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Opinion: The curse of Management

June 9, 2014 in Comment, General

Bill Stott from Punch magazine: "Be positive! At least  now we know that being able to fly has got noting to do with having a pointy head"

Bill Stott from Punch: “Be positive! At least now we know that being able to fly has got nothing to do with having a pointy head!” Click image to enlarge

In a somewhat acrimonious departure, Richard Ingrams has resigned as editor of The Oldie. In this opinion piece, Bill Stott sees echoes from the latter days of Punch magazine and hopes that cartoonists will not see history repeat itself.

Whilst it might sound uncomfortably like a medical examination, there’s interesting stuff coming out of The Oldie right now. Quite a bit of bile. The departure of the multi-faceted, sometimes contradictory Richard Ingrams will be a huge loss, not only to The Oldie, but to gag cartooning in the UK.

Logically, bearing in mind the fact that his team apparently liked and respected him, the job should go to one of them and a cartoon-friendly status quo will spread a warm glow throughout Humourland. However, given James Pembroke’s apparent management style and his grasp of the purse strings, that may well not happen.

The Oldie’s predicament reminds me of the beginning of the end for Punch, a magazine strong on cartoons and humour but which never made a profit in its 500-year existence, unlike The Oldie which has loads of readers and does make a profit.

The similarity lies with “management”. Alan Coren, probably one of the best Punch editors, fell out with those who bought the mag and got sacked. He was locked out of his office, in fact.

After a few false starts, a new bought-in editor was presented to a restaurant full of cartoonists in thatLondon. He foolishly delayed them from getting at the free food and drink by climbing on to a rostrum to tell all hands about his vision for the new Punch. I seem to remember the sixth-form market being mentioned. Honest!

The new ed was apparently a very good manager. Quite soon after his appointment, which was made despite the existence of excellent candidates already on board, Punch ceased to be.

Could this happen to The Oldie?

Thanks Bill. We hope the answer to your last question is no! We will continue to follow developments at The Oldie, noting for starters that Mr Ingrams appears to have influential friends

Review: Punch Cartoons in Colour

October 18, 2012 in Comment, Events, General

Cartoonist and Procartoonists member Noel Ford takes a look back at The Best of Punch Cartooons in Colour. The collection is edited by Helen Walasek.

Well, as far as a review is concerned, I could leave it at that. The title says it all.

Oh, all right then … it has long been a bone of contention amongst cartoonists with respect to how important the actual drawing of a cartoon is. Many will argue that a good gag will carry a poor drawing but a poor gag is still a poor gag no matter how brilliant the draughtsmanship. Others will claim that a cartoon’s artwork is paramount, being the vehicle by which the idea is transported (and why would anyone trust the delivery of their finest ideas to the unreliability of drawing’s equivalent to a clapped-out K-Reg Ford Transit?) As to whether a cartoon needs colour, that is a further development of this debate.

Review: The Best of Punch Cartoons in Colour @ procartoonists.org

Review: The Best of Punch Cartoons in Colour @ Procartoonists.org

Whichever side of the argument you stand, I am pretty confident that the contents of this volume will delight you, comprising, as it does, an abundance of  the whimsical humour that Punch was (is!) famous for and some really wonderful, full colour artwork, ranging from  a classic 1924 Bateman full page colour cartoon through to the poignant cover of the final issue of the “real” Punch magazine, by Holte (Trevor Holder).

The cartoons themselves include some you may have known and loved for many years, but the real treasure of this book is the abundance of Punch colour cartoons that have never been published since their original appearance in the magazine. When Alan Coren, as Editor, introduced the full front-cover gag cartoon, in the late seventies, many of us younger (then!) contributors thought large format colour gag cartoons were something entirely new to the magazine. This book shows how wrong we were.

To the seasoned Punch cartoon enthusiast, the book holds a few other surprises, too. By the nature of the collection, some of Punch’s most notable contributors are nowhere to be found. Bill Tidy, Larry (Terry Parkes), Chic Jacob, masters of the black and white cartoon with only a relatively few outings into the broader spectrum of colour are, for once, absent from a Punch cartoon collection. I remember a conversation with Larry, many years ago, when he told me he didn’t really see the point of colour in a cartoon, though he did, I recall, relent sufficiently to produce one Punch cover. I think the point of colour in a cartoon is probably that same pleasure derived from any icing on the cake. Whilst it may not be absolutely necessary, it can, nevertheless, delight.

