Dear Rolf Harris: You sprayed Dulux on walls and covered 'Stairway to Heaven' - and you have the nerve to criticise today's kiddie fare? An Independent arts writer bids a less than fond farewell to the Australian television entertainer

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Indy Lifestyle Online
When I gathered my nephews, nieces and godchildren around me yesterday and told them that you had been axed from your afternoon slot on ITV there was a rejoicing not seen in this land since . . . well, since Two Little Boys was knocked off the No1 slot circa 1969. Tears of relief fell, gin-spiked milkshakes were passed around, copies of that bizarre hymn to bestiality and bondage, Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport ritually burnt. We were young and we were free. It was quite a party.

It was also totally expected. Like my hard-living knee-high companions, I too have know the lacerating fear that only a bearded Australian entertainer/interior decorator can strike into the innocent human heart.

I can still recall my nausea at hearing you had a new series or were guest-starring on an otherwise OK kiddie show. If you weren't about to whip out your dreaded stylophone - my Mum bought me one for my birthday once and I had to report her to the Social Services - you'd assault a defenceless wall with a gallon of Dulux and call the results 'a painting' (when I tried it on the Shankill Road it was called 'vandalism' and it was Mum's turn to call the Social Services). Children in the studio would be screaming - not, I fear, for the reasons parents assumed - and you'd be smiling that stunned goat smile, as if to assure cowering viewers that they were having . . . fun.

This could have been borne if it hadn't been for your jovial manner - what are you on? where can I get some? - and the unspoken assumption that your captive audience was entirely composed of little ladies and gentlemen, miniature adults whose idea of a walk on the wild side was a tin of non-drip Eggshell White and all the Milky Bars they could handle. You reminded me of my maths teacher, a sad man who encouraged us to look upon him as a friend, only so he could trap us with our own words and force us to bend to his authoritarian vision of life. Rules, regulations, a spoonful of sugar, no free will.

I always thought you were creepy - the Victorian educator playing the clown. Hearing you denounce today's visually and verbally smart children's television as trash (yeah, as if your cover of Led Zepplin's 'Stairway to Heaven' was Art) gives me no reason to change my mind.

You accuse contemporary kiddie fare, the sort that allows tots to confront adults with gunge bucket in hand, of turning children into morons. Of course, someone who obviously prefers automatons would view this new, infinitely more democratic playground as nothing more than chaos. Others might call it liberation, a manic, happy place were children have a subculture of their very own and it's the grown-ups who have to follow the rules.

(Photograph omitted)

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