Mimsy / Isis Threaten Sylvania

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Name of Art Work: Isis Threaten Sylvania
Artist/s: Mimsy
Date: August – September 2015
Venue: The Mall Galleries as part of Passion for Freedom’s September exhibition of artworks exploring ideas of Freedom
Brief description of the artwork/project: ‘Isis Threaten Sylvania’ is a satirical series of light box tableaux, using the children’s toys ‘Sylvanian Families’. The toys are featured at picnics, on the beach and at school, threatened by more of the toy animals dressed up as members of Isis in the background. They had previously been exhibited without incident at ART15 global art fair. Passion for Freedom, who, since 2009, have mounted an annual competition and exhibition celebrating freedom of expression, hired the Mall Gallery for the exhibition.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”106736″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][vc_custom_heading text=”Why was it challenged?” font_container=”tag:h3|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”106735″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]The police identify “serious concerns” regarding the “potentially inflammatory content” of Mimsy’s work and outline a number of security measures that need to be taken. The curators asked for more information about these concerns, especially if they relate to any threat to Mimsy herself.  No more information was given by the police. In a meeting with Passion for Freedom, gallery management tells the curators Passion for Freedom that Mimsy’s work is not real art; also that Tasleem Mulhall’sStoned’ is one of several works being reviewed by the gallery to establish whether or not it is appropriate.

Mall Galleries specify that the additional police security will carry costs to be charged to the artist and would amount to £6000 per day – or £36000 for the week.  Passion for Freedom are also reminded that, contractually,  whether or not they want to pay for the police to provide security, the Mall Galleries has the right to withdraw from the contract if they feel artworks are inappropriate.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_custom_heading text=”What action was taken?” font_container=”tag:h3|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Passion for Freedom decide that, as they cannot afford the additional costs, they will not include Isis Threaten Sylvania in their exhibition. The curators issued the following statement to the gallery: “Taking into consideration the fact that if MIMSY’s artwork is going to be exhibited at Mall galleries, Passion for Freedom will be billed £6000 per day for providing security to all staff and public throughout the opening time (£36000 per week) and the paragraph 4.a. in our contract (the right of the gallery to request an artwork/s to be removed if necessary) unfortunately we are unable to show this artwork.”  The gallery still requests that there is some additional security, the costs of which are charged to Passion for Freedom. The removal of the artwork receives some criticism in the media.  [/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”What happened next?” font_container=”tag:h3|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Mimsy and Passion for Freedom organisers print 5000 copies of cards with an image of Mimsy’s work and an explanation of the situation. They call this: “Entartete Kunst” which means “Degenerate Art”, and refers to the Nazi treatment of art that was not in the service of the Nazi propaganda machine. They distribute these to the guests leaving the gallery. They also place an advert in Standpoint Magazine, informing the public what had happened.  Neither the police nor the gallery took any further action. One year later Channel 4 holds a pop-up exhibition of ISIS Threaten Sylvannia hosted by Trevor Phillips at Gillett Square in Dalston. There were no incidents.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Refections” font_container=”tag:h3|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]In an interview with Agnieszka Kolek, in the lead up to Passion for Freedom’s 2018 show, Julia Farrington asked how the experiences of 2015 impacted on how her approach to this year’s exhibition.

The commitment and the conviction are still there. But we are not clear where we stand, because there is no clear definition of what is appropriate or what is inflammatory. It is a shifting ground. In the past, we created the space to fully exhibit work that had been censored elsewhere by a curator or a gallery owner. Now we are in the situation where the state, through the arm of the police, imposes this pre-emptive self-censorship on you. Since the censorship incident, we cannot guarantee artists that they will be able to exhibit/perform during a festival talking about freedom. Over the years there has been a number of artists who requested to be exhibited under pseudonyms (as often their lives are threatened in the UK or back in their home countries). Can we guarantee that the police will not arrest them? Until now, we could guarantee it to them. Since 2015 we are not sure that is the case. My approach is not to have any preconceived idea of how it will go with the police this time. We will still try to be open and have a dialogue in the belief that the police are still there to protect us and it is still a democratic country. I will be honest – we are also treating it as a kind of testing ground. Let’s see if this is still a democratic country or is it just on paper?

