No heads lost in Thatcher statue debate...yet

Thu Apr 11, 2013 12:55pm EDT
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By Christine Murray

LONDON (Reuters) - Revered or reviled, history shows that the placement of a public statue of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher anywhere in the capital risks becoming a lightning rod.

Reactions to the idea of Thatcher atop the empty fourth plinth in London's Trafalgar Square mirror the emotions stirred up by the death of Britain's "Iron Lady" on Monday.

Some mourners left flowers outside her home, while others "celebrated" with a street party and buying so many copies of the 74-year-old "Wizard of Oz" song "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" that it surged into a top 10 spot in the UK charts.

One small indication of the future prospects for a public statue of Thatcher happened more than a decade ago.

Theatre producer Paul Kelleher decapitated a statue of Thatcher in 2002, saying it "looked better that way".

The work, created by sculptor Neil Simmons, was on display at the time at London's Guildhall, just a short walk from St. Paul's Cathedral where her funeral will be held on Wednesday.

In a telephone interview with Reuters, Simmons laughed as he recalled hearing of the attack on the statue, adding that he knew it was a "poisoned chalice" when he took on the commission.

"I thought it might be sprayed with graffiti, maybe a few eggs thrown at it, but the decapitation was something else," he said.   Continued...

A visitor views a statue of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher by Neil Simmons, 2001, on display in the Guildhall Art Gallery in the City of London April 8, 2013. REUTERS/Olivia Harris