Theguardian_ A suspect has been arrested after a controversial statue by the paedophile sculptor Eric Gill on the front of the BBC’s headquarters was struck with a hammer in an apparent protest.
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.
The Metropolitan police said they were called at 4.15am on Saturday to reports of a man who had climbed scaffolding and was damaging a sculpture.
He was reportedly seen leaning against some scaffolding and shouting at a police officer. Specialist officers were called to the scene and an arrest was made just after 6pm, the force said.
A spokesperson for the Met said: “The man was reportedly damaging a sculpture.
“Officers attended the location. Due to the circumstances of the incident, including the height, specialist officers were called to the scene.
“Shortly after 6pm the man was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and going equipped. He will be taken into police custody.”
The incident comes a week after the corporation sparked outrage by beginning repair work on the statue after 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 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 HQ 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”.
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 building was scaffolded on Tuesday with expert stonemasons beginning to restore the statue, which is carved from Caen stone, a type of limestone quarried in north-west France.
The BBC said the repair work would be used to provide additional context about the statue and Gill, with members of the public eventually being able to access a QR code nearby.
“Broadcasting House is a building of historical and cultural significance and one of the foundations of modern-day broadcasting, both in this country and around the world,” said Robert Seatter, head of BBC History. “We have a responsibility to maintain and preserve the building for generations to come.
“Alongside this, Gill’s abusive behaviour and lifestyle are well documented and the BBC in no way condones his behaviour,” he added. “So while it is right that the fabric of the building is restored, we must also ensure people are fully informed about the history connected to it.”
The BBC declined to comment in light of the continuing police presence.