Wednesday, 31 December 2014

So long, 2014 …

This week's Westmorland Gazette front page featured a campaign to reduce the speed limit in Kendal to 20 mph. I can imagine Jeremy Clarkson's blood pressure as I type. One of my twitter followers suggested it was quite hard to drive at that speed and might be dangerous. Possibly he might need further driving lessons (or some).

The other thrilling story to land on the cartoon desk is that Cumbria is to become BOWLS CAPITAL OF THE WORLD! A National group called the Bowls Development Alliance is set to increase nationwide participation in the sport, through a rigorous regime of military conscription and enforced deportation of anyone who refuses to play. (I may have got some of the details wrong as I fell asleep whilst reading the story.)

And it is the end of the year. I thought I could sum that up in a cartoon. Sadly, as you can see from the final color version, it wasn't the one chosen. Do you think the editor chose the right cartoon for the front page? Feel free to comment below.

Meanwhile, have a good rest of 2014. See you next year.

Monday, 29 December 2014

A Christmas Custom

Last week's super, soaraway Westmorland Gazette had two prime candidates for the cartoon desk. The first was a new story, the other was 2000 years old.

Immigration officers pounced to stop a sham marriage at Lancaster Registry Office. The groom was attempting to stay in the UK illegally and, ironically, achieved his aim by being sentenced to 10 months in prison.

In other news, it was Christmas.

Clearly there was the opportunity to combine these two stories in a tasteful fashion unlikely to offend anyone. Equally clearly, I didn't take that route. Below are the ideas I submitted with the one chosen shown in colour. I'm not convinced by that gag and would have gone for the angels (with or without the cigarette). What do you think?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The less than super highway

Two stories of national importance landed on the Westmorland Gazette cartoon desk last week.

Local hotels are up in arms and down in the dumps because BT broadband failed, losing them millions of pounds of business (hyperbole added for optional excitement).

And after months of campaigning, the much-loathed on-street parking plan from Cumbria County Council has been buried due to a legal problem.

Here are the six ideas I submitted to my steamed editor. The winning entry is at the end, complete with crop marks (which the sub-editor always ignores). Which would you have chosen? Place your carefully-considered vote in the comments box below.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Pie in the Sky

One of the joys of being a newspaper cartoonist in a National Park is knowing that the National Park Authority is going to provide me with material at regular intervals.
The Lake District is currently on its third bid for World Heritage status. It’s been turned down twice before. But that hasn’t prevented some blue sky thinking on what we’re going to do if we DO get it. Literally blue sky. Cable cars, for instance. A cable car spanning the lake and Claife between Bowness and Hawkshead will effortlessly whisk visitors to Beatrix Potter Land. Another to connecting Bowness and Windermere villages will sweep hordes of wheely-suitcases between the railway station and the lake front.
As you can imagine, the suggestion did not meet with universal approval. “Pie in the sky,” said a Tory councillor, leading to a rumour that the cable car is going to have catering. The National Park consultant claims the idea has “wow” factor.
What do you think?

Below are my cartoon sketches submitted to The Westmorland Gazette. The color version is the editor’s choice but which would you have gone for? Are cable cars in the Lake District a fun idea or or just blowing in the wind? Add your comments below.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Banks bunking off

Banks are disappearing from rural communities. Like post offices, the village bobby, pubs, telephone kiosks and flashers, what was once part of the fabric of rural life is now going the way of the dodo. (They're disappearing, not being hunted and eaten by sailors.)

The assumption is that these days everyone can do internet banking. Country residents still struggling on internet dial-up, slow broadband speed or frequent breaks in service may care to disagree. And many of them won't relish the prospect of a long bus journey to their nearest high street bank.

The closure of more branches in South Lakes is one of the main stories in this week's Westmorland Gazette. It seemed a good target for the front page cartoon. 

Below are four ideas I submitted to my steamed editor. His choice is shown at the end. But which one would you have chosen? Make your vote in the comments below.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Monkey Business

Last week's Westmorland Gazette had a number of exciting stories to tempt a front page cartoonist.

A pair of capuchin monkeys had escaped from a local zoo.

A frustrated householder had painted her wheelie bin to prevent it being stolen (she said she had "pimped my bin").

And UKIP have announced their parliamentary candidate destined to lose his deposit in the General Election next May. As those chaps at The Apathy Party tweeted, "Cumbria has long been renowned for its wide variety of food. Now it's got fruitcake too."

Below are the ideas I pitched to my steamed editor. As upstanding journals like the Gazette have to remain firmly neutral (it was founded by a Tory), their front page cartoonist isn't allowed to poke fun at major political parties. Not even wacky, amusing chaps like UKIP with their jocular, off-the-wall views on foreigners, Einstein's theory of relativity and climate change.

However, all was not lost. The drawing for idea number five combined with an idea about the bin to become the final cartoon. You can see it below. Feel free to vote for the one you would have chosen by adding wise words to the comments.

Click on any of the above images for the full high-definition version.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Baatsheep Begins at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival

Today the second Lakes International Comic Art Festival launches. There lies before us a weekend of top flight talent from around the globe - internationally acclaimed writers, artists and publishers - all descending on the Cumbrian town of Kendal.

It's a place more renowned for mint cake and Wainwright, so seeing the Bat symbol fly over Kendal Town Hall may come as a shock to some local residents.

But if they keep there eyes open, there's even more disruptive behavious to see.

