Steve Bell (cartoonist)

Last updated

Steve Bell
Steve Bell, 2016 Labour Party Conference 2.jpg
Bell working at the 2016 Labour Party Conference
Born (1951-02-26) 26 February 1951 (age 68)
Walthamstow, London, England
OccupationPolitical cartoonist, artist

Steven Bell (born 26 February 1951) is an English political cartoonist, whose work appears in The Guardian and other publications. He is known for his left-wing views.

Cartoonist visual artist who makes cartoons

A cartoonist is a visual artist who specializes in drawing cartoons. This work is often created for entertainment, political commentary, or advertising. Cartoonists may work in many formats, such as booklets, comic strips, comic books, editorial cartoons, graphic novels, manuals, gag cartoons, graphic design, illustrations, storyboards, posters, shirts, books, advertisements, greeting cards, magazines, newspapers, and video game packaging.

<i>The Guardian</i> British national daily newspaper

The Guardian is a British daily newspaper. It was founded in 1821 as The Manchester Guardian, and changed its name in 1959. Along with its sister papers The Observer and The Guardian Weekly, the Guardian is part of the Guardian Media Group, owned by the Scott Trust. The trust was created in 1936 to "secure the financial and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity and to safeguard the journalistic freedom and liberal values of the Guardian free from commercial or political interference". The trust was converted into a limited company in 2008, with a constitution written so as to maintain for The Guardian the same protections as were built into the structure of the Scott Trust by its creators. Profits are reinvested in journalism rather than distributed to owners or shareholders.


Early life

Born in Walthamstow, London, and raised in Slough, Bell moved to North Yorkshire with his family in 1968, where he trained as an artist at the Teesside College of Art. He graduated in film-making and art from the University of Leeds in 1974 and trained as an art teacher at St Luke's College, Exeter (now St Luke's Campus at the University of Exeter) in 1975. He taught art for one year in Birmingham before becoming a freelance cartoonist in 1977. His comic strip Maggie's Farm appeared in the London listings magazine Time Out from 1979 and later in City Limits , and Lord God Almighty appeared in The Leveller in the 1970s. In 1980 he contributed a cartoon interpretation of the lyrics to Ivan Meets G.I. Joe to the inner lyric bag of the Clash's triple album Sandinista!

Walthamstow district of the London Borough of Waltham Forest in east London, England

Walthamstow is a major district in North East London and is part of the London Borough of Waltham Forest. It is located 7.5 miles (12.1 km) North East from Charing Cross. Historically in the county of Essex, it significantly increased in population as part of the suburban growth of London and was incorporated as the Municipal Borough of Walthamstow in 1929 before becoming part of Greater London in 1965. Walthamstow is situated between the North Circular Road to the north, the Lea Valley and Walthamstow Reservoirs to the west, and Epping Forest to the east.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Slough Town in Berkshire and Greater London, England

Slough is a large town in Berkshire, England, within the Greater London Urban Area, 20 miles (32 km) west of Charing Cross, central London and 17 miles (27 km) north-east of the county town of Reading. It is between the Thames Valley and London and at the intersection of the M4, M40 and M25 motorways.


Steve Bell is probably best known for the daily strip called If... , which has appeared in The Guardian newspaper since 1981, and since the mid-1990s he has also been that newspaper's principal editorial cartoonist.

If... is an ongoing political comic strip which appears in the United Kingdom newspaper, The Guardian, written and drawn by Steve Bell since its creation in 1981.

Collections of his cartoons have been published, and he has also illustrated original books in collaboration with authors. He has made short animated films with Bob Godfrey, including a short series of animated cartoons for Channel 4 television in 1999 to mark the 20th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher's rise to power, entitled Margaret Thatcher – Where Am I Now? He has appeared in a radio programme about the life of 18th century caricaturist James Gillray. Earlier in his career he wrote and drew the Gremlins comic strip for the British comic Jackpot .

