for the BBC’s 2007 production of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford, and in 2009 for Midsummer Nights, a volume of opera-related short stories.

Posy was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2002 and won the 2009 Prix de la Critique of the French Association of Comics, Critics and Journalists for Tamara Drewe. We are very proud to have Posy as our President, in succession to Rowan Williams.