A controversial statue by the paedophile sculptor Eric Gill on the front of the BBC’s headquarters has been struck with a hammer in an apparent protest, the broadcaster has announced.
A man wearing a Spider-Man mask scaled Broadcasting House in central London and defaced the carving of Prospero and Ariel in the early hours of Saturday morning – the second time the 1931 work has been attacked.
It comes a week after the corporation sparked outrage by beginning repair work on the statue following the first attack in January last year, with campaigners labelling the restoration a “smack in the face” that “flies in the face” of the BBC’s ethos.
Gill was one of the most prominent early 20th-century British artists and designers until his death in 1940. But his diaries, published posthumously, revealed he sexually abused his daughters and the family dog.
The Metropolitan police said it was called at 4.15am on Saturday to reports of a man who climbed scaffolding and was damaging a sculpture. By 7am, the man was reportedly seen leaning against some scaffolding and shouting at a police officer.
“It has not been possible to safely detain the man given the circumstances of the incident, including the height,” a Met spokesperson said. “Specialist officers have been called to the scene.” The area, including parts of Regent Street and the front of Broadcasting House, was cordoned off.
The carving, which depicts Prospero and a part-naked Ariel from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, was installed by the artist on the front of the BBC’s Broadcasting House headquarters in London in 1933, shortly after the building opened. It sits above the Regent Street entrance and is considered an integral part of the Grade II*-listed building.
Sexual abuse campaigner Dawn Carrington this week told the Daily Mail the onset of the restoration work was beyond the pale.
She said: “The decision to restore this statue by a paedophile is a smack in the face to the BBC’s audience and employees, an estimated one in five of whom have experienced at least one form of child abuse, 3.1 million of which were victims of sexual abuse.
“This decision also flies in the face of the BBC’s values, which are to reflect the UK’s values to the world and contribute to the wellbeing of the UK. What sort of a message do they think this sends?
“It’s abhorrent that an evil man who confessed to sexually abusing his daughters, sisters and his dog should be celebrated in this way – it should be torn down.”
In addition to his sculptures, Gill also created the widely used Perpetua and Gill Sans typefaces – the latter of which the BBC stopped using as its official font in 2021.
The BBC previously faced calls from sexual abuse charities to remove the statue from its headquarters in 2013 but refused, citing Gill’s record as “one of the last century’s major British artists whose work has been widely displayed in leading UK museums and galleries”.
In January last year, a man scaled the building in Portland Place and attacked the statue with a chisel. Police arrested the man on suspicion of criminal damage after he was helped down by the London fire brigade.
The damage to the statue resulted in the BBC’s entrance being temporarily shut on 9 May for repairs, which were previously expected to be completed by 19 June.
The BBC declined to comment in light of the continuing police presence.
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