Roland Frederick Godfrey MBE, known as Bob Godfrey, was an English animator whose career spanned more than fifty years. He is probably best known for the children's cartoon series Roobarb (1974–75), Noah and Nelly in... SkylArk (1976-77) and Henry's Cat (1983–95) and for the Trio chocolate biscuit advertisements shown in the UK during the early 1980s. However, he also produced a BAFTA and Academy award-winning short film Great (1975), a tongue-in-cheek biography of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Further Academy Awards nominations received were for Kama Sutra Rides Again (1971), Dream Doll (1980), with Zlatko Grgic, and Small Talk (1994).

Channel 4 British public-service television broadcaster

Channel 4 is a British public-service free-to-air television network that began transmission on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially-self-funded, it is ultimately publicly-owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), the station is now owned and operated by Channel Four Television Corporation, a public corporation of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which was established in 1990 and came into operation in 1993. With the conversion of the Wenvoe transmitter group in Wales to digital terrestrial broadcasting on 31 March 2010, Channel 4 became a UK-wide TV channel for the first time.

James Gillray English caricaturist and printmaker

James Gillray was a British caricaturist and printmaker famous for his etched political and social satires, mainly published between 1792 and 1810. Many of his works are held at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Bell's parodies include Goya's The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (in an editorial cartoon about the UK Independence Party [1] ); William Hogarth's The Gate of Calais about the ban on UK meat exports following outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and bovine BSE; and – before the 2005 General Election when it briefly seemed as if the Liberal Democrats might seriously threaten LabourJ. M. W. Turner's The Fighting Temeraire , in which a chirpy Charles Kennedy as tug-boat towed a grotesque and dilapidated Tony Blair to be broken up. [2] Following the death of Margaret Thatcher, for his cartoon the next day, 9 April 2013, Bell adapted an illustration by Gustave Doré of Farinata in Dante's Inferno , giving Thatcher the speech bubble "Why is this pit still open??" with reference to the closure of coal mines after the miners' strike of 1984–85. [3]

<i>The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters</i> aquatint by Francisco de Goya from the series Los Caprichos

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters is an etching by the Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco Goya. Created between 1797 and 1799, it is the 43rd of 80 etchings making up the suite of satires Los Caprichos.

UK Independence Party British political party

The UK Independence Party is a hard Eurosceptic, right-wing political party in the United Kingdom. It currently has one representative in the House of Lords and three Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). It has three Assembly Members (AMs) in the National Assembly for Wales and one member in the London Assembly. The party reached its greatest level of success in the mid-2010s, when it gained two Members of Parliament and was the largest UK party in the European Parliament.

William Hogarth English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic, and editorial cartoonist

William Hogarth FRSA was an English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic, and editorial cartoonist. His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called "modern moral subjects", perhaps best known being his moral series A Harlot's Progress, A Rake's Progress and Marriage A-la-Mode. Knowledge of his work is so pervasive that satirical political illustrations in this style are often referred to as "Hogarthian".

Bell's cartoons regularly feature grotesque caricatures, and have sometimes caused controversy as well as receiving critical acclaim. During the November 2012 Israel/Gaza conflict The Guardian published a cartoon by Bell showing the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as a puppeteer controlling William Hague and Tony Blair. [4] Dave Rich, blogging for the Community Security Trust, said that the illustration was comparable to those featured in Nazi and other antisemitic publications. [5] While Bell defended his cartoon, [6] the newspaper's readers' editor Chris Elliott concluded in an article on 25 November: "While journalists and cartoonists should be free to express an opinion that Netanyahu is opportunistic and manipulative, in my view they should not use the language – including the visual language – of antisemitic stereotypes." [7] The UK's Press Complaints Commission PCC received 22 complaints, but ruled on 19 December that it was unable to take the matter further. [8]

Operation Pillar of Defense eight-day Israel Defense Forces operation in the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip

Operation Pillar of Defense was an eight-day Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operation in the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip, which began on 14 November 2012 with the killing of Ahmed Jabari, chief of the Gaza military wing of Hamas by an Israeli airstrike.

Benjamin Netanyahu Israeli prime minister

Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is an Israeli politician serving as the 9th and current Prime Minister of Israel since 2009, previously holding the position from 1996 to 1999. Netanyahu is also currently a member of the Knesset and the Chairman of the Likud party. He is the first Israeli Prime Minister born in Israel after the establishment of the state.

