The magazine of the Federation of Cartoonistâ€™s Organisations, UK section.
At large in Shrewsbury!
Issue 21. June 2006
Issue 21 - June 2006
Published in Great Britain by FECO UK FECO UK CONTACTS President (Caretaker) Andy Davey tel: +44 (0)1223 517737 email: firstname.lastname@example.org Secretary John Roberts tel: +44 (0) 1565 633995 email: email@example.com Treasurer Foghorn Editor Tim Harries tel: + 44 (0) 1633 780293 email: firstname.lastname@example.org Webmaster Keith Spry email: Keith@sprycartoons.fsnet.co.uk Foghorn Sub-Editor Bill Stott tel: +44 (0) 160 646002 email: email@example.com International Liaison Ofﬁcer Roger Penwill tel: +44 (0) 1584 711854 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web info FECO UK website: www.fecouk.org.uk FECO Worlwide: www.fecoweb.org
Where’s your Ed at? Back in sunny Wales of course, after an exciting trip to Turkey with a few of my FECO UK chums! You can read the gory details in this very issue, but wait! Before you race off to read that, let me just tell you we’ve also got lots of this; a rather spiffy report from the Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival from Alex Noel Watson, an enlightening Nib Nerd from Clive Collins, the ﬁrst of a four-part article about cartooning from actual famous person and Shrewsbury Festival Patron Libby Purves, a tone-deaf Curmudgeon rant and another sublime Foggy strip from Andy Davey. In fact, no room for the usual interview, but worry not - normal service is resumed in the August issue! Oh, before I go any further, let me give a warm FECO UK welcome to all of our new members. (“About blinkin’ time” I hear some of them shout). This year we’ve had the pleasure of new recruits John Herdman, Matt Buck, Martin Honeysett, Royston Robertson and been delighted to welcome back into the FECO fold, Tim Leatherbarrow and Dave Parker. I’m sure we’re all looking forward to their valuable contributions to future Foghorn’s and FECO UK as a whole. While we’re in a contribution kinda vibe, I’m always on the lookout for suitable articles, letters or artwork to print in the Foggy. Please feel free to get in touch (details in the contact box to the left). Tim Harries, Foghorn Editor.
Cartoonist wins ‘Designer of the Year’ Award Jamie Hewlett, cartoonist and co-creator of the virtual band Gorillaz was given the £25,000 prize by London’s Design Museum. Beating other nominees including the team behind the redesign of the Guardian newspaper and furniture designer Tom Dixon, the judges felt that Hewlett’s work deﬁned “the shape of things to come”. Born in 1968, Hewlett designed the comic book anti-heroine Tank Girl before creating Gorillaz with musician Damon Albarn. In 2005, they took the visualisation of the band to a new level by working with the animation company Passion Pictures to stage a groundbreaking digital performance at the MTV Europe Awards. Jamie Hewlett works from
© Copyright Gorillaz
his West London-based design company Zombie Flesh Eaters.
CARTOONIST CALENDAR June and July have the following to tickle your cartooning fancy:
What nib/pen do you use? Clive: Glad you asked me that. I use a Pilot Marqueur a dessin (that should please our Europhiles) pigment pen for roughs, and then a Speedball A-6 with Indian ink to go over the lines for permanence (the pigment pen fades to yellow over a century or two). Can I use the word ‘Indian’ with reference to ink? I don’t want to upset any passer-by who might suspect I’m guilty of racism. How do you colour your work? Clive: It rather depends on the client requirements, I either dis-inter my bottles of Winsor & Newton inks and rusting tubes of gouache, or I say ‘sod it’ and scan in for digital colouring. I’ve started using digital colouring for my roughs to Playboy, and they’ve printed a number of them, but they still occasionally come back and ask for a hand-painted piece for ﬁnished artwork. Since they pay me extremely well, I do as I’m asked. If you look back over the years at Playboy’s art, you’ll see just how brilliant the paintings of Sokol, Dedini and Rowland B. Willson have been. Do you use any software for your artwork? Clive: Apart from that squishy area between my ears, I use Photoshop 5.5, which gives me everything I need, apart from love and understanding. I tried Painter for a while and didn’t like it. I felt like a forger somehow. I don’t know why. Any other secrets? Clive: Apart from the blessings of Google and its World of Images, I keep a very large collection of books and reference works that line my studio and various rooms in the house, that I’ve collected over the years - you can’t beat having something in your lap to look at when searching for that special something. I use matte photo-paper for printing out artwork, which gives the cartoon the best possible appearance, though that’s hardly a secret. I do know of one cartoonist who used to draw in the nude (he told me), but he was weird anyway. A sex-break is always nice after lots of drawing, and is extremely relaxing, unless the phone rings while you’re enjoying it and you hear a client’s voice break in on the answering machine for an urgent job. Then it’s not so relaxing. I don’t think I’m prepared to give out any more secrets without my lawyer being present. Can I close the curtains now? Thank you, Clive Collins!
