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PCO Cartoon Review of 2017

January 1, 2018 in Comment, General, News


Everyone else is doing it so we thought we’d have our own look back at the year…with cartoons by PCO members. The Big Issue drawing above by Andrew Birch manages to fit the whole year into just one cartoon!

© Ralph Steadman

We started the year with Trump’s bigly attended inauguration. Trump was undoubtedly (Mad) Man of the Year although he was closely followed by Kim Jong-Range Missile. This flattering portrait of Trump is by the inimitable Ralph Steadman.

© Steve Bell

At the beginning of the year Theresa May visited Washington to hold hands with The Donald. This cartoon from Steve Bell on the ‘special relationship’. You can see more of Steve Bell’s favourite cartoons of the year on the Guardian website.

© Wilbur Dawbarn

June saw Mrs M making another bad decision in calling a snap election. Who’d of thunk this would turn Jeremy Corbyn into a headline act at Glastonbury! This on the election race by Private Eye regular Wilbur Dawbarn.

© Andy Davey

The election didn’t go too well for Theresa. Here’s Andy Davey on the costly deal she was forced to do with the DUP (from The Indy). Unsurprisingly the figures weren’t heralded on the side of a bus.

© Jeremy Banx

Russian cyber interference in overseas elections has been a big story in 2017. This cartoon by FT cartoonist Banx. (although this could easily be a drawing of The Daily Mail newsroom)

© Martin Rowson

In June we had the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower. This is Martin Rowson’s response in The Guardian on the Government hiding from responsibilities.

© Zoom Rockman

…another illustration on Grenville Tower by prodigious talent Zoom Rockman taken from Private Eye. ‘Things That Wouldn’t Happen’. Would the House of Parliament use cheap cladding for the renovation work?

© Ros Asquith

The NHS is still desperately underfunded. This was a very funny cartoon by Ros Asquith after doctors warned in July about Government plans for ‘brutal’ NHS cuts.

© Dave Brown

October started with the awful mass shooting in Las Vegas – one of many atrocities in 2017. This was Dave Brown’s reaction in the Independent.

© Sarah Boyce

In a year where it seems every male in a position of power is a sexual predator an excellent cartoon from Sarah Boyce in Private Eye

© Will McPhail

Workplace equality has also been an issue throughout the year. This perfectly summed up in a Private Eye cartoon by New Yorker regular Will McPhail.

© Steve Bright

We couldn’t review the whole year without mentioning B****t. Here’s a fine summing up of how negotiations are going by Brighty in The Sun.

© Royston Robertson

…we have though restricted ourselves to just two on the ‘B’ word. This corker by Royston published in Private Eye.

© Matthew Buck

Ok, that was an ‘alternative truth’ we now have three ‘B’ word cartoons, this from Matthew Buck for Tribune.

© Guy Venables

…and on the same subject word(s) of the year was ‘Fake News’. This take on it from Guy Venables in the Private Eye 2017 Annual.

© Steve Jones

Trump has recently been denying global warming again because the East Coast has had a bit of a heavy cold spell. Here’s a strip on Trump’s view on climate change by Jonesy (from Resurgence & Ecologist magazine)

© Mike Turner

Finally, on a rather apocalyptic note to end the year, this is from Mike Turner in The Spectator.

Happy New Year from the PCO…although I suspect 2018 will be another year of global calamity and abject misery – at least we’ll have plenty to draw cartoons about. 

Gagged Ungagged Talk

December 18, 2017 in General

Andy Davey writes:

I was honoured to be asked by those nice people at Procartoonists to “host” an evening of interviews and talks to accompany the “Gagged” exhibition of cartoons at Westminster Reference Library on the subject of the oppression, censorship and gagging of political cartoonists around the world. My experience of hosting is limited to the point of zero, so I therefore accepted with trepidation but nevertheless with complete admiration for the cartoonists who have suffered for their art and reportage. As it turned out on the evening, my admiration was justified and afterwards I felt very humbled by the experience.

Martin Rowson shows a blank slide of a cartoon censored by The Independent

The quality of the speakers was excellent. First up was the Guardian’s own superbly scatalogical Martin Rowson, giving us a short history of poo in print and advice on how to successfully offend just about anybody in power.

Cartoon by © Zunar

The evening then turned somewhat digital via Skype interviews and screenings of films of various cartoonists who fight their political systems despite hardship. A poignant dramatic intervention occurred here – we had booked the heroic Malaysian cartoonist Zunar to speak to us via video link but we could not establish connection. It was later revealed that his no-show was due to his arrest and confiscation of his phone and computer. He faces 43 years in jail because of his criticisms of the Malaysian PM but continues to draw because he feels that it is his duty to do so. Against this, it’s impossible not to feel absolutely humbled. The world needs obstinate, moral, courageous people like Zunar.