William Hague British politician

William Jefferson Hague, Baron Hague of Richmond, is a British Conservative politician and life peer. He represented Richmond, Yorkshire, as its Member of Parliament (MP) from 1989 to 2015 and was the Leader of the Opposition from 1997 to 2001. He was Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2010 to 2014 and was the Leader of the House of Commons from 2014 to 2015.

In the run-up to the United Kingdom general election, 2015, there was outrage on Twitter over an If... cartoon strip depicting Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon as refusing to compromise on their "core demand" for "incest and Scottish folk dancing". Numerous tweets branded Bell as racist, while others said that it was no more outrageous than his cartoons mocking other politicians. [9] There were over 300 complaints made to The Guardian and nearly 1,000 comments under the online cartoon, mostly negative. The wording referred to a quotation attributed to Sir Arnold Bax, who said a Scottish friend had told him "You should make a point of trying every experience once, excepting incest and folk dancing". [10] During the Scottish independence referendum, 2014, Bell's cartoon strip depicted Sturgeon's "Yes" campaigning as promising "No Noness ... and Yes Yesness; Nationalism, Socialism: together they go so well!!" [11]

Awards, books and exhibitions

See also

Related Research Articles

Gerald Scarfe English cartoonist, illustrator, animator

Gerald Anthony Scarfe, CBE, RDI is an English cartoonist and illustrator. He has worked as editorial cartoonist for The Sunday Times and illustrator for The New Yorker.

Blairism political ideology of Tony Blair

In British politics, the term Blairism refers to the political ideology of the former leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister Tony Blair. It entered the New Penguin English Dictionary in 2000. Proponents of Blairism are referred to as Blairites.

Hugo John Smelter Young was a British journalist and columnist and senior political commentator at The Guardian.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information is an advocacy group that promotes and defends freedom of information in the UK. It seeks to strengthen the public’s rights under the Freedom of Information Act and related laws and opposes attempts to weaken them. It does this through campaigning, the publication of briefings and other reports and research. The Campaign also provides advice to the public, assistance to people challenging unreasonable refusals to disclose information and runs training courses on freedom of information.

Nicola Sturgeon First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party

Nicola Ferguson Sturgeon is a Scottish politician serving as the fifth and current First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) since November 2014. She is the first woman to hold either position. Sturgeon has been a member of the Scottish Parliament since 1999, first as an additional member for the Glasgow electoral region from 1999 to 2007 and as the member for Glasgow Southside since 2007.

Gordon Bell was a British cartoonist, best known for humorous strips for D. C. Thomson's weekly comics, including "Pup Parade" in The Beano and "Spoofer McGraw" in Sparky.

Sir Bernard Ingham is a British journalist and former civil servant, best known as Margaret Thatcher's long-serving chief press secretary while she was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. He was knighted in Thatcher's 1990 resignation honours list.

Peter Mullan Scottish actor, filmmaker and socialist

Peter Mullan is a Scottish actor and filmmaker. He is best known for his role in Ken Loach's My Name Is Joe (1998), for which he won Best Actor Award at 1998 Cannes Film Festival and The Claim (2000). He is also winner of the World Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Breakout Performances at 2011 Sundance Film Festival for his work on Paddy Considine's Tyrannosaur (2011). Mullan appeared as supporting or guest actor in numerous cult movies, including Riff-Raff (1991), Braveheart (1995), Trainspotting (1996), Young Adam (2003), Children of Men (2006), War Horse (2011) and the Harry Potter film series (2010–11).

The Cartoon Museum

The Cartoon Museum is a London museum for British cartoons, caricatures, comic strips and animation, owned and operated by the Cartoon Art Trust. It has a library of over 5,000 books and 4,000 comics relating to the subject. The museum issues catalogues and features a changing display of over 250 exhibits from its collection of over 1,700 original cartoons and prints. The museum states that it is "dedicated to preserving the best of British cartoons, caricatures, comics and animation, and to establishing a museum with a gallery, archives and innovative exhibitions to make the creativity of cartoon art past and present, accessible to all for the purposes of education, research and enjoyment.".

