Political Cartoon of the Year: Drawing the line on the powerful

Dave Brown is defending his title as winner of the Political Cartoon of the Year tomorrow. Kasia Kowalska meets the man behind the pictures

Sitting across the table from me in The Betjeman Arms in St. Pancras, nursing a pint, is the four-time winner of the Political Cartoon of the Year award, The Independent's Dave Brown.

Tonight he will be defending his title against Steve Bell, Martin Rowson, Peter Brookes, Chris Riddell and more.

His Rogues' Gallery cartoon on the Leveson enquiry, The Last, Last, Last Chance Saloon, won the award in 2012, and this year he's chosen The Fighting Portsmouth, a cartoon on the recent BAE shipyard closure, for his entry. How did he decide on that particular cartoon?

"I think it's quite difficult picking a cartoon. The trouble with being a political cartoonist is that a lot of what you do is so ephemeral. A few months removed from the story, which may have faded in people's memory, a lot of cartoons don't mean very much. One reason why I picked The Fighting Portsmouth was that it's still current. You're also always more pleased with what you've done most recently. It's one of the Rogues' Gallery cartoons so it has an added recognition factor: it's based on Turner's The Fighting Temeraire, which is, supposedly, the nation's most-loved painting."

Brown made his mark as the creator of Rogues' Gallery, which has, since 2003, appeared on the pages of the Saturday edition of The Independent.

How did he come up with the idea of giving classic paintings a satirical edge?

"Anything that looks familiar, but which you can turn into something unfamiliar and strange, is a gift – all grist to the mill. It's a reference point to start with and it's fun for me. I get to play at being Francis Bacon one week and Caravaggio the next. It's a political cartoon with its own brand. It has a life of its own."

A political cartoonist's job is to hold up a mirror to the powerful. Seeing that he is one of the leading political cartoonists in the country, has he become part of the establishment he is supposed to lampoon?

"I hope not," he says, "I sit at home wearing old jeans and a black T-shirt covered in Indian ink most days, scratching away at a piece of paper. If that's the establishment, it doesn't feel much like it. Cartooning tends to be anti-establishment. To an extent you are a licensed jester but you are never quite on the inside."

According to Brown, cartoons can't change the world, though it might be their intention. The most they might do is influence people who are already leaning towards one's point of view. Upon reflection, however, he concedes that cartoonists can be a small part of shaping the way people think. Does he have a favourite among his own cartoons that might have done that?

"There was one I did last year when the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report came out. There were a lot of pictures of Thatcher walking around Hillsborough with the police a few days after the tragedy, supposedly being briefed on what had happened – which, of course, we now know was a fiction – and who was very happy to swallow it all and blame the Liverpool fans.

"I did a cartoon of Thatcher down by the corner of the pitch, lifting it up like a carpet as the police swept bodies underneath. I got a lot of favourable responses from people in Liverpool.

"I was worried about offending the families of the Hillsborough fans; they'd gone through a lot. I don't usually worry about offending people very much; it's sort of the job to offend. However, a lot of people rang up who liked the cartoon. One guy said, 'Not many people read The Independent on Merseyside but they're selling loads of copies today 'cause everyone's been talking about your cartoon.' That makes you feel you've done your job properly."

See all the cartoons and vote for your favourite at ellwoodatfieldgallery.com

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Publishing

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Guru Careers: Report Writer / Reporting Analyst

£25 - 30k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Report Writer / Reporting Analyst is nee...

Guru Careers: German Speaking Account Manager / Account Executive

£24-30K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A German speaking Account Manager ...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...