The artistic community in the United States and Australia is shocked by the police’s censorious attitude to arts in London. There are groups of people who decided to open Passion for Freedom branch offices in New York and Sydney to ensure that British censorship is being exposed. And in case freedom is completely extinguished in the UK they can continue the important work to give artists the platform to exhibit their works and debate important issues in our societies. And if we discover that there is even less freedom than in 2015, we are considering moving this exhibition to Poland because there is more freedom there. This is on the cards, we are already discussing it.

Passion for Freedom took place at Royal Opera Arcade Gallery & La Galleria Pall Mall, London October 2018.

Miriam Elia aka ‘Mimsy’

Claire Armistead of the Guardian had been writing about the ‘lady bird thing’ [the ‘Peter and Jane go to the Gallery’ written with her brother Ezra, which earned them a legal letter from Penguin “for breach of copyright”]. She asked me if I was doing anything else. So I told her how my piece ‘ISIS threaten Sylvannia’ had been removed from the ‘Passion from Freedom’ exhibition – I showed her the police letters and images of the Sylvannia piece.  She wanted to write about it and asked if she could and if she should use my name. I was a bit scared actually. I didn’t make it with any idea that it would impact in anyway, and I knew what had happened to Agnieszka [survivor of the terrorist attack in Copenhagen]. I was planning a family at the time, so I said ‘let’s just keep quiet about it – I’ll call myself Mim or something’. But it’s a good job that I did, because it went viral, and all the newspapers were talking about it, the BBC was talking about it and it was on Russian news. I thought it was hilarious. But what you think is funny, someone else will kill you for it, doesn’t mean you’re not going to do it.   Nobody knew it was me except perhaps my mum and a handful of people. It was only because I had a connection with someone in the media that it came out at all – this sort of thing is probably happening a lot and you just get on with it.

But at the same time I felt the work hadn’t really been finished. I am not happy with a piece of work that only exists virtually or in the news. I made a book out of it and it into an artwork.  People were sharing it they didn’t know it was me. Then there was this Channel 4 thing. They showed it in a pop up gallery. Trevor Philips was really behind it and he asked people who came in to the gallery if they thought this was offensive and everyone said they thought it was really funny.

It’s odd that the police can get involved isn’t it? It means that the people who are threatening you are winning. [The police] are cowards, they should be standing up for the people taking the mickey, and they say no no no but you’re triggering them. That was what was scary, the idea that now you have no protection.  If you want to do this then on your own head be it. That’s a really bad sign.

You’re not allowed to cause offence.  It’s so demented. I think offence is part of freedom, not killing people, or inciting people to violence but taking the piss out of each other is normal.

I am anti-identity politics.My latest book is ‘Piggy Goes to University’. This pig that is guilt tripped into thinking that he is the reason that everything is wrong in the world and that’s the basis of his moral compass – pig privilege it’s a huge send up of identity politics.  This pig is motivated by this need for a completely kind world, where no one offends anyone. It’s basically animal farm but brought up to date in the university campus, he ends up assaulting everybody and shutting everybody down, bullying people basically, based on what they look like. Identity politics is an ideology, it’s like a religion, it doesn’t make sense. It’s totalitarian and it’s time they come under attack as in satire, not censorship. It’s a huge power.

I was in the Synogogue for Yom Kippur and the Rabbi said that this was the opportunity for apologising for your sins – so if you have hurt someone, or offended them this is the chance to say sorry.  So I put my hand up and said it says in the prayer book to apologise for killing someone, or stealing. My job is to be a satirist. Am I meant to apologise for satirising stuff – we go to the gallery might offend conceptual artists and they might cry – grow up!! The message is stop making satire or any kind of parody – politics is going into religion into everything. He couldn’t answer- and everyone was shocked at what I said.  England is so good for its history of satire and poking fun at things, to lose this just for all this ideological pap.[/vc_column_text][three_column_post title=”Case studies” full_width_heading=”true” category_id=”15471″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Julia Farrington talks art and censorship


Julia Farrington, associate arts producer at Index on Censorship, author of Index’s Art and the Law case studies and campaigns and events manager at Belarus Free Theatre, will discuss art and censorship at Hackney Wick at the independent bar and creative space Grow.

From the cancellation of performances like Exhibit B and Mimsy’s artwork Isis Threaten Sylvania to the role law can and should play in supporting the arts, this is an opportunity to get involved in a stimulating discussion within the creative community.

