A staunch defence of work by a paedophile has highlighted mounting concern that Cardiff honours a self-confessed anti-Semite who made racist comments, and named a public plaza after him.
The art critic Jonathan Jones (who was born in Wales) has supported the sculptures of artist Eric Gill, despite his controversial past behaviour, and attacks by demonstrators who believe these activities negate his work.
Mr Jones paid tribute to the genius of Mr Gill, with the headline above his Guardian article being: “Eric Gill was evil. His sculpture at BBC headquarters isn’t”.
He wrote: “By restoring this damaged work of art, the BBC is standing up for the ideals of culture it exists to uphold.”
Yet many believe the sculptures of Mr Gill ARE in fact problematic in the context of his background.
He sexually abused his daughter when she was a child, had an incestuous relationship with at least one of his sisters, and sexually experimented with his dog.
Recently a protester climbed scaffolding at the front of the BBC’s HQ in London, and damaged the statues by him of Prospero and Ariel at the front, and there have been numerous calls for the stone figures to be removed.
It is the second time the 1930s work at Broadcasting House (BH) has been targeted by vandals. A demonstrator also took a hammer to it last year and damage from that incident took a long time to be repaired.
But these controversial actions only serve to put centre stage Cardiff’s pride in being the birthplace of gifted children’s author Roald Dahl, about whom (like Mr Gill) there are also awkward questions, and with visitors to a public plaza in the city wondering why it has been named after him.
A filled in ‘holding dock’ is now a pleasant walkway in the heart of Cardiff Bay, and has been called Roald Dahl Plass (RDP).
But Mr Dahl was a convinced anti-Semite, as well as giving racist views, and although he was a brilliant children’s writer, honouring him seems bizarre to some visitors in the city.
He has declared: “Hitler didn’t pick on Jews for no reason”.
Apparently endorsing this repugnant observation, more than thirty years ago Mr Dahl said to The Independent: “I’m certainly anti-Israeli and I’ve become anti-Semitic in as much as that you get a Jewish person in another country like England strongly supporting Zionism”.
He wrote the screenplay for the 1968 film version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and one of the characters in it (the ‘Child Catcher’) was almost certainly an anti-Semitic stereotype.
The Jerusalem Post said about him: “Dahl harbored deep animus towards Israel in tandem with rabid Jew-hatred. And he was never less than forthcoming in broadcasting his racism.”.
A huge row developed over plans (which failed) to remove references by him to aspects of characters’ appearance and weight, with words like ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ to be taken out, because they were deemed not suitable for modern audiences.
One tourist walking with his family in RDP told The Eye: “This is a lovely place for me and the kids, but naming it Roald Dahl Plass after what he’s said, seems a bit much!”.
Another proclaimed: “I really like it down here, but I don’t like walking in a place named after this man”.
They may not like either, the work of a sculptor being defended by a Welsh art critic, when the artist had sexually abused his daughter as a child, engaged in an incestuous relationship with one of his sisters, and sexually experimented with his dog…
POSTSCRIPT – sadly a trail for this story was targeted by abusers on social media, and the comments are typical of the online insults constantly levelled at our Editor, Welshman Phil Parry.
A ‘Ronit Mars’ (presumably a made-up handle!) wrote on Facebook FB that it was “Disgusting journalism”, as well as asking in another post: “Why are you mixing racism with paedophilia? if they’re a pedophlle then they should be imprisoned. If Cardiff named a plaza after a known racist, this is appalling and the plaza should be renamed”.
The word ‘Racism’ was not mentioned in the original trail. However, perhaps it is worth repeating the comments of The Jerusalem Post: “Dahl harbored deep animus towards Israel in tandem with rabid Jew-hatred. And he was never less than forthcoming in broadcasting his RACISM (our capitals).”.
The memories of Phil’s decades long award-winning career in journalism (when the truth about revered individuals was always reported) as he was gripped by the rare neurological disease Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now!
Publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.
Tomorrow – why reports that the biggest police force in the UK are about to pay huge damages to the family of a murdered man who grew up in Wales, after admitting “corruption, incompetence and defensiveness”, highlight how there has been no official apology from the biggest Welsh one, which was responsible for an extraordinary number of miscarriages.
It also puts centre stage growing concern that a country of only 3.1 million people has FOUR police forces.