Quiz Show! The Caricatures of Powys Evans (1899 - 1981) Exhibition runs 24 May – 18 July. Powys Evans was one of the most celebrated caricaturists of the Twentieth Century. His best work, which he did between 1922 and 1925, has only recently come to light and will be on display for the very ﬁrst time at the Political Cartoon Gallery. According to H R Westwood “they are among the ﬁnest personal caricatures that have ever been done.” Under the pseudonym of ‘Quiz’, Evans drew one hundred and ﬁfty celebrity caricatures for the Saturday Review. This exhibition consists of half of these featuring original caricatures of politicians such as Winston Churchill, Stanley Baldwin, Lloyd George, Ramsay MacDonald and Neville Chamberlain www.politicalcartoon.co.uk The Evening Standard Cartoon Competition. ‘London Life’ in association with The Cartoon Museum Entries to include pocket, political and social cartoons on all aspects of London life, Images will be sought relating to London and reﬂecting the great cartooning tradition at The Evening Standard. Closing date Monday 26th June 2006. For more details go to www.cartooncentre.com
Shrewsbury - A Cartoon Festival in Historic Olde Englande By Alex Noel Watson, Vice-President, FECO UK Photos: Gerard Whyman
the beautiful county of Shropshire, bordering Wales and celebrated in the poetry of A E Houseman (“A Shropshire Lad”), Shrewsbury is a strikingly picturesque town with numerous black and white Tudor timber buildings, creating a quintessentially old English atmosphere. The street plan of the historic town centre has remained the same since the Middle Ages and this area rejoices in many quaint corners and narrow thoroughfares with intriguing names like Grope Lane (and this was built centuries before the existence of our esteemed Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott.) Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, and is very much back in the news again with the controversy on both sides of the Atlantic about evolution and creationism. Many sites associated with Darwin can be visited in Shrewsbury.
It seems no time since the notion of holding an international cartoon festival in Shrewsbury was but a glint in the eyes of certain friends. Now this year, in April, we have enjoyed the third Shrewsbury Terry Christien gets stuck in. International Cartoon Festival. In On a grimmer note, one of the two years this festival has well bloodiest battles in English history established itself as England’s diswas fought in July 1403 just outside tinguished contribution to the international circuit of cartoon festivals. (The Nottingham festival, sadly, is no longer with us, at least for the time being. And with the end of the annual Ayr festivals after a ﬁve-year run Scotland is now bereft.) Thus, the fair town of Shrewsbury, one of England’s most historic places, notable for Charles Darwin and momentous past events, adds a contemporary jewel to its crown. Situated on the River Severn in Shrewsbury Town square was the centre of most activity during the festival weekend.