Grow is a space for music, art, conversation and community where everyone is welcome and there will be a range of drinks and snacks on sale to help fuel the conversation, with all proceeds going to support the venue.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

When: Tuesday 29 November December 2016, 7:30pm
Where: Grow (Map)


Youth Advisory Board discuss censorship of art

Artist collective HAD and their memorial for the victims of Srebrenica genocide. Picture by Ilhana Babić

Artist collective HAD and their memorial for the victims of Srebrenica genocide. (Photo: Ilhana Babić)

This month, the Index Youth Advisory Board members were asked to write a blog post exploring their opinions on censorship in the arts by citing a case.

Lejla Becar: Memorial to victims of Srebrenica massacre

In the small town Visoko, Bosnia and Herzegovina, a square was opened on 5 October to commemorate the victims of Srebrenica genocide. The construction of the square has since been in the spotlight as a large number of citizens disapproved of it being built, seeing it as overpriced and unnecessary.

Local artist collective HAD, made up of Muhamed Hamo Bešlagić, Anel Lepić and Damir Sarač, decided to contribute to keeping the memory of the victims alive. They decorated a 35-meter long wall nearby the square with images of war victims, focusing on Srebrenica genocide victims. They went to the authorities and suggested their work, which they named Silence, and it was approved. The three of them, an architecture student, a painter and a street artist, chose to work for free, feeling the moral obligation to keep the memory of the victims alive for future generations.

Once they started working on carving the images into the wall, they faced objections from their fellow citizens. People were disgusted with what they saw, and many approached the artists while they were working, expressing their disapproval of having such images shoved in their faces.

The accusations continue, however HAD continue with their work. They said: “Every quality artwork has to have negative critiques and negative comments. We somehow maybe even prefer the negative ones, they often show a deeper understanding of the work, they show that people pondered deeply. Indifference is absent when it comes to Silence. Everybody has some kind of reaction. That was one of our goals — to make the images speak for themselves by remaining completely silent.”

Twenty years after the war it seems people still don’t want to face what happened. Many look the other way, people say they remember when all they want to do is forget. HAD decided that Srebrenica genocide will not be remembered only on 11 July and they carved their decision in a concrete wall. Showing the true power of art.

Simeon Gready: #RememberMarikana graffiti

16 August 2015 marked the third anniversary of the Marikana massacre in South Africa, a day of remembrance in honour of the striking miners that lost their lives through lethal force by security forces in the country. It was an incident that reverberated worldwide and represented a black mark on South Africa’s progress as a democracy and a tragic consequence of the country’s increasingly rampant inequality.

Three years on, there is still no justice for the victims of the massacre, a group of anonymous artists under the banner of Tokolos Stencil Collective claimed responsibility for a series of graffiti and stencil statements on the campus of the University of Cape Town (UCT), indicating the University for its complicity in the massacre.

Statements such as “#RememberMarikana”, “non-poor only”, and “Max Price [UCT’s vice-chancellor] For Black Lives”, were framed as a form of protest against UCT’s investment in Lonmin, the mining company that owned the mine at which the massacre took place. Furthermore, it raised attention to the fact that judge Ian Farlam sits on the UCT Council while heading up the Marikana commission, the committee tasked with the official inquiry into the killings. His position and UCT’s investments are seen as a direct conflict of interest.

The university was quick to condemn the graffiti as an “irresponsible and inappropriate method of protest,” and many of the statements were removed within a week.

However, this was not enough to quell the discontent among the students. Despite the condemnation and removal, the graffiti exposed UCT’s investments in Lonmin and, as such, their association with South Africa’s darkest post-apartheid day.

Graffiti, in this manner, constitutes an appropriate and effective form of art and of protest. It is a tool through which the Tokolos Stencil Collective were able to express their right to freedom of expression and represent the dissatisfaction of the students with the actions of the university.

Harsh Ghildiyal: Agnes of God

In the late 1970s, Maureen Murphy was found bleeding in her room, with a wastebasket near her that contained a dead baby, asphyxiated. Sister Maureen Murphy, who was a nun, denied giving birth and stated that she didn’t remember being pregnant. There was a trial, and she was found not guilty of all charges by reason of insanity.

This incident bears similarities to a play (which also opened on Broadway in 1982), Agnes of God, that portrays a pregnant nun contending that the child was the result of a virgin conception (immaculate conception), followed by an investigation, with the play focusing on exchanges between the nun in charge of the convent and a psychiatrist. The play did not attract any criticism, even after it had been made into a film and was shown all over the world. Over two decades ago, the play was performed in Mumbai, India, too, and was very successful. There were no objections.

