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Phil Gillam: Shrewsbury all set for cartoon capers

Phil Gillam | Published:

George Orwell once observed: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

'Quiet and Ugly Coaches' by Bill Stott. … Shrewsbury is going cartoon crazy

And so, it followed, that the South African political cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (known as Zapiro) who, during the years of the Apartheid system, satirically challenged the authorities, was arrested and detained for 11 days, his work being suppressed by the reigning political force.

When interrogated by the security police, they asked him why he drew them as pigs.

He answered: “I draw what I see.”

Thankfully, we find ourselves not in the South Africa of the 1980s, but in England in 2018, and it is unlikely that any practitioners of the art will be arrested at Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival this weekend.

That’s not to say the festival – in the town’s Square on Saturday – will be devoid of controversial images, challenging doodles and politically-charged sketches. Cartooning is a broad church and, doubtless, pictures to appeal to every taste will be on show.

There will be cartoons from America, Ireland and Belgium, as well as home-grown works. You’ll also be able to enjoy live music, and fun workshops.

On Friday evening, radio presenter Alex Lester will be hosting a panel discussion (at The Wightman Theatre, just off The Square, 7.30pm) with a group of important cartoonists – Jeremy Banx (Private Eye, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal), Wilbur Dawbarn (The Beano, Private Eye, The Spectator), Royston Robertson (Private Eye, Readers Digest, Sunday Times) The Surreal McCoy (The Spectator, Readers Digest, Sunday Times) and Ken Krimstein (The New Yorker, Havard Business Review).

They’ll be asked a series of searching questions including “Can cartoonists find humour in anything?”

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One of the event’s organisers, Tim King, said: “The annual Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival brings a small army of professional cartoonists from all over the UK and overseas to draw for the public.

"The event draws a huge audience every year, with live drawing of giant cartoons in Shrewsbury Town Square as its centrepiece, alongside live caricaturing by some of the UK’s top professionals. There are also cartoon workshops for aspiring cartoonists and exhibitions of themed cartoons.

"The festival presents a unique opportunity for the public see cartoonists at work, meet them in person and learn some tricks of the trade. It’s a brilliant day!”

Among the participating cartoonists this year is Glenn Marshall who says of himself: "I’m a cartoonist and illustrator, mostly doing topical cartoons for publications such as Private Eye, The Spectator, The Oldie, Punch etc. I’ve also done regular weekly strips for the broadcast and media trade press, as well as having a short stint writing for Spitting Image. At present I’m trying to get some scripts for satirical short films off the ground and I’m taking a six-month online course on ‘How to Draw Noses’."

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There’s also Jonathan Cusick. He is a caricaturist and cartoon illustrator who has worked for The Times, New Statesman, The Spectator, Daily Express, Independent on Sunday, The Week and over 75 issues of the Radio Times. He has also produced striking book covers for QI, Random House and advertising for the Netflix blockbuster drama House of Cards, Virgin Money, The Guardian, and Cadbury’s chocolate. Celebs who’ve bought his caricatures of themselves include Brian May, Michael Parkinson and Heston Blumenthal.

Oh, and don’t forget the Cartoon Festival S-Mile Trail … your chance to stroll across town and s-mile away a mile by visiting participating premises to enjoy cartoons on show there, including Tanners Wines, the Stop Cafe at Greyfriars Bridge, The Shrewsbury Cobbler, Cafe On The Cop, Salopian Sports, Write Here, the OMH, Shrewsbury market stalls, The Foundry in Theatre Severn, Music Bros, Pengwern Books, Shrewsbury Coffee House, and many others from Mardol and Roushill and Frankwell to Fish Street and Dogpole, and from The Parade to Castle Street.

The town is going cartoon-crazy!

Clearly, there’s a heck of a lot of talent heading for the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival. But you’ll have to be quick on the draw not to miss it!

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