|14 May 2003
Logo "defiles" Uffington White Horse
For more than 3,000 years, the Uffington White Horse, carved into an Oxfordshire (England) hillside by some dedicated and forgotten band of Bronze Age peoples, has been tended by the Celts, Romans, pagan Anglo-Saxons and Christian English who have all ruled the area. But in what archaeologists describe as one of the most shameful instances of brandalism seen in Britain, Channel 4 Television executives stand accused of defiling the oldest hill-chalk carving in Britain.
A gigantic eye, familiar to fans of the television game show Big Brother, has been daubed alongside the White Horse to promote the forthcoming series of the television programme and its vast dimensions rival that of the White Horse. Archaeologists have demanded an inquiry into how the National Trust - which owns the site - granted permission for Channel 4 to disfigure the environs of the White Horse for such a 'tacky' reason. Conservationists condemned the marketing ploy as 'sacrilege' after it emerged that Britain's biggest landowner accepted £2,000 to allow the logo to appear beside the graceful galloping outline. Residents of the nearby village of Uffington warned the incident could trigger a local uprising. Sharon Smith, curator of the Tom Brown's School Museum, said: "This just smacks of sacrilege. You shouldn't use a national monument to promote a tacky game show." Alan Hardy, senior project manager for Oxford Archaeology, said: "I think this is taking bad taste a little too far, it's just a cheap trick. People should not think this site is a free advertising hoarding to be exploited."
Under the cover of an early morning mist, staff spent seven hours spraying a thick, chalk-based paint on the site. Experts now fear that the National Trust's decision could spark a series of similar campaigns that use Britain's cultural landmarks in marketing campaigns. David Miles, chief archaeologist with English Heritage - the Government's advisers on the country's cultural legacy - said the Big Brother image was an indictment of modern society. "This simply confirms that we live in a commercial age," he added. "Yet somehow I think the White Horse will be around long after Big Brother is forgotten."
A spokesman for Channel 4 insisted the image would be washed away by heavy rains and would have certainly disappeared by the time of the new series, which starts this month. A National Trust spokesman said: "We thought long and hard about whether this was something we would want and decided it was an innovative way to raise funds for what we do." He added that an environmentally-friendly chalk paint had been used which would have no lasting impact.
Sources: BBC News, The Observer (4 May 2003)
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