A second helping of Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival

May 1, 2017 in General

Rupert Besley takes up from where Bill Stott left off

Another fine Shrewsbury down the hatch, all exactly as beautifully put in the previous blog piece. What follows here is just an excuse to bung up more photos.

The Food & Drink theme of this, the 14th Cartoon Festival at Shrewsbury, went down a treat. It was something cartoonists could all get their teeth into, with exhibition entries overspilling the frames and walls of the excellent Bear Steps Gallery and into Theatre Severn.

On from the Gallery, eyes peeled down Grope Lane, to the Unitarian Church, where Tony Husband held us transfixed by the story of his latest book, ‘From a Dark Place’, done with son Paul. It’s hard to imagine how any such tale could be better conveyed – or anti-addiction cause better promoted – than through the likes of cartoons by Tony. Lovers of these were treated to more next day, as a Big Board of Husband classics took shape in The Square.

Tony Husband’s cartoon smörgås-board. Photo © Rupert Besley

I’ll own up next to being somewhat daunted by the prospect of having to fill a Big Board that could stand alongside those underway from Dean Alston, Steve Best, Wilbur Dawbarn, Noel Ford, Clive Goddard, John Landers, Roger Penwill, Royston Robertson, Will Rudling and Bill Stott. And I’m bound to have missed out someone, apologies.

Elsewhere, animation workshops were in full swing and star turn Hunt Emerson present to speak on Comics of the Weird and Frankly Unbelievable. Back in The Square, the top team of ace caricaturists (Steve Bright, Jonathan Cusick, Alex Hughes, Helen Pointer, John Roberts) were busy drawing an admiring crowd. The Melodrawma was a feast of quickfire drawing, fast-fingered guitar and a lot of pun.

Cooking up the Melowdrawma , Wilbur Dawbarn, Royston Robertson, Hunt Emerson and Noel Ford. Photo © Maria Hughes

And, all the while, Glenn Marshall slaved over the deep-fat fryer, churning out takeaway gags by the plateful.

That genius Glenn Marshall (ED: Who wrote this?). Photo © Jac Lee

The day ended with dinner at The Lion (quite hard to deal with, given the dress code).

Some selfie-portraits. Photo © Glenn Marshall

And then the threatened uke attack, long into the night. ‘More!’ they cried, from bedrooms above. Well, possibly.

Part of the Ukulele ensemble, John Landers watches Wilbur Dawbarn & Royston Robertson with Alex Hughes and songstress Maria Hughes. Photo © Steve Bright

Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival review served up.

April 27, 2017 in General


Photo ©Jac Lee

Report by Bill Stott:

Sadly, I could only attend for the Saturday session because I had to get back for my venerable dog, but it was a cracking day’s cartooning and caricaturing nonetheless. Amazingly, the A49/41 were almost lorry – free and the only real hold-up was courtesy of a nitwit in a woolly hat piloting a Nissan Micra. But I got to The Lion in time to hear Roger P deliver the briefing. Its been a couple of years since I was at The Lion and I’d forgotten how much I like it. It has none of the anodyne anonymity of “corporate identity” and remains an ancient, creaky one-off.

Steve Bright caricaturing & covering up that haircut. Photo ©Jac Lee

Briefing done, I walked up to the Market Square with Glenn Marshall who was weighed down with all manner of humour tackle – so to speak – but more of that later. Tireless Bill McCabe and helpers were busy finishing Big Board surfaces and the caricaturing tent/marquee/thing – which was full all afternoon. Despite quite a few of those already there having been on curry duty on Friday evening, nobody looked ill and Brighty appeared sporting what can only be described as an extreme haircut. A ginger gooseberry came to mind. But pretty quickly, Brighty, along with FIVE other caricaturists was hard at it, eliciting songs of praise from the public. “Look ! He’s made it look like ME !” Well of course he has, you silly youth.

Dean Alston’s dog’s dinner. Photo ©Jac Lee

Noel Ford’s food mountain. Photo ©Jac Lee

Clive Goddard has a Bisto moment. Photo ©Rupert Besley

Big Boards came on apace. Fastest was probably Dean Alston, the well-known professional Australian, whilst the aforementioned Michelin Marshall was busy turning out cartoon meals, as Noel Ford drew a six foot high pile of beans, eggs, sausage and chips. Over the years, I’ve developed the habit of listening to what the public say behind me. This year’s winner was from him to her, as in ; “Well yes, I suppose it is quite good, but somebody probably tells them what to draw.”

