Man arrested after damage done to Eric Gill statue at BBC headquarters

A man has been arrested after allegedly hitting a controversial statue outside the BBC’s HQ in London with a hammer.

Police were called at 04:15 BST on Saturday to reports a man had climbed scaffolding outside Broadcasting House and was damaging Eric Gill’s Prospero and Ariel.

There have been calls for it to be removed because the sculptor recorded abusing his daughters in his diaries.

It is the second time the 1930s work has been targeted.

The man was brought down from the scaffold shortly after 18:00 BST.

The Metropolitan Police said he had been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and going equipped and that he would be taken into police custody.

It comes after a protester took a hammer to the statue in January last year. Repair work from the damage done during that incident is still ongoing.

Throughout Saturday, a man could be seen on the scaffold wearing a Spider-Man mask and shouting intermittently at officers on the ground. Footage also appeared to show him hitting the statue with a hammer and chisel.

A cordon was put in place and police initially said it was not possible to “safely detain the man given the circumstances of the incident, including the height”.

They added that specialist officers were attending the scene.

Police officer watches on as man damages statue outside BBC headquarters

The statue was damaged in January 2022 by a protester

Born in 1882, Gill became an influential artist whose work included several large sculptures for buildings in central London, including Westminster Cathedral and the original headquarters of the London Underground.

He was also the designer of Gill Sans, a widely used British typeface.

Gill died in 1940, but in 1989 a biography was published detailing diary entries in which he described sex abuse committed against his two eldest daughters, an incestuous relationship with his sister, and sex acts carried out on his dog.

The statue outside Broadcasting House, installed in 1933, features the characters Prospero and Ariel from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. Ariel, a spirt of the air, is depicted as a young naked male.

BBC Culture Editor Katie Razzall said Gill was an “incredibly successful and renowned sculptor and artist” whose career raises questions “about whether you can judge an artist or anybody based on their actual lives or whether their art stands alone”.

The BBC has previously said the repair work to the damage done last year was due to be completed on 19 June. There are also plans for a QR code to be placed nearby to provide context about the statue and its history.

The corporation said the latest incident was a matter for the police and emergency services.

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