Galway’s second Cartoon Festival kicks off this weekend on Saturday, and last year’s little acorn has already had an impressive growth spurt. Last year the festival was confined to two venues, whereas this year’s event features work by more than 70 cartoonists from all around the world which will be on show in a minimum of eight locations across the city.
One of the major themes of this year’s event is the centenary of the end of World War I and the festival will present a major international exhibition entitled A Peace to End All Peace (in the Black Gate Cultural Centre ), as well as a conference exploring the impact of cartoons during WWI in Europe to be hosted by NUI Galway in collaboration with the French department and the embassy of Belgium. The conference will feature Prof Grace Neville of UCC, recipient of the Légion d’Honneur, who will discuss the influence of press cartoons in Ireland after 1916. Philip Dine of NUI Galway will explore the post-Armistice world order as portrayed in Hergé’s famous Tintin adventures, while Coralline Dupuy will focus on the politics of gender representation in French-speaking cartoons during WWI. French Honorary Consul Catherine Gagneux will give a presentation on the rise, use, and influence of cartoons since WWI, using original drawings that will be part of the exhibition. Special guest, renowned Belgian comic artist Jean-Claude Servais, will explain the creative process behind his work, with an emphasis on stories set during WWI. This presentation is sponsored by the Belgian Embassy and Wallonie-Bruxelles International.
“We got great help from the French embassy then we roped in Belgium and Poland as well because this year is also the centenary of Polish independence, so these things came together,” festival director, and cartoonist, Richard Chapman tells me. “It was Galway-based French consul Catherine Gagneux who suggested the Armistice as a festival theme for this year and we went with the idea; it was good for making international connections. We had a fantastic response from cartoonists internationally, work was just rolling in to us.”
The Polish input to the festival includes a live event at the Cornstore featuring illustrator, painter, and cartoonist Maria Apoleika. “The event is entitled Polish Folk Dances in the Latin Quarter but no polkas will be involved,” Richard says with a laugh. “It will be a live drawing event by Maria who is well known for her online strip, Dog Biscuits. She will do a big live drawing in the Cornstore on Armistice Day from 12 noon to 5pm.”
The festival will also feature a major retrospective devoted to the work of Graeme Keyes in the Town Hall lobby. Keyes is one of Ireland’s funniest and most popular cartoonists. His work appears regularly in Private Eye and Phoenix magazines and he is currently the editorial cartoonist at the Irish Daily Mail and Irish Mail on Sunday. As well as drawing, Graeme has written scripts for satirist Oliver Callan and is responsible for many of those Private Eye and Phoenix word-bubble covers that we all love. Graeme himself will be along to do a few drawings and say a few words. “Graeme has been around for so long, he was in The Phoenix from the start of the magazine and was its main cartoonist for a long time,” Richard observes. “He is one of the most prolific cartoonists in the country and he has never stuck for a funny idea or a pun, he is a gag machine.
Something a little different is the work of 3D artist Stephen Dee whose porcelain caricatures of the famous and infamous, as well as his ‘Sculptories’ – where he uses antique wooden printers’ trays to house tiny porcelain figures to form a narrative, rather like a strip cartoon will be displayed in the windows of Tigh Neachtain and Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop as part of the festival’s Cartoon Trail. The trail will also feature the festival’s youngest artist, 12-year-old Jack Tyaransen from Salthill. Jack has already had his work published in The Beano - twice - and is clearly a young comic artist whose name we will be hearing more of in the future.
“The Cartoon Trail is based around Quay St and Cross St is generously sponsored by the Latin Quarter,” Chapman tells me. “We will decorate every window we can with cartoons. We also have a visiting exhibition entitled Humour and Vine from a French festival we are twinning with. It specialises in cartoons about grapes because they are from Bordeaux, so they are sending us work which will be shown in Rouge and Petit Pois French restaurants.”
A number of artists hail from countries where there is conflict or repressive regimes. How has that affected their work I inquire? “One very interesting thing I noticed was that we got a lot of work from Russia but there is not a single picture of Putin,” Chapman notes, wryly. “I guess they did not dare, which is worrying when you think about it.”
Romanian cartoonist Florian Doru Crihana has created two oil paintings specially for the festival. “One of the paintings will be of the Spanish Arch and the other Renmore Barracks as they both were in 1918; he managed to find old photographs to work from,” Chapman reveals.
Among its myriad other attractions the Cartoon Festival will also feature live caricature sessions, and a schools’ cartoon workshop and competition. The festival runs from November 10 to 17 and full details of the programme can be found at https://galwaycartoons.eu/