The Surreal McCoy reports on the recent St Just Cartoon Festival
Entente cordiale. Sounds like something you find on the shelf alongside the bottles of elderflower and blackcurrant flavours right? Wrong.
Actually, the final weekend of the St Just Cartoon Festival, near Limoges in France, was full of such friendly understanding, with 100-plus cartoonists and caricaturists mingling with each other and the general public with great bonhomie.
I was attending as the European liaison officer for Procartoonists.org, along with chairman Nathan Ariss, to represent UK cartoonists, most of them members of our organisation, whose work was being exhibited as Spotlights on the Brits.
The St Just committee had asked for cartoons on the themes of the Queen’s Jubilee and the London Olympics. Our members duly responded with a wide variety of caricatures and cartoons that were prominently displayed in the purpose-built exhibition hall.
Billeted with local familes for the weekend, we were treated with great hospitality. Food and drink was plentiful, long tables were the order of the day. There was much to see on the walls, from the Cartooning For Peace display on elections around the world to the extraordinary rat paintings.
Cartoonists set up shop with their books and comics for sale on the big round tables. Visitors were caricatured and cartooned, business cards exchanged, contacts made.
On the Saturday afternoon, a brown carpet was rolled out and more mystifying visitor arrived. The area is famous for its Limousin cows so the festival was being honoured with a visit from one of them. It was not, as we had initially thought, the French penchant for a Surrealist installation.
The cow also doubled up as a prize for cartooning achievement – this year it went to the French cartoonist Aurel. (Apparently it’s the same cow every year, which would explain why she was completely unfazed by the paparazzi’s flash bulbs.)
Sunday morning saw a large assembly of cartoonists crammed into the local priest’s drawing room for the traditional drinks party he hosts each year. We all spilled out into the courtyard in front of the 12th century church in a pastis-induced blur of congeniality before boarding the special cartoonists’ carriage of the Paris train.
A little knowledge of French can get you a long way, mais oui!