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Send in the Clowns?

December 8, 2019 in Comment, Events

Cartoon by © Rupert Besley

Rupert Besley writes:

[a personal viewpoint, not purporting in any way to represent the opinions of the PCO]

For the first time in my life I’m seriously wondering if humour might not be doing more harm than good. That’s a worrying thought and no conclusion I would ever wish to reach. I get to this point down the following route.

The expert analysis of recognised independent think-tanks all seems to agree that Brexit, hard or soft, will leave the country’s economy worse off than before and that those who will suffer most are those already hardest hit and at the bottom of the pile. And yet the parties pursuing this course (Conservative and Brexit) are those that have been riding high in the polls and especially so in the least well-off areas.

I can think of only one explanation for this and it comes in three parts.

Firstly, television has turned politics into a celebrity contest. The two-second conclusions of grassroots opinion foisted on us each day by television news are by their nature superficial and short. Vox pop verdicts may do people a disservice, but from them it seems that large numbers of voters are deciding not on policy or even party but just on the personality of each leader.

Next, no such Johnson-Corbyn dance-off begins on an even footing. The UK press, predominantly in right-wing hands, has seen to that. Boris Johnson, one of their own, is portrayed as loveable chump, accorded the status of national treasure and first-name recognition. The cameras love him, as he does them. For years the most widely read papers in this country have found space each day to vilify Corbyn (surname only), made out to be some kind of crazed communist blend of racist and terrorist. (The shame, perhaps, is that he himself does not do personal attacks on anyone.)

Finally, in any such competition, the guy-in-the-pub, say-it-straight, got-all-the-answers funster image of a Johnson or a Farage will come across to many (or any who don’t know them) as more appealing than the duller, dour, more complicated and apparently humourless mode of a Corbyn.  What else is there to explain the strong personal lead Johnson enjoys in the polls, regardless of his track record? Baffled by the complexities of the political situation and bored with its repetitiveness, people are looking instead for good cheer and light relief.

I accept that we live in an age when a political leader has to have ‘personality’ and be  good on television. They need that to carry the country with them. Things were different in the world I came into. Attlee was a modest man and self-effacing. Of him it was said, ‘An empty taxi drew up in Downing St and Clement Attlee stepped out.’  Stafford Cripps was not known for his laddishness. But, as Chancellor, he is credited with laying the foundations of Britain’s post-war economic prosperity. The Attlee government, which included the likes of Nye Bevan, Hugh Gaitskell and Herbert Morrison, created the NHS and greatly expanded the welfare state. Earnest, high-minded politicians, intent on tackling the ills of the world – but none of them great for a larf.

How might it have been, one wonders, if in those post-war decades the electorate had gone instead for the characters played by the most popular comics of the day? Ken Dodd for Chancellor, perhaps. Or Charlie Drake? Arthur Askey for PM or maybe Bernard Bresslaw. I only arsked.

St Just for laughs

October 22, 2014 in Events, General, News

St Just poster © Daryl Cagle

St Just poster © Daryl Cagle

Simon Ellinas writes:

I was lucky enough to be able to visit the Salon International Du Dessins de Presse et d’Humor at St Just-le-Martel in France. Impressively installed in a brand new building on the outskirts of this small satellite of the city of Limoges, this cartoon festival has been running for 33 years.

The permanent display of cartoons and caricatures from around the world makes this the largest public museum of cartoon art in Europe. The last time I was there, five years ago, the events took place inside a series of marquees, while the first bricks for the centre were being laid.

My cartoonist friend John Landers and I travelled by Eurostar to Paris where we met other cartoonists. The travel is laid on by the festival organisers and local residents put visitors up in their own homes. I was delighted to find that we had been handed over to my previous hosts, who live in a very spacious and comfortable house 12km away in Boisseuils.