Cartoon by © Khalid Albaih

Our second cartoonist interviewee was no less impressive. Khalid Albaih, a cartoonist from Sudan (via Romania and the US) who now resides in Denmark in order to freely publish his political cartoons in a democratic environment. His cartoons (usually wordless) were used widely in Arab Spring demonstrations but he would not be able to publish such “seditious” work in those countries. Khalid was very eloquent and passionate about his need to draw political cartoons but has chosen not to associate himself with any media outlet for fear of being censored or corrupted. Consequently, he has a day job and draws at night.

Cartoonist Andy Davey with Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship. Photo © Kasia Kowalska

This was followed by a rearguard action from the estimable Jodie Ginsberg from Index on Censorship, showing the visceral power of angry political cartoons from around the world and how they have been suppressed, sometimes brutally.

Video call with Robert Russell. Photo © Kasia Kowalska

Lastly we were privileged to speak to Robert Russell, the founder of Cartoonists Rights Network International – a man who has probably done more than any to help and support dozens of imprisoned, harassed and endangered cartoonists around the world.

All of this must remind us of how lucky we are in western democracies. But it is useful to remember that, even in the UK, the conditions that allow satire to flourish are not fully met. Censorship exists in practical terms because of the severe bias of the traditional media.

The future of cartoons may well be that modelled by Khalid Albaih – radical, delivered via independent social platforms…but unpaid. And the message that emerged from the evening was that cartoons most certainly have a future. Each contributor underlined the importance of political cartoons, particularly in societies with a democratic deficit.

A film of the event will be available to view online in the new year.

Profile photo of Royston

by Royston

Martin Rowson (and mini Farage) visit the Herne Bay Cartoon Festival

August 9, 2017 in Events, General, News

Martin Rowson took part in the Herne Bay Cartoon Festival for the first time this year, where he gave a talk and was interviewed by Rosie Duffield, the first ever Labour MP for nearby Canterbury.

All photos © Kasia Kowalska unless otherwise stated

Martin Rowson and Rosie Duffield at the Kings Hall, Herne Bay

Martin Rowson and Rosie Duffield at the Kings Hall, Herne Bay

But the Guardian cartoonist brought an extra guest to the event at the Kings Hall last Saturday, a rather disturbing Nigel Farage piñata — already beaten up from a party — that sat on the stage throughout the event.

Duffield, Rowson ... and Farage

Duffield, Rowson … and Farage

Ronald Searle was described by Martin Rowson as the greatest cartoonist of the 21st century.

Ronald Searle was described by Martin Rowson as the greatest
cartoonist of the 21st century. Photo © Andy Miller

Martin’s wide-ranging talk and slideshow covered the reasons we laugh at our so-called betters and ridicule them through drawings, taking in his own influences and his motivations behind drawing cartoons.

After the talk he was interviewed Rosie Duffield, who has put her own career as a satire writer on hold since becoming an MP.  The floor was then opened to questions.

At one point, cartoonists in the audience were heard chuckling at the often-asked “where do you get your ideas from?”

Martin Rowson is skewered by one of the HBCF pencils

Martin Rowson is skewered by one of the many HBCF pencils that
have appeared around the town over recent weeks.

An exhibition of Martin Rowson cartoons continues at the Bay Art Gallery in Herne Bay until Sunday 13 August.

 The piñata on the Pier

The piñata on the Pier. Pics © Jason Hollingsworth

The Farage piñata was shown a good time during the live cartooning day on the Pier the following day … before being stuffed with chips and thrown into the sea for the gulls to peck at.

We have more on the live event on the Pier on this blog. In the meantime you can see plenty of pictures by visiting @HBCartoonFest on Twitter or HBCartoonFest.

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

Profile photo of Royston

by Royston

Fifth Herne Bay Cartoon Festival begins

July 27, 2017 in Events, General, News

Herne Bay Cartoon Festival 2017 poster
[Poster by Chris Burke]

The fifth Herne Bay Cartoon Festival is under way, and this year the event features a change of venue for its main live event and a guest appearance by one of the UK’s top political cartoonists.

After four years at the town’s Bandstand, the live event will be held on the bustling Herne Bay Pier.

More than 20 of the UK’s top cartoonists will be there on Sunday 6 August from midday to draw big-board cartoons, seaside peep boards, caricatures and more. There will also be a few surprises and chances for the public to get involved with drawing.

The change of location has inspired the title of the main festival exhibition, The End of the Pier Show, which opened this week at the Beach Creative gallery and runs until Sunday 13 August.

