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Laugharne has the last laugh

April 11, 2013 in Events, News

Martin Rowson writes for about Dylan Thomas, drink and cultural vandalism at the Laugharne Weekend

Last weekend I was in Laugharne in South Wales for the annual Laugharne Weekend, a dependably wacky and eclectic mix of comedians, musicians, writers and, for the second year in a row, one cartoonist.

When they asked me along for this year’s bash, I offered the organisers some added value on top of my usual foul-mouthed guide to the 37,000 year long history of visual satire. Given that Laugharne famously was where Dylan Thomas lived and about which he wrote Under Milk Wood, would they like me to do a really (and I mean REALLY) big visual representation of their most famous resident? Like, for instance, on a distant hill?

That, in practice, proved too daunting, but it was agreed that I would produce an image on the large lawn beneath Laugharne Castle, employing as my brush whatever you call one of those things they use to mark out football pitches. And the image itself? Obvious! Dylan Thomas as the Cerne Abbas Giant!

Then, just days before the gig, I was told the local council had nixed the idea of using the lawn. Still, they’d got the agreement of the Three Mariners Pub, in which Dylan used to drink himself stupid, so I could knock off a nice big mural on the wall opposite there instead.

So, last Saturday morning, slightly hungover from the night before (when I’d managed to draw Sir Peter Blake at dinner, which vague likeness the great man signed) I clambered on top of a pub table and, with a pot of emulsion and some brushes from the nearest hardware store, I produced my artwork, to a few grunts of admiration from the small yet critical mass of early drinkers settling down for the duration.

Martin Rowson Laugharne mural

Dylan Thomas mural in Laugharne © Martin Rowson

I spent the rest of the day hanging out with the likes of failed cartoonist Phill Jupitus, going to some gigs, doing my own gig and, late at night, drinking fine wines with the legendary Bard of Salford John Cooper Clarke, until 4am. He too I drew, with a very great deal of black ink.

Notwithstanding, I got up reasonably early, checked Dylan was still on the wall and set off back for London, a tiny part of my brain wondering how long that emulsion would last in the damp Welsh climate.

What I didn’t expect, quite so soon, was the email from one of the organisers saying there had been complaints from the locals; complaints, moreover, about the aspersions I was casting, by inference, on their sexual capacity when in drink (or so it was reported to me). I spoke to the local press about these complaints, but before the interview was even over, the Giant had been entirely removed from the wall, with a power hose.

Well, what can you say? Either this is the greatest piece of cultural vandalism since Lady Churchill burned Graham Sutherland’s portrait of her husband or the Taliban blew up those Buddhas, or it’s how you’d expect a mucky scrawl on a wall to be treated by a decent and responsible local authority. Personally, I’m rather flattered, and not entirely bothered as it only took me about 15 minutes, and it only took that long because my hand was slightly shakier than usual. And, of course, next year I can do one even bigger.

Still, it’s a warning to all of us who engage in very public cartooning. So I have this piece of advice for anyone who’ll be ‘tooning in the Square in Shrewsbury (alas I won’t be there as I work weekends, and Laugharne claimed my time off for April). Make it mean, but keep it clean!

The Round-up

February 1, 2013 in General, Links, News

Above: a timely rant from animator Stephen Silver about the perils of agreeing to produce creative work ‘on spec’. (Originally seen at Tom’s Mad Blog)

The HS2 rail proposal provided plenty of fodder for cartoonists on the dailies this week. For The Telegraph, Christian Adams assesses George Osborne’s involvement here and here, while Matt Pritchett suggests a get-out clause. In The Daily Mail, Mac focused on what might almost turn out to be the reality for commuters. Meanwhile, member Steve Bell looks down the track for The Guardian.

Bell’s stablemate at the Guardian, fellow PCO member Martin Rowson, is interviewed for the paper alongside comedian (and occasional cartoonist) Phill Jupitus. Read the Q&A here.

After his car was towed away, New Yorker cartoonist Corey Pandolph decided to sell some of his ‘unselected’ cartoons on Etsy to cover his costs. The Huffington Post has more on Pandolph’s plight here.

Finally, a selection of drawings by the late, great Ronald Searle is set to be offered at auction.

by Royston

Phill Jupitus discusses "joke theft"

February 19, 2009 in News

foghorn_for_posting2All cartoonists have at some point seen a cartoon and thought, Hey, that’s my joke! But how often is it theft and how often simple coincidence? Comedian and occasional cartoonist Phill Jupitus discusses the business of stealing laughs at the Guardian website.

by Royston

Cartooning in the media: It's not all bad news

July 25, 2008 in General

PCOer Royston Robertson says we cartoonists need to lighten up about media coverage of our profession

There’s no doubt that cartoons are enjoying an unusually high profile in the British media at the moment.