A small army of helpers kept us supplied with tea and coffee of various colours, whilst really capable local musicians filled the Square with songs we all knew some of the words to. My favourite was the Banjo/Ukulele Lady. That’s a person, not a song.

And all of this with no financial help from The Council. They’re broke. Thanks Tories. All the cartoonists, caricaturists and musicians did it for free. Were there any UK publishers present ? No, there were not. They really don’t know what they’re missing.

Bill McCabe’s pizza arrives. Photo ©Jac Lee

Finally – for me at any rate, because as soon as we’d all finished I had to zoom back up the A41, the PCO made a presentation to Bill McCabe who has been ever-present almost from day one sorting stuff. His award was for “services to cartooning”. I think he was pleasantly surprised. The presentation item was an oh-so-tasteful crystal –ish block thing which weighed half-a ton. “

Roget Penwill & Noel Ford, the head chefs for this years Melodrawma. Photo ©Jac Lee

Hunt Emerson, Royston Robertson and a bit of Wilbur Dawbarn. The trio cooked up the Melodrawma side dish. Photo ©Jac Lee 

We’re indebted to photographer and cartoon doodler Jac Lee for most of the images. (More can be seen on his link)

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by Jonesy

Tasty fare on offer at this year’s Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival

April 17, 2017 in General

© Wilbur Dawbarn

The 14th Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival theme is ‘Food and Drink’, and cartoonists will be descending upon the picturesque market town to spread fun and laughter wherever they go.

On Saturday 22nd April, for example, The Square will be populated by the finest talents these islands can offer.

The caricaturists line-up boasts an outstanding array of talent, namely: Alex Hughes, Steve Bright, Jonathan Cusick, Helen Pointer and John Roberts, all of whom will delighting locals and visitors alike with their portraits.

Alex Hughes, steampunk caricaturist outfit was enough to, er, draw a crowd

Alex Hughes. Caricaturist par excellence, goggles wearer nonpareil

Then there are the ‘Big Boards’, theme-related gag cartoons drawn on a gargantuan scale. This year’s Big Guns will be: Rupert Besley, Steve Best, Noel Ford, Clive Goddard, John Landers, Roger Penwill, Royston Robertson, Bill Stott, William Rudling, Wilbur Dawbarn and Tony Husband.

Rupert Besley starts from the corner

Rupert Besley goes big

If you’re feeling peckish you can visit Glenn Marshall’s Fast Food Takeaway Van – also in the Square – to order your cartoon food and have it drawn and delivered on a plate, instantly! (See quick appetiser below.)


© Glenn Marshall

And this year’s Melodrawma (to be performed in the afternoon) features secret culinary connections to well-known historical figures and will be illustrated by Royston Robertson, Wilbur Dawbarn and Hunt Emerson, narrated by Roger Penwill, with musical accompaniment by Noel Ford.

Sadly, the Slade reunion will not be taking place this year

Tony Husband will also be at the Unitarian Church on Friday 21st April, giving a talk on ‘From a Dark Place’, a book he has co-written with his son, Paul. This starts at 8pm. The following day you can catch Hunt Emerson at The Central, and his talk gets underway at 1.30pm.

For a full list events visit The Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival site.


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by Jonesy

Shrewsbury 2016: On the coldest of days, a cartoon festival that warmed the hearts of many

April 21, 2016 in General


The author braves the cold for the greater good PICTURE © MIKA SCHICK

Steve Bright writes:

I arrived in Shrewsbury on Saturday morning with mild trepidation. It was my first Big Board duty in several years, and as a fully digital cartoonist these days, a little rusty when it comes to pen on paper, far less 8′ x 4′ canvas, slung over huge boards hinged in couples, and dotted throughout the splendour of The Square in the heart of Shrewsbury. As it turned out, rust was not the problem – an Arctic day in April put all other problems in the shade, as we all valiantly battled probably the coldest festival in its 13-year history. The digital artisans among us are well used to working in layers these days, but that doesn’t usually extend to a body-warmer, two t-shirts and a pair of long johns. It was bitter, but we all got there in the end, thanks to the sunny disposition of our hosts, helpers, and visitors in abundance, undeterred by the meagre degrees Celsius. And we were actually lucky (in keeping with the theme for this year’s event) apparently – the forecast had been snow, and indeed there were reports of some falling in the earlier hours of that morning.


Clive Goddard’s magnificent Big Board contribution PICTURE © MIKA SCHICK

But rewind. The festival was all kicked off the night before, with a private viewing of this year’s selling exhibition at the Bear Steps gallery, which incorporated the official opening speeches from the Deputy Mayor, followed by retiring (though not in a shy way) festival Chairman, Rich Skipworth, who managed to convey a mixture of caution about the festival’s future as public funding diminishes, with real optimism that it may yet flourish beyond all previous incarnations, through grants and private initiatives. Fingers crossed!