An adaptation of the Broadway play was set to premiere in Mumbai on the 4 October 2015 but on the 30 September, the director of the play tweeted that the show was canceled, citing threats of arrest, imprisonment, harm to body and property as reasons behind the decision. The Catholics Bishops Conference of India and Catholic Secular Forum contended that it is a wrongful portrayal of the character of clergy and hurts religious sentiments, and jointly sought a ban on the play.

This move to get the play banned can perhaps be attributed to the increasing number of intolerant people impatiently waiting to be offended, coupled with the ease of getting things banned in India (be it on religious or moral grounds). The increasingly intolerant society is proving to be a major hindrance to the freedom of expression of individuals in India. I would like to end by quoting a few sentences from Justice Chinnappa Reddy’s judgment in a case concerning expulsion of children who were Jehovah’s Witnesses on the grounds that they refused to sing the national anthem: “Our tradition teaches tolerance; our philosophy preaches tolerance; our Constitution practises tolerance; let us not dilute it.”

Matthew Brown: Isis Threaten Sylvania

In commenting on the decision to remove artwork from the Passion for Freedom art festival in London, I have rarely seen such an inexplicable and frankly ludicrous example of censorship in modern-day Britain.

The work in question, Isis Threaten Sylvania by artist Mimsy, is a satirical swipe at Isis and consists of seven scenarios featuring children’s toys as the Sylvanian Families. Depicting toy mice — or MICE-IS — it has been branded as “potentially inflammatory content”. The “contentious” point which has caused the hysterical reaction has been that in the backdrop to each scene, with the mice waving black flags and plotting to disturb the tranquil world of Sylvanian Families.

Perhaps the most farcical aspect of this entire story is that the artwork was due to be exhibited at an event specifically designed to reflect the full spectrum of artistic expression. The exhibition is designed specifically to give artists an opportunity to be provocative, open debate and exercise their freedom of speech. For the police to intervene on the simple grounds that the work is “potentially” provoking isn’t just ludicrous, it is dangerous and raises important questions about the scope of police powers in the world of art.

When we reach a point that art depicting toy to depict a terrorist threat is considered too dangerous for public consumption, one has to wonder what we are really fighting for. If this artwork offends to the point it is banned, then what separates us from the other side? We are either defeated by the enemy or we censor ourselves in this hysterical rush to prevent the potential of offending anyone.

Tom Carter: Isis Threaten Sylvania

After the board took the decision to remove artwork from the exhibition after facing a £36,000 security bill for the six day show.

Satire through art is meant to be humorous, but it has a purpose beyond this, often constructing genuine social criticism. If, due to the threat of intimidation and violence, individuals and organisations feel unable to express themselves then the notion of freedom of expression has very little meaning.

Mimsy, stated her motivation behind the work was to use Sylvanian characters, such as cats and koalas, to show criticism of radical Islam is nothing to do with race, telling the Guardian: “I’m sick and tired of people calling criticism of fanatical Islam racist, because racism is about your skin colour and radical Islam is nothing to do with that. There are millions of Muslims who are shocked by it too.”

Art has a key place in our democracy in creating social criticism and generating political thought in individuals. It is interesting that a country which puts large amounts of public money into actively promoting art forms that would have a much smaller presence if left to the market is unwilling to put money into protecting its population’s right to express itself freely. Artists must be free to criticise and satirise religious extremists.

Julia Farrington: Pre-emptive censorship by the police is a clear infringement of civil liberties

The following was presented at No Boundaries: A Symposium on the Role of Arts and Culture. Video of Julia Farrington and the day’s other speakers is available on the No Boundaries site.


Child Protection: PDF | web

Counter Terrorism: PDF | web

Obscene Publications: PDF | web

Public Order: PDF | web

Race and Religion: PDF | web

Art and the Law home page

Case studies

Behud – Beyond Belief
Can We Talk About This?
Exhibit B
“The law is no less conceptual than fine art”
The Siege
Spiritual America 2014


Julia Farrington: Pre-emptive censorship by the police is a clear infringement of civil liberties
Julia Farrington: The arts, the law and freedom of speech
Ceciel Brouwer: Between art and exploitation
Tamsin Allen: Charging for police protection of the arts
Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti: On Behzti
Daniel McClean: Testing artistic freedom of expression in UK courts

Reports and related information

WN-Ethics14-140What Next? Meeting Ethical and Reputational Challenges

Read the full report here or download in PDFTaking the offensive: Defending artistic freedom of expression in the UK (Also available as PDF)

Beyond Belief190x210Beyond belief: theatre, freedom of expression and public order – a case study

UN report on the right to artistic expression and creation
Behzti case study by Ben Payne
freeDimensional Resources for artists
Artlaw Legal resource for visual artists
NCAC Best practices for managing controversy
artsfreedom News and information about artistic freedom of expression

These information packs have been produced by Vivarta in partnership with Index on Censorship and Bindmans LLP.

