Man in Spiderman mask scales BBC London HQ and attacks Grade-II listed statue with hammer and chisel

The Metropolitan Police were called to Broadcasting House in central London in the early hours of Saturday after a man had climbed the scaffolding and was damaging the sculpture. Credit: PA

A masked man has scaled scaffolding outside BBC's HQ in London and attacked a controversial statue with a hammer and chisel.

It comes days after repair work was started on the previously-attacked Grade-II listed statue, of Prospero and Ariel from Shakespeare’s The Tempest by Eric Gill, who is said to have sexually abused two of his daughters.

A man wearing a Spiderman mask was seen on scaffolding surrounding the sculpture on Saturday. He had also strung up a banner criticising the corporation.

The “masked protester” is the second person to target the 1930s work outside Broadcasting House - after another protester took a hammer to it last year.

The cordon in place outside the BBC's central London headquarters. Credit: PA

The Metropolitan Police were called at around 4.15am on Saturday to reports of a man climbing scaffolding at premises in Portland Place.

By 7am the man could be seen leaning against some scaffolding donned in a Spiderman mask and shouting at a police officer.

A police cordon is in place, with parts of Regent Street and the front of New Broadcasting Houset taped off.

A police spokesman said: “The man was reportedly damaging a sculpture. Officers attended the location.

“It has not been possible to safely detain the man given the circumstances of the incident, including the height. Specialist officers have been called to the scene.”

There have been calls for Eric Gills' Propsero and Ariel statue to be removed amid allegations the sculpture sexually abused his daughters. Credit: PA

On Tuesday, the BBC said after “careful consideration” taking into account the historical and cultural significance of the building and after discussions with leading cultural organisations such as Historic England, the repair work was agreed with all costs covered through the corporation’s insurance and not the licence fee.

Scaffolding was erected around the building on Tuesday with expert stonemasons beginning to restore the work, carved from Caen stone, a type of limestone quarried in north-west France.

The broadcaster said the repair work would be used to provide additional context about the artwork and Gill, and that members of the public would also be able to access a QR code nearby.

Robert Seatter, head of BBC History, said: “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.

“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.

“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 protester in the Spiderman mask has attacked the sculpture with a hammer and chisel. Credit: PA

Gill was among the most prominent sculptors of the 20th century until his death in 1940 but his diaries, published much later, detailed the sexual abuse of his daughters.

A biography on the Tate Museum website said: “His religious views and subject matter contrast with his sexual behaviour, including his erotic art, and (as mentioned in his own diaries) his extramarital affairs and sexual abuse of his daughters, sisters and dog.”

More than 3,000 people have signed a petition demanding the removal of the sculpture on the website of the political activist group 38 Degrees.

The repairs had been scheduled to be completed by the end of June.

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