Jed Pascoe has them lining up, combing their hair in readiness ... the town. The famous Harry Percy (‘Hotspur’) was among the 1,600 slaughtered, and after the engagement his body was displayed in the town centre. And so Shrewsbury is an ideal location for a festival, particularly as an especially attractive and historically fascinating town for the delectation of our visiting cartoonist friends from overseas. The theme this year was “Degrees of Magnitude (Size is Everything)”, echoed in the festival itself which was bigger (and even better) than before, and some of us in one particular activity drew the largest cartoons we have ever done. And at large in the town were over 40 cartoonists, many of whom had been to the two previous festivals; for others it was a new experience. For three days they all participated in various aspects of the festival which included workshops, caricaturing sessions, talks on this and that in the world of cartooning, and cartooning live and unfettered! All in all, a bonanza of cartoonists for the good people of Shrewsbury and district (and beyond), and a lot of fun for those taking part. Last year the international focus was on the French with several leading French cartoonists in attendance. This year it was the turn of another EU (and FECO) partner, Germany. At present Germany holds the
President Generalship of FECO, and the President General herself our own inimitable Marlene Pohle graced the festival with two German colleagues - Oscar Barrientos, the new President of FECO Germany, and Peter Ruge who brought a unique exhibition, entitled “Material Evidence”, of his large eye-catchingly colourful cartoons created by the imaginative and skillful juxtaposition of different coloured fabrics, sewn together, to depict people enjoying seaside leisure. It was impossible to go round Peter’s exhibition (at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery) without
smiling and even bursting into laughter. The show had charm, sharp visual wit and a feel-good factor, and was being presented for the ﬁrst time outside mainland Europe. Peter generously donated a specially made fabric cartoon to the town of Shrewsbury. The other German exhibition held at the Pride Hill Gallery ‘’XXL - The Best of German Cartoonists” presented 40 captionless (that way they cross borders more easily!) cartoons on the festival’s theme of “Size”. I enjoyed this exhibition and I found, as one always does, certain cartoons particulary funny, and the variety in graphic styles always adds extra interest. Our German friends kindly brought us as a gift some German beer - 100 litres supplied in 5 litre cans brought over by Peter Ruge, together with a quantity of pretzels which were warmed up in the ovens of The Cornhouse Restaurant (our main haunt for meals during the weekend). In addition to Germany, Australia was represented, by James Kemsley, Steve Panozzo and Dean Alston, and the United States of America by Adrian Sinott. And so the festival, in true FECO tradition, was very much a hands-across-the-sea affair. Prominently ﬁgured was political cartooning in the exhibition “Europe - The Big Idea” at the Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery. Assembled
... while Steve Bright and Rog Bowles draw a huge crowd.
by Andy Davey, a very ﬁne political cartoonist himself, this was an impressive collection of 40 works by Britain’s foremost political cartoonists, exploring and inevitably lampooning European relations over the years. The main general exhibition on the
festival’s theme “Degrees of Magnitude (Size is Everything)” at the Bear Steps Gallery (with an overﬂow exhibition at the Olive and Oscar gift shop in Hills Lane) consisted of over 100 cartoons by festival participants and invited cartoonists. The standard of work reached the heavens.
Steve Bell at Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival, April 2006 As the evening sun began to cast its ﬁrst long shadows over the beautiful mediaeval market square of Shrewsbury, a giant shadow of a beastly form loomed over me and my almost-ﬁnished Big Board masterpiece. “Hrrrrrrrrnnmlllgggh”, growled the shadow. “Oh hi Steve”, I replied, as the shadow revealed its hulking bearded source – The Guardian’s legend in his own lunchtime, Steve Bell. He’d arrived from London, and was ambling down to the Music Hall to deliver his lecture. Crowds had already gathered restlessly in the hot room at the top of the building. Although he had to deliver his lecture with no audible evidence of a microphone while competing with the sounds of crashing cutlery from the adjacent kitchens (well, either that, or it was a band playing some very avant-garde jazz in the auditorium), he did a sterling job. To add to the professionalism of the presentation, his slides were shown on a tiny old classroom projection screen, dug out from the Music Hall store-room. Even straitened circumstances such as this can’t conceal the sophisticated artistry of a man who has delivered to the nation the deﬁnitive images of at least two of our Prime Ministers, and given us a running commentary of the last two decades through the panels of “If…”. He took us through the now-familiar genesis of his caricatures of Thatcher, Major, Hague, Blair, Bush and others with a wonderful detour through the mad, twinkly eye of our Dear Leader, and the monkey-walk of Mr. President. He also took us through the past with an in-character reading of several panels from vintage “If…” strips, and ended with more recent Iraq tales, together with revelations about censorship at The Guardian, and the perils of exceeding the “turd count”. In short, an entertaining talk spoiled by poor facilities. Never mind, he’ll be back.
