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by Royston

Obscene postcards? You be the judge

July 18, 2011 in Events

Saucy postcard by Bob Wilkin
An exhibition of seaside postcards that were banned by local councils in the 1950s opens in Margate this week.

I Wish I Could See My Little Willy named after a postcard by Bob Wilkin, above, enraged the authorities in the prudish post war years. The show is being held at the Pie Factory gallery, opposite Margate’s old magistrate’s court where the publishers of the day would have been prosecuted.

Across the country the authorities confiscated and destroyed thousands of ‘‘saucy’’ postcards as they feared that that the nation’s morals were in decline after the Second World War.

The free exhibition, which opens on July 23 and runs until August 2, is held in conjunction with the British Cartoon Archive, which has been digitising the postcards and putting them online, along with their associated obscene publications index cards, as seen above.

Nick Hiley of the British Cartoon Archive, which is based at the University of Kent in nearby Canterbury, told Bloghorn:

‘‘We are organising the exhibition with the Dreamland Trust in Margate. I will be giving a talk in the magistrates’ court where the cards were condemned — they have a wonderful witness box on casters that I hope to lecture from.’’

The old court is now the Margate Musuem. The talk is at 2pm on July 30. The organisers are hoping to follow it with an airing of the Radio 4 play Getting The Joke by Neil Brand (BBC permission pending). It tells the story of the trial of Donald McGill, acknowledged master of the saucy postcard, in 1953.

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by Royston

Cartoon coasts along for 30 years

June 7, 2011 in News

Postcard cartoon by Rupert Besley

Cartoons are inextricably linked to the seaside, so it was no surprise that when the new series of BBC Two’s Coast headed to Margate for a piece on the heyday of seaside landladies, they chose to illustrate that with a cartoon postcard.

Being very well looked after, detail above, by Rupert Besley, a member of the PCO, which runs the Bloghorn, was featured to illustrate the stereotype “battleaxe” and her endless lists of rules.

For Rupert, who has drawn hundreds of postcards, almost all for the holiday trade, national TV exposure was a mixed blessing, as the cartoon they chose was drawn more than 30 years ago. Rupert told the Bloghorn:

“If you’re lucky enough to get a cartoon taken up for use in a television programme, it does seem a bit mealy-mouthed then to start complaining about the one selected, given the choice available. But which would you rather have fill the screen, a recent cartoon that you were secretly quite pleased with or something done more than 30 years back, an early hamfisted attempt at a cartoon? Well, they said they’d pay me, so I won’t go on about it.”

Bloghorn will gloss over Rupert’s comments – the typical insecurity of the cartoonist! – and say it’s a great cartoon, perfectly illustrating the subject matter at hand.

You can see more seaside postcards in Margate in July, when a selection those digitised by the British Cartoon Archive goes on show. Bloghorn will have more on this nearer the time.

Saucy McGill continues to amuse

August 12, 2010 in News

Copyright Greaves & Thomas/McGill Archive

That saucy old salt Donald McGill continues to cause a stir, nearly 50 years after his death. For the first time, the full collection of 21 postcards which were banned after an Obscene Publications Act witch-hunt in 1953, have gone on display.

They can be seen in the perfectly appropriate seaside surroundings of the recently opened Donald McGill Museum and Archive in Ryde on the Isle of Wight.

There is little option for the modern mind but to see them as cliché-ridden, pre-feminist, pre-60s snapshots of the suppressed British libido. But the sexual innuendo still has resonance. Despite the 60s and beyond, many of us Brits still have a “policeman inside all our heads” and the simple rudeness is appealing. Why do we still laugh at them? Well, because they’re funny.

Even George Orwell was a fan. A short essay of his (“The Art of Donald McGill”) in 1941, written at the height of Britain’s isolation, flattered McGill’s egregious talent and his essential Britishness, but Orwell the Old Etonian couldn’t help but warn readers that the “first impression is of overpowering vulgarity”.

Orwell points out that the viewpoint in McGill’s postcards is essentially safe and conservative – that of the aspirational working class. “They express only one tendency in the human mind, but a tendency which is always there and will find its own outlet, like water. On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.”

Where the cartoonist’s view might differ from Orwell’s is that they are not “ill-drawn” – they are rather well drawn cartoon art of a certain period. Certainly better than the dozens of imitators he spawned.