Satire, Politics & Cartoons - the first 35,000 years, with Martin Rowson of the Guardian

Multi-award winning cartoonist, illustrator, writer, broadcaster & poet Martin Rowson will describe how caricature and the cartoon – and the satirical motivation behind them – have always been a defining part of being human


Sweeping across 35000 years, he ranges from cave art to Hogarth and Gillray - the defining geniuses of British cartooning. Along the way Martin explores the “Great Gift of Offence” and what it causes: from politicians hanging cartoons on their toilet walls, to cartoonists being imprisoned by governments - or murdered by men wielding assault weapons and shouting “God is Great!," on the pretext that they’ve been “offended”.

Featuring his own work and that of past masters like Ronald Searle, Rowson’s wonderfully illustrated talk will seek to show how laughter empowers us all: those who like to pretend they’re somehow better than us, superior and in control, are always absurd and often fantastically funny. But Martin will also address laughter’s frequent roots in anger and a sense of injustice.

The talk will contain extremely graphic material and very, very strong language, on top of Rowson’s very own poisonous opinions. So probably not for the faint hearted or easily upset.


Martin Rowson

Martin has been a professional cartoonist since 1982, six months after he graduated. Best known now for his twice weekly cartoons for The Guardian, over the years he’s also contributed regularly to The Daily Mirror, The Times, The Independent on Sunday, The Spectator, The Morning Star, The New Statesman, Time Out, The Irish Times, The Racing Post, The Erotic Review, Index on Censorship, The New European and many other publications. In fact the only national daily he’s never been in is The Sun, because they never asked him.

He’s also written, drawn or contributed to over 60 books, including Stuff, a memoir about clearing out his late parents’ house which was long listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2007; plus several graphic novels, including adaptations of T S Eliot’s The Waste Land, Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and, in 2018, Marx & Engels’ The Communist Manifesto. He’s also written 4 volumes of The Limerickiad, retelling the whole of World Literature in limericks. His most recent book is Pastrami Faced Racist & Other Verse. He is currently working on an updated version of Hans Holbein’s 16th century bestseller The Dance of Death.

Martin Rowson is chair of the British Cartoonists’ Association, has served three terms as a vice-president of the Zoological Society of London, is a trustee of London’s Cartoon Museum and the Powell-Cotton Museum in Kent and is a former trustee of the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Humanist Association. In 2017 one of Rowson’s Guardian cartoons incited the Daily Mail to run an enraged full page editorial titled “The Fascism of the Left” in which he and his work were described as “disgusting... deranged... sick and offensive.” In that spirit, he has lectured extensively in Germany, France, the United States, India and thoughout Britain. He lives in south-east London with his wife Anna Clarke, and their two grown-up children who drop by when they’re passing.

2019Martin Keeley