Thursday, 31 January 2013

Nuclear Dumped

For several months now, there have been constant rumblings about a plan to site an underground nuclear waste facility in the UK. In an odd move, our beloved government asked councils to bid to host the facility. 
The rush was underwhelming and it came down to two - Allerdale and Copeland - both on the west coast of Cumbria.
Anti-nuclear campaigners called it a nuclear waste dump and said it would ruin the image of the Lake District, ignoring that Sellafield has been storing and managing nuclear waste in Cumbria for over 50 years.
Yesterday, Cumbria County Council voted no to the plan, overruling the district councils of Allerdale and Copeland, who were rather more keen on the idea (and the jobs).
Given the above, I was keen to tackle this story for my front-page Westmorland Gazette newspaper cartoon. You can see the ideas below, each of which was submitted to my steamed editor.
Which would you choose? Will you pick the same one as the editor to win this week’s star prize?* Vote in the comments and then sashay over to my website to find out if you were right.

* A stick of genuine Lake District rock which glows suspiciously in the dark.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Tour de Hawes

A veritable avalanche of good cartoon stories in The Westmorland Gazette this week.

For a start, a local hairdresser is a hit on Channel 4's Come Dine With Me show.  (If you haven't seen it, this a show where people you don't know go round to the houses of people they don't like and eat food which they are then rude about.)

The Tour de France is coming to the Yorkshire Dales National Park. (I was banned from doing any performance-enhancing jokes for this one, including ones about Wensleydale cheese.)

The local anti-nuke brigade are hopping mad. 

Sorry, I finished that sentence early. 

The local anti-nuke brigade are hopping mad that Cumbria Tourism is being carefully neutral about the prospect of a managed nuclear facility in Cumbria. Sorry again; nuclear waste dump. Ironically, another group has been set up to try and overcome the resistance to the proposed Killington wind farm.

And finally, one of the UK's last independent record stores is finally closing down, citing competition from music downloads as the cause.

Here are the sketches. Below is the comments box. Vote now!

The blow over to my website and see if you picked the right cartoon.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Catching Up

These are the cartoon sketches from last week's Westmorland Gazette newspaper cartoon. The stories were an interesting bunch:

An international cartoon festival is being stage in Kendal (see my blog about it here).

A couple were rescued and airlifted by helicopter to local hospital after falling down a railway embankment during an 'amorous encounter'.

More snow forecast to arrive at the weekend (it didn't).

More on the Honister Zipwire.

And finally, the local council makes a mistake on disabled parking charges and is forced to pay it all back.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival

I have some news for you. You may want to sit down for this:
Kendal is going to have a Comic Art Festival.
I’ll say that again in case you missed it. In fact, I’ll say it in bold with a bigger font and exclamation marks:

Kendal is going to have a Comics Art Festival!!!

The first Lakes International Comic Art Festival takes place on October 18-20, 2013 and will be centred on Kendal. The aim is to make the auld grey town an international comic book venue to rival the likes of AngoulĂȘme and Comiket.
Given that these two festivals receive 200,000 and half a million visitors respectively, this may seem a tall order. But everyone has to start somewhere and, judging from the launch at The Brewery last night, this one is off to a flying start.
The driving force behind it is Julie Tait, who also works with Lakes Alive. Festival founding patrons are ace comic artist Sean Phillips 
and Bryan and Mary Talbot, whose graphic novel, Dotter of her Father’s Eyes, won the biography category in this year’s Costa Awards.

Comic books (or graphic novels if you live in Hampstead) are coming of age in the UK. The broadsheets have been telling us this every two years for the last decade, so it must be true. Across the Channel, bande dessinée has been a strong force on the French cultural scene for many decades, where one in three books sold is a comic book. No one looks down at a comic book fan, let alone someone who does squiggly drawings for a living.

Comic books today are more than Dan Dare or The Beano writ large. They can deal with any subject under the sun, up to and including current conflicts abroad. They are imaginative, enthralling, exciting and inspirational. So it’s surprising that the UK - the spiritual originator of cartoons and comic art with the likes of Hogarth and Rowlandson - has never had a comic book festival. Good grief, we’ve only had a cartoon museum for ten years and we invented the cartoon!
Julie and her team hope to set that straight. It sounds like the event is going to be awash with big names, from the UK and abroad, both in the graphic novel and cartoon fields. There are going to be family events, trading stalls, talks and drawing. Lots and lots of drawing.
As you can tell, I am in no small measure quite excited by this. So much so, I’m going to have to go and have a lie down.
To find out more, see today’s national media or zap across to their website at
You can also follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest and if all that fails, ace comic book blogger John Freeman will have all the info at
And I’ll be posting regular updates here and on my Twitter feed. 'Natch.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Museum Piece

Occasionally a story comes along which gets me cross.
Okay, it’s more than occasionally. But it’s not always in the pages of The Westmorland Gazette. When it is, my front page gives me the privelage of being able to let rip about it.
One such story appears this week. Honister Slate Mine (slate mine, notice - this is important) has, for some time, been campaigning to be allowed to instal a zip-wire attraction. Cue cries of outrage from Friends of the Lakes, Chums of the Fells and Dodgy Uncles of the Peaks. It would despoil an otherwise … um, already man-made landscape (see Slate Mine earlier).
The second application for the zip-wire has just been turned down, despite a lot of support - not least from mountaineer Chris Bonington. Sir Chris was also, until yesterday, secretary of Friends of the Lakes but was so annoyed at their opposition to the proposal that he resigned.
I hate the preserve-the-countryside-in-aspic tendencies of the English and regard with deep distrust any retreat into tradition or history to bolster an argument. So I was happy to have a go at the story and didn't feel any need to be impartial.
As it was a fair bet the story would be in the Gazette this week, a few people joined in on Twitter. The last of this sequence of ideas was contributed by photographer Steve Barber. I drew it as he told it, so didn’t really want to use it for that reason (I like to add something to the joke). The Jurassic Park joke was prompted by Julie Darroch, aka LakesPR who mentioned dinosaurs in a tweet. The rest are my own doing.
The editor’s decision took a while but, as always, is final (unless the lawyers object).
Which is your favourite? 
Comment in the box below and then zip along to my website to see if you picked the editor’s favourite.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A Damp New Year

Happy New Year to all my readers. I hope you have your wellington boots handy - it’s going to be a wet start.
2012 has gone down as the wettest year in Cumbria since records began in 1910. Given that the Lakes already has a reputation for rain (it’s how we keep the lakes topped up, you know), visitors decided they’d had enough and stayed away in droves over the Christmas period. The tourism industry wasn’t too happy about that.
This became the main story in this week’s Westmorland Gazette and, as it is becoming a novelty to tackle a page one story, this is the one I concentrated on for the cartoon.
Below are the four ideasI pitched to my editor. The final one of the four is my favourite. Sadly, this also proved to be controversial; the Gazette’s editorial team felt that flooded hotels were too recent a memory to be popular with our readers.
Now you know which one didn’t get in … so which would you have chosen for the front page?
Cast your vote in the comments box below, then paddle across to my website to see if you were right.