Cartoonists Simon Ellinas, left, and John landers, second right, with new friends at the St Just festival

Cartoonists Simon Ellinas, left, and John landers, second right, with their hosts at the St Just festival

The whole weekend is taken up with a huge exhibition of cartoons and caricatures from around the world and a grand hall full of cartoonists drawing for the public. And the public really do appreciate this event, arriving in many hundreds on both days. The festival is actually spread out over ten or so days, with the first and second weekends being peaks of activity.

Various awards are handed out by the charismatic mayor and chief initiator of the whole thing, Gerard Vandenbroucke, the main award of the festival going to the Venezuelan cartoonist Rayma Suprani.

stjust_doc

We were treated to a French cabaret evening on the Friday and a superb visit to an old cinema in nearby St Leonard. This was to see the Cartooning for Peace documentary Caricaturistes: Fantassins de la Democratie (poster above). This featured 12 cartoonists from around the world who have been working, many under great restrictions from their governments, to uphold their rights to democracy and to free speech.

Featuring Suprana as well as the Cartooning for Peace organiser Jean Plantu, the film also revealed the difficulties faced by cartoonists as far afield as China, Palestine and Israel. A very moving film which I would urge you to see.

Daryl Cagle, left, with a caricature drawn by Philippe Moine, right

Daryl Cagle, left, with a caricature drawn by Philippe Moine, right

There was a contingent of political cartoonists from America, led by Daryl Cagle and including Monte Wolverton, Rick McKee, Steve Sack, Nate Beeler and Adam Zygler. The differences between US and UK political cartooning are interesting to compare. My impression is that the UK style is more predominantly “painterly” while the US cartoons are heavily populated with a very cartoony comic-strip style.

Jean Gouders, in the striped  shirt, and John Landers, in the traditional "defacing" of tablecloths

Jean Gouders, in the striped shirt, and John Landers, demonstrate the traditional “defacing” of tablecloths

Of course, part of the celebration and festivity are the meals with fellow cartoonists and friends. These take place at long tables in a huge marquee with the paper tablecloths becoming the centre of attention for all the artists and their arsenals of pens and markers.

All in all, a very inspiring if ultimately exhausting experience. I’ll be back.

by Royston

Cartoonists on film

July 11, 2014 in Events, General, News

We like anything that bigs up the noble art of cartooning and a new French documentary called Cartoonists: Footsoldiers of Democracy does that with its title alone.

Details of a UK release date or TV screening have not been revealed but this English-subtitled trailer recently appeared on the internet, so hopefully we will get to see it.

The film, which focuses on 12 cartoonists from around the world, was screened earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival. Read a review here.

Education chief is taking the Michael

February 4, 2014 in Comment

© Bill Stott @ Procartoonists.org

© Bill Stott @ Procartoonists.org

Opinion: As regular readers will know, Michael Gove gets up Bill Stott’s nose

Hmm, he’s at it again, that Gove fellow. Wants to bring back writing lines, detention and – who knows? – six of the best, in the search for his notion of discipline in the classroom. He really hasn’t got a clue, has he?

What on earth have the wrong-headed, ignorant aspirations of this Mr Bean look-alike got to do with cartooning? Well, as I noted some time ago, one of the first things he did as Secretary of State for Education was to demote art and design and take it OUT of the core curriculum and put it IN to the hobby fringe.

And despite what Brian Sewell thinks, there IS a link between art education and cartooning.

Of course, a lot depends on the quality of the art education on offer. Given that Mr Beangove has already meddled with curriculum content and syllabuses – e.g. lots more Monarchs’ dates and burnt cakes in history – it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he didn’t make the teaching of perspective and Ostwald Colour Theory compulsory in any art and design still remaining in any school’s curriculum.

Shading would become compulsory, as would dividing up the human body into seven segments. And back would sweep still lifes: brown bananas, leathery oranges and putrefying apples. When colouring-in, pupils would have to keep to the lines.

If Michael Gove ever had an opinion about cartoons, they’d have to be clean, crisp and completely devoid of personality – rather like the anodyne niceness presently available as apps.

Thanks to Bill. To see work from people who paid attention in art class, and strictly no anodyne niceness, visit the Procartoonist.org portfolios