Finally, as with its sister volume, The Best of Punch Cartoons, this is a substantial volume (not really one for your Kindle!) and the contents often chronicle the historical and social events of the times. So if you need an excuse, other than pure and joyful entertainment, to be observed reading this tome, you can always fall back on that one.

Oh, and one more thing …

Anyone who believes cartooning is not real art should absolutely not open this book unless they want their illusions shattered irreparably!

Editor adds: Thanks to Noel for the review and you might care to visit the Punch Magazine Archive.

If any other reader is thinking about contributing to this blog please contact us here.

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by Royston

Talking about Fougasse

September 6, 2010 in Events

Careless Talk Costs Lives poster by Fougasse
Be careful what you say and where you say it! – one of several wartime “Careless Talk Costs Lives” posters by Kenneth Bird a.k.a Fougasse

The exhibition Fougasse – Careless Talk Costs Lives opens at the Cartoon Musuem in London on Thursday (September 9) and runs until November 24.

Kenneth Bird (1887-1965), who drew under the pen name Fougasse, was the first cartoonist to edit Punch magazine. He popularised the simple joke cartoon, with minimal lines and short captions, moving the magazine’s cartoons away from their Victorian roots. The exhibition features more than 80 works by Fougasse and shows how his style became progressively more direct and economical.

Fougasse is best known today as the creator of the “Careless Talks Costs Lives” propaganda posters which he produced during the Second World War. The “anti-gossip” campaign, which was launched in 1940 by the Ministry of Information, showed Hitler and Goering eavesdropping in the most unlikely places.

They remain some of the most memorable images of the Second World War. Fougasse’s wartime work earned him a CBE in 1946.

The exhibition coincides with the publication of Careless Talk Costs Lives: Fougasse and the Art of Public Information by James Taylor and published by Conway.

The Cartoon Musuem, in Little Russel Street, London, is open Tues-Sat: 10.30am-5.30pm and Sun12pm-5.30pm. Admission: Adults £5, Conc £4, Students £3, Free to Under-18s. Nearest Tube stations: Holborn or Tottenham Court Road.

The ghost editor and the cartoonists

April 30, 2010 in Comment

Alan Coren, ex-Punch editor and PCO patron (Art: John Roberts)

Bill Stott is a cartoonist. A rather good one, actually. Even the great Alan Coren thought so. But then he loved cartoonists generally.

Like many cartoonists, Bill doesn’t change his trousers with unseemly regularity. It’s a working-at-home thing. Why bother when the ones you’re wearing have a perfectly serviceable extra few weeks in them … and probably a healthy supply of mints and pocket fluff? However, the recent change of season occasioned a re-trousering, whereupon one of the pockets yielded a piece of gold dust.

It was a short note from Mr Coren, penned a short while before he died, which Bill had rammed into the pocket for filing; a paean to cartoonists intended as an introduction to the website of the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation, of which he had just accepted the title of inaugural patron. Bill hadn’t the heart to publish the piece because Coren died shortly after sending it.

In it, having left Punch, Coren mulls over what he misses. The limos, the yachts, the voluptuous assistants? No, he says, “None of these. What I miss most is those Tuesday mornings with the sadly late and very great Bill Hewison, my brilliant Art Editor, when we would sit at a huge leather-topped desk overlooking the complete absence of central heating, pull off our generously lent company mittens, and sift through the hundreds and hundreds of roughs submitted by the extraordinary numbers of extraordinary cartoonists which – and, remember, I speak as a writer – made Punch the brilliant and, most important of all, hilarious magazine it was.

“I miss the six hours of those golden-era Tuesdays when Bill and I would struggle – handicapped by constant helpless laughter – to choose, from 20 times as many, the 50-odd cartoons we needed to lift the readers’ spirits and break their ribs in next week’s magazine.”

