Tag Archives: sculpture

The paedophile sculptor and the image on the front of BBC Broadcasting House

(L-R) Edward Taylor, John Lloyd, Richard Edis, Jon Glover last night

(L-R) Edward Taylor, John Lloyd, Richard Edis, Jon Glover

Last night, the highly-esteemed Sohemian Society held a celebration of British radio comedy, featuring producers John Lloyd (The News Quiz, Spitting Image, Have I Got News For You, Q.I.), Edward Taylor (Does The Team Think, The Navy Lark, The Men From The Ministry) and Richard Edis (Brain of Britain, My Music).

They had many interesting anecdotes about the production of comedy programmes, which I won’t steal from them, but one presumably widely-known story which I myself had never heard was told by performer Jon Glover about John Reith, the dour, Scottish, first Director General of the BBC.

Jon Glover told the assembled throng:

Eric Gill’s carving of Prospero and naked, child-like Ariel on front of Broadcasting House, London (Photo by David Castor)

Eric Gill’s carving of Prospero and naked, child-like Ariel on front of Broadcasting House, London (Photo by David Castor)

“Lord Reith wasn’t that keen on comedy, but there was a sort of anarchy going on in the building of Broadcasting House in that, if you look at the facade of old Broadcasting House you’ll see some Eric Gill sculptures on the front.

“Eric Gill not only slept with his children but sculpted directly onto the Portland stone outside Broadcasting House in mid-winter, wearing a smock and no knickers and BBC secretaries were commanded not to look up as they went into the building.

“And he did a very famous statue of Prospero and Ariel and he gave Ariel an extremely large ‘protuberance’ and Lord Reith is reported to have one night tried to climb the scaffolding and chip away at it.”

I find the story almost impossible to believe – the vision of John Reith climbing up his own scaffolding to chip away at a work of art he presumably commissioned. But it is a good story – and bizarrely satisfyingly neat in the idea (given recent stories) that a paedophile carved above the main entrance to the BBC’s headquarters a man holding the naked figure of a child.


Filed under Art, Sex

“You do not agree with THOU SHALT NOT KILL because it is old fashioned?”


This ice cream cone is not relevant to this blog

Yesterday’s blog was about a radio show I took part in for London Hott Radio, which is based in a cafe in Streatham.

Some people have asked me for more details about a reference I made to a sculptor.

An audio recording of that edition of  The Anti-Duhring Battalion Radio Show has now been posted on YouTube (it is 1 hour 42 minutes long).

Below is an extract from the recording.

The show was hosted by performer the Anti-Duhring Battalion. I was a guest on the show with stand-up comedy act President Obonjo Obonjo and musician Mark Meller. Also on the show – via a phone-in line – was a ‘real’ person called Matt. He was not and is not a performer.

This extract starts with the Anti-Duhring Battalion talking to President Obonjo Obonjo…

Anti-Duhring Battalion – One of the reasons we have you on the show is you are one of those people who sticks by his word – you’re a Christian – but you do not agree with the Thou Shall Not Kill commandment because, as we discussed last week and as Pastor Femi agreed, it is old-fashioned and out-dated.

Matt – I’d like to say I agree with that as well. That was not a very good judgment on God’s part.

Anti-Duhring Battalion – Thou shalt not kill? Of course, because you’re an artist, Matt. You make sculptures, don’t you?

Matt – Well, everything I do is based on killing, so…

Anti-Duhring Battalion – Can you just explain a little bit of that? It obviously sounds a little bit odd, doesn’t it? Let me just say…

President Obonjo Obonjo – I’m not laughing. I actually agree with him. I want him in my Cabinet.

Anti-Duhring Battalion – That’s interesting because, since Matt’s been taking Largactil, he’s become much more coherent in his ideas. Matt, are you still doing your live sculptures? – Well, they’re no longer live, are they, when you’ve finished putting them together…?

Matt – I don’t have access to (Pause) the materials I require at the moment. I’m hoping that I will break free of these restraints.

Anti-Duhring Battalion – Good. But you’re saying you’re no longer able to get hold of the same amount of rodents and things like that for your sculptures at the moment, where you are.

John Fleming – What do you sculpt?

Anti-Duhring Battalion – I think it’s more of a sewing-together, isn’t it?

President Obonjo Obonjo – Can you sculpt a pie?

Anti-Duhring Battalion – Could you sculpt a pie out of those animals do you think, Matt?… (Pause) Do you think you could?

Matt – I could sculpt anything.

Anti-Duhring Battalion – You were going to send us one of your sculptures through the post, I remember. Is that right? And they wouldn’t let you send it.

Matt – I sent it.

Anti-Duhring Battalion – You sent it?

Matt – It must have been…

Mark Meller – Eaten on the way?