This was followed by a real treat for all who made the short walk down to The Lion Hotel to enjoy Shrewsbury débutante Tony Husband’s deeply poignant illustrated talk, guiding us through his highly-acclaimed book, ‘Take Care, Son’, chronicling his father’s dementia with great warmth, wit, and obvious love.

From there, a splendid late evening gathering at the Shiraz, for those who had managed to stave off their hunger until darkness, followed no doubt by the odd nightcap or two back at the hotel before bedtime (or in my case, a quick drive home for a couple of hours’ kip before heading back in the following morning).


Pens across the ocean: American cartoonist Hilary Price PICTURE © MIKA SCHICK

The Saturday 9a.m. briefing was the traditional signal for the ‘serious’ work to begin. Friends old and new assembled to brace ourselves for the cold and the rigours of our allotted tasks, before dispersing around the town to dispense our customary assorted forms of cartoon magic upon the hordes. It all went typically splendidly from there, by all accounts. Caricatures were drawn in abundance, the snow-blinding whiteness of the Big Boards gradually metamorphosed into wonderful expanses of colour and wit. Talks were delivered and workshops eagerly attended by young aspiring cartoonists being helped and encouraged onto the first rungs of the ladder leading to (hopefully) future official festival invitations. There was cartoon ‘busking’, cartoon exhibitions, digital and traditional opportunities for the general public to try their own hands at cartooning, and of course, it was all weaved together by the S-mile trail wending its way through the picturesque Shrewsbury streets, with cartoon treats at every turn. As always, the hard-working organisers and their team of helpers had laid on a veritable cornucopia of cartooning for all, to enjoy, and we were rewarded with the wide smiles and laughter of the visiting public in return. Our thanks, as always, go to those unsung heroes who made it all possible whilst we got most of the plaudits. And the musicians – mustn’t forget them. The temperature in The Square appeared to rise a couple of degrees as soon as they struck up the first of many songs that kept us going throughout the day.


Noel Ford’s masterpiece in pastels PICTURE © MIKA SCHICK

The evening meal at The Peach Tree had us donning our glad rags (in my own case, getting my kilt out of its mothballs), and relaxing with friends, old and new. Internationally, Hillary Price made her début from the USA, whilst Dean Alston once again swam all the way from Perth, Australia as he has done for most of the 13 festivals so far. And then there was Terry Anderson, all the way from Paisley…

Many old friends and colleagues were missed, toasted, and talked about, and will hopefully return to future festivals. The intention is that if all goes well with future funding, the festival can be restored to a full two-day event, and the number of invited participating cartoonists can once again be increased. Again, fingers crossed!


First time Big Boarder Chris Williams (aka ‘Dink’) PICTURE © MIKA SCHICK

And perhaps the signs are good, if you believe in omens; our traditional ukulele-led sing song at The Lion, that melodiously took us from Saturday night into the wee small hours of Sunday morning, ended with those of us who went the distance being treated to the most lovely surprise from a group of around 30 young people, still up and enjoying the Lion’s hospitality in the adjoining lounge area. Having heard us through the adjoining doors, they asked us to play them a couple of Beatles numbers before we called it a night. It turned out they were the European Union Chamber Orchestra, unwinding from a concert in Shrewsbury that day before heading for Llandudno in the morning for their next gig. They made their appreciation known for our musical efforts, before enriching the very air around us with their truly magnificent harmonies, as our jaws hit the floor. A wonderfully surreal ending to another cracking festival, from voices like Angels…

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by Jonesy

Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival 2016

April 10, 2016 in General


‘The Square’ © Wilbur Dawbarn

Genteel, historic Shrewsbury is about to be invaded by hordes of cartoonists and cartoon lovers, with both parties looking forward to lots of mayhem and laughter – and not a little learning too, with workshops and talks also being provided.

Now coming up to its 13th year, The Shrewsbury  Cartoon Festival is an annual event at which professional cartoonists from all over the UK and overseas come together to draw and paint cartoons and caricatures for the general public. You won’t be surprised to learn that cartoonists are an amiable breed and more than happy to engage in conversation – some will even chat as they work, although the question “Where do you get your ideas?” might be best avoided…


‘Melodrawma” © Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation

The event draws a huge audience every year with its centrepiece being the live drawing of about 15 enormous cartoons in Shrewsbury Town Square, along with live caricaturing by some of the UK’s top professionals.