Steve looks on as Andy fails to impress with a ﬂesh wound.
This exhibition and the festival were ofﬁcially opened by the Mayor, Mr David Farmer (now the ex-mayor), complete with mayoral chain adding a touch of gravitas to a jolly situation. Also unmissable at the ceremony was Mr Martin Wood, the world’s tallest town crier (and no doubt also the one with the most voluminous beard), absolutely resplendent in his robes. A different angle (or two!) was provided by the architectural cartoonist, Louis Bellman MBE, who showed a selection of his highly individual and original creations at the Real Art Gallery, and also gave the kick-off talk of the festival. The live cartoon activity included “Going Up!”, a very successful exhibition instantly created on the spot on a wall of the Pride Hill Gallery. The drawings depicted designing, building and living in tall buildings and for these cartoons the term ‘’Humurals’’ was coined. (The word is not yet in the Concise Oxford Dictionary.) A very effective idea was the concentration of 20 cartoonists on the Friday and Saturday in Shrewsbury’s historic Market Square where they drew and painted cartoons on 8ft x 6ft whitened boards (prepared by Bill Mccabe). Around the Square our star caricaturists did their stuff with the public, and this big double act in such a central location proved an undoubted crowd-puller. My own epic cartoon was of a King Kong-like massive ape (“Big is Beautiful”) trampling underfoot luckless Shrewsbury citizens in the Square (recognisably drawn). I was putting the ﬁnal touches to the creature’s face when a passing wag commented: “Self-portraits are not permitted.” Steve Bell, the brilliant and deliciously outrageous political cartoonist of The Guardian (voted Political Cartoonist of the Year 2005), contributed an illustrated talk (see box to left); other lecturettes were given by Steve Best (famous for his hilarious greetings cards), Professor Colin Pillinger (a patron of the festival)
and Bill Scott (one of Britain’s most published cartoonists.) Libby Purves of BBC Radio 4 fame (and another patron) introduced some of the talks and gave a warm speech on the Saturday night when Roger Penwill and Noel Ford on guitars demonstrated their prowess as a rock duo (with Terry Christien getting in on the act!) Workshops for the public are always a prime feature of the festival, and these were proﬁciently handled by Andy Gilbert (Drawing Funny Faces and Drawing a Little Laughter, for children), Tim Harries (Creating a Comic Strip, for children and families), Helen Martin (How to Draw Caricatures), Jackie Smith (ImagiNation, creating stories and characters), Angela Martin, Paul Hardman (Storyboarding), and Colin Livingstone (Digital Cartooning). Cartoon clinics (professional advice to budding cartoonists) were held in the Bear Steps Gallery. Behind the success of any festival
Dave Brown’s ﬁnished 8ft x 6ft cartoon lies a mountain of hard work, skill and effort, and a massive bouquet (size is everything!) is due to all the dedicated organisers: the Shrewsbury mainstays, Alison Patrick, Karen Lloyd, Bill (big boards) McCabe and Adrian Plant - and Roger Penwill,
John Roberts, Bill Stott, Andy Davey, and many other helpers and supporters.
God bless ‘em all! And roll on the Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival 2007!
CARTOONS MADE ME...
