Mirror cartoonist Pete Songi’s notorious satirical artwork in enormous exhibition in pub

Anyone popping in to “The Duke Of Greenwich”, close to Maze Hill station in South East London this month, might wonder if they’re visiting an art gallery, rather than a pub.

Over a hundred cartoons featuring the talent of more than sixty of the UK’s top artists adorn the walls; making this humble local the home of one of, if not THE best collections of contemporary art in the country just now.

And relax admission is free, and you can still get a beer!

The glorious, rib-ticklin’, CartoonFest is all down to Daily Mirror cartoonist Pete Songi, the fella who illustrates Kevin Maguire’s politics’ column every week, and who’s a man who clearly doesn’t like bare walls when he’s having a drink.

We caught-up with Pete at The Duke to ask him how he came to transform the Greenwich boozer into a Mecca for art lovers.

Pete Songi

Pete Songi’s work is known to millions of readers

The cartoons feature in a big exhibition

“It all came about last year” recalls Songi. I was out for a pint with a couple of cartoonist pals, Mark Winter (New Zealand press) and Jeremy Banx (FT). We dropped in at the newly refurbished ‘Duke Of Greenwich’ and figured we and it needed cheering-up a bit with some of our cartoons.

“Thankfully the new owners liked the idea. We had a ‘Drinking’ themed exhibition there last January, featuring art from forty members of the Professional Cartoonists Organisation ( ) that went well, and so we got invited back, this time the theme being ‘Summer’.

“The pub enjoyed a massive boost in footfall last time and the venue has now become a hub for other local talent. The Greenwich Printmakers, a local travel photographer and then a portrait artist all followed our first exhibition adorning the walls; the owners keen to keep the space occupied.

“I wanted this to be a collaborative exhibition with established cartoonists as well as entries from up and coming talent and from those not able to break through into mainstream titles like Private Eye or The Spectator.”

Pete’s cartoon’s always capture the sentiment

For The Duke’s new owners, Pete’s enquiry came at an opportune time. They’d refurbished the bar and while they’d initially left the walls bare, soon realised the decor needed something extra.

Bar Director Nicholas Blucert, who now owns The Duke Of Greenwich, with four fellow directors, takes up the story; “I’d worked at Fleet Street’s ‘Punch Tavern’ years ago where hacks would be our regulars, and my pals and I would drink in the nearby “Cartoonist” pub.

“When Pete and his cartoonist pals came along with the suggestion, the idea of connecting with that vibe appealed to us straight away.

“We didn’t want to go down the route of some pub chains and just have old historic local maps or prints on the walls, but still wanted to connect with our area of South East London.

Pete is delighted to be in the show

Anyone can go to the exhibition

“We specialise in providing a range of local beers rather than more widely known brands, so the idea of supporting and celebrating local artists and community art immediately feels really comfortable.

“We’re here to provide great food & drink and a great venue for families to enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, so the gallery effect has been fantastic. Some of Pete’s colleagues’ cartoons are quite edgy but they make our customers smile. What not to like?”

Edgy or not, it’s great to see the breadth of talent from lesser known artists having their work displayed alongside cartoons from the country’s more famous, established professionals.

Pete Songi’s not making money from the artists; he’s provided QR code links to all the PCO contributors, so if pub goers fancy buying a print they can contact the cartoonists direct.

I ask Songi if he’s any plans to take the exhibition anywhere else.

Bar Director Nicholas Blucert with team

“We hope that The Duke of Greenwich might extend the display here beyond the July 6 close, but if anyone else has a venue that might like to exhibit, then sure, as long as they pay me to get it to them” he smiles.

And future plans?

“The PCO have a fabulous weekend in Herne Bay every August; a cartoon festival which features a live paint day on the Sunday.

“I’d love to bring something like that to Greenwich one day. Seeing cartoonists like Martin Rowson surrounded by a crowd as he demonstrates his drawing, feeling the energy and enthusiasm, hearing the applause when he’s finished, that kind of interaction with the general public is just fabulous.

That’s the dream. From the Duke of Greenwich to the streets of Greenwich, then who knows where? Cartoons for The People!

“Oh, and a locally brewed pint of lager please, if you’re offering…”