We’ve seen acres of coverage for the launch of new kids’ comic The DFC (left), the 70th anniversary of The Beano and Phill Jupitus’s comic strip programme on Radio Four. There has even been a graphic novel serialised in The Times.

So, are cartoonists happy about this? Not a bit of it.

I agree with Neil Dishington, who wrote on this blog yesterday that the Phill Jupitus thing was nothing special, but is that because we’re cartoonists and therefore he’s preaching to the converted? I think it’s likely that many listeners would have found Jupitus’s sincere enthusiasm about comic strips quite infectious.

Isn’t it a good thing that shows like these exist? Is it not the case that the only thing worse than the media talking about cartoons is the media not talking about cartoons?

But they misrepresent cartooning, some cartoonists cry, it’s obvious they don’t know what they’re talking about. Well, maybe. I’m sure I heard James Naughtie talking about “animators” at The Beano on the Today show on Monday, but is there a single profession that doesn’t think it is often misrepresented by the media? I know journalists who think the media misrepresents them.

Another common complaint is that any media obsession with cartoons is just a passing fad. Again, that may be true, perhaps they’re using cartoons to cheer us up amid all the credit crunch stuff, but then that is the role of most cartoons. And let’s not forget that the media treats many subjects in a faddish way before moving on to the next thing.

And as for the grumbling over celebs such as Jupitus drawing cartoons, cartooning has always been something where everyone wants to have a go. That’s because it’s fun. We often encourage that attitude, at events such as The Big Draw and the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival.

All you can do is keep on doing good cartoon work and hope that those who commission cartoons for publication will realise that it is best to go to a professional.

The PCO: Professional cartoon talent

by Royston

Celebrity cartoonists

July 17, 2008 in General

As cartoonist-turned-comedian Phill Jupitus prepares to talk of his love of cartoons on the radio, PCOer Royston Robertson looks at some other celebrities who once wielded drawing pens

MEL CALMAN called his autobiography What Else Do You Do?, after the question that is so often put to cartoonists. In fact, there appear to be many cartoonists who not only did something else, but found that that occupation eventually made their name, to the point where the career in cartooning became a largely forgotten footnote.

It was only after the death of the comedian Bob Monkhouse that I heard that he had once been a cartoonist. And quite an accomplished one. He had worked for Beano publisher DC Thomson.

A cartoon by Bob Monkhouse of PCOer Noel Ford, along with a photo of Bob working on that very drawing. Noel, who once worked with Bob at the BBC, assures us that he really did look like that weird in the 1970s

At about the same time, I read an article about the novelist John Updike and how he had been obsessed with cartoons as a child. Updike also tried his hand at being a cartoonist before coming to his senses and deciding that writing was the better path to take. It was certainly the more lucrative.

Another writer who has dabbled with cartooning is Will Self. Some of his work can be seen in a compilation of his newspaper and magazine articles called Junk Mail. The drawing is crude but some of the gags are pretty good.

BBC 6Music presenter Marc Riley, formerly “Lard” of Mark and Lard fame on Radio One, and an ex-bass player with The Fall, is another ex-cartoonist whose drawing was somewhat on the crude side. You may remember his Harry the Head from Oink! Comic. He also appeared in photo strips in Oink! He was the guy with the big nose.

Another former cartoonist is broadcaster Andrew Collins, also an ex-New Musical Express journalist, EastEnders scriptwriter, Radio Times film writer and general overachiever. He chronicled his love of cartoons and half-hearted attempts to make a living drawing owls and wizards for puzzle magazines in Where Did it All Go Right and Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, his bestselling memoirs of growing up in the 1970s and 1980s.

Talking of the NME, anyone who used to read the music paper in the early 1990s may remember a cartoon drawn in the style of Gillray called Dr Crawshaft’s World of Pop. But did you know that it was drawn by Arthur Mathews who went on to co-script the sitcom Father Ted?

So I suppose there’s hope for us all if we get disillusioned with the world of cartooning. Right, it’s time to get back to the drawing board/typewriter/record decks …

Comic Love is on BBC Radio Four at 10.30am on Saturday 19 July.

The PCO British cartoon talent