A loosely drawn autobiography in four balloons By Libby Purves (patron of the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival) PART 1: Sometimes comedy makes better sense of the world than pathos, or tragedy, or even history. One of my ﬁrst memories is learning World War II by turning the pages of the Giles wartime cartoon annuals which were always lying around the house, my father’s favourites. We were a diplomatic family with us four diplo-brats dragged cavalierly round the world; my ﬁrst school was a Thai convent in the mid-50s, then there was a village school in Walberswick while my father was sent to Angola for three years, then a French convent, a South African one, ﬁnally Tunbridge Wells. Through all these household upheavals the cartoon annuals came with us, especially Giles. I knew his ﬁctional family as well as my own: limp Auntie Vera, solid malevolent Grandma, the bun-faced babies so like my own small brothers, fat world-weary Dad. The same faces turned up in the trenches, looking up at bombs with a resigned “Oh look, here comes your Easter egg”, ﬁddling the ration books at home, or skiving behind Nissen huts in Basic Training. From those I learnt a lot about Britain before my birth, during Hitler’s war; and they gave me a lifelong preference for the more chunkily drawn characters, which led me later on to Bill Tidy, McMurtry, Bill Stott. Meanwhile Ronald Searle prepared me for boarding school via Molesworth and St Trinian’s; I learned How to be Topp and how to swing a hockeystick for maximum damage. And in dreary British Council libraries and Consulate waiting-room I went through old copies of Punch and sometimes the New Yorker, laughed at whatever I could understand of the jokes and puzzled over the rest. I sank happily into the world of the drawings, relishing the vigour and the humanity and the general uproariousness. Their irreverent glee was balm to an earnest, worried, literary-minded child. These cartoonists were my gods of misrule: they took nothing seriously. In their world we were all clowns. Before I was ten I understood that for some reason, cartoonists in the English-speaking world are among the best and most precious parts of the culture.
Cartoon and Children’s Rights 2006 Ankara, the bustling capital of Turkey, was the venue for the first ‘Cartoon and Children’s Rights’ Project. FECO UK’s Roger Penwill, Andy Gilbert, Ian Ellery, Alex Noel Watson and Tim Harries were invited along to take part. Hold on to your hats, as Foggy presents the edited highlights! Words: Tim Harries and Ian Ellery Photos: Cartoon Foundation
ARRIVAL We arrived, bleary eyed at around 4.30am on Thursday 11th May. After a couple of hours sleep we met our wonderful translator Poyzan and our thoroughly excited project co-ordinator Emrah and before you can say “I’ll just have some soup”, we were whisked off to ‘Brunch’. This was the ﬁrst in a long line of never ending meals! After being fed and watered, we enjoyed the ﬁrst meeting with our gracious host Nezih Danyal at his Cartoon Foundation headquarters. Sightseeing followed (including a visit to a beautiful Mosque) and after a quick rest, we were out again for a meal and a chance to get to know the Turkish cartoonists (Tan Oral, İzel Rozental, Kamil Masaracı, Semih Poroy and Muhammet Şengöz) and the other co-ordinators including our invaluable guide Tuba and Nezih’s
Alex, Andy Tuba, and Izel, sketching away at the ﬁrst workshop.
wife Hulya . Back at the hotel, there was time for a nightcap and then the chance to get some rest and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..... WORKSHOP ONE Ok, now we had to actually do
some work! Heading for the British Council, we marveled at the unique trafﬁc systems and the drivers ability to ﬁt a minicab through any gap. Having arrived safely, we made our way to the Council’s ofﬁces and the workshop began, ably chaired by Dr Serdar Değirmencioğlu. Ideas were discussed, thoughts aired and opinions given. And drawings. We made lots of drawings! Seeing everyone’s work at the end of the session was an enlightening and enjoyable experience - learning how different cartoonist’s can interpret the same subjects. We learned a lot (and ate a lot too) WORKSHOP TWO Again, we headed to the British Council, making time there to chat to their ‘big cheese’, Chris Brown. He said very nice things
about cartoonists, so naturally we allowed him to have his picture taken with us. Lucky chap! The workshop was once again a great experience - we picked some different aspects of children’s rights to discuss and set about illustratiing the points raised - everyone was eager to get drawing in this session, so the talk was kept to a minimum and we tried to let the cartoons speak for themselves. It was fun to see the Turkish cartoonists furiously scribbling away when English was being spoken, and we doing likewise at the ﬁrst sound of Turkish. Scribble scribble...
Due to blatant copying by Tim, Ian is forced to hide his homework.
ache. Even more songs were sung including the entire back catalogue of Queen. Luckily no videos or pictures of this exist.