Private Eye cartoonist Andrew Birch takes a break from TV script writing (see previous Blog article) to draw a ‘Big Board’

Here are just a few more examples of what visitors to this year’s festival can see and do:


Aspiring cartoonists can flourish under the expert tutelage of the likes of Tim Harries and Harry Venning.


Cartooning has its serious side too, as Cartoon Rights Network International’s Terry Anderson will clearly demonstrate in a talk about the threats to life and liberty faced by cartoonists the world over. The capacity of cartoonists to lighten the darkest moments without trivialising them will be covered by Tony Husband as he talks about his Dad’s dementia, so movingly rendered in his book, ‘Take Care, Son’.


In addition to the usual ‘themed’ cartoon galleries, visitors can also enjoy exhibitions such as “Dead Ringers – The Unluckiest Birds” – a digital exhibition of the artwork from the quirky birdy book by acclaimed cartoonists Rupert Besley, John Roberts, Noel Ford, Cathy Simpson, Roger Penwill, and Bill Stott.


The Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival 2016 takes place on Saturday 16th April. To find out more visit the website here.

Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival 2015

April 20, 2015 in News

AS USUAL, IT seems like a dream now. As with most Cartoon Festivals, they come and go in a flash with so many activities and social get-togethers lubricated by the products of many hostelries that ‘real life’ doesn’t seem real for the first couple of days back home.

The Twelfth Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival (yes – TWELFTH!) went off with its customary sparkle provided by the town’s influx of cartoonists from all over the country. Oh, and one all the way from Australia, Dean Alston, just so that the ‘international’ tag could be legitimized!

The high-quality exhibition at the Bear Steps Gallery was on the theme of ‘Style’ this year and it was probably as loose-fitting a theme as you could get allowing an awful lot of leg-room for cartoony inspiration. Shrewsbury is spoiled by having a unique exhibition like this every year – on display for over a month, not just during the festival weekend.

The Market Square, as always provided a focal point for the public to spot cartoonists and caricaturists at work. The well-established favourites, the Big Boards, were as usual becoming repositories for brilliant works of cartoon art and well-thought out gags. The new concept of ‘cartoon busking’, initially performed by Roger Penwill and Noel Ford and the ‘quick-on-the-draw’ style entertainment of the Cartoon Melodrawma were more ingenious ways of bringing the concept of cartooning memorably under the public gaze. Workshops in both caricaturing and comic strips were on offer, thanks to Terry Anderson and Tim Harries and Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson gave an illustrated talk on his view of the last five years of a coalition government.

As usual, the cartoonists sampled the hospitality of various establishments around the town and left the paper tabelcoths in the Henry Tudor House restaurant liberally spattered with cartoony inspiration.

Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival is probably the longest-running UK cartoon festival ever and its organisers are already meeting to discuss the agenda for the thirteenth one in 2016. Contrary to traditional belief, that’s a lucky number for many people.

Success for Shrewsbury festival

April 30, 2014 in Events, General, News

Shrewsbury 2014: The music-themed festival was sponsored by Procartoonists.org

Shrewsbury 2014: The music-themed festival was sponsored by Procartoonists.org

The Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival, which took place at the weekend, drew huge crowds and was deemed a success by all involved. And it has already been given a major boost for next year.

The Shropshire Star reports that the festival has just won a £2,000 grant for next year’s event. Every penny will count as this year major funding was cut, so the 2014 festival was run on a shoestring – with a little help from Procartoonists.org.

However, as the organisers predicted, the public would not have noticed as the festival was as lively and busy as ever.

Here is a video of the Big Boards that the Shropshire Star created:

And here are more photos of the event, taken by Kasia Kowalska, that show the breadth of activities that took place at this year’s festival.

Andrew Birch and Kate Charlesworth at work on their Big Boards, the most high-profile element of the festival. They're hard to miss.

Andrew Birch and Kate Charlesworth at work on their Big Boards. The most high-profile element of the cartoon festival, the boards are impossible to miss.

