The final word on this year’s Big Draw launch goes to Libby Purves, journalist, broadcaster, compere of the event and Procartoonists.org patron, who sent us this dispatch from the front line of the Battle of Cartoonists
I may not be a trained war correspondent but here goes: In that echoing temple of Papal tapestry-based art, the Raphael Room at the V&A, the Battle of the Cartoonists was duly joined last Sunday. Given the utter impossibility of commentating in an acoustic like a giant’s bathroom, after the initial draw for subjects – and the scuttle of massed cartoonists towards the free felt markers – I resolved to chronicle it on Twitter.
Someone had to. It is not every day (thank goodness) that you see, beneath sombre Biblical scenes, the wild-eyed geniuses of Private Eye, the Telegraph, the Guardian/Observer, Big Girls Drawers, Readers Digest, Procartoonists.org and the soaraway Sun gathered together in a sort of stone barn.
They were all fiercely at it, fending off swirling crowds of public, and working round not only the Stygian gloom of the gallery but dozens of small, inquisitive fingers groping at the side of their canvases. For the V&A on a Sunday, frankly, is always a bit like a middle-class family version of the last 20 minutes of the Roman Empire, with brats tearing round, lying on the mosaic floor drawing their own pictures, and intermittently going out to fall into the fountain and come back soggy but unbowed.
Big Girls Drawers spent some time decorating their table with enormous knickers, while the rest knuckled down to sketching and muttering and stealing one another’s pens. The girls got The Healing of the Lame Man, the Telegraph The Conversion of the Proconsul, Private Eye got St Paul at Athens, the Guardianista faction The Death of Ananias, Readers’ Digest The Draught of Fishes and The Sun got Christ’s Charge to Peter.
The Procartoonists team rather got the short straw with The Sacrifice of Lystra. This involved members of the public – and the commentator – sidling up to them with “Who?” [Ed’s note: It’s actually AT Lystra, but it was very dark in the room!] and wondering if it had anything to do with Lycra, therefore the Olympics, therefore something we had heard of.
So on it went, good-humoured and frenetic, and on went the tweets:
“Honeysett & co have given St Paul three toes. PCO team working Will and Kate and Pope into Bible scene”
“Telegraph team huffily say Proconsul themes are secret. Readers Digest are drawing a dog. Andy Davey of the Sun drawing manically, subject as yet unclear”
“Big Girls Drawers team just added fab corgi joke. I love cartoonists”
“330 pm. Brilliant. Adults and kids now lying on cold stone floor drawing their own cartoons. Professionals battle on.”
“Aha! Everyone breaking out colours now. And Daleks. And Harry’s bum. Private Eye v funny already”
“Guardian team being impeded by small children. Excellent temper-management. Kipper on fire!”
“Hmm NHS satire creeping in to Healing of the Lame banner. Telegraph team having Ionic columns pawed by infants”
“Sun team on Harry gags. Guardian too. Procartoonists gone insanely Biblical. Telegraph got good V&A in-joke”
“There are even Ninja Turtle jokes! From Reader’s Digest! Not many national art events span such cultural richness”
“5 mins to go. Huge variety of styles from stark b&w to exuberant larkiness”
And then there was the judging.
Popular cheering and clapping having been banned by anxious curators, in case dust was dislodged and damaged the Raphaels, the Big Draw decided the clever thing would be to get people to cluster round their favourite and see who had most.
This profoundly, confusingly, almost Old-Labourishly block-vote system proved unreliable and, given the loud cheering that happened anyway, really quite suitably absurd. Private Eye won. But actually, everyone did.