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Ian Hislop to speak about satire exhibition at Beacon Museum

Treason!!! A hand etched satirical drawing featuring the infamous John Bull character, by Richard Newton (1798)

IAN Hislop will bring his razor-sharp satirical worldview to the Beacon Museum in Whitehaven on Friday, October 18.

Mr Hislop will talk about a new exhibition The golden age of satire? Late-Georgian satirical prints, which opens on October 12 and runs until January 12.

He is no stranger to satire, having carved a successful career as editor of Private Eye magazine, panellist on Have I Got News for You and curator of the British Museum Citi exhibition I Object: Ian Hislop’s search for dissent. Mr Hislop said: “As I travel the country with an exhibition of 18th and 19th century prints, I can’t escape the idea that we are now living through Britain’s golden age of satire.”

Visitors to the collection can explore how a small group of printmakers – Gillray, Cruikshank, Rowlandson and Newton – drew attention to the worst excesses of the British monarchy between 1790 and 1820. Set against a feverish atmosphere of reform, revolution and war, these prints held a mirror to the most dysfunctional and unpopular institutions of the time.

Ian Hislop and Tom Hockenhull, co-curators of the Golden Age of Satire exhibition

Ian Hislop added: “This exhibition is as relevant today as in the Georgian era. There is a terrific drawing by George Cruikshank entitled The Prince of Whales in which the Prince Regent appears as a large blubbery whale accompanied by fat mermaid mistresses being hooked in by the successful Tory fishermen.

“I love the fact that this deliberate pun is the same as the one President Trump tweeted when he inadvertently referred to the current heir to the throne as the Prince of Whales earlier this year.”

The Beacon Museum’s Director, Elizabeth Kwaznik, said: “This British Museum Spotlight Loan is a collection of illustrations that waymark the origins of modern-day satirical humour. It is supported by the Dorset Foundation, and is our first collaborative project with the world-famous British Museum. The exhibition contains numerous original satirical illustrations from the Georgian period, when Whitehaven itself was considered one of England’s boom towns.

“We could not have timed this collaboration with the British Museum any better, as dissenting voices are currently in overdrive with satirical reflections on Brexit. We at the Beacon Museum want to look at that way of thinking and take it back to where it all began.

“Modern traits of satire are clearly recognisable even in these Georgian illustrations. Looking at our west Cumbrian collection and the Georgian town in which we are located, we have a rich array of contextual information and artefacts to help put a local spin on these national narratives of use and abuse of power.

“Also included will be local examples of satire found within letters and newspaper extracts directed at the often-corrupt Cumbrian electioneers of that time. ‘Wicked Jimmy’ Lowther is one such fascinating character, emblematic of all that was perceived to be wrong with the power balance within west Cumbria during that period in history.”

The exhibition is suitable for all ages, although some mild adult themes will be visible among the collection. It is accompanied by a range of workshops and events. Visit for details. Or search #GoldenAgeOfSatire on social media.

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