Friday, 27 April 2012


It is always a worrying sign when a building is described as 'iconic'. That usually means the architect is in show-off mode and to hell with the surrounding environment.

So this week's front page story for The Westmorland Gazette was of considerable interest. The Low Wood Hotel wishes to build an iconic conference centre, right on the shores of Lake Windermere. Not just any old iconic, but green and iconic.

Here are the cynical sketches I submitted to my esteemed editor. Which one graces the front page of the newspaper? Click here to find out.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Save some other planet

This week's Westmorland Gazette had three stories which caught my cartoon eye: A gold hoard found by someone with a metal detector, the discovery of a 40-year old Kendal Mint Cake and another wind farm plan.

I dealt with the first two by pretty much mashing them together, then turned my attention to the wind farm story. After the visit to the Edinburgh Science Festival last week, I now have a slightly different perspective on this.

Here are the sketches I submitted to the editor. Visit my website and you can see which one made it onto the front page of today's newspaper.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

London Book Fair 2012 final sketches

A final set of sketches from the 2012 London Book Fair. Thanks to all my unintended victims. Models! I meant to say models.

London Book Fair 2012 day 2 sketchbook

If anything, day two of the London Book Fair was even busier than the first. Sadly the Elsevier stand didn't seem to have cakes and I didn't spot any free wine. Apart from that, I had a blast.

The hot rumour of the Book Fair was that someone had been spotted with his nose a Book, rather than an iPhone or iPad. 

In between meetings, I kept a sharp eye out for this mythical figure whilst wielding sketchbook and pen …

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

London Book Fair 2012 sketches

The London Book Fair, the greatest gathering of publishers, agents, authors, illustrators, would-be authors and white rabbits in the UK. Here are a few sketches in my new role as Cartoonist by Royal Appointment to the Red Queen …

Monday, 16 April 2012

Edinburgh Science Festival 7 - Beginner's Guide to Climate Change

This is the 7th in a series of blogs from the Edinburgh International Science Festival. Myself and six other bloggers have been writing about the event during the fortnight.
Professor Richard Wiseman has cropped up a lot during the Science Festival. In addition to MC-ing the firewalking and hosting the comedy evening, he’s presented a series of Beginner’s Guides to various topics. “My role is to pretend that I know nothing, whereas in truth, of course, I am an expert in all these topics,” he said by way of introduction.

My final blogging event was the Beginner’s Guide to Climate Change, in which Richard interviewed the first professor of carbon capture, Stuart Heszeldine.

Stuart is a geologist and he began by introducing us to the concept of deep time, the geological timescales measured in hundreds of millions of years. Over this period, the Earth’s climate cycles between hot and cold temperatures; we’re currently in a minima. This gives climate change sceptics the opportunity to say that climate variation is natural, conveniently ignoring that this variation takes place over ten million years or so.
Real climate change, the sort we’ve initiated, is happening much faster. We’ve taken 400 million years of stored CO2 - stored in fossil fuels - and released it back into the atmosphere in a mere 200 years. There’s no end to fossil fuel use and the climate is changing at an increasing pace.
There will be several results:
The temperature is climbing 

The ocean is becoming more acidic

Sea levels will rise 1 to 5 metres
Populations will start to migrate and resource wars will increase

Globally, there will be a lower standard of living

Climate change has happened before; in fact, it may have been behind 5 previous world-wide mass extinctions. We could be heading for the 6th.

Richard Wiseman was an excellent interviewer, teasing out the facts, allowing Stuart to explain the science and the implications. He managed to keep it upbeat, but the take-home message was clear: We need to do something now. Politicians need to treat climate change as a priority. We’re the ones to make them.
The Beginner’s Guide to Climate Change left me shaken. My view of the world has changed as a result of it. And that’s the power of the Edinburgh Science Festival.

Edinburgh Science Festival 6 - Thinking Robots

This is the 6th in a series of blogs from the Edinburgh International Science Festival. Myself and six other bloggers have been writing about the event during the fortnight.

Robots, scientists, cartoonist - they go together naturally. So although it wasn’t on my original list from the Festival organisers, The Thinking Robot was a talk I was keen to attend.
It was given by Professor Alan Winfield and was refreshingly straightforward and pragmatic. 
 Taking a scale of animal intelligence, he argued that the most advanced robots today would be somewhere near the bottom, below cockroaches and senior Tory politicians (actually he didn’t mention the Tory politicians).
He offered four types of intelligence:
1. Morphological - the body’s own natural reactions and balanced structure

2. Swarm intelligence - the emergent property visible in bees or flocks of starlings
3. Individual - the ability which enabes an individual to learn by trial and error
4. Social - learning from each other.
Whereas an animal may show two or more types of intelligence, individual the best robots so far can only manage one of them.
Along with discussing the moral and philosophical implications, Alan showed films of several robots which, frankly, I wouldn’t allow in the house. The exhibited the ‘uncanny valley’ effect - one side is cartoon-like, the other is human-like; somewhere in between is the weird, neither one-thing-or-the-other zone guaranteed to creep you out.
It looks like it’s going to be a while before we get the robot butler

Edinburgh Science Festival 5 - Fixing the Planet

This is the 5th in a series of blogs from the Edinburgh International Science Festival. Myself and six other bloggers have been writing about the event during the fortnight.

