Giving Them Hell: Political Cartoons — WORD Christchurch

Anyone who knows me well is aware that I’ve always been interested in cartoons and comics. As a child I devoured Asterix and Calvin and Hobbes; as a teenager I flipped to the political cartoons, studying Garrick Tremain’s effortless shading; and today I consume pretty much any comics I get my hands on, online and off. I even (briefly) considered political cartooning as a career, before being dampened by the “death of printed media!” doom and gloom and the fact that all the political cartoonists I was aware of seemed to be older men. (No offence, Peter Bromhead.)

So with that in mind I was super excited to attend a session which featured not only Toby Morris (of Pencilsword fame) but also that rare unicorn, female cartoonist Sharon Murdoch! Interior designer and long-lived editorial cartoonist Peter Bromhead rounded off the panel, all facilitated by Toby Manhire.

Sharon Murdoch. Image supplied
Sharon Murdoch. Image supplied

What’s your ambition in creating cartoons?

To do a drawing which the editor will accept. I look for the paradox which an event is all about; news is a sort of dung heap of information, and all I’m really interested in are the top two layers. I then sit around worrywarting it until I can do something which represents some kind of funny paradox. —Bromhead

Sometimes it’s an act of solidarity, of protest, to show I’ve witnessed something. Witnessing can be very powerful; if enough people say they’ve seen something, that’s a motivator for change. —Murdoch

Cartooning is a kind of preaching, agree or disagree?

I try not to, but it’s something I have been accused of. I do try to say something with my comics, otherwise what’s the point? Nowadays I’m not so interested in ripping someone to threads, I’m more interested in engaging with issues, talking about topics. Comics can be a medium for engagement and change. I don’t feel duty-bound to be funny. —Morris

Toby Manhire, Toby Morris, Sharon Murdoch and Peter Bromhead at WORD Christchurch.
Toby Manhire, Toby Morris, Sharon Murdoch and Peter Bromhead at WORD Christchurch.

What Prime Minister do you most enjoy drawing?

Muldoon was easy. Just take a pear shape, add a straight line for the mouth, close one eye, add a bit of hair on top and there you go. —Bromhead

John Key is really challenging to draw, he has such an everyman face. I think Tom Scott comes closest: “He has a face that looks like a knife stabbed through a scrotum.” —Sharon Murdoch

Just emphasise the white tide mark of his hair dye that goes up and down. Any man who dyes his hair is not to be trusted. —Bromhead

All three agreed that too much emphasis on technical proficiency can be stifling — it’s more important to capture the idea, the energy of the person. Plus being too accurate can run the risk of attracting politicians into buying the originals, Bromhead’s worst nightmare.

The death of printed media…?

I don’t think cartoons are as important as they were in the 50s and 60s because we are so bombarded by visual images that cartoons don’t seem to have the same impact anymore. I don’t think people are reading newspapers, the political clout has waned. —Bromhead

I think cartoons are perfectly placed to succeed — with such short attention spans if you can communicate an idea in a picture that’s a lot more effective. —Morris

I think the static image is still potent, will still survive the demise— sorry, I mean “the changing media landscape”. I mean, look at the burkini cartoon by Anne Telnaes. So simple but very effective. —Murdoch

Personally I’m hopeful that political cartoons will continue to call out the baffling, upsetting and funny antics of our elected representatives.

Find their books in our catalogue:

WORD Christchurch

The Spinoff After Dark – WORD Christchurch

This late night event at C1 Espresso featuring talent from “New Media empire in the making” The Spinoff was shambolic – but in the best possible way.

Literary festivals are, out of necessity, highly organised affairs. Sessions start at certain times and time limits are fairly rigidly adhered to. People file in, file out. Signing table queues may snake and cause congestion but otherwise it’s all pretty orderly. Festivals like this are something of a logistical nightmare so structure is both expected and advised.

So this wasn’t really like that.

Duncan Greive and Giovanni Tiso - The Spinoff after dark
Duncan Greive and Giovanni Tiso – The Spinoff after dark. The Twitterati? Yeah nah.

Rather, The Spinoff After Dark had a “flying by the seat of the pants – did someone really let us do this?” feeling to it while at the same time being thoroughly WORD in its content. A bit like the heyday of Mediaworks, when Joanna Paul and Belinda Todd had the helm of Nightline. You knew it was all sort of related to the other serious, newsy output of TV3 – but it sure as heck didn’t feel like it.

Alex Casey, Duncan Greive and Joe Bennett - The Spinoff after dark
Alex Casey, Duncan Greive and Joe Bennett – The Spinoff after dark. Beware the chair lobber.

And if that hastily cobbled together comparison hasn’t fired your desire for things old and defunct the  “mini-interview of various festival performers” section of the evening included… Joe Bennett!

