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Book of newspaper cartoons makes light of Brexit and the EU referendum debate

PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 May 2016

Cartoonist Kipper Williams

Cartoonist Kipper Williams


The Guardian and The Spectator cartoonist, Kipper Williams, attempts to make light of the looming EU referendum with a new book of satirical drawings on Europe, bureaucracy and Boris Johnson, he tells Imogen Blake.

Kipper Williams has published a book of cartoons on Europe. Copyright: Kipper Williams/Amberley BooksKipper Williams has published a book of cartoons on Europe. Copyright: Kipper Williams/Amberley Books

If you’re still undecided about whether we should leave or stay in the EU, a new compilation of satirical drawings about Europe certainly won’t help.

Instead, the book from Gospel Oak cartoonist Kipper Williams promises to be an “ideal antidote to euro-overload” by skewering both sides of the debate – with EU bureaucracy, eccentric nationalists, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and, of course, Brexit, all coming under fire in In or Out? Europe in Cartoons.

“It’s not supposed to be banging the drum for any particular side,” says Williams, who lives in Shirlock Road with his author wife, Pamela Holmes.

“Inevitably with a cartoon, there’s an undercurrent, you may get a sense of what I and other cartoonists may feel, but I’m not putting out a government leaflet saying ‘vote to stay in’.

Kipper Williams has published a book of cartoons on Europe. Copyright: Kipper Williams/Amberley BooksKipper Williams has published a book of cartoons on Europe. Copyright: Kipper Williams/Amberley Books

“As it happens, I will be voting to stay in, but that’s not the job of the book, which is to make light of it.”

Despite his personal views on the EU, the institution does not get an easy ride from the cartoonist, who draws for The Guardian and The Spectator.

Excessive bureaucracy, stringent EU directives, and federalism fears are all targets of his pen.

One drawing sees a married couple reading together in bed: she pores through 50 Shades of Grey, while he reads 5,000 Shades of Red Tape.

The seemingly endless coverage of the Europe debate also gets a fair whacking. In one cartoon, a man appeals to the European Court of Human Rights because he’s “being tortured by the endless EU debate”.

“The details surrounding the debate can be quite tedious,” says Williams.

“But it’s often the topics that on the surface are quite dull and plodding that you get the best jokes out of because you can go off on tangents.

“If it’s quite dry or matter of fact, you can let your ideas soar,” he adds.

“Having said that, directives about bananas and cucumbers by definition have comedic potential, so the job is half done.”

Half the compilation’s cartoons are drawn especially for the book, while the other half have already appeared in The Spectator or The Guardian.

When asked what makes Europe such good fodder for comedy, Williams compares the continent to a large family, who have some major differences.

“There are clichés and stereotypes,” he says.

“You don’t want to be racist but stereotypes do make things instantly recognisable.

“It’s the same for whoever you’re drawing. When I drew Boris, I drew a mop of hair and he’s recognisable from that, even though he’s got the red tape over his mouth.”

His cartoonist’s shorthand has only ever got him into trouble once, when he was accused of “oversimplification” for his drawings about the Greek economic crash and the resulting Eurozone crisis.

Despite releasing a book dedicated to political satire, Williams favours drawing on the arts, particularly music.

He’s cartoonist in residence at the Cornwall Folk Festival this summer, and used to draw celebrities for Smash Hits magazine in the 1980s.

“Keith Richards was a particular favourite because of his face. As a cartoonist, if you can’t draw Keith Richards, you have to give up.

“Every time I come to draw him he has another 100 lines.’

This year, the artist is celebrating exactly 40 years since he was first published.

What has been the enduring appeal of drawing cartoons for so long?

“They can cut through a lot of verbiage. You can do something with a cartoon very simply.

“It is the old cliché but you can say something with a small column that can take a journalist a whole page to write.”

In or Out? Europe in Cartoons, is out now (£8.99) from Amberley Publishing.

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