The packs have been made possible by generous pro-bono support from lawyers at Bindmans LLP, Clifford Chance, Doughty Street Chambers, Matrix Chambers and Brick Court.

Supported using public funding by Arts Council England

In 1972, Michael Scammell, the first editor of Index on Censorship magazine, wrote in the launch issue: “Freedom of expression is not self-perpetuating but needs to be maintained by the constant vigilance of those who care about it.”

We obviously haven’t been very vigilant here in the UK.

As we heard last week, when the artist Mimsy’s work Isis Threaten Sylvania was removed from the Passion for Freedom exhibition at the Mall Galleries, London, artistic freedom of expression was put up for sale at £36,000.

And disturbing though it is, the news is a gift to those who have been concerned about the direction policing of politically or socially challenging art was taking. Now the situation is crystal clear and marks an alarming new approach to the policing of controversial art.

In last week’s case, the police were concerned about the “potentially inflammatory content” of Mimsy’s work, so they gave the organisers a classic Hobson’s Choice: if they went ahead with their plans to display it, they would have to pay the police £36,000 to cover the cost of security for the six-day show.

The police took the view that a perfectly legal piece of art, which had already been displayed without incident earlier in the year, was inflammatory. And in the balance of things as they stand, this opinion outweighs the right of the artist to express him or herself, the organisation’s right to present provocative political art, the audience to view it and those that protest against it, the right to say how much they hate it.

If this goes unchallenged, it will set a very dangerous precedent for foreclosing any work that the police don’t approve of.

But going against police advice is tough. In Index’s information pack on Public Order – part of a series of booklets looking at laws that impact on what is sayable in the arts, we ask the question: “What happens if police advise you not to continue with presenting a piece of work because they have unspecified concerns about public safety – and yet tell you it is your choice and they can only advise you?”

The answer is that in principle, in law, you are free to proceed.

But it goes on to talk about duties the organisation has to their employees and members of the public present on their premises, which fall under licencing and other obligations.

But the point is no one has taken this to the courts, so it hasn’t been tried and tested.

As it stands — and in the heat of a crisis when these decisions are mostly reached — police advice is a Hobson’s Choice in pretty much every case.

This latest example of policing comes hot foot after revelations in the summer that the police were involved in, though allegedly not directly responsible for, the cancellation of Homegrown.

And it is only a year since Exhibit B at the Vaults in London and the Israeli hip-hop opera The City in Edinburgh were cancelled on the advice of the police following protests outside both venues.

Way back in 2004 the theatre world was shocked when protest led to the closure of Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play – Behzti following police advice. Gurpreet says that what shocked her most at the time, was how the politicians didn’t take the closure as an opportunity to challenge the police decision, defend her right, and promote the importance of freedom of expression.

Six years later, the Coventry police wanted £10,000 per night to guarantee the safety of the premier production of Gurpreet’s subsequent play Behud at the Belgrade Theatre, which was her creative response to having her play cancelled in Birmingham; and which, because of the playwright’s history of attracting controversy, was treated by the police as a public order issue from day one of the production.

When faced with the police’s bill, Hamish Glen, artistic director of the Belgrade wrote to the police and said it was a fiscal impossibility for the theatre to pay up, and would amount to de facto censorship of Gurpreet’s voice for a second time. They came back asking for £5,000 per night instead which got the same response from Hamish – and finally they waived the fee and the show went ahead without incident.

In investigating this for a case study I wrote, I asked how the police had come up with the figure, and the answer was that it was assessed by the same criteria for special police services at a football match or a music festival. There is no guidance on policing a not-for-profit arts organisation dealing with fundamental rights – it is not on the police radar.

