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.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Operations and Maintenance Engineer - Solar

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum plus benefits/bonus package: The Green Recruitment C...

Sales and Maketing Director (Designate) , Watford, Hertfordshire

£60- £70K OTE £120k Plus Car: Charter Selection: Major multi-million pound lan...

Graduate Web Developer

£18000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Excellent opportun...

Graduate Database Developer (SQL)

£18000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Excellent opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
lowers, candles and other tributes in front of the Netherlands Embassy in memory of the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17  

To punish Putin for the MH17 disaster we must boycott Russia 2018

Jack Gilbert

The daily catch-up: Joe on Vlad, banks of the Jordan and Blair's radicalism

John Rentoul
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor