Man uses hammer on statue on BBC headquarters

By Laura Parnaby
PA Wire

A man has been spotted using a hammer to attack a statue on the outside of the BBC’s Broadcasting House in central London.

The Metropolitan Police said officers were called at around 4.15pm on Wednesday to Broadcasting House in Portland Street, Westminster where a man had used a ladder to reach the 10ft tall figures above the front entrance.

Shards of the statue and dust were falling from the BBC building as the man hammered away at it.

Police and emergency services are at the scene trying to coax the man to come down (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire)

He had written the words “Time to go was 1989” and “noose all paedos” on to parts of the figures.

Images captured at the scene appear to show the penis of the child in the statue has been removed.

The sculpture, depicting Prospero and Ariel from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, was installed in 1933, according to the BBC.

Officers have cordoned off the entrance to the building, and London Ambulance Service paramedics have also arrived at the scene.

A spokesperson for the Met said: “Officers attended and remain on scene attempting to engage with the man.

“Another man has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage.”

At one point, the man said the statue should have been taken down in the past.

“If this happened decades ago, I wouldn’t be here would I?” he told the negotiators.

Owen King, 52, who works in marketing, was cycling past when he saw the man chipping away at the statue.

The man is seen continuing to chip away at it (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire)

He told the PA news agency: “I saw all the police and I presumed he was protesting about Eric Gill and his background.

“Then the fire brigade were here as well.

People are just wondering, ‘why don’t they take him off the sculpture?’

“So I think they’re just waiting for him to come down.

“He’s got this tiny little hammer and he’s bashing away at the leg there.

“Not much is coming off and he seems to be resting a lot.”

He added: “Someone shouted to him, ‘get off it, you ugly person, an ugly person desecrating a beautiful thing’.

“And he shouted ‘you paedo’.

“And then everyone was laughing at him.

“I think you (should) separate art from the person.”

Responding to the man’s comments calling people paedophiles, Mr King added: “I think it’s really reductive.”

Pieces of stone are seen on the ground after the man began his attempted action to remove it earlier on Wednesday (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire)

Moments later one woman, who was walking past the scene, shouted: “Art should be separated from the person.

“You should spend your energy and time with something else.

“Art can be beautiful by itself.”

The sculptor, Eric Gill, is said to have sexually abused two of his daughters.

A biography on the Tate museum website said: “His religious views and subject matter contrast with his sexual behaviour, including his erotic art, and (as mentioned in his own diaries) his extramarital affairs and sexual abuse of his daughters, sisters and dog.”

Nearly 2,500 people have previously signed a petition demanding the removal of the sculpture on the website of political activist group 38 Degrees.

A spokeswoman for the BBC declined to comment.

The incident came a week after a jury cleared four people of criminal damage after they pulled down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston.

The bronze memorial to the 17th century figure was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol on June 7 2020, before being rolled into the water, and those responsible were acquitted on January 5 following an 11-day trial at the Old Bailey.

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