January 26, 2011
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Insights Speakers
As Queen Mary 2 heads to Uruguay, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria have both transitted the Panama Canal and are currently enjoying the Mexican sun. I’ll have a Blog about Queen Elizabeth’s time in the Caribbean as well as her maiden transit of the Panama Canal in the next few days but today I wanted to feature someone special who recently lectured on Queen Elizabeth.
As regular readers know we like to feature some amazing people on this Blog from the field of Politics, Literature and the Arts who appear on board our ships as part of the Cunard Insights lecture programme. Recently it was a delight to meet and introduce Artist, Illustrator and Satirical Cartoonist Gerald Scarfe. He presented two lectures as well as a Question and Answer session with me to packed audiences in Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Court Theatre although this is a picture of him at work in his studio in London.
During his first talk Gerald spoke candidly about being born in London and his upbringing as a severely asthmatic child. He told us that he spent many of his early years bed-ridden where drawing became a means of entertainment as well as a creative outlet.
After a short period at the Royal College of Art in London and after briefly working in advertising, Gerald Scarfe established himself as a satirical cartoonist with early caricatures of public figures published in Punch and the satirical magazine Private Eye throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He is best known by many, as the political cartoonist for the Sunday Times for the last 44 years. He showed our audiences many of those amazing pictures showing public figures from all walks of life shown in the distinctive Scarfe style. When I asked what his subjects thought of their caricatures he told me that despite them being rarely flattering, they were actually quite happy. Certainly politicians seemed to bear the brunt of his wit.
Gerald Scarfe has also worked for The New Yorker magazine for 14 years, and his work regularly appears in many periodicals. Gerald received a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2008.
One of my favourite parts was when he talked about his involvement with the hit BBC TV series Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister where he provided caricatures of Paul Eddington, Nigel Hawthorne and Derek Fowlds, (as their respective characters), for the opening and closing sequences. The show was very popular amongst the politicians of the time with many famously saying it was sometimes rather too close to the truth! He showed us how the animations for the title sequences were done by hand with numerous pictures showing the progress of each part:
Gerald Scarfe has had such a varied career having exhibited worldwide, and designed the sets and costumes for plays, operas and musicals in the UK, USA and New Zealand. His film work includes designing and directing the animation for Pink Floyd’s, The Wall in 1982. He has written, directed and appeared in many live action and documentary films for BBC and Channel 4 and has published many books of his work. His latest book, The Making of Pink Floyd’s The Wall was published in October 2010 and here he is signing a copy for one of our guests:
He told the audience how he was approached to work with Pink Floyd after Roger Waters and Nick Mason who both saw his animated BBC film A Long Drawn Out Trip. Pink Floyd’s 1974 programme for their tour in the UK and US, in the form of a comic, included a centre-spread caricature of the band. He also drew the cover illustration for their 1979 album The Wall and in 1982 worked on the film version of The Wall. As well as the artwork, Gerald contributed 15 minutes worth of elaborate animation to the film with the scene of the Marching Hammers being one of the most memorable.
Gerald was approached to work on the 1997 Disney film Hercules, as a conceptual character artist, designing almost all of the characters and then supervising the 900 Disney artists charged with adapting his designs for the film.
I asked him about how he became involved in such a wide variety of projects and he told me that many of them seemed to just happen by chance, such as being asked to design sets for a number of operatic productions, following a chance meeting with Sir Peter Hall. He told Gerald “I’ve always wanted to work with you; I’ll give you a call”. Gerald never expected anything to come out of the chance conversation, but he was soon working with Sir Peter on his version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which drew critical acclaim.
Gerald was travelling with his wife Jane Asher who was enjoying a well earned break from her busy acting and business schedule.
Jane’s elder brother is record producer Peter Asher and if that name seems familiar it probably because he was formerly one half of the duo Peter & Gordon, with hits including the number one hit A World Without Love. I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing him on Queen Mary 2 last year, as you can see from this Blog, which was posted shortly after he was on board for a Mediterranean Voyage.
Jane and Gerald met in 1971; married ten years later and now have three grown up children. Jane’s first appearance was as a child actress as Nina in the 1952 film Mandy and went on to appear in numerous films including the 1966 Alfie opposite Michael Caine. She has also appeared in numerous TV programmes including Doctor Who, A Voyage Around My Father opposite Laurence Olivier, and three series of Wish Me Luck in the late 80’s. She told me about when she and Gerald sailed on QE2 filming Brideshead Revisited, though she told me most of the interior shots were done later in a studio.
In addition to her acting career, Jane is also well known as an author, having written three best-selling novels. As well as running a company making party cakes and sugar crafts for special occasions, she still finds time to act on television and in the theatre. She told me of the time when she was spotted by a lady who said, “You know, you look just like Jane Asher. I know you are not but could I call you Jane anyway?” Well there’s not much you can say to that!
It was a great pleasure seeing them both on board Queen Elizabeth and I know our guests enjoyed Gerald’s talks.
After the voyage Gerald kindly sent me a note:
Jane and I had a fantastic time on the beautiful Queen Elizabeth: we’ve become great fans of cruising, but both agreed that this – our first time on Cunard – was especially luxurious. It’s a very different experience giving a talk on board, but the enthusiasm and friendliness of our fellow guests made me feel extremely welcome. The fact that my drawings were greeted with so much laughter and appreciation made the whole trip a joy.
Thank you again Gerald and Jane for taking time to chat to me and for being a great part of the Cunard Insights Programme. We certainly hope we can welcome you back on board one of our Queens very soon. In the meantime, I’ll be back tomorrow with some news and pictures from Queen Elizabeth in the Caribbean and then on Friday the first pictures from her Maiden transit of the Panama Canal. Cheers for now, Alastair