As if they never were: Gary Glitter and Jimmy Savile are being written out of history, but at what cost?

How right is it, morally or culturally, to erase traces of our generation's sex villains?

A star-studded CD box set of the best of glam-rock is being released. I’m a bit of a glam-rock fan on the quiet (the very quiet) so I’m quite pleased about this. All the usual Seventies suspects will be represented – David Bowie, Marc Bolan, Slade, The Sweet, Suzi Quatro and many others. Missing though will be a musician who was key member of the glam-rock fraternity and had three No 1 hits in the genre — one Gary Glitter.

There are three reasons why his exclusion pleases me: 1. He is a repulsive creep. 2 He is a criminal. 3. I never much liked his records anyway.

But there are also reasons why his exclusion worries me just a little. First, he did have those No 1s. Second, how right is it, morally, culturally or otherwise, to write people’s work out of history because they are repulsive creeps and criminals? It’s certainly tempting to do so. Indeed, the BBC have already done so with that even more repulsive creep Jimmy Savile, making sure they don’t show any old Top of the Pops shows which he hosted.

Mind you, we’re being a little selective it seems to me on who we try to write out of history and who we don’t. The hugely acclaimed late novelist Arthur Koestler, a fighter in literature against totalitarianism, was exposed a few years ago as a serial rapist. I was involved in reporting this story, and in the most distressing interview of my career, spoke to one of his victims - the film-maker Jill Craigie, wife of former Labour leader Michael Foot. She relived her torment. Yet go to Amazon and there are large numbers of Koestler titles, many with the word “classic” alongside.

One could go on. It’s a tricky one, this who to ban and who not to ban. Where does it start, where does it stop? It certainly seems to me to be dodgy morally to practise some sort of cultural relativism and say that sexual offences on the pop scene should see the perpetrators’ work written out of history, but sexual offences and abuse by a left-wing, campaigning novelist should not lead to his work being taken off the shelves.

And yet, and yet. There's little worse than paedophilia. Do we really want to see Glitter receiving royalties? Do we want to stare at a CD cover and see his image? Surely, his victims should be spared that pain, and the pain of hearing his voice. It’s mighty difficult. But it’s a slippery slope to start writing people’s work out of history. At what level of crime do you start? And at what level of cultural achievement do you turn a blind eye?

Jonathan Miller's absent-minded love of theatre

In an interview with this paper a couple of days ago, the renowned theatre and opera director Dr Jonathan Miller explained that he never actually goes to the theatre or opera. Never. He was only interested in his own work. Dr Miller said that his attitude stemmed from him being a doctor - after all, he wouldn’t watch another doctor performing surgery. What a silly argument. Doctors do keep up with new developments in their field by reading medical journals. Directors would also do well to keep up with new developments in their chosen field … by going to the theatre. Besides, aren’t theatre directors meant to believe in the theatre as a place worth visiting to enrich your life? Dr Miller also complains in the interview that the National Theatre has not invited him to direct there for 35 years. Perhaps they are sticking to people who love theatre enough to go occasionally.

 

Protest in the auditoriums of London

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has been organising protests at London Symphony Orchestra concerts conducted by Valery Gergiev.  The conductor is a friend of President Putin, and Tatchell wants him to speak out against Russia’s anti-gay laws. At one recent protest, Mr Tatchell managed to get on to the stage before the concert and make a brief, unauthorised speech before being led away by security staff. He said afterwards that the audience seemed sympathetic. Indeed, some applauded.

I support Mr Tatchell in the view that leading artists, and especially Putin’s friend Gergiev, should speak out against these repressive laws, and have written exactly that before. But I feel I should tell Mr Tatchell that the audience’s warmth that evening might also be explained by the fact that he was wearing evening dress. When someone comes on the stage before the show in evening dress, the audience fears it is going to be told that the star of the evening is ill. When the announcement turns out to be something altogether different, happiness, warmth and support will magically fill the auditorium.

d.lister@independent.co.uk

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