Harrow Council Prudes

 Nutter council gets all stuffy about nude art

18th October

Pandering to the Easily Offended...

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Harrow Council gets all stuffy over nude paintings

Three nude paintings have been moved out of general public view at Harrow Arts Centre to avoid offending nutters.

The trio of pictures by Jonathan Hutchings was due to go up alongside less controversial works in the corridors of Elliot Hall as part of Harrow Arts Society's annual exhibition that began on Monday.

But Harrow Council stepped in on the day the artists hung their pieces to demand the three are shown separately in a side room, the board room, which is still accessible on request.

Harrow College employee Hutchings' paintings each measure 30in by 24in and are figurative illustrations made during a weekly life drawing class he has attended at the arts centre in Uxbridge Road, Harrow Weald, for the past eight years.

Margaret Mountstephens, exhibition co-ordinator for Harrow Arts Society, said: I'm disappointed and I wanted to have a nice exhibition. The council are being stricter than they have been. Two or three years ago the life class paintings went on show and they OK'd it. I think the paintings may be 'questionable' but it depends on who's calling it offensive.

The Observer understands the council was concerned about the sensitivity of displaying the pictures in a corridor that was generally accessible to the public.

Harrow Arts Centre is not a dedicated gallery space and is run as much more of a community centre nowadays with multicultural family activities taking place together with one-off events like weddings.


23rd October

Update: Harrowed by Nudes...

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Artists boycott Harrow Council Arts Centre

Artists are walking out en masse from Harrow Arts Centre in a storm over the censorship of five paintings.

Melvyn Leach, censor and business manager at the arts centre, had the paintings depicting nude figures removed from an exhibition the night before it was due to open.

Artists from across the borough have reacted in horror at the decision and some have threatened to walk away from the arts venue because of the censorship.

Shanti Panchal, a distinguished artist said: I think it is terrible, it sounds like something from the middle ages. I was so shocked when I heard and think all artists should stand up and speak out about what's happening.

The rebellion is being led by Cheryl Gould, an artist with long-standing ties to the centre. She was furious after Leach told her and fellow artist Jonathan Hutchins to remove their artwork, which they had offered to be in the exhibition. She is now calling for a boycott of the arts centre until the council rethinks its position.

She said: The paintings and drawings were not rude, crude or remotely suggestive. They were just what you would expect to see from any normal life class anywhere.

Her calls for a boycott have been backed by a host of artists from across Harrow and beyond, including members of the Harrow Visual Arts Forum and the Wembley Arts Society.

Norma Stephenson, chairman of the Harrow Arts Society, which is putting on the exhibition at the arts centre until October 26, has called on the council to clarify its position, which at the moment is undefined . She said: Is it really that bad for children to walk past pictures of people with no clothes on?

Councillor Chris Mote has continued to defend the decision taken by Leach and has said nude works could be displayed in a private room in the arts centre with a health warning on the door.


14th November

Update: Tit for Tat...

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Art banned by Harrow council on show to the public in Watford

A Watford arts organisation is making a stand against censorship as its latest exhibition opens in a local shopping centre.

Artwork from members of the Watford Area Arts Forum (WAAF) will go on show this weekend in the public gallery at the top of The Harlequin shopping centre.

Included in the exhibition will be a drawing by Cheryl Gould, one of the forum's members, whose recently was forced to take one of her pieces of work down from Harrow Arts Centre.

Harrow Council objected to the drawing, depicting a nude man, and decided it had to be removed from the exhibition to avoid offending religious members of the community and children.

Several artists have walked away from the arts centre, in Hatch End, and members of the WAAF have criticised Harrow Council's censorship of the paintings.

Jonathan Hutchins, another artist whose life paintings were withdrawn from the Harrow exhibition, has been invited to show the censored artwork in the exhibition in The Harlequin.

The upper gallery in the shopping centre, where the exhibition is taking place from tomorrow until Sunday, November 23, is open to the public and artwork on show can be seen from outside the gallery.


23rd December

Update: The Art of Offending the Easily Offended...

Nutter 'outrage' at school art

Another spat has broken out at Harrow Arts Centre over censorship in public exhibitions.

Harrow Council has been criticised for allowing a picture depicting a Muslim woman dressed in a Hijab pointing a gun to be hung in an exhibition open to the general public.

Marion Davey, an artist who takes classes at the centre complained to managers when she saw the picture had been included in the exhibition, which is made up of artwork by Nower Hill High School pupils.

She said: I couldn't believe it was there, I was speechless that someone would hang this up. I find this very disturbing and shocking, and totally inappropriate to be on the wall.

The council came under fire in October when it ordered five paintings depicting nudes to be removed from the walls of the centre, fearing they could offend children and members of faith groups.

Davey accused the council of hypocrisy for allowing the painting of the Muslim woman but censoring the nudes.

Ghulam Rabbani, general secretary of Harrow Central Mosque, called for the council to take the picture down: I am shocked and dismayed. It should not have been allowed. I can't understand why people allowed this to hang in the arts centre. It shows a Muslim woman as a terrorist, and they should have thought about Muslim women who have to go out on the street, go into their jobs, and how this picture will make people look at them. The council hasn't done any favours to Muslim women, I think it should be taken down because it could create race hate.

Councillor Chris Mote, in charge of culture, defended the decision to hang this painting: This picture is about the theme of journeys, and is a comment on the cultural pressures that impact on young women. The figure with a weapon and Arabic script is a direct reference to the work of famous Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, whose own work often explores the cultural impact of the Islamic revolution on women. This is a thoughtful comment piece by a talented Harrow teenager and there is clearly no intention to upset anyone viewing the exhibition.

The exhibition of artwork by the school pupils is showing until January 4.


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