James shows he has the Whit and wisdom

James Whitworth
James Whitworth
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He’s Whit by name and a wit by nature - the man best known for putting the haha in The Star.

James Whitworth is the cartoonist who keeps readers chuckling with his sketches taking a sideways swipe at Sheffield life.

But did you know the drawings you see three days a week in your favourite local paper are just the tip of our man’s creative iceberg?

For every picture that appears on these pages, James does four more that go unpublished in a bid to ensure the final cartoon is as amusing as possible.

Now, as an early Christmas present to Diary readers, the 43-year-old of Fulwood - who also produces work for Private Eye and The Jewish Chronicle - has agreed for the first time to let us showcase some of the best of the rest.

And we think you’ll agree they’re every bit as mirth-making as the sketches which have led to him being called one of the best cartoonists in regional media.

“If you come up with just one idea a day, you’re asking for trouble,” he says today as he shows The Diary a selection of his hundreds of unseen sketches. “You have to come up with four, five, six; then see which works the best, which is the funniest, which will lend itself to the best picture. Only then can you pick the one you think should go in the paper.”

What happens to the rest? “They stay in the sketchbook,” says James, whose dad Ralph famously also worked for Sheffield Newspapers from 1957 to 1998. “They remain unseen. That’s the nature of it. You get up the next day and start again.

“That doesn’t make it a waste of time. Forcing yourself to come up with these ideas and gags means you get better. It’s honing your craft.”

Issues that have been given his treatment this year include library closures, lecturer strikes, the end of Sheffield’s Castle Market and the HS2 railway line. City councillors, government ministers, transport officials and even journalists have all been mocked.

“As a cartoonist you can sometimes make yourself unpopular because it’s your job to have a dig at institutions,” he explains. “But it’s always done from the standpoint that I love this city. I think most people appreciate that you’re trying to find humour in serious issues.”

He thinks for a moment. “Although, strangely whenever you poke fun at teachers, you seem to get a lot of complaints.”

He’s already planning for next year too.

He’s currently in the early stages of compiling a book of joke-based cartoons.

“Cartoons inspired by current affairs soon go out of date so they don’t make great books,” he says. “But I also do a lot of joke-based stuff so I’m hoping to do a compendium of those.”

And he’ll keep sketching for The Star, of course.

“When someone sees your work and gets in touch to say it made them laugh or that they thought you nailed an issue, that’s a great feeling,” he says.

He writes too...

IT’S not just cartoons and sketches which James Whitworth does. He’s also a published novelist.

The 43-year-old has just had his second crime mystery released by London-based Endeavour Press.

The Eve Of Murder - available on Kindle - is the follow up to Death’s Disciple, released last year.

Both are set in Whitby and tell the tales of Detective Inspector Frank Miller and local journalist Tim Brown - a character partially based on the Tim Brown who worked at The Sheffield Morning Telegraph during the Sixties.

“Where do I find the time?” ponders James. “By working 15 hour days. But it’s easier to work those hours if you love what you’re doing.”

n Both available on Amazon £2.99.