Matt – Caught in the post.

Anti-Duhring Battalion – Well, we didn’t see it, but I’m sure it was a very, very interesting sculpture. The thing is a lot of the world is not ready for your work and that’s a sad thing, Matt. I’m sure we will be.

John Fleming – What was it a sculpture of?

Anti-Duhring Battalion – What was it, Matt?… (Pause) Just describe it to us.

Matt – There was… It’s… It’s not…

Anti-Duhring Battalion – Take your time.

Matt – …It’s not what was involved that’s important. It’s… It’s what it stands for.

Anti-Duhring Battalion – Take your time… take your time… Just explain a little bit what it was, Matt.

Matt – Sorry?

Anti-Duhring Battalion – Just explain what it was… Just say what it was… It’s OK… It’s OK.

Matt – It was a goat attached to a virgin…

Anti-Duhring Battalion – Yeah… Go ahead… It was animals… Was it animals, Matt?

Matt – …and an IKEA sign…

Anti-Duhring Battalion – OK.

Matt – …tattooed across the fur.

Anti-Duhring Battalion – Across the fur… and… OK… And you sent that to us, Matt?

Matt – Sorry?

Anti-Duhring Battalion – You sent it through the post?

Matt – I did.

Anti-Duhring Battalion – We didn’t receive it, Matt.

President Obonjo Obonjo – You can’t trust postmen.

Anti-Duhring Battalion – It was around about this time that you did become incarcerated, so I don’t know if that was kinda related, but go ahead…

Matt – When I get free, I’ll make you another one.

Anti-Duhring Battalion – Great… That sounds great.

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Filed under Art, Mental health, Mental illness

What sort of material is suitable for blogging about? Coade stone material?

The dramatic effect of being in Edinburgh but having no blog

Tomorrow’s blog will be easy. 

That’s what I foolishly thought yesterday.

I am meeting comedian Charlie Chuck during the day, going to South Queensferry and the Forth Bridges with my eternally-un-named friend and having a meal tonight with comedienne Janey Godley and PR boss Stuart McKenzie from Kiev, who was Scots comedian Jimmy Logan’s stepson. There will be a blog in there somewhere.

But Charlie Chuck was in Yorkshire, buying a new Mercedes for his drive up to the Edinburgh Fringe next month. Nothing much happened in South Queensferry apart from photos. And the meal at Assam’s, though indeed as wonderful as promised and with interesting people, was not really bloggable, though I did try to encourage Stuart’s father Bruce McKenzie to buy an Apple Mac and become a blogger.

“If you want to blog,” I suggested, “it sometimes helps to be opinionated,”

“I can do opinionated,” Bruce replied with an alarming amount of enthusiasm.

After the meal last night in Edinburgh, I was still blogless. I texted Janey Godley (by then in a train back to Glasgow):

“No blog. Any quotes or quirks gratefully accepted.”

“Quotes? What quotes?” she texted back. “Remind me, baldy brain.”

I had no answer; she had no opinionated quotes (which is a rare thing).

So, in the drive back to our temporary flat in Morningside, I switched on my iPhone and let my eternally-un-named friend tell me things.

“Tell me things for my blog,” I told her.

“There are some nice second hand shops in Edinburgh…” she started.

“You said there are three different Edinburghs,” I said, trying to veer her away from second hand shops.

“Well,” she said, “this is only my second visit. But there are some very elegant areas with wide streets and smart stone and elegant details on corners. Then there were the low bungalowey type homes on the way to the Firth of Forth; that was a bit strange; they’re like some kind of Hobbit huts, though I don’t actually know what a Hobbit hut is. Nice wide streets and wide pavements. But there was also that area which was a bit grim and tatty.”

“Well,” I said, “I love Edinburgh. Very elegant. But Trainspotting was also set here. Lots of heroin. Edinburgh is little old ladies and heroin.”

“There’s a post box over there,” my eternally-un-named friend said. “Maybe we should get a post card and post it.”

“To whom?” I said.

“Oh, exactly,” she said. “There are yellow lines there. That’s why there’s nothing parked on that corner.”

“And then there’s a graveyard on the other side,” I said. “Say something interesting about the graveyard. Is it a nice graveyard?”

“Oh God,” she said. “I can’t think of anything. There’s nothing to write in this, John. Well, you do wonder what’s going to happen to that Saab car dealer building there that’s closed because, as you said, it must be very valuable ground.”

“Well, this is Morningside,” I said. “You told me you like Morningside.”

She regained her enthusiasm: “Oh yes,” she said. “Yes, I do like Morningside. I think there are some very nice second hand shops here, very, very reasonably priced in comparison to second hand shops in England where some of them will charge you something like £7 or £10 for an item, which is just ridiculous. You bought that Elgin Marble head this morning, which could have been made from Coade stone.”