Rich Skipworth, who has taken over as festival chairman from Roger Penwill, adds colour to his board

Rich Skipworth, who is tasked with organising next year’s event having taken over as festival chairman from Roger Penwill , adds some colour to his board

For the music-themed festival Rosie Brooks set herself the task of illustrating the story of Wagner's Ring Cycle in a few hours

For the music-themed festival, Rosie Brooks set herself the task of illustrating the story of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in just a few hours

Daniel Kawczynski, Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury, is caricatured by Jonathan Cusick

Daniel Kawczynski, the Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury, is caricatured by Jonathan Cusick

Alex Hughes, steampunk caricaturist outfit was enough to, er, draw a crowd

Alex Hughes’s steampunk caricaturist outfit was enough to, er, draw a crowd

Harry Venning, creator of Clare in the Community did a talk that was part cartooning part stand-up comedy

Harry Venning, creator of Clare in the Community, as seen in The Guardian and heard on BBC Radio 4,  did a talk that was part cartooning part stand-up comedy

Wilbur Dawbarn hosted cartooning workshops for all ages, as did Cathy Simpson

Wilbur Dawbarn hosted cartooning workshops for all ages, as did Cathy Simpson and Tim Harries

The participating cartoonists were: Rupert Besley, Steve Best, Andrew Birch, Rosie Brooks, Dave Brown, Kate Charlesworth, Jonathan Cusick, Wilbur Dawbarn, Noel Ford, Alex Hughes, Tim Harries, Tim Leatherbarrow, Chichi Parish, Roger Penwill, Helen Pointer, John Roberts, Royston Robertson, Chris Ryder, Cathy Simpson, Rich Skipworth, Bill Stott, The Surreal McCoy, Harry Venning and Gerard Whyman.

Instant cartoons in the Square, handed out to the public for donations to the festival, were a feature this year. John Roberts draws Dizzy Gillespie

John Roberts draws Dizzy Gillespie. Instant cartoons drawn in the Square and handed out to the public for donations to the festival were a feature this year

Royston Robertson and Matt Buck add to the instant cartoons gallery

Royston Robertson and Matt Buck add to the instant cartoons gallery

Finally the Melodrawma is a great illustration of what makes the festival unique. A live comic-strip drawn to the accompaniment of narration, music and sound effects. The Melodrawma team this year was Andrew Birch, Noel Ford, Roger Penwill, Royston Robertson, Bill Stott and The Surreal McCoy.

Finally the Melodrawma is a great illustration of what makes the festival unique. It is a live comic-strip drawn to the accompaniment of narration, music, sound effects … and audience participation. The team this year was Andrew Birch, Noel Ford, Roger Penwill, Royston Robertson, Bill Stott and The Surreal McCoy.

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by Royston

Shrewsbury 2014: Where to start?

April 28, 2014 in Events, General, News

Dave Brown of The Independent at work

Dave Brown of The Independent at work

Our first report from this weekend’s Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival is a selection of photos by Mika Schick showing several of the cartoonists starting out on the Saturday morning.

Chichi Parish starts with a border ...

Chichi Parish begins with a border …

Rupert Besley starts from the corner

While Rupert Besley starts from the corner

Nice day for caricatures. Jonathan Cusick (front) and Tim Leatherbarrow in action

Nice day for caricatures. Jonathan Cusick (front) and Tim Leatherbarrow in action

You can rely on The Surreal McCoy for an interesting angle on things

You can rely on The Surreal McCoy for an interesting angle on things

Bill Stott gets his board covered in no time at all

Bill Stott gets his board covered in no time at all

We’ll have more pictures and words from Shrewsbury this week.

The Big Boards from Shrewsbury Cartoon 2013

April 24, 2013 in Events, General, News

The huge drawings made in the town Square in Shrewsbury on Saturday 20th April at the tenth edition of the cartoon festival.

The huge drawings made in the town Square in Shrewsbury on Saturday 20th April at the tenth edition of the cartoon festival.

Shrewsbury Cartoon 2013 – report

April 22, 2013 in Events, General, News

Cartoonists_at_Shrewsbury_Cartoon_Festival_2013 @ procartoonists.org

Pete Dredge and Noel Ford cooperate in the Melodrawma at Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival 2013 © Mika Schick @ procartoonists.org

A small selection of photographs from the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival 2013.

Alex Matthews at Shrewsbury Cartoon 2013 @procartoonists.org

Cartoonist Alex Matthews concentrates on his Big Board at Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival 2013 © Geoff Ward @procartoonists.org


John_Landers at Shrewsbury_Cartoon_2013 © Geoff Ward @ procartoonists.org

John Landers - coping just fine with an eight foot by six foot canvas at Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival 2013 © Geoff Ward @ procartoonists.org


Cathy Simpson_Draws_at_Shrewsbury_Cartoon_2013_©_Mika_Schick @ procartoonists

Cathy Simpson gets down to detail on a tablecloth during a function at Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival 2013 © Mika Schick @ procartoonists.org

There will a longer post with details of the artwork made over the weekend coming soon.