The Comic Windows Art Trail is colonising 38 shop windows around the town, to display work by a number of creative individuals and organisations, tied into the general theme of the Comic Art Festival. It's not all superheroes but they do tend to dominate.

When I was asked to join in, back in May, I airily said "yes" and decided to worry about it later. As the deadline approached, it occurred to me that I hadn't got a clear idea what to do. I was going to occupy the Westmorland Gazette window. Something on a Gazette theme? Maybe boasting about having celebrated 30 years as their cartoonist? That seemed a little self-referential.

Then I happened across one of my old postcards and a theme began to emerge.

The first sketch was a little rough

But it soon developed into something more promising

The addition of a spoof Gazette front page was fun and I added an iconic image for the Dark Knight fans. Finally, it was due to finish with the original postcard. Time and a trip to Brussels got in the way of that plan so I ended up redrawing it, firing it off to MTP-Media and relying on them to instal it for me whilst I was away!

The final display is now in the Westmorland Gazette window. 

There's a competition. You can vote for it, if you wish, and I may win a lavish prize. (You don't have to do this but I will ask the NSA where you live.)

But whatever you do … don't miss the rest of the Comic Art Festival weekend.

PS You may find me tweeting about the festival here. I'll be armed with a sketchbook so will post some sketches on the blog. And meanwhile, here's that front page …

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Books Are My Bag

High street bookshops can be a place of wonder. Books Are My Bag is a nationwide campaign to celebrate and support them, with its own Official Book.
Last Saturday, the Society of Authors’ Authors North group got involved with a glittering, glamour-filled gathering at the Imperial War Museum, Salford Quay, Manchester. Silverdell Bookshop gave a special launch for the 2014 campaign during which we were asked to pose with a campaign bag and tell the world what was our favourite book and bookshop.
It gave me a slight problem.
My favourite bookshop ever is Gullivers, in Wimborne Minster. I spent many happy hours in there as a kid. It wasn’t the world’s largest bookshop but it’s where I first discovered the magic of HergĂ© and the excitement of John Wyndham. Situated just around the corner from Wimborne’s famous chained library, it was my first, real bookshop experience.
Sadly, it is no longer local to me. I moved away and now my favourite bookshops are scattered across the country. One of my favourite bookshops these days isn't a real bookshop at all. It's Amazon.
That’s not a popular thing to say if you’re an author. We’re supposed to castigate this monolith for accelerating the closure of the high street bookshop. But much as I love browsing in a real bookshop, here’s the thing - Amazon stock my books
Local bookshops have limited space, lots of demands to stock the latest, the biggest seller and it can make it difficult to stock a local author's books. 
My cartoons appear on the front of the local newspaper every week. I’ve drawn a display for this weekend’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival. So with a bit of wheedling, Waterstones in Kendal are supporting my book. It's on their shelves. They have signed copies. Go buy it now.
And I'll push people in their direction because of it. Local authors talk to local people (I give a lot of talks and workshops). 

But Amazon has changed things. Authors are free to experiment, self-publish, work for smaller publishers who find it hard to get onto the shelves of busy local bookshops. That's exciting, disruptive, new and interesting.

So high street bookshops are great. Long may they continue. But that doesn't automatically make the online giants a bad thing. I prefer my books to be in both.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Dull is the New Nude

Enough of W.I. Women throwing off their kit and appearing in charity calendars. The new nude is dull.

The Dull Men's Club has launched it's 2015 calendar and Cumbrian Archie Workman is Mr March. Clearly this is something of which to be proud. The Dull Men's Club is world-renowned for its deep interest in topics such as roundabouts, park benches and luggage carousels. Their website is well-worth a visit. Indeed, a correspondent who shall remain nameless (Steve Barber) emailed me to say that, worryingly, he found it quite interesting.

The announcement gave me the ideal topic for this week's Westmorland Gazette editorial cartoon. Below are five ideas I submitted to my steamed editor. Which would you have chosen? 

Don't be dull - make your vote in the comments section below. Then rush excitedly to my website and see if your choice matched the editor's.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Sketchbook - July 2014

Four sketches from a recent trip to Pembrokeshire. Click on the images for larger sizes.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Sick as a parrot

Due to cutbacks and austerity measures from our Beloved Government, Cumbria County Council has been feeling the squeeze on its finances. It has recently proposed a way to gain extra income - on-street parking charges.

Specifically, on-street parking charges in Windermere, Bowness, Ambleside … the central Lakes honeypots famous for its tourist industry and therefore ripe for picking. 

Except they're not. Various interested parties have pointed out that on-street parking meters will deter visitors from stopping in those towns and villages. Visitors ill instead head straight for the nearest supermarket, such as Sainsbury's which is due to open in Ambleside. It has been pointed out that Cumbria County Council has few councillors actually from the central Lakes and therefore have little idea what impact this will have. Cumbria CC has countered by pointing out that they raised it for consultation by burying it as a one-line suggestion at number 97 in a general document sent round to households eighteen months ago.

With local meetings, campaign groups and letters to the press, this is an ideal subject for my Westmorland Gazette cartoon. Add in Cumbria County Council's further proposal to build itself a new £10 million HQ in Fiji Carlisle and it all starts to get fun.

Here are the cartoons submitted over the last two weeks. It includes some nonsense abut the World Cup (schoolkids build England Team scarecrows) but don't let those detain you. And a story about priests blessing loaves and fishes at Morecambe Bay for reasons which escape me.

To see which cartoons got into the newspaper, head over to my website.

click any cartoon to see a bigger image (although the handwriting remains a bit scrawly)