Ian Ellery was lucky enough to have his Birthday while we were there (25 years old, for the twentieth year running) and so a cake was bought and songs were sung. Raki ﬂowed and heads did
SIGHTSEEING Inbetween eating our own bodyweight in food every mealtime, we were ferried around the sights of Ankara. Poyzan, Tuba and Emrah were excellent and most accommodating guides, answering our questions and helping with any translations. We managed to visit Ataturk’s Mausoleum - a vast, impressive monument to the founder
of modern Turkey, the Ankara Museum, containing an array of treasures that are probably even older than Ian, and the vertigo inducing Ankara Castle which afforded quite spectacular views of the city from it’s walls. A visit to a traditional Turkish restaurant was a delight, with excellent food, music and company. KID’S WORKSHOPS Now this was fun! We’d enjoyed the usual 17 course meal and headed to the Kavaklıdere Art Gallery for the Kid’s Workshop - a chance to interact and draw with the children of Ankara. This is where Andy really came into his own. Before we’d even had
Group photo taken at the British Council (the large red sign probably gives that away...)
a chance to sharpen our pencils, Andy had leapt into action, immediately sitting down with a large group of toddlers who within minutes were following his every word. (I really don’t think a translator was needed!) He worked hard with them and it was a joy to watch as they followed his guidance, drawing funny faces. The photos really show the great time they had. (See the box for Andy’s take on the day) The rest of us were busy too, drawing for a slightly older crowd. Despite the language barrier, we could work out what they wanted to draw - usually robots or dinosaurs. Or robot dinosaurs.
rah waved us goodbye, we made a plan for 2007. Pretend we’re a different county every year and keep coming back. Shhh ...don’t tell anyone. Thanks to Nezih, everyone at the Cartoon Foundation and all who made this a Turkish trip to remember!
Web info To learn more about the project, the Cartoon Foundation and to see galleries of the artwork produced, visit: www.7-17.org
The gallery was also the setting of a presentation, with each cartoonist receiving a Cartoon Foundation crystal award from Nezih. As he was fond of saying, it was ‘Laaahvely’ FOOD Did we mention the food? The meals were one of the most enjoyable aspects of our stay. The leisurely pace and sheer number of courses was quite different to the way we normally eat in the UK, and the company only helped to make it even better! We ate, drank, talked and laughed late into the night and said our goodbye’s! An early morning call got us out of the hotel at 6.30am on the Wednesday morning and as Em-
I was highly honoured to be invited and to participate in The Cartoon and Children’s Rights project, Ankara, Turkey 11th - 17th May 2006. The generousity of our hosts and all involved was overwhelming. For six days myself and four other British cartoonists worked alongside our Turkish counterparts at seminars and workshops to highlight the plight of Children’s Rights through the media of cartoons. However, for me one of the most moving experiences of my professional career to date was when I ran cartooning workshops there for the children at the Kavakhdere Art gallery. You know, I could have sworn that a little cloud bubbled up creating an overcast sky during that workshop, but the sun was still shining on the faces of those little children eager to learn and draw more with me on that day. Language wasn’t a barrier as the children excitedly followed my every move on their paper enabling them to create their own little masterpieces to take home with them on the day. It was certainly the most moving experience that I have ever encountered in my professional career to date. This was highlighted after the workshop had been brought to a close. As I was seeking a little refreshment in the form of a glass of orange juice, I felt several gentle tugs at my shirt and the sound of little voices echoing my name ‘And-deee , And-deee’. I was then guided to the gathered group of children to be captured with them on camera. You know, many experiences remain in our minds for a long time but for me, this particular experience will live with me forever.
The Fog is alive with the sound of moaning! Under the cloak of anonimity, one tired and emotional cartoonist embraces a united Europe and reaches for the earplugs.
This issue: “Lordi, Lordi!”.
