Thursday, 24 November 2011

Bothered and beleaguered

Last week, the Westmorland Gazette's front page lead was an exciting story about a Morecambe Bay NHS Trust whistleblower who was calling for the head of the Trust to resign.
It is not the sort of story to go away and in the intervening week the colostomy bags have really hit the fan.
The NHS Trust executive in question has refused to resign. A local GP claims that staff are too frightened to speak out. And local MP, Tim Farron, has been swamped with similar complaints about the Trust.
As Private Eye has extensively reported, whistleblowers are not exactly flavour of the month at the NHS. There has even a website set up especially to preserve their anonymity when disclosing information to the press. And given that the local whistleblower in question has identified a specific individual, it’s a fun-packed legal minefield for a newspaper cartoonist.
However, not one to be daunted, here are the sketches I pitched for this week’s front page cartoon. 
Number 4, you’ll notice, isn’t about the NHS; a twinning scheme has been set up to highlight the lack of public toilets in third world areas like Grasmere and Bowness. This was offered as a backup in case the other three attracted too many legal problems.
You can see which cartoon made the front page by buying the Gazette or visiting my website after 3pm today.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

A Matter of Trust

Last week I remarked that my newspaper sometimes presents me with a range of stories competing for the front page cartoon. At other times, it’s got to be the front page lead. 
This week’s Westmorland Gazette has a splendid lead story: A consultant who works for the Morecambe Bay Hospitals Trust has condemned the Trust’s governing body, saying that none of the staff have any confidence in them. The Trust is more interested in ticking boxes and hitting government-set targets than actually looking after patients.
Damning stuff, made all the more exciting by the fact that the consultant wants to remain anonymous - NHS Trusts don’t have a good record for their treatment of whistle-blowers.
Usually I get three hours to work on the cartoon, from initially reading the stories to finished artwork, scanned and emailed to the sub-editors in Blackburn. Yesterday that was down to two hours - the story was still being written and - I imagine - was being slowed down by having to be run past the Newsquest lawyers.
Below you can see the four ideas I pitched to the editor. The chosen cartoon is, even now, on the front of The Westmorland Gazette … or pop over to my website on Friday, where you will be able to see it in colour.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Overground, underground …

Ideally a blog about a newspaper cartoon would focus on the headline story from the front page. It would explain carefully the essence of the story and then offer a dazzling array of sketches, all taking a different line of attack to arrive at the final, finished cartoon.

And then there’s the real world …

This week’s Westmorland Gazette front page features two stories which aren’t suitable for a cartoon. Within the paper there are several stories which offer potential. Here’s a swift rundown, so you have some idea of what I’m burbling about this week:

1. A new indoor climbing wall opens, the tallest in Britain.

2. A cave system has been opened up which links Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire (potholers and troglodytes rejoice).

3. Cumbria Crystal has some of its products featured on hit ITV drama series Downton Abbey.

4. The rout is announced for the 2012 Olympic Torch. It involves a lake cruise on Windermere.

Suitably armed with this information, I now invite you to peruse the five sketches. Feel free to declare which one you think should have been on the front page. You can see if you’re correct by buying the paper or visiting my website from Friday morning.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Round the Houses

Several houses and two stories vied to be the subject of this week’s Westmorland Gazette front page cartoon.
The first involved a tree house. A resident of Hincaster has built a splendid tree house, much enjoyed by local children. It’s in his own garden, no trees were harmed and no one objected. Until, that is, the South Lakeland District Council spotted it. 
They despatched their Arboreal Recreation Surveillance Executive (ARSE) to sneak into the garden, take pictures and issue the owners with a Take It Down At Once notice. Good heavens, we can’t have children playing safely in their garden; they should be out in the street where they belong, indulging in wholesome activities like rioting and looting.
The second house story is just as depressing. Fifty years ago Kendal had 347 public houses, along with 72 inns, 49 houses of ill-repute and 19 mint cake factories (editor’s note: figures obtained from the internet so they’re bound to be right). Today the number of pubs has dwindled dramatically and more pubs look set to close. Publicans blame high rents, competition and having to buy beer from their brewery at inflated prices.
Below you can see the four ideas I pitched to the editor. As usual, these are delivered in scruffy sketch form. The chosen cartoon is a thing of artistic beauty and you can see it on the front page of today’s Gazette. Alternatively, sashay over to my website on Friday morning and it will dazzle you in colour.