An exhibition by the political cartoonist Martin Rowson also opened this week at the Bay Art Gallery. It also runs until Sunday 13 August.

Martin Rowson exhibition poster

Fresh from being described by the Daily Mail as “sick and disgusting”, Rowson will appear at the Kings Hall on Saturday 5 August, from 3pm-5pm, where he will be interviewed by Rosie Duffield, the first ever Labour MP for nearby Canterbury, wearing her other hat as a comedy writer and satirist.

Admission is free, but tickets can be reserved at Eventbrite.

Also open now at the Seaside Museum is the exhibition Cartoonists All At Sea, a selection of cartoons from the British Cartoon Archive in Canterbury, which runs until Sunday 10 September.

Cartoonists All at Sea poster

As has happened since the third festival, there will be a “fringe” event organised by Glenn Marshall. This year it is Mona Lisa – Not Happy, which sees the da Vinci painting “reworked, reimagined and regurgitated” by Marshall and other cartoonists and artists. The show opens at the One New Street gallery on Friday 4 August and runs until Saturday 2 September.

Mona Lisa Not Happy poster

Alongside the main show at Beach Creative, the festival also hosts Eaten Fish, an exhibition of work by cartoonists from all over the world supporting the plight of the Iranian cartoonist and political refugee known as Eaten Fish. He has been held at the Australian Detention Centre on Manus Island since 2013. The exhibition is in the gallery’s Rossetti Room until Sunday 13th August.

Eaten Fish poster

A key element of the End of the Pier Show exhibition — which features Steve Bell (Guardian), Dave Brown (Independent) and Jeremy Banx (Financial Times) alongside dozens of cartoonists seen in magazines such as Private Eye and The Spectator — are the “Fake Cartoons”, the festival cartoonists’ take on the fake news phenomenon that has emerged over recent years. Expect more than a few appearances by Donald Trump.

Trump Tweet cartoon by Nathan Ariss

To celebrate its fifth year, the festival is awarding a £250 cash prize, which it has dubbed the Paul Dacre Prize — after the Daily Mail editor who recently railed against a Rowson cartoon about the Finsbury Park Mosque attack, below — to the most provocative, unusual or offensive topical cartoon submitted for the exhibition.

Martin Rowson Firsbury Park Mosque attack cartoon

Workshops for budding cartoonists will also be held as part of the festival. Royston Robertson and Des Buckley host one at Beach Creative this Saturday (29 July) from 2.30pm-4pm.

And on Saturday 5 August, from 12-1.30pm, The Surreal McCoy will host the Eaten Fish Family Cartoon Workshop. Inspired by the Rossetti Room show it will be “a fishy exploration into all things fish”.

For updates on the Herne Bay Cartoon Festival, follow @HBCartoonFest on Twitter or go to

The cartoonists assemble at last year's Herne Bay Cartoon Festival

The cartoonists assemble at last year’s Herne Bay Cartoon Festival

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

Profile photo of Royston

by Royston

Cartoonists prepare to do battle

November 17, 2014 in Events, General, News


A team from the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation will once again take part in the Battle of the Cartoonists. (Cartoon above by Bill Stott)

The event is organised by the Campaign for Drawing, the people behind The Big Draw, and will take place at the Electrician’s Shop gallery, Trinity Buoy Wharf, in east London this Sunday (23 November) from 12pm-5pm. Admission is free.

Four teams, from Procartoonists, The Guardian, The Independent and Private Eye will each create huge banners on the theme of “Recording Britain Now” (click here for the full list of events on that theme).

The winner will be chosen by popular vote i.e. the team that gets the most cheers and applause. Banners from previous Battles over the past decade will be on display. Free cartoon workshops for all ages will also take place.

PCO members at work on Battle of the Cartoonists banners at Somerset House in 2006 ...

PCO members in the Battle of the Cartoonists at Somerset House 2006 …

... Covent Garden in 2007 ...

… Covent Garden 2007 …

... St Pancras Station in 2008 ...

… St Pancras Station 2008 …

... the Idea Generation gallery 2009 ...

… the Idea Generation gallery 2009 …

... Hay's Galleria 2010 ...

… Hay’s Galleria 2010 …

... and the V&A, 2012.

… and the V&A 2012.

Sir John Sorrell, a cartoon and drawing aficionado who was was publisher of The Cartoonist, the “cartoon newspaper”, will launch the event and will give a talk about the importance of visual satire.

