Jimmy Savile, the BBC & Eric Gill – Lessons in Hiding in Plain Sight

The image below shows the sculpture ‘Prospero & Ariel’ from Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, created in 1932 by Arthur Eric Rowton Gill. ‘Prospero & Ariel’ was designed, sculpted for, and stands above the main entrance of the BBC’s office and studios in Portland Place and Langham Place, London.

Gill was a deeply religious Roman Catholic, as was Jimmy Savile, the latter of which received a Papal Knighthood, an honour also bestowed on media mogul Rupert Murdoch and crooner Bob Hope. Eric Gill is the Gill in the name of the Gill Sans font.

The second image shows another 1932 Eric Gill sculpture for the BBC headquarters that opened in 1934, ‘Ariel Between Wisdom and Gaiety’, featuring legs-akimbo Ariel, some wandering hands and an interesting Latin inscription.

Sir Christopher Bland, former chairman of the board of governors of the BBC (1996 until 2001), set about “his greatest extravagance: Buying books and anything by Eric Gill, the 20th-century British painter and sculptor”, including:

“more than 120 engravings, important illustrated books, and more than a handful of sculptures and carved domestic objects by Gill. He paid £1,800 for Gill’s book The Four Gospels, published in 1931 by the Golden Cockerell Press. || Bland, who hangs sacred and profane images on separate walls in the same room of his house in Hampshire, says his interest in Gill is purely as an artist/craftsman.”

Bland doesn’t specify precisely which dark arts and crafts of Gill’s pique his interest.

In 1989 a biography of Eric Gill by Fiona MacCarthy revealed how Eric Gill’s personal diaries described his paraphiliac sexual activities in detail, including that Gill sexually abused two of his own daughters, had incestuous relationship with his sisters, and that he even performed sex acts on the family dog.

For some of Gill’s fans, even looking at his work became impossible. Most problematically, he was a Catholic convert who created some of the most popular devotional art of his era, such as the Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral, where worshippers pray at each panel depicting the suffering of Jesus.

In 1998, spurred on by a cardinal’s praise for Gill, Margaret Kennedy, who campaigns for Ministers and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, called for the works to be removed.

“Survivors couldn’t pray at the Stations of the Cross. They were done by a paedophile. The very hands that carved the stations were the hands that abused.

“He abused his maids, his prostitutes, animals, he was having sex with everything that moved – a very deranged man sexually.”

But the Catholic Church would not budge an inch.

Which makes it look a lot like that sort of behaviour, for some at least – including Jimmy ‘I can get anything, there’s nothing I can’t get, and there’s nothing I can’t doSavile – is how you get to make your mark at the British State’s Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC, in Roman Catholicism, and in government.

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