An attempt by Goldsmiths’ University Challenge team at making a political statement has been shut down by the BBC.
The students had tried to use a large white kettle as their mascot at a studio recording on March 3rd in protest against police tactics during last winter’s student demonstrations. However, producers subsequently told them to remove it.
The police’s use of kettling to contain the demonstrators has been criticised by many of the protestors involved, who claimed that they had been denied permission to go to a toilet and refused access to food and water. It has been estimated that thousands of students and lecturers were kettled by the police and forced to spend hours in the cold. Students at Goldsmiths were heavily involved in the protests.
Many of the protestors have accused the police of making the situation worse and turning peaceful protests into violent demonstrations because of the distress and panic that the kettling tactics induce. The Goldsmiths University Challenge team chose to protest in response to several Goldsmiths students being kettled during the demonstrations.
The producers, in attempting to avoid causing controversy by refusing to allow the team to display their kettle mascot on television, may have overreacted. Even the BBC2 program’s host Jeremy Paxman is reported to have found the students choice of mascot amusing.
Graham Gaskell, chief executive of Goldsmiths Students Union, said, “Goldsmiths students being Goldsmiths students, I’m not surprised if they did this. They have been very active during the tuition fees protests and a number were kettled.”
“There were people laughing in the audience,” added Goldsmiths student James Hayward. “The presenter, Jeremy Paxman, immediately cottoned onto the joke and found it very funny.”
A spokesman for the studio has defended the decision and stated that “Teams are allowed toy mascots, but it was deemed not appropriate to have the kettle”.