By the time you read this, the subject will have disappeared, like a mysterious rash, only to ﬂare up again painfully in 2007. Last night we watched The European Song Contest. On purpose. Its one of the few things we can do a United Rant on. Its also unique at being absolutely naff in all departments, save perhaps for the observations of Mr Wogan. But last night even he was becoming genuinely irritated by the corrupt artiﬁciality of the whole sickly cake. Of course, in the interests of avoiding heart attacks, you can simply watch a different channel. Let’s face it; the utterly dire Holby City or the even worse Footballers’ Wives make the Eu-
rovision clunker look [and sound] good. But it is horribly fascinating somehow, and it serves to prove and/or disprove commonly held beliefs; like, for example, that multi – lingual people MUST, perforce of their patience in learning and ability to speak several languages well, be intelligent and discerning. Last night’s hosts at the venue were shallow airheads with bleached teeth. Most of the participating countries’ representatives, reporting in their votes were shallow airheads too [with the exception of the Dutch bloke who was either insane or drinking something interesting [like tooth bleach], and the French anchor who actually couldn’t have given a damn. Vive la France! Except of course if France had won…….] The show opened with what must have been a staggeringly expensive, thoroughly boring spectacular featuring suspended dancers, dancers in suspenders, doves of peace, a fully orchestrated instantly forgettable piece of Musak, and inevitably, ﬁreworks – oh, and a woman at the side going “Mmmm” in different keys - all so reminiscent of those tedious
opening ceremonies at the Olympics – oh, and I forgot –there was bloody Folk Dancing as well! As everybody now knows, the Finnish entry won by a mile. It was a fairly puny, allegedly heavy metal outﬁt [Iron Maiden would have died laughing], which made up for its lack of ability by dressing up in demon outﬁts. It was called “Lordi”, and was rubbish. But the staggering fact is that they were rubbish in a huge ﬁeld of mediocrity, and yet thousands of my fellow Europeans were able to actually grade the presented tripe as if there was a difference between one sad act and another. True, there were widely varying types of mediocrity. Some countries, like Turkey and Greece favoured the big ballad and big hair, whilst others plumped for never been seen before artistic creativity involving a woman emerging from the top of a grand piano. Whilst she was doing this – very well, it has to be said – although I don’t think it will catch on – her oppo was standing on the piano warbling away about unending love.
The UK entry sounded like a poor TV commercial, but was performed with not inconsiderable grit and determination by a now adult ex member of a long defunct boy band, accompanied by 30 year old women dressed as school girls. Now there’s original for you! Whilst watching Gaz bash manfully through the turkey he’d been saddled with, I was reminded of watching England cricket teams, years ago, being taken apart by Australia. They had grit, too, but they were simply not good enough. But Gaz’s effort was as wholehearted and certainly as good as anyone else’s. And like everyone else’s, it was an appalling song. No-one – Freddy Mercury –Eminem - Shirley Bassey – Elvis –God - absolutely no- one could have done any better with it. It was just as bad as ALL the others. And yet, our skilful and discerning European partners from musical centres of excellence like Bosnia – Hertzogovena, and Malta managed to separate the whole damned turgid mess
into a result. How DO they do it? I will tell you. They do it by voting not for the song, but for who sits next to them at school. Sweden, Norway, Denmark, look for the grouping. Ukraine, Russia etc etc. And if its all a bit nip and tuck, then suddenly somebody stands out, not by the excellence of their song, or the singing thereof, but by dressing up in rubber suits, and getting loads of pre – show publicity from sad religious protesters, they will win. The only way to make it fair would be to list the participating countries not by name but number. Pre show publicity of any kind by any participating country would be banned, on peril of being invaded by America. Every song would be performed by the same singer –picked from a mitre by the Archbishop of Canterbury – or selected by that machine which spits out lottery balls, from a possible 3,000, and every song would be
sung in a language not represented in Europe. Maori, for instance. But then it wouldn’t be anywhere near as engaging, would it? It wouldn’t demonstrate what a cultural illusion Europeanism is – or is it an illusion? At least the way it is now, with its empty-headed presenters [Mr Wogan excluded], kitsch glitz, wonky songs, and bent voting, all the countries are united in musical awfulness, and the result is very, very funny. Immediately following the Eurovision contest – on Beeb 2- was a concert by Bruce Springsteen. Excellent in every way, but The Boss didn’t sing naff songs, didn’t wear a rubber suit and most deﬁnitely didn’t have bleached teeth. In Eurovision, he would have bombed. Anything to get off your chest? Send your malcontent missives to the editor at: email@example.com
The editor and FECO UK accept no responsibility for the opinions expressed by contributors. All images and characters are copyright their respective authors.