[In 2020 I was delighted to give an interview in the prestigious pages of a fundraising e-book, #DrawTheCoronaVirus: A Cartoon Mini-Challenge from the Mind of Martin Rowson, by the Covid-closed and financially strapped Cartoon Museum. The book includes works by Ralph Steadman, Steve Bell, Ben Jennings, Nick Newman, Banx, Steve Bright, Zoom Rockman, Grizelda and Glenn Marshall. If you like cartoons and want to support the work of the Cartoon Museum in keeping the medium alive bung ’em a tenner for the book! I’ve reproduced my interview and featured cartoons below.]
Allan Cavanagh is an award-winning Galway based cartoonist and caricature artist. His cartoons have appeared in various publications, including the Connacht Tribune, Hollands Diep magazine and various school textbooks. He has exhibited in Ireland, France, and Algeria. He represented Ireland at the 49+ la BD Francophone Cartoon Festival, Tourcoing in 2008 and in 2009 represented Ireland at the 2eme Festival Bande Dessinee in Algeria.
He is a founding member of the annual Galway Cartoon Festival, which began in 2017.
What is the role of cartooning in times of adversity?
Cartoons are the original memes. They’re a lightening rod of opinion. A good cartoon can distill the prevailing mood and clarify a thought on the edges of public consciousness. Cartoons report, and cartoons inspire. Humour keeps us sane in times of adversity, and cartoons allow that hiss of steam to escape our ears as we chuckle. Cartoons are printed daily placards that cumulatively leak into activism. They are immoral images calling the amoral to account. They warn us not to say “this is fine” and have a cup of tea as the house burns down.
Why are museums important to you?
Museums act as the long term memory centre of the bits popular culture forgets. We are nothing but the sum of the past having big ideas about the future while forgetting how we got to the present. Museums preserve that journey into the perpetually changing construct of who we are. They make us know ourselves better.
How do you think the coronavirus pandemic might change the world and the way we live our lives?
We’ve realised that the car isn’t the basic unit of humanity. Our cities are changing around the shape of the human being walking or cycling. Temporary measures, fought against for so long, like bike lanes and pedestrian areas, will become the new normal. We will expel the poison of the private motor car when we see children playing in grass-covered city streets. There’s no going back from the clear skies and reclaimed spaces.
Casual sex will be by appointment only and under strict medical supervision.
What has brought you joy during the lockdown?
Drawing! I’ve had time to go back over 10 years of notes and pluck gags out I’d forgotten I’d ever thought of. I have pages of raw material that gives my head peace when I draw from it, possibly because I’m answering that quiet nag of “why did you never draw me?”. If more people realised how thoroughly pleasing drawing is, pencils would become as rare as bog roll and hand sanitiser.