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The Genius of Giles

January 7, 2020 in Comment

Rupert Besley writes:

Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies are back in the news.

It’s become something of a festive tradition to bemoan the lack of good viewing in the Christmas schedules. ‘Absolutely nothing on telly,’ goes the cry. ‘Last year was bad enough and this year is worse.’ And so it has seemed this last month.

The BBC’s star contribution to the season has been The Trial of Christine Keeler. It has been well received. I’m sure it is well written, well acted and well done, but I only half-watched the first episode before deciding to give it a miss. The main facts are well enough known, with characters too self-indulgent and story too sordid to grab my interest. As Peter Cook put it, ‘I go to the theatre to be entertained. I don’t want to see plays about rape, sodomy and drug addiction. I can get all that at home.’

The Macmillan era was far from Britain’s finest hour. The Tory government was led by a patrician figure hamming it up as quirky and characterful but trustworthy elder statesman straight off the grouse moors, ready to gull the public into believing they had never had it so good (remind you of someone?). On one thing Macmillan was right: the unpredictability of politics, with its potential for everything to be brought crashing down by things unexpected. ‘Events, dear boy.’

The Profumo story unfolded in the summer of 1963. That was the year that ‘sexual intercourse began’ (Philip Larkin). Sex came out from under the covers and dared to speak its name on the front pages of reputable newspapers.

Cartoonists had a field day, few more so than Giles. I was about to turn 13 and had little interest in or understanding of politics at the time. But I well remember the cartoon above appearing in my mother’s Sunday Express and the amusement it gave at breakfast. Then, as now, I marvelled at the genius of Giles and secretly hoped (in vain) that one day I might work out how to do something similar. I can’t, of course, and never will. The talents of Giles are not given to all, but it has been fun to see what magic he brought to the pages of a newspaper.

The cartoon above begins with a strong idea, even if that comes from the common cartoon device of bringing a larger issue down to a personal level that we can relate to. In lesser hands, that idea could still have fallen pretty flat. What makes this cartoon so wonderful is all that Giles brings to the artwork. The composition is masterful. Without need of great detail, he conjures up the comfortable, sunny world of the well-heeled Establishment, about to get one hell of a rocking. Instead of putting the central figures at the centre of the artwork, he has them already racing off to the left; this, together with the papers still in mid-air above the garden lounger, deftly conveys the urgency of impending crisis. Centre-stage is the small dog, yapping at heels and loving every moment. What member of the press or public could not identify with that dog? What puts the cherry on the cake is the expression captured on the face of each of those racing over the grass, especially the wife with long-held suspicions now rampant. Two days later, Giles followed the cartoon up with this (below) in the Daily Express. Genius.

by Royston

Herne Bay Cartoon Festival 2016

July 24, 2016 in Events, General, News

Herne Bay Cartoon Festival 2016
The fourth Herne Bay Cartoon Festival takes place next month. The festival’s flagship live event will be held, as usual, in the Bandstand on the seafront, on Sunday 31 July.

More than 20 cartoonists from all over the country will be there to draw big-board cartoons, cartoon murals, caricatures and to host workshops. There will also be opportunities for the public to release their inner cartoonists and a few surprises and other general silliness.

The main festival exhibition, Postcards from the Seaside, is currently being put together and will feature cartoons all about the seaside, many offering modern spins on the classic saucy seaside postcards drawn by the likes of Donald McGill, much as the Independent cartoonist Dave Brown has done in the brilliant poster, above.

The exhibition opens at the Beach Creative gallery on Tuesday 26 July and runs until Sunday 14 August.

There will also be an exhibition of the work of the Punch cartoonist David Hawker, who died last August. Original cartoons by Hawker, who specialised in poking fun at petty middle-class concerns, can be seen at the Bay Art Gallery, on the same dates as the Beach Creative show.

Giles at the Seaside

Kicking off the festival, from Saturday 2 July, the Seaside Museum will host the exhibition Giles at the Seaside. Featuring a selection of seaside-themed cartoons by the much-loved Daily Express cartoonist, and spanning more than five decades, it is run in conjunction with the British Cartoon Archive in Canterbury.

This year also sees the launch of the festival’s first East Kent Young Cartoonists competition. There will be prizes for the winners and the best entries will be displayed during the festival.

To link in with that, there will be cartoon workshops at the Seaside Museum on 9 July, with myself and fellow PCO member Des Buckley.

Herne Bay Cartoon Workshop

And there’s more … but it’s all still being worked out. For updates follow @HBCartoonFest on Twitter or go to Facebook.com/HBCartoonFest

The Herne Bay Cartoon Festival is sponsored by the Professional Cartoonists Organisation and supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

Giles and the snow cartoon

January 22, 2013 in Comment, News

Carl Giles Winter of Discontent cartoon

"I've told the hospital we've got an ambulance driver fallen head over tip – want to hear what they said?" © Carl Giles

Snow has fallen across the UK over recent days and, as usual, we all act as though this has never happened before. Here’s proof that is has: a cartoon by Carl Giles, the acknowledged master of the snow cartoon, from 1979.

This is about the public sector strikes in the January of that year, popularly known as the Winter of Discontent. It’s a great example of Giles’ “less is more” approach to drawing snow. See more Giles cartoons at the British Cartoon Archive.

Spotted any other good snow cartoons? Let us know in the comments below.

Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival 2011

April 7, 2011 in Events, News

Cartoon previews from the Personal Bests exhibition, one of the headline events at this year’s Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival which opens next week.

Bloghorn_Shrewsbury_Olympics_Cartoon © Nathan Ariss Cartoon

Personal Bests Exhibition at Bloghorn © Nathan Ariss Cartoon


Bloghorn_Shrewsbury_Olympics_Cartoon 2011 © Bill Stott Cartoon

Personal Bests Exhibition at Bloghorn © Bill Stott Cartoon

Personal Bests Exhibition at Bloghorn © The Surreal McCoy

An exhibition of Carl Giles cartoons has also opened at the town museum.

Carl Giles cartoon exhibition at Shrewsbury 2011

Carl Giles cartoon exhibition at Shrewsbury 2011 © Estate of Carl Giles

Grandma returns and Oor Wullie goes

October 13, 2010 in News

Grandma has returned to Ipswich. The statue of the legendary Giles character was removed earlier this year to make way for a redevelopment of the area, but is now positioned looking up at the window where cartoonist Carl Giles worked as the centrepiece of the newly renamed Giles Circus (as previously reported in Bloghorn).

Meanwhile, north of the border a sketchbook belonging to Dudley D Watkins went under the hammer in Dundee last week. The sketchbook, which featured three sketches by Watkins of his comic characters Oor Wullie and The Broons went for £1600, easily beating the expected price of £1000. Also sold was a plaster cast of Oor Wullie sitting on an upturned bucket, which sold for £240.