Thursday, 27 October 2011

Grit, Crabs & Blobs

This week’s newspaper stories consisted of grit, crabs and blobs - with an added dash of Vikings.
Grit first. Having been marooned in the frozen wastes two winters ago, Troutbeck residents have got together and bought their own gritting machine. It seems everyone is anticipating a harsh winter. Good topic, but I pitched a grit cartoon last week and didn’t have anything new to say. Moving on …
Another Viking horde of gold and precious stones has been found locally by a metal detector enthusiast. (Aside: There must be a better word for them than metal detectorists, which is becoming prevalent. Detectoraks?). Again, I’ve tackled a similar story not so long ago, so only had one idea to pitch for this.
An alien crab has been found in the Duddon Estuary. The Chinese Mitten Crab is apparently a menace and highly invasive. Keep a look out in case you see one scuttling down a river near you.
And finally … the blobs. Walkers in Patterdale spotted these glutinous invaders, took some pics, wrote a blob blog and the story went global. The UK tabloids speculated that it might be an alien life form, brought here by meteorites (this is because UK tabloids assume their readers have the intellectual capacity of a fern). After testing, the blobs turned out to contain stag semen. So either the aliens are humping the local wildlife or the explanation is more prosiac.
Below you can see the ideas I pitched to my esteemed editor. Only one made it to the front page. I think you can all guess which one didn’t. To see which did, rush out and buy a copy of The Westmorland Gazette or visit my website from Friday morning.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Socks & the Countryside

The Lake District is an upmarket, aspirational landscape.
We know this because the advertising tells us so. The first time I encountered the phrase, it was used in Creative Review magazine about a Land Rover advert, being shot at Tarn Hows. Prior to that, I hadn’t considered Tarn Hows to be upmarket or aspirational. Or Land Rovers, come to that. Clearly, I was deluded.
The latest advertising campaign to be shot in the Lakes is for Sock Shop, purveyors of woollen footwear at railway stations. Again, I didn’t know socks were upmarket and aspirational but I suppose it depends who is wearing them. And where.
This was one of the stories to greet the cartoonist’s eye at The Westmorland Gazette this week. The other which leapt out was a tale of grit. Specifically, the lack of it last winter and the Council’s attempts to stockpile it for this. Apparently, it’s going to be a harsh, upmarket, aspirational winter in the Lakes this year.
The sketches for these two stories are below. I presented them to my upmarket, aspirational editor and you can see which one he chose on the front of this week’s newspaper. Or you you can view it in colour to my upmarket, inspirational website.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Lines from the Liars' League

The Society of Authors held its Authors North autumn meeting in Manchester over the weekend and it proved to be one of the most exhilarating and inspiration events we’ve run. 
Authors North head honcho, Clare Dudman, has given a splendid write up on her blog. As she explained, Saturday was rounded off with something rather unusual; an evening with the Liars’ League. This group of professional actors perform short stories by writers from around the world. It’s a unique opportunity to hear how your work will play in front of a live audience. As they say on their website: Writers write, actors read, audience listens, everybody wins.
Imagine the scene: A crowded upstairs room in a characterful Manchester pub, an actor takes the stage. The audience is held spellbound …
And for a cartoonist, a spellbound audience means one thing - an ideal opportunity for some unobtrusive sketching …

To see what the Liars' League are up to next, click here.
To see what everyone said about the weekend on Twitter, search for #authorsnorth or follow:

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Millionaire's Pudding Club

This week's Westmorland Gazette newspaper cartoon is all about a pudding.

Not any old pudding. Not even a Queen of Puddings. It is a £22,000 Emperor's New Clothes of a pudding. 

No, I didn't fall asleep with my nose on the zero key. It costs £22,000. 

It's a cynical marketing exercise exclusive dessert whipped up by the chef of the Lindeth Howe Hotel, which is in Windermere, famous for it's deranged, millionaire holiday trade. Styled like a Faberge Egg (i.e. disgusting) it is apparently the world's most expensive pudding. Ingredients include edible gold, champaign caviar and a two-carat diamond. I'm not sure if the £22,000 includes the dentist bill when you crunch on the diamond.