He continues:

“Cartooning is the toughest art of all. A freelance cartoonist lives and works alone, staring out of the window in the fervent daily hope that something will begin to draw itself on the sky, then murmur its caption in his ear. He needs this to happen several times a day, every day, because he has not the faintest idea whether the editors who pay his rent will laugh at the same thing he laughs at, and therefore has to send them lots and lots of things, praying that they will laugh at at least one of them, and the cartoonist can get his shoes mended.”

Coren concludes that his greatest struggle was that “we couldn’t put a thousand gags in the paper, so how to select the best when ten are equally funny?” Enough, enough already. We cartoonists couldn’t possibly be so immodest about our talents. But … thank you, Mr Coren.

Declaration of Interest: Andy Davey is chairleg of the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation which runs The Bloghorn (Editor: Matt Buck) and the print magazine Foghorn (Editor: Bill Stott).

He and the organisation welcome your comments, and your contact with us at our artist portfolio websites, through our social-media services, or via direct contact with our media team led by Pete Dredge.

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(Editor’s note: these are subscriber services and require a sign up from the service providers to use them.)

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by Royston

Noel Ford exhibition packs a Punch

October 6, 2009 in General

noel_ford_punchNoel Ford’s first Punch magazine cartoon

PCO cartoonist Noel Ford has an exhibition of his work at the Museum and Art Gallery in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, until November 8.

The gallery is celebrating the work of the locally born cartoonist to mark the Campaign for Drawing’s Big Draw month. The show features images spanning Noel’s career, including work from the museum’s own collection alongside recent digital illustrations.

Noel Ford’s cartoons have featured in many national publications, notably Punch magazine, as well as the local Nuneaton Tribune newspaper. The exhibition will feature his early entry to Nuneaton Festival of Arts as well as his later original colour cover artwork for Punch.

The cartoonist will be giving a lunchtime talk on Friday 23rd October, 12.30 – 1.30pm. The talk is free, but booking is essential. Contact the museum on 024-7635 0720

Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery is open Tue – Sat 10.30am – 4.30pm and Sun 2pm – 4.30pm

A cartoonist’s memories of Punch magazine

October 3, 2008 in News

PCO cartoonist Martin Honeysett writes:

I was a Punch man. I started in the 1970s when Bill Davis was editor and continued until its final demise. It took a year of weekly submissions before I got accepted and once that happened I felt I’d arrived. For a freelance gag cartoonist Punch was the business, and a great shop window for our craft. Its closure marked the beginning of a decline for this particular avenue of cartooning.

The PCO: Great British cartoon talent

The Best of Punch Cartoons – book launch

October 2, 2008 in News

A book launch for The Best of Punch Cartoons took place at Harrods in West London last night. PCOer Pete Dredge reports

There was a healthy turnout of cartoonists with many PCO members on show; Clive Collins, Martin Honeysett, Ken Pyne, Geoff Thompson, John Jensen, Nick Newman, Chris Burke, Steve Way, Stan McMurtry, Arthur Reid, Mike Turner, Adam Singleton, Martin Rowson, Royston Robertson and Colin Earle were all there.

It was “just like the old Punch do’s” according to the Daily Mail’s Mac (McMurtry), but it felt more like a long postponed wake in many ways – Punch went under in 2002. However, the pile of heavy book product in the corner soon made it clear that this was a sale.


There was no sign of Mr Fayed last night so it was left to one of the publishers to get the proceedings under way. The book’s editor, Helen Walesek from the Punch Library, gave a knowledgeable, academic but somewhat backward-looking speech on how uncannily relevant the old Punch cartoon stock was to today’s social maladies. Sadly, there was no hint of regret that this continuous stream of creativity had been allowed to run dry.

After the speeches (discount book plugging!) the cartoonists were invited up on to the stage for a photo opportunity. It reminded me of those occasions when an old football manager dies and the club invite a host of former players from a bygone era to hobble on to the pitch to take the applause.

No complimentary books for the contributors. I’ll have to get mine from Amazon.

The PCO: Great British cartoon talent

Memories of Punch magazine

October 2, 2008 in General

PCO cartoonist Pete Dredge writes:

What saddens me most about the demise of Punch, apart from the purely selfish loss of what was once a regular market for me, is that thousands of jokes which would have graced its pages on a weekly basis have never had the chance to be made by the amazingly talented bunch of cartoonists this nation possesses. They would have helped to cast a little light in these dark days. We all laughed at those “Prepare to meet thy doom” gags … erm, and we’d probably still laugh at them now.