<i>Dropping the Pilot</i>

Dropping the Pilot is a political cartoon by Sir John Tenniel, first published in the British magazine Punch on 29 March 1890. It depicts Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, as a maritime pilot, stepping off a ship, idly and unconcernedly watched by a young Wilhelm II, German Emperor. Bismarck had resigned as Chancellor at Wilhelm's demand just ten days earlier on 19 March, as Bismarck's political views were too different from Wilhelm's.

Joe Berger is an illustrator and cartoonist from Bristol.

Cultural depictions of Margaret Thatcher Margaret Thatcher depicted in culture

Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. Her portrayal in the arts and popular culture has been mixed. In the words of one critic she attracted "musical opprobrium like no other British political leader". Such opinion is divergent from mainstream opinion polling which tends to place her as the most popular British prime minister since Winston Churchill.

The Hunt for Tony Blair is a one-off episode of The Comic Strip Presents..., a British television comedy, which was first shown on Channel 4 on 14 October 2011. The 49-minute film was written by Peter Richardson and Pete Richens and presented in the style of a 1950s film noir. It stars Stephen Mangan as the former British prime minister Tony Blair, who is wanted for murder and on the run as a fugitive from justice. The film received its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Television Festival in August 2011. It first aired on Channel 4 on 14 October 2011; it received a mostly positive reaction from reviewers, and was nominated for a BAFTA award and the British Comedy Awards.

Steve Nease cartoonist

Steve Nease is a Canadian editorial and comic strip cartoonist based in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. He was born and raised in Woodbridge, Ontario.

<i>The Audience</i> (2013 play) play written by Peter Morgan

The Audience is a play by the British playwright and screenwriter Peter Morgan. The play centres on weekly meetings, called audiences, between Queen Elizabeth II, played by Dame Helen Mirren, and her prime ministers and premiered in the West End in 2013, at the Gielgud Theatre. A Broadway production opened in 2015, also starring Mirren. A West End revival played in London in 2015 starring Dame Kristin Scott Thomas in the lead role.

Harry Hargreaves (cartoonist) Engels; illustrator; 1922-02-09; 2004-11-12

Harry Hargreaves was an English cartoonist, best remembered for "The Bird" which he produced for Punch and for "Hayseeds" in the London Evening News.

Neil Slorance is a Scottish comic artist who is best known as the artist of Dungeon Fun as well as for his political cartoons. He has contributed strips to Titan Comics' Doctor Who comics alongside Dungeon Fun writer Colin Bell.


  1. "09.06.04: Robert Kilroy-Silk and the UKIP - Cartoons -".
  2. "26.04.05: Tony Blair and Iraq - Cartoons -".
  3. Bell, Steve. "Steve Bell on Margaret Thatcher's death – cartoon" via
  4. "Steve Bell on Tony Blair and William Hague's role in Israel-Gaza clash – cartoon", The Guardian (website), 15 November 2012
  5. Dave Rich "Jews, puppets and the Guardian" Archived 29 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine , Community Security Trust *(blog), 16 November 2012,
  6. Jennifer Lipman "Steve Bell defends Guardian cartoon", The Jewish Chronicle, 22 November 2012
  7. Chris Elliott "Open door: The readers' editor on… accusations of antisemitism against a political cartoon", The Guardian, 25 November 2012
  8. Jennifer Lipman "PCC rules no breach over Steve Bell Gaza cartoon", The Jewish Chronicle, 19 December 2012
  9. Jack Sommers "SNP Guardian Cartoon By Steve Bell Branded 'Racist' In Social Media Outrage", The Huffington Post, 11 March 2015
  10. Elliott, Chris (15 Mar 2015). "I may not always agree with Steve Bell, but I defend his right to draw". the Guardian. Retrieved 30 Sep 2016.
  11. Bell, Steve (13 November 2014). "Steve Bell's If ... on Nicola Sturgeon's new Scotland". the Guardian. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  12. Press Gazette , Roll of Honour Archived 16 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine , accessed 24 July 2011
  13. The Independent , 19 February 1994, Reporter nurtures a scoop
  14. 1 2 Steve Bell, Biography