“Coade stone?” I asked. “What’s a coade stone?”

“It’s the stone someone I think called Eleanor Coade made statues out of,” she explained. “And there’s a statue of a lion on some bridge in London that’s a bit like the ones on Trafalgar Square.”

“Aren’t they,” I said, “made from the melted-down guns of French ships captured at the Battle of Trafalgar?”

“Anyway,” my eternally-un-named friend continued, “this lion is at the end of a bridge in London and this Eleanor Coade woman made these statues that are in the foyer of the Royal Naval…”

“…College in Greenwich?” I suggested.

“The churchy bit,” my eternally-un-named friend said. “What’s that churchy bit called? Chapel. Opposite The Painted Hall. There are some statues there and they’re made from very hard stone. I don’t think it’s actually stone. It’s maybe some kind of resin. But they have apparently lost the recipe.

“A lot of statues erode over time, like the gnomes at the bottom of your garden, and lose bits like their noses and – well, they lose bits – Coade stone doesn’t erode. But, as I say, they’ve lost the recipe. Very elegant, fine statues: the sort you should have at the bottom of your garden instead of gnomes. How can they lose the recipe?

The (not) Elgin Marble from the charity shop

“But you have bought some Greek or Roman statue head that’s fallen onto the ground like Ozymandias – and you mentioned him in a blog recently – and we’ve no idea what it’s made of but it’s very like these buildings here in Edinburgh and it could be the Elgin Marbles that you’re going to return to Greece because they have run out of money.”

“Oh,” I said, “I thought you told me definitively it was a copy of an Elgin Marble.”

“Is that why you bought it?” she asked.

“No, but I thought you recognised it from somewhere,” I replied. “Possibly the Parthenon.”

“No,” she said, “I don’t actually know what the Elgin Marbles look like. Sorry. Did I forget to mention that? I lived in Lossiemouth, which is near Elgin. But I don’t know where the Elgin Marbles are.”

“The British Museum,” I said.

“They said, if they hadn’t taken them,” she said, “they would have ended up being destroyed by…”

“…the Turks blowing the Parthenon up,” I said.

“But, then,” she said, “that’s an excuse you can always have when you go and nick someone else’s stuff, isn’t it?”

“The Turks will blow it up?” I asked.

Just looking after it for you.” she continued. “You’re not capable of looking after it.

“Or blame the Turks,” I suggested.

“Are we ever going to get out of this car?” she asked.

“It seems increasingly unlikely,” I said.

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Filed under Blogs, Edinburgh, Humor, Humour

Could spaghetti-juggling have a future?

There are going to be two spaghetti-juggling events held as part of Malcolm Hardee Week at the Edinburgh Fringe in August and, last week, Alan from Johnstone got in touch with Tom Morton’s afternoon show on BBC Radio Scotland to say “Many years ago I discovered a unique talent while seated at the kitchen dining table…”


It was spaghetti-juggling.

So the momentum is building, something that is always useful in the art – or possibly it is the science – of spaghetti-juggling

The two Malcolm Hardee Spaghetti-Juggling Contests on 24th/25th August also now have a sponsor. The far-sighted Blue Moon cafe/bar in trendy Broughton Street, Edinburgh, has offered to supply spaghetti for the event.

Juggler Mat Ricardo’s enterprising chum Julie-ann Laidlaw also suggested to me the bright idea (which I will, of course, pretend was mine) that, in the spirit of turning food wastage into art, I should donate the remnants of the contest to someone who can craft a piece of sculpture out of the mess left behind.

I did contact Edinburgh College of Art about this but, apparently, they feel spaghetti-juggling is a wee bit beneath them.

So I am now open to offers – an e-mail to john@thejohnfleming will get me – food sculpting with the late Malcolm Hardee freely providing the pasta-based raw materials – remnants of 45 minutes of spaghetti-juggling on 24th/25th August at the Edinburgh Fringe.

If Tracey Emin can make her name with an unmade bed and Damien Hirst can become a millionaire on the back of a shark in formaldehyde, then spaghetti-sculpting could be the next big trend in Art.

Quite what we would do with the resultant piece of high art I don’t know, but my tendency would be to try to auction it off in aid of Scots critic and polymath Kate Copstick’s Mama Bashiara charity which is already set to receive any profits from the delights that are Malcolm Hardee Week.

The two debates, the two spaghetti-juggling contests and the two-hour variety show are being staged in Edinburgh as part of  the too-too wonderful Free Festival, so there’s no charge for participants or punters but, if they like what they see, an appreciative audience can bung money – coins or preferably notes – into a bucket.

So long as one does not lose one’s dignity.

I think that’s so important.

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Filed under Art, Comedy, Food, Radio, Theatre