Monday, June 30, 2008

Pocket cartoonists: Endangered but vital

The newspaper "pocket" cartoonist is a rare but hardy breed, says PCO Chairman Andy Davey.

Spare a thought for the humble pocket cartoonist, guv? Be warned – you’ll need your field glasses to catch them. The Guardian has not replaced David Austin who died in in 2005. But even though they are a diminishing species due to this loss of habitat, there are several individuals in the field still visible. Pugh (The Times), Banx (Financial Times) and the untouchable Matt (Daily Telegraph) are all still going strong.

Pocket cartoons are still a pretty stout mainstay of British broadsheet front pages. And Matt is the only cartoonist to routinely get a name check during the newspaper round-up on Radio Four's Today programme.

An Independent Line, a collection of cartoons from The Independent from the last fifteen years, now on show at the Political Cartoon Gallery, shows the work of one of the finest of the current dwindling crop – Tim Sanders.

Purely in terms of wall space and press coverage, Tim is drowned by his brothers-in-ink, Dave Brown and Peter Schrank. But as an observer of current social trends, he’s up there with the best.

Osbert Lancaster is often credited with establishing the format in UK newspapers, and a rich array of talent in the form of Mark Boxer and Mel Calman (whose work can still be seen on greetings cards) and others emerged in his wake.

Pocket gags are a slice of social history; you can gauge the feel of any era by looking at the pocket cartoons. To set the scene, define the characters and make a gag about current social or political trends is no mean feat in a single newspaper column, so hats off all round, please laydeezangennemen.

An Independent Line is at London's Political Cartoon Gallery until October 18.

The PCO: British cartoon talent