Dave Walker, cartoonist-in-residence at the Lambeth Conference.
From the first time the world’s Anglican bishops began meeting every 10 years (beginning in 1867), this year’s Lambeth Conference has featured a cartoonist-in-residence.
Church Times cartoonist Dave Walker, whose series on the publication of the Windsor Report, was a huge hit across the Anglican Communion, is very much a calming, if not grounding, presence at the conference. Bishops and spouses have been seen chuckling at his cartoons, reminding them on occasion that the emperor has no clothes.
The New York Times has noted that Mr. Walker has attracted “something of a cult following” with his tongue-in-cheek visual commentaries of church issues (and self-aggrandizing personalities and characters). Mr. Walker’s cartoons can be viewed on his blog, and on the Lambeth Conference Web site.
The Anglican Journal had a brief chat with Mr. Walker in his white tent, pitched on the grounds of the University of Kent. Excerpts:
Q: How’s it going so far?
A: Doing really well, um… as you can see I’m in my little tent here. I didn’t realize I’ve got the best spot on the campus overlooking the cathedral, which is fantastic. It’s going really well; lots of people are coming into the tent and seem to be enjoying the cartoons. I’m only one day behind the drawings.
Q: How’d you manage to get this fine real estate here?
A: Yes (Laughs). Well, we looked at different places and the Anglican Communion office people who asked me to come here looked for different places to display the cartoon and this seemed to be the best option; right in the centre. People pass by and hopefully see what I’m doing day by day.
Q: Some people seem to think you can’t poke fun at bishops but you have managed to do it in a way that’s not offensive. How do you do that?
A: Well, I’m being very careful to make sure that the work I do can be enjoyed by everyone and that I’m not putting forward one viewpoint at the expense of another. I’m trying to just produce work that anyone can enjoy and I found so far that the bishops have a great sense of humour and they all seem to enjoy what I’m doing.
Q: Isn’t it hard, though, trying to find a balance without having to sacrifice artistic freedom?
A: (The) usual work I do is for the Church Times. I’m still aware that it’s being seen by people with varying viewpoints on things. I’ve generally tried to do work that’s fairly universal. For my own Web site sometimes I do slightly more pointed drawings that have a bit more of an edge to them.
Q: Are you allowed access anywhere? Do you get a front row seat to everything that’s happening?
A: No, I can’t go into the Bible study and indaba groups and I didn’t try to go to the retreat so I don’t know if I could’ve gone to the retreat. But I think I can go into certain things. I think the red badge gets you in certain places.
Q: What’s your sense been so far about the conference? I know it’s only the first couple of days but what seems to stand out initially for you?
A: It’s been wonderful to meet bishops and spouses from all over the world, really.
Q: Were you given some guidelines, some do’s and don’ts?
A: Basically, I’m allowed to do what I want; if I’m doing anything that might be controversial then I run it past the organizers of the conference which is fair enough but so far I don’t think I’ve done anything remotely controversial so I think I’m safe on that one.
Q: How long have you been doing cartoons?
A: I’ve been doing them for probably 10 years or more, just for my enjoyment and the enjoyment of friends, and then I started posting them on the Internet. And about three years ago I did one on the Windsor report which was quite popular online and I sent that one to the Church Times and they published it. So I’ve been doing this professionally for about three years.
Q: How did you react when you were invited to be a cartoonist-in-residence here?
A: It’s an immense privilege to be asked to do such a thing and so I was very pleased because it is not something I dreamed would ever happened. If you asked me a few years ago what I’d be doing it wouldn’t have crossed my mind.