The PCO: Great British cartoon talent

Punch magazine recalled

October 1, 2008 in General

PCO member John Jensen offers a memory of things at Punch magazine. This article was originally published in the Foghorn magazine, which the PCO publishes.

Punch died in 1992. Towards the end of its life the atmosphere in the art department was bright, lively and smiling. I thought such camaraderie was inspiring amid all the rumours of imminent collapse. Until, that is, I realised the entire art-department was working with opened tins of Cow gum on the desks and tables.

Cow gum was an essential item for pasting down the pages in those pre-software days when these things were done by hand. Cow gum was necessary but Cow gum was glue. Tins of it were always open in the art room. Whether the art room knew it or not they were glue-sniffing all day long. Happy daze.

The atmosphere had been quieter, more sedate – less Cow gum – except for occasional brief outbursts of either rage or pleasure when Bill Hewison, was Art Editor. A bearded man of fiercely held beliefs constrained within a polite, conservative manner contrasted nicely with his sidekick, Geoffrey Dickinson, a quietly funny guy who heralded the Swinging Sixties with a cover for Time magazine, the payment for which allowed him to buy his home. Punch payments never matched that.

A third party, sitting hatted, hunched and shirt-sleeved in the office, personally saturnine and professionally ubiquitous: Michael Heath, looking, as always, younger than his experience. Physically, Bill and Geoffrey reminded me of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, but the imagined similarity ended there. Bill’s humour, when it surfaced, was so dry it crackled like tinder.

Punch had its institutions: its weekly lunches and its outings. At the lunches the editor would sit at the head of the famous Punch table overseeing guests and Punch regulars. As a general rule, although there were exceptions, cartoonists would sit below the salt leaving the writers to do most of the talking, at which they were very good and very practised. The pen-and-ink boys tended to mutter and snigger among themselves.

The late and truly missed Alan Coren, more jovial, bouncy even, bursting with words and ideas had to get the chat rolling, along with the coffee and cigars. Billy Connolly – the Big Yin – a welcome guest, was heard to assert that sexual fantasies were fine until you turned them into reality when they were, unfortunately, found to be disappointing. A silence followed this pronouncement. No one had the bottle to ask what those fantasies were. And how did he know? These days he would have been pounded with questions and answers would have been demanded.

The outings were different: sometimes a trip up-and-down the Thames with Wally Fawkes gigging it for the evening. Or maybe a visit to France, or maybe a plush hotel in the country, the name of which I can’t remember – I don’t keep a diary and I have no memory for names or details: useless, really! Pat, my wife, on seeing a coach filling up with elderly ladies and gents, stooping and making serious use of walking sticks said jokingly, “I expect that’ll be the Punch outing.” It was.

However, not everybody was old, just some. (If Punch hadn’t died I’d now be one of those old geezers.) Among the now deceased is the “Matisse of cartooning”, Michael ffolkes. Michael was fond of his booze but, what was not then realised , and which tragically was discovered too late, was that he was also allergic to alcohol. Not a good combination.

Unsurprisingly, Michael was given to unsettling mood changes. He could be, and often was, charming and amusing, yet both virtues were too often overwhelmed by a scathing acerbic wit and an aggressiveness which was not threatening but certainly irritating. Invariably forgiven for his lapses (by me, if by no one else) Mike was, in spite of himself, a nice bloke and, on a good day, a wonderful companion. At the lunches he was expansive, cigar-smoking, brandy drinking and serene and secure in his talent. Most of the cartoonists around the table were like that.

You should see them now!

I’ve exceeded my 600 words. The jog down memory lane ends here.

Bloghorn says click J for Jensen.

The PCO: Great British cartoon talent

The legacy of Punch – and the professional cartoonists

October 1, 2008 in News

Evidence for the existence of a predecessor publication to our own Foghorn cartoon magazine has been revealed on a national media outlet. You may listen again to the wireless segment here.

The PCO: Great British cartoon talent