A Look At London’s Gagged Exhibition Of Politically Repressed Cartoons And Cartoonists

Today I am taking the girls to a workshop on cartooning and caricatures from Banx and The Surreal McCoy, two artists who have work in the current Gagged exhibition at the Westminster Reference Library in London, where said workshop is taking place.


I popped in there on Wednesday before picking up that days comics and was surprised to find it so, so close to Leicester Square. Just round the corner from the half price tickets booth.


Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation chair Bill Stott says

“repressive governments the world over fear cartoonists. Cartoonists get straight to the point. Images remain in the public eye longer than do acres of type. Whilst we in the UK and Europe generally accept often excoriating depictions of our leaders, this is definitely not the case in the rest of the world. Here, politicians actually applaud critical and often insulting drawings of themselves, sometimes even assembling personal collections thereof.

Not so elsewhere. In at least one verified instance, a foreign cartoonist was visited by government agents and had his hands broken. Doubtless there are others. Repressive governments, fearful of the truth, regularly imprison cartoonists. The Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation [UK] works with other agencies – in this instance alongside Cartoonists’ Rights Network International and Index on Censorship – to try to bring the plight of persecuted cartoonists to the fore.

This exhibition seeks to do that. Whilst it is not easy to highlight a repressive government’s treatment of any given cartoonist because that government will often react by threatening the cartoonist’s family and friends, any and all proceeds from this exhibition will go towards trying to alleviate the conditions many cartoonists the world over have to live with.’


Here’s a little glimpse of the exhibition for those who can’t make it. But if you can, you really should.


About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.