The team line-ups are as follows (all teams feature Procartoonists members): Andy Davey, Jeremy Banx, Neil Dishington, Steve Way

Private Eye Henry Davies, Kathryn Lamb, Simon Pearsall, David Ziggy Greene

The Guardian Ros Asquith, Steve Bell, Ben Jennings, Kipper Williams

The Independent Dave Brown, Peter Schrank, David Simonds, Matt Buck

We wish all the teams the very best of luck!

Opinion: Cartoonists and a new world

November 19, 2013 in Comment, General, News

You are here ©

© Roger Penwill @

The internet is a perfect medium for cartoons. Images can look much more striking on a backlit screen than they ever did in muddy print.

So the news that The Sun was dropping Andy Davey’s weekday editorial cartoon slot just as it finally attempted a serious transition to digital first publication is ironic.

I am a member of an endangered species … the cartoonists. In fact, my small colony is a sub-sub-species – the few who actually (well, as I write) make a living from the practice. The fact is that habitat change is threatening us.”
Andy Davey in an article for E!Sharp magazine

(In a fitting footnote, E!Sharp magazine moved from print to digital with the loss of Davey’s regular cover illustration).

Newspapers have been shedding journalists, photographers and cartoonists by the hundredweight over the past few years, as their print revenues have shrivelled. Few papers have managed the transition to digital presence while finding an alternative online revenue stream.

Obfuscation about their digital revenue clouds the facts but the basic problem of converting casual digital readers into paying subscribers remains.

© Ger Whyman at

© Ger Whyman @

Publishing companies have tried two basic strategies. News UK papers The Times and The Sun are now both largely behind subscriber paywalls, amid huge tidal waves of PR and free giveaways. This was a a principled decision (nobody should work for nothing) but a rather brave one in a world where news and information is now free, instant and ubiquitous. The results are presently understood to be mixed.

The other model is the new-media idea that you give away your content and hope that spin-off merchandising and advertising revenue will flood in on the back of your increased global readership. Online services can be developed for a motivated and loyal crowd of customers.

© Dave Chisholm

© Dave Chisholm @

The Guardian has attempted to make itself into the best upmarket liberal global news brand in this fashion. The Daily Mail has morphed silently into a sort of daily global Hello! magazine, titillating the masses with its “Sidebar of Shame”, in the process becoming the most widely read digital newspaper worldwide.

Significantly, neither of these organisations have been over keen to reveal how much revenue this accrues  and how it stacks up against their legacy costs of business.

But publishing companies and newspapers as product form only a small patch of land in the shrinking traditional habitat of the cartoonist. Magazines used to be a source of welcome revenue for scribblers. However, the rates of pay have been slashed over the years to levels of vanity publication. Regular readers and subscribers to this blog will also know about the direct-to-audience efforts that many cartoonists have made in recent years.

© Matt Percival at

© Matt Percival @

The traditional confidence in the utility of our skills leads the Guardian cartoonist and PCO member Martin Rowson to characterise our trade as parasites. Once the carrier dies, “like any hideous sensible parasite, we’ll just jump off on to the next host”.

And there is some truth in this.

In Georgian times, cartoonists plied their trade by selling prints of their work in coffee shops. The radical coffee shop died a death as the prim Victorians arrived. Consequently, cartoonists jumped on to new hosts ushered in by advances in print – Punch and similar magazines.

Newspaper circulation wars in the 1900s then saw a race to hire cartoonists, providing a very welcome long-lived carrier for us parasites. The chronic morbidity of printed newspapers means we have to find a new habitat.

Ed adds: And, of course, many of us are adapting successfully. If you have comments about any of themes in this piece please do add them in comments.

The Round-up

December 22, 2012 in General, News

© Jamie Smart – @

They said it would be the end of the world, but they were wrong … The Dandy is still with us (albeit in digital form), as mentioned here last week. There is, however, a documentary on 75 years of the comic, Just Dandy, showing on BBC One on New Year’s Eve, featuring contributions from the likes of Frank Skinner, Brian Cox, Bill Paterson and Nick Park. The programme is only being shown in Scotland, sadly but perhaps it will turn up on the iPlayer.

Following on from last week’s series of articles in the New Statesman celebrating British comics, the Economist chips in with an article on the rise of the webcomic, whilst their editorial cartoonist Kevin ‘KAL’ Kallaugher reflects on 35 years of drawing for the magazine.

For another perspective on the state of British comics check out Dandy contributor Jamie Smart’s blog post “I love stupid comics”.

Less happily, The Guardian reports the death of its longtime cartoonist and illustrator Peter Clarke.


The Round-up

November 24, 2012 in General, Links, News

© Dave Walker

Dave Walker, regular contributor to Church Times and a member of, produced the cartoon above for The Guardian this week, following the Church of England’s decision to reject the ordination of women bishops. Dave’s cartoon has attracted more than 100 comments, and counting.