But to give credit to Bennett, his was actually my favourite of the quickfire “snackable content” interviews that Toby Manhire, Alex Casey and Duncan Greive tag-teamed on, if only for this marvellous interaction –

Alex Casey: *Describes local event that anyone who’s watched television or used the Internet in the last 10 years would know about* (in this case fundraising celebrity boxing match Fight for Life)

Joe Bennett: ….. *tumble weeds*

Bennett also shared an anecdote about the time that, in his role as English teacher at Christ’s College, he threw a chair at one of his students, coming distressing close to giving the lad a head injury – the head in question belonging to Leigh Hart aka That Guy.

This was a funny wee tale on its own told in the usual emphatic Bennett style but got funnier when my partner admitted during the drive home that he too had a chair thrown at him by an entirely different English teacher at a different Christchurch boys’ school.

Is this a thing, former schoolboys of Christchurch? Answers on a complaint form to the Ministry of Education.

Steve Hely - The Spinoff after dark
Steve Hely – The Spinoff after dark – he likes Max Key a lot.

Other interviewees included American humorist Steve Hely, author and literary bunfight starter Paula Morris (fave biscuits in descending order afghan, melting moments/yoyos, gingernuts), Festival director and author Rachael King, journalist Rebecca MacFie, blogger Giovanni Tiso and probably someone I’ve forgotten because by that stage it was quite late and my brain probably stopped retaining information.

The event also included lights that sometimes flickered and seemed to get more dim at random times, cleverly highlighting the “after dark” part of the event name, and an AMA (Ask Me Anything) portion during which Manhire read questions for himself and fellow Spinoffers harvested from Twitter, several of which were attributed to Guy Williams who clearly has too much time on his hands.

Toby Manhire, Alex Casey, Duncan Greive- The Spinoff after dark
Toby Manhire, Alex Casey, Duncan Greive – The Spinoff after dark. Toby answer 536 question from Guy Williams.

We learned exciting new things: that both Manhire and Casey do not like eggs (whaaaat?), that Manhire thinks he looks like Ben Whishaw (hmmmm), and that both Casey and Greive have had ghostwriting gigs that neither of them seem particularly ashamed of – Casey for Youtube star Jamie Curry (the trick to doing it quickly is to include lots and lots of photos – a device I have tried to employ in this very post), Greive for heatpump enthusiast/sportsman Dan Carter.

If this session sounds like it was a bit of an odd jumble of things, it certainly was – and a great time because of it. A++. Worth staying awake for.

More WORD Christchurch

The last day of the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival

IMG_07186pm on Sunday night and I am in my hotel room looking forward to the trip home tomorrow.  Auckland has been itself in that it has rained and shined, sometimes all at once. I have marvelled at all the people and the beautiful old stone buildings. The festival has been a whirlwind of facts, figures, stories, discussions, a bit of famous author watching and endless cups of coffee.  There has been no time for shopping and barely time to eat. All in all very satisfying indeed.

Today I started off with a visit to the 1920s through to the 1950s with Rosemary Mcleod and The Secret life of aprons. A lovely hour spent looking at her slides of aprons she has known, from the beautiful to the downright odd. It was a lovely slice of New Zealand domestic history which was very much appreciated by the audience.Rosemary’s droll wit was perfect for the occasion. The Art Gallery was looking great, and I had time for a quick trawl around the contemporary art exhibition, with a quiet nod to Jacqueline Fahey’s piece that I could look at with new understanding having heard her speak on Thursday. I also loved the huge hand-made flowers created by Choi Jeong Hwa that hung in the atrium seemingly opening and closing at will.

IMG_0721Next up was a free session, Fifty Shades of WTF. I was to be disappointed, it would seem the fifty shades phenomena has reached the festival and it was full half and hour before it started.

What the Internet is doing to you with the author Aleks Krotoski was often way over my head, but she was an author with a mind like a steel trap who could probably have talked all day. Her interviewer Toby Manhire only needed to ask a couple of questions and away she went! Her basic premise was that the Internet isn’t doing anything, it is what we are doing to each other that is the issue. The Internet will not destroy and neither will it revolutionise, it is just a thing….we are still communicating, the means are different but not what we are talking about. She touched on cyber-addiction and whether there is such a thing (there isn’t apparently), romance on the Internet, and is the Internet capable of serendipity. That’s where I lost her.  The book sounds very readable, and if she writes like she talks it will be entertaining and full of information.

Lastly I toddled along to Faction, a bit of a silly choice as it was about the film The Red house which I haven’t seen, however Annie Goldson and the Alyx Duncan who made the film did a great job breaking down what it was all about.  Alyx used her father and step mother in the film, it started out as a documentary about their lives that didn’t work out and ended up with them acting themselves, but to a script that included some aspects that were true and some that were fictional.  I enjoyed the session and hopefully the library will be able to get the DVD once it comes out.

Thank you Auckland for providing such a great festival. 13,000 people was the last tally that I heard had attended the festival, which is amazing, and certainly warms a librarian’s heart.  To all those authors who spend hours writing, usually in quiet isolation,  I thank you for coming out and sharing your craft, your beliefs and passions.