A Brief History of the Cartoonists’ Club
Cartoonists are solitary performers, if calling them such is not a contradiction in terms. A cartoonist will invent jokes in solitude, those published in the national press will each morning be seen by several million readers, and the combined laughter of these readers could well be loud enough to blow the roof off the London Palladium… but the cartoonist will never hear it. He or she is denied the adrenaline charge created by applause and will therefore live a life of abject insecurity, even if fully employed – and hansomely rewarded.
That is the way things are today, but they were much worse before 1960 when only the few cartoonists who were under contract to papers and magazines worked in Fleet Street or its environs, and were known only to one another. The rest of us, the small army of freelancers who lived and worked in attics throughout the length and breadth of the British Isles, wouldn’t have recognised a fellow cartoonist if he or she tripped over one in the street! No-one knew anyone and we all craved some sort of a club where we could spend a little time finding out how we stood in the great scheme of things.
Then, sometime during either February or March of 1960, every cartoonist recieved a printed invitation to the inaugural meeting of a cartoonists’ club that was to take place at ‘The Feathers’ in Tudor Street, just off Fleet Street, at two o’clock on the afternoon of Friday, APRIL THE FIRST.
From “It’s All Here in Black and White” by Les Lilley
Since its inaugural meeting at The Feathers Pub, Tudor St, London on Friday 1st of April 1960, The Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain has evolved into one of the largest cartoonists organisations in the world, with a membership of over 200 full and part time Cartoonists in the United Kingdom (and further afield).
Our membership reflect the specialisations within the profession, all aspects of the business being severally represented, from single gags to strips and Caricature to Cartoon illustration. Prominently featured in our constitution are our objectives as an organisation with emphasis on encouraging good social contacts between cartoonists, (who for the most part lead rather more solitary professional lives than most) and to promote the art of the Cartoon.
Many of the great names from the British cartoon fraternity have passed through our portals during the last 43 years and all have contributed something to the organisation. We have collectively been responsible for organising very many local, nationwide and international Cartoon events, from exhibitions and competitions to charitable fund raising events or indeed demonstrating the art of the Cartoon to enthusiastic youngsters at road shows and public exhibitions. Cartooning has fantastic appeal to a wide section of the great British public with a high level of interest and curiosity with the mirth you would expect to be evident at a Cartoon event.
The organisational structure of the Club is fairly informal as we are all volunteers. The Committee, usually around 15 members, including The Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and Projects Officer, meets once a month to conduct our various affairs. We publish internally a monthly magazine.
The Cartoonist’s Club also manages a permanent body of framed Cartoon work on general theme, called ‘The Cartoonists’ Exhibition’. Members can contribute to this show at any time so that we have a constant supply of eligible work. This exhibition is available for various Club events such as link-ups with other arts organisations and galleries or as a fund raising exhibition at charity auctions, a negotiated proportion of the sale price forming part of a donation.
I consider it a privilege to serve as Chair of this fine organisation and to quote my distinguished predecessor, Mike Turner, ‘This is a unique organisation which extends the hand of friendship to the cartoonist on the first rung of the ladder as well as those at the top’.
Long may that philosophy prevail.