Climate change. Like many of you, I’d been aware of the worries, vaguely cogniscent of the science and had a hazy impression of the timescales involved.
Well, there’s nothing like getting up close and personal with the scientists involved to change all that. Now I’m definitely worried.
The first Edinburgh Science Festival climate change event I attended was panel featuring Jim Hansen, Stuart Haszeldine, Saran Sohi, Gary Clark and Richard Yemm. (Follow the links to see their respective specialities - and I particularly recommend Jim Hansen’s.) Each speaker gave a five minute presentation and then took questions. Some fascinating information emerged - Scotland seems to be at the forefront of renewables, with 30% of energy currently sourced that way. The way some of the speakers put it, having kicked started the industrial revolution with James Watt, it was Scotland’s duty to lead the way into the second, carbon-neutral industrial revolution.
But it was a mixture of upbeat and gloom. James Hansen in particular argued that politicians don’t lead, they react - it’s up to the public to reclaim democracy from big industry lobbyists and get something done before it was too late. He argued for a carbon tax and a move to 4th generation nuclear power - the others were more keen on energy efficiency and renewables.
The event was sobering. It featured too many speakers to be truly coherent and questions had to be grouped to get through them all. Even so, it overran. But it was a good overview - and a prelude to the climate change event the following day, which was even more alarming. But for that, you’ll have to wait for Edinburgh Science Blog 7.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Edinburgh Science Festival 4 - Comedy

This is the 4th in a series of blogs from the Edinburgh International Science Festival. Myself and six other bloggers have been writing about the event during the fortnight.

It’s been a frustrating week. The Edinburgh Science Festival has been on and I’ve been elsewhere! However on Wednesday I remedied this and returned for an evening of maths, science and humour.

The first event was The Maths Olympics by Simon Pampena (click the links to watch part of the show or follow Simon on Twitter). This proved to contain less maths than I’d have liked and a little too much Ozzie shouting. He basically used number-crunching to prove that Oz was Top At Everything. The Q&A at the end was more fun, especially as someone had spotted a mistake in one of his slides. It’s not often you hear a heckle about 2-dimensional venn diagrams.

Afterwards I attended Humour Me, in which psychologist Richard Wiseman, evolutionary biologist Robin Dunbar and stand-up comedian Robin Ince debated the psychology and evolution of humour. This was fascinating: Laughter and singing preceded speaking - how do we know? The structure of the chest cavity and lungs in fossil remains. Chimps laugh by inhaling and exhaling, whereas we laugh with one, long exhalation.

Laughter is a social bonding thing and we are much more likely to laugh if we do it in a group of four or more. Not many people laugh alone. Which makes me speculate about those of us who do laugh alone - does the ability to find something funny and then wish to communicate that to others predispose you towards getting involved in comedy professionally.

The evening was enlivened at one point by a woman who criticised the fact that there were no women on the panel. Richard Wiseman tried to damp down this protest but Robin Ince’s reaction was interesting - he was all for inviting her up on stage to join in.

The talk featured several clips to illustrate points about comedy. One clip from Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore’s 1960s TV series, apparently divides audiences straight down the middle - you either love it or hate it. I loved it and have since discovered it’s even funnier if you watch it without other people around!

I would have liked to have heard more from Robin Dunbar on the science and research into comedy - particularly his work with primates - but otherwise it was a cracking evening. Science and comedy; what’s not to like?

Here are a few sketches from the Maths Olympics:

Monday, 9 April 2012

Edinburgh Science Festival 3 - An afternoon at the Museum

This is the 3rd in a series of blogs from the Edinburgh International Science Festival. Myself and six other bloggers will be writing about the event during the fortnight.

One of the themes of the Edinburgh Science Festival is climate change. From volcanoes and earthquakes to flooding and weird weather … well, we had some of that in the city itself last week.

After a lovely, sunny Monday, Tuesday's weather did a 180 degree turn and provided rain, sleet, hail, sunshine and snow. Usually all within an hour and it continued for most of the day. That's all the excuse I needed to meet up with fellow Science Festival blogger Kate Adamson for a coffee and then head off to spend the afternoon at the National Museum of Scotland with a sketchbook. 

Here are some of the results: