Well, yet another superbly well-attended public Cartoon Festival put on by the tiny medieval village of Louviers, in the splendour of France’s Normandy countryside.
The usual suspects were invited by organiser, Daniel Chabouis: Guy Carter, Terry Christien, John Landers and myself.
We started by going a day early and staying over in Paris. Three of us visited Paris’ oldest jazz club and enjoyed some cool vibes while the fourth, who will remain nameless, but was Guy Carter, stayed in his hotel room finally drawing his seven cartoons for the exhibition. Talk about tight deadlines. Before going out to Louviers the next day we took an open top bus tour around Paris which was punctuated by an emergency toilet hunting session during which I was passed from pillar to post by helpful locals waving their hands in vague directions saying ‘La bas!’ It was awfully difficult finding out where ‘la bas’ was.
Many of you who have been to St Just might like to know that Louviers is a mini-version involving much more work (drawing in front of the adoring public).
The contents are the same every year. Around 40 cartoonists gather from all round Europe to display their wares and demonstrate their talents. Prizes are given out in various categories. None of which went to the Brit contingent this year. The festival regular, Gab, won the main prize this year which consists, dubiously, of being at Louviers for a whole week prior to next year’s festival, working in the bars and cafes to publicise it! Oh, and he gets to draw a cartoon for the catalogue cover. It’s the honour!
This year, well-known faces included Genny, Gouders, Moine, Rousso and Zabuski. In our group, Alex Noel Watson absent due to a chest infection from which we hope he makes a full recovery.
The festival is tightly organised with a nicely produced catalogue being a major collectable souvenir of the event. The cover is also blown up into A1 and A2 posters which are plastered all over the town and even on buses in the area. The public actually pay to get into the exhibition hall, The Salle du Moulin, and they have to vote for artists in various categories. I think this is good as it gives them an incentive to really look at the cartoons and the live work going on in order to make an informed decision. It also serves to sharpen their awareness of the art that lies behind cartooning. It becomes a two-way transaction, whereas a straightforward exhibition just involves the public looking and going away without registering their impressions.
Amongst the antics that took place during the socialising and the generous servings of food and drink, we took it upon ourselves to ‘Get Carter’ for reasons best left unmentioned. Despite the absence of superglue, our Dutch mastermind, Jean Gouders, devised a method of blocking his electronic door swipe lock in an attempt to prevent him returning to his room after one of his late night excursions. This was a crime in which Jean’s daughters, Nadine and Malou took an excited delight. Almost as if in divine retribution, a key member of the gang, John Landers, found that he had been chucked out of his room by Robert Rousso due to a double booking error. Off poor old John went to the hotel on the other side of the motorway. How we laughed. This, plus a sustained thread of ‘toilet humour’ helped to bridge the cultural divides and served to bond this little community of European cartoonists.
As always, it was over far too quickly and I’m looking forward to next year already.
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