‘To be, or not to be, that is the question’ – Wokingham.Today


There is no doubt in the minds of members and guests who attended the Arts Society Wokingham June conference: Harry Venning is a fun and entertaining lecturer, as well as a famous cartoonist and comedy writer.

In 2016, Harry was awarded British Cartoonist of the Year for his Guardian cartoon Clare In The Community, which he also adapted into a Radio 4 sitcom.

Tonight Hamlet the Pig was the star.

Interspersed throughout his speech, Harry drew caricatures of Hamlet and asked his audience to guess the punchline.

It soon became clear that the answer would be a pun on the famous Shakespearean line, “To be or not to be, that is the question”.

The enthusiastic audience joined in the fun and shouted out their guesses.

In addition to fun, there were facts.

The public was able to discover the history of cartoons, their political and social influence, their lexicon and the work of various famous cartoonists.

In the 19th century, satirical cartoons were growing in popularity and influence. James Gillray drew a series of political cartoons, including “The Plumb-Pudding in Danger”, which depicted Pitt and Napoleon slicing the world between them. Napoleon was depicted as a dominating little “little corporal”.

In fact, he was probably of average height and was famous for saying that Gillray “did more than all the armies in Europe to bring me down”.

John Leech established the place of cartoons in British magazines and newspapers. He was the designer of Punch magazine from its inception in 1841 until his death in 1864.

Charles Schultz, creator of ‘Peanuts’ did the same in the American press, bringing the characters of Charlie Brown and Snoopy to the world.

On a more technical level, Harry introduced the audience to the terminology invented by Mort Walker to describe the symbols used by comic book artists.

Audiences were mesmerized as Harry illustrated the meaning of terms such as plewds which illustrate beads of sweat, grawlixes representing rude words and a waftarom which shows that a pie smells good.

Mort Walker’s The Lexicon of Comicana is essential reading for a budding cartoonist.

Afterwards, an audience member said, “Very enthusiastic, entertaining, unusual. We all love cartoons and the conference helped us understand why”

Another excellent speaker, Rosalind Whyte, will explain why Antony Gormley’s sculptures are so attractive and meaningful at the Arts Society Wokingham’s free annual lecture.

Guests are welcome at Newbold Church at 7.45pm on Monday 18th July. The conference will also be broadcast live.

E-mail [email protected] to register your interest.

Details of next season’s lectures can be found on the Society’s website www.TheArtsSocietyWokingham.org.uk

Sue Bryant


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