Below you can see my thoughts on the pudding, in the form of sketches submitted for the front page cartoon. To see the one picked, rush out and buy a copy of the Gazette or visit my website from Friday morning.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Illustrated Finale pt 2

From 6.00 p.m. BST today I'll be illustrating the winning lines in The Society of Authors Twitter short story Grand Finale.

Neil Gaiman's opening line will be posted at 6 p.m. BST. Using the #soatale search tag, you can tweet a suggested next line until 6.30 (you can have as many goes as you like). I'll illustrate the opening line on this blog and it will appear shortly after 6.30.

At 7.00 the winning line goes up and again, when entries close at 7.30, I'll post an illustration. The final line goes live at 10.00l. Good luck and I hope I illustrate one of  YOUR lines!

You can see the results from this morning's Twitterthon here.

Neil Gaiman's FIRST LINE :  "Quick," he said. "Drink." The nightmare tasted like velvet and purple and volcanoes in her mouth. She sipped, and reality dissolved. #SoAtale

LINE 2 FROM @valmote : He repeated the ritual again until all 7 were under. No one putting up a fight. He wasn't surprised. This is what they paid him for. 

LINE 3 FROM  @Gem_Clair  :  Pocketing their cash, he took his real pay before they woke; a memory, a fear, a touch of desire from the girl. He drank them in. #SoAtale

LINE 4 FROM  @doug_said :  Suddenly the remembrance of a long-forgotten flavor touched his soul. Pained, he looked at her more closely. #soatale

FINAL LINE FROM  @janjonesauthor :  #SoAtale She didn't move. An Adept of the Nine Realms didn't have to. She opened her terrible mind and drank him in. And she laughed.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Illustrated Finale

From 11 a.m. BST on today I'll be illustrating the winning lines in The Society of Authors Twitter short story Grand Finale.

Neil Gaiman's opening line will be posted at 11 a.m. BST. Using the #soatale search tag, you can tweet the next line until 11.30. Whilst the judges are judging, I'll illustrate the opening line here.

At 12.00 the winning line goes up and again, when entries close at 12.30, I'll post an illustration. The final line goes live at 3.00 so there are 5 lines and 5 illustrations in all. Good luck and I hope I illustrate one of YOUR lines!

The FIRST LINE:  I didn't expect the God of Thunder to live in Clapham. I definitely didn't expect to learn it from a card in a newsagent's window. #SoAtale

2nd LINE by Naomi_Adams: He opened the door unshaved wearing one sock, and a pair of pants as silent lightning streaked across the blackened sky. #soatale

'3rd LINE by @Laura_E_James : Flu,' he mumbled. 'Bad head. Shh.' I walked in and waited for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. 'There.' He pointed. I looked. #soatale

4th LINE by @will_lefleming :Strewn across the floor: leather breastplates and swords. A pair of wings hanging by the stairs. 'You know what to do,' he said #soatale

5th & LAST LINE by @stroodlights He told me of the curse,but who cares about that when you're the new Thunder God? I soared, and filled the sky with fire and music. #soatale

GRAND FINALE PART 2 - Join the Society of Authors again at 6pm tonight for the start of the SECOND short story by Neil Gaiman. And I'll be back here doing cartoons of the winning lines.

Short Story, Big Campaign

Last week authors from all over the world collaborated on a short story with Joanne HarrisThe week before, they worked on one by Simon Brett. And before that, Sarah Waters and  Ian RankinWhy have these world-renowned writers sought co-authors?
The BBC have  decided to cut back on the number of short stories broadcast on Radio 4, in order to make room for news. They will drop from five a week to one. More news is obviously just what we need, rather than diversity, an opportunity to stretch our imaginations or, perish the thought, a chance to relax.
The cutback reduces even further the number of outlets for an endangered art form. The Radio 4 spot exposes short stories to the maximum possible audience. And it exposes the Radio 4 audience to a wide range of viewpoints, voices and imagination.
There is a vigorous campaign to oppose the cuts and at the forefront of the protest is The Society of AuthorsAs part of the campaign, for the past five weeks the SoA has been running a weekly Twitterthon
Each Wednesday morning, at 11 a.m. BST, the SoA posts an opening line written by a famous writer. Twitternautes have 30 minutes to compose the next line. A jury of wise authors then picks the winning line. At 12 noon, that line goes up and the story continues.
There are five lines in all so each story is succinct, punchy and can shoot off in any direction. Last week’s certainly did. The bedroom clown scene was all my fault.
Entries are coming in from all over the globe. UK and French media outlets have written about the Tweetathon and Stephen Fry is tweeting about it to his 6 billion followers. And from 19th October the winning entries will be read out by actors Brenda Blethyn, Bill Nighy, Maureen Lipman and Hugh Bonneville.
The campaign is already having results with BBC Radio 4 executing a partial u-turn, by doubling the proposed number of weekly short stories from one to …um… two.
It all ends tomorrow with a grand finale. The guest writer will be offering two opening lines - at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. (North American writers and those who sleep in, please note).
And the writer will be … TADAA! … Neil Gaiman. Expect the unexpected.
On a personal note, I've always had an ambition to illustrate a Neil Gaiman story so I’ll be blogging a cartoon for each winning line as it is posted on Twitter. 
To join in and collaborate with Neil, follow The Society of Authors on Twitter and use/include the #soatale tag in your tweets.
And when you’ve done, go sign the petition and fight the cuts.

