Thursday, March 15, 2007

Eric Gill and Broadcasting House

The first transmission from Broadcasting House in London took place 75 years ago today. The BBC website has a pleasing selection of photographs to mark the anniversary.

This seems a good moment to repeat an anecdote about the sculpture of Prospero and Ariel by Eric Gill that graces the front of the building.

History reports that when it was first unveiled people were of the opinion that the young Ariel was - how shall we put it? - too well endowed. Indeed, John Knight records that a Labour MP - a Mr G. G. Mitcheson - argued that the figures were offensive to public morals and decency and asked the Home Secretary if he would instruct the Metropolitan Police to remove them.

Legend has it that Sir John Reith then consulted one of the governors, Dr Montague Rendell, who was a former public school headmaster and presumed to be an authority on such matters. Dr Rendell pronounced and Gill was obliged to take a chisel to his creation.

The BBC itself says that there is no "hard evidence" that this tale is true. But it certainly ought to be.


HE Elsom said...

I think Fiona McCarthy has some information in her biography of Gill, though I don't have a copy to hand to check.

Anonymous said...

Knight is wrong in one minor respect:Mitcheson was Tory M.P. for St.Pancras South-West, not Labour.