Tweeting and warbling at Shrewsbury

Well, Shewsbury 2009 has been and gone, or #shrews09 as us cutting-edge Twits call it. Yes, this years Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival, the sixth, was the first to be covered live online, by Matt Buck, Alex Hughes, and myself, for Bloghorn.

Alex and Matt did most of the really technical stuff, uploading video and audio clips, while I wrote some words, took quite a few photos (such as the one of the rather impressive queue for caricatures, above, which remained constant throughout the festival) and asked silly questions like, "What the Tweet is the difference between using the hashtag and the at-symbol?" It was a steep learning curve, luckily I managed to cling on.

It wasn't all new media though. Here's me doing some old-style drawing, roughing out a contribution for the Humurals. These large cartoons decorated the Darwin Shopping Centre (the great man was born in Shrewsbury, hence the enthusiasm for marking his bicentenary at this year's festival). Thanks to Duncan Bourne for taking this photo ... I'm glad I haven't evolved a bald spot yet.

I drew a cartoon involving a couple of Galapagos Island tortoises in a credit crunch scenario. Here's the cartoon on display, bottom left, followed by a close-up.

"Times are hard, I've had to take in a lodger."

No Shrewsbury Festival would be complete without a bite to eat and a few drinkies for the cartoonists, followed by some raucous singing and the obligatory drawing on tablecloths.

Here I am trying not to get stuck in "Stuck in the Middle With You", helped considerably by Noel Ford on guitar. Tim Harries, out of shot, also provided acoustic guitar and reminded me when to come in and what notes to sing.

And that's me fourth from the left, immortalised by the genius that is Martin Honeysett. He's famed for drawing highly unattractive types for the likes of Private Eye and Punch, so he had plenty to work from with us lot. Thanks to Gerard Whyman for these last two pics.

The icing on the cake for me was that my sperm and egg cartoon, which I've never managed to get published anywhere (I blogged about that here) was bought by a festival-goer who saw it in the Boffination exhibition. See, I knew it was a good 'un! I've got three cartoons in the show, which can be seen at the Bear Steps Gallery until May 9.

As well as being a chance for us all to meet up and have a laugh, there was something of a support group feeling at this year's Shrewsbury. Few industries are immune from the recession, and many cartoonists are feeling the pinch, with a drop in offers of work. Most people remained upbeat though, and we hope we can do it all again next year in a better economic climate.

In the meantime, we'll do our best to promote the noble and ancient art of cartooning online, as long as I can tell my at-symbol from my hashtag.

Royston's portfolio website