Writing a case study on the policing of the picketing of Exhibit B by Boycott the Human Zoo earlier this year also gave a series of interesting insights

Only one police officer from British Transport Police – The Vaults are under Waterloo Station and therefore under BTP jurisdiction – and two Community Police Officers attended the demonstration of 200 people – so it was obviously not considered a priority, despite the fact that social and print media made it clear that the production was very divisive and both the Boycott and the Barbican had talked to the police.

When, as the protest escalated and extra police arrived, the officer who took charge, talked to Sara Myers, the organiser of the Boycott, asking what was going on – they seemed not to know anything about it. He asked Sara what she wanted. She said she wanted the Barbican to close the show, and she told him that they intended to picket each of the five performances if they did not. The officer’s response was this is much ado about nothing – we haven’t got the resources to police this – we have to be out fighting serious crime.

So The Heckler’s Veto was seen to be working in London and in Edinburgh, just as it had worked in Birmingham ten years previously. When faced with a noisy demonstration, the police showed that they would take the path of least resistance and advise closure of whatever was provoking the protest.

And now a year later, with the removal of Isis Threaten Sylvania, we have seen a shift from the police advising closure following protest, to the police contributing indirectly or directly to the decision to remove work to avoid protest.

This is pre-emptive censorship by the police and represents a major shift in policing and is a clear infringement of civil liberties. It threatens the arts as a space for public debate about the politics of the world we live in.

Though of course because of the paradox of censorship, it actually has the opposite effect, it has amplified the work and many, many more people will be talking about that work because of the police’s move to close it. That doesn’t lessen the sting of the police’s new boldness and the trajectory they seem to be on with this latest act of censorship.

But let’s look at it from the police’s point of view. They are facing massive cuts themselves. George Osbourne’s latest figures indicate at the lowest end – a 25% cut on top of previous rounds. There are fewer police officers on the streets than at any time since the 1970s.

There is no guidance about policing of artistic freedom of expression, compared to pages of guidance on managing protest which stresses on every page the right to protest. When it comes to artistic cases it is left to professional judgement. I have spoken to several senior police officers about this and they will admit that mistakes have been made, but there have never been any consequences for these mistakes, so they remain quite blithe about them. And the bottom line with the police is always public safety.

They also, I believe, feel they have jurisdiction over certain volatile and socially sensitive areas of society where they have duties to prevent crime and to maintain law and order and have community cohesion responsibilities. So when artists venture into this territory with work that may cause offence, their reaction is to simply remove the provocation.

We also now have elected police commissioners who have political agendas – where inevitably policing unpopular, minority voices is going to come low on their agenda – however brilliant they may be, or however important they might be to the fundamental tenets of a liberal democracy.

And this has never been challenged. There has never been any judicial review of the policing of artistic freedom of expression. Judicial Review is the recourse that any arts organisation has when faced with what they consider to be inadequate or unfair policing. Actions by the police are subject to review by the courts for a number of reasons, including for instance if the police failed to consider alternatives to closure, or Article 10 rights generally.

We can and should expect more of the police. Tamsin Allen – senior partner at Bindmans states in an article she wrote for the case study of Behud: “The police have an obligation to fulfil their core duties – those are now enhanced by their duties under the Human Rights Act not to act incompatibly with the European Convention on Human Rights. The convention imposes both a qualified obligation not to interfere with the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and protest and a positive obligation to take appropriate steps to protect those rights. This may change if the Human Rights Act is abolished.”

And we are talking here about legal expression. We do not see artists going to court in the UK – the last major case in this country was Lady Chatterly in the 60s; the Oz Trial, the publishers of the poem The Love That Dares to Speak its Name in the 70s; and the lesser known case of the Human Earrings in 1989, being amongst the very few other cases.

It is also worth pointing out what is obvious – that nearly all the artworks that have been foreclosed by the police over the past few years deal with race and or religion and, Exhibit B notwithstanding, the majority of contemporary cases of contested art are by artists from black and ethnic minorities. This only emphasises the fact that freedom of expression is a biased affair in the UK and I believe will remain so while our society and our culture are not equal.

Acknowledging that, I would add to what Michael Scammell said – the space for freedom of expression has to be more than just maintained – it has to be enlarged and extended.

And as an urgent part of that, we have to challenge this culture of policing, this policing of culture.

The climate is not set fair for promoting the importance of artistic freedom of expression – the political climate is set against human rights. Policing as we have seen with absolute clarity this week in the case of Mimsy’s work, is subject