To read more about the grand finale, go here
To read the stories so far, see here

Friday, 7 October 2011

BBC Goes Radio Gaga

Yesterday the BBC announced it’s cuts to slash 20 percent it’s operating costs. The cuts cover a wide range of broadcasting and a lot of staff are going to suffer. The Beeb has a lot of waste, so doubtless some cuts were necessary. But one of the more indefensible was the decision to eviscerate BBC local radio .
As part of the cuts, my local station, BBC Radio Cumbria will now have local content only at peak hours, relying on relaying Radio 4 during the evening. I am not sure how much this will save but I doubt it will be much, in the general scheme of cutbacks. Even across all the local radio stations, it probably will only just equal the salaries of a couple of big name stars on BBC1.
To the local community, however, the cut is going to have much more impact. The whole reason for the existence of local radio (apart from the BBC planting it’s foot somewhere before commercial radio got a toehold) is the local community. It supports the station, listens to it, gets breaking news from it and interacts with it. During the 2001 foot and mouth crisis, Radio Cumbria was breaking news of national interest, scooping  bigger stations and giving a ground-eye view on how the outbreak was effecting people who live and work in the area. It was local radio at its best and Radio Cumbria deservedly got an award for it.
The decision to cut back the station has left me feeling a bit cross. You may be able to tell. I'm not the only one. Our redoubtable local MP has waded in with his support and there are campaigns on Facebook and Twitter.
The Beeb will have spent nearly £1b relocating staff and production facilities from London to Manchester in a bid to be less London-centric and support the regions. Then it saves £5.3m by cutting local radio programming to rebroadcast Radio 4 from London. Brilliant.
According to the Telegraph, the BBC has 382 staff earning more than £100,000 a year. 100 of its senior staff get a salary totalling more than £20m a year. 
So perhaps the BBC should preserve BBC local radio's distinctive voice and look elsewhere for its cutbacks. Here are a few suggestions. I'm sure you can think of more

1. Fiona Bruce is nice to look at but, frankly, so is the virtual assistant on my online insurance site and I'm sure she could read out the news just as well.
2. Andrew Marr is reputed to earn £600,000 a year. Perhaps it would be cheaper to get someone less well-known to do one weekly radio show, a Sunday TV programme and annoy viewers by getting in the way of the scenery on an occasional documentary series.
3. Switch off Radio 1 between midnight and 6 a.m., when most of its listeners are out clubbing or looting anyway.
4. Stop making pointless and expensive adverts for BBC programmes which we were either going to watch or avoid anyway. A list onscreen would do.
5. Sack the person who thinks it is a good idea to talk all over the end credits of TV programmes.
6. The BBC director general’s salary could go back down to what it was when Greg Dyke was an arguably more popular and adept DG. That £400,000 would be very welcome in local radio.
7. Switch off daytime TV. Students should be out doing part-time jobs to pay back their student loans.
8. Do we really need 24 hour news on television? Really? Can't the less attractive newsreaders get jobs doing something else?
9. There are fast food outlets everywhere. Do we really need 478,000 cookery programmes a week?
10. Downsize the department which thinks up BBC job titles like Head of Brand Guardianship, Content Manager (Culture), Controller of Multi-Platform and Portfolio (£177,000 annual salary), Solutions Architect, Change Management Leader and Director of Audiences.