Having moved into greeting card designs, Matthew Inman – the cartoonist behind US website The Oatmeal – is being sued for trademark infringement. Inman was involved in another legal rights battle earlier in the year, against online content aggregator FunnyJunk. In that instance, FunnyJunk had been using Oatmeal material without permission – but bizarrely issued a lawsuit against Inman. Refresh your memory by reading our coverage of the case.

Darren Davis, the man behind independent comics publisher Bluewater Productions, is embracing a move into digital publishing, but is finding another side of the internet – online criticism – hard to take.

The New Yorker has published its third annual ‘bookazine’ cartoon compilation. The New Yorker Cartoons of the Year 2012 features more than 250 of the best gags that have run in the magazine this year, along with new material. No word yet on whether it will be distributed outside the US, but previous editions have made their way to the UK courtesy of discerning stockists including the London Review Bookshop.

Profile photo of Royston

by Royston

Big drawings from The Big Draw

October 2, 2012 in General

To spare you lots of pictures of cartoonists bending over tables and displaying their bald spots – with the exception of the Big Girls Drawers team, of course! – we present a selection of details from the seven banners in the Battle of the Cartoonists in the V&A’s Raphael Room. banner

The banner, a response to "The Sacrifice at Lystra", was created by William Rudling, Kate Scurfield, Guy Venables and Gerard Whyman

Private Eye banner

Private Eye drew "Paul Preaching at Athens". Banner by Martin Honeysett, Andrew Birch, Simon Pearsall and Henry Davies

The Private Eye team, captained by the non-playing Tony Rushton, emerged victorious once again.

Reader's Digest banner

Reader's Digest got "The Miraculous Draught of Fishes". Banner by Steve Way, Simon Meyrick-Jones, Nathan Ariss, Rob Murray and Royston Robertson

Big Girls Drawers banner

"The Healing of the Lame Man" by the Big Girls Drawers team of Chichi Parish, The Surreal McCoy, Kathryn Lamb and Rosie Brooks

Before the Battle, Rosie Brooks from the Big Girls Drawers team, who is also a member of, appeared on BBC Radio London to talk about The Big Draw and cartooning in general. You can hear it here.

Telegraph banner

The Telegraph team of Patrick Blower, Charles Peattie, Matthew Buck and John Springs took on "The Conversion of the Proconsul"

The Sun banner

"Christ's Charge to Peter" was drawn by The Sun team of Andy Davey, Clive Goddard and Tim Harries

The Sun team must be congratulated for getting by with just three cartoonists, compared to, say, the Reader’s Digest with five. The Battle of the Cartoonists is nothing if not an uneven playing field.

Guardian banner

"The Death of Ananias" was drawn by the Guardian/Observer team of Kipper Williams, Dave Simonds, Nicola Jennings and Harry Venning

Photographs by Gerard Whyman, Nikki Harries and Royston Robertson

Does my cartoon look big in this?

July 13, 2012 in General, News

If a cartoon is visual communication, legibility is key to every image that needs to use words. But technology can be disruptive, of course. And so, to The Guardian website for some proof:

Cartoon: Digital display of cartoon clip

Digital display of cartoon clip at The Guardian. Screengrab image is at 1:1

Reader reaction: I need a bigger cartoon for legibility

In a similar vein: What’s the point in employing a great cartoonist … ?

Reader reaction: Leave the cartoon off the digital version of the paper

Cartoonist responds: In detail

Why is this happening?

When the internet was young, pictures used to be displayed in very small shapes. This was usually to keep bandwidth demands low so that your dial-up modem could cope. You could compare this technique to the great expense of paper at the start of the age of print.

Now, the bandwidth that enables digital communication is much bigger, with broadband, and picture sizes have grown as a result. And not just in the physical dimensions of width and height. This also applies to the amount, or weight, if you prefer, of information inside each image you see. This applies to image display on the web, on your mobile phone or perhaps now on your tablet PC.

Detail, commonly stored as picture resolution, or dots (of data) per inch has increased massively and this potentially allows download of print quality imagery direct from the web. Of course, this is both a marvellous opportunity (Big cartoons, yay!) and a problem (Easier to nick, boo!)

Cartoonists might think about their own behaviour, if they distribute images by web, by noting how each third-party provider they use deals with image resolution. Of course, the simplest way to do this is to manage the resolution at the traditional 72 dots per inch before you supply to any other production house.

Downloading of artwork is an old problem that we have written about before. There are tools you can use to control unbidden usage of your work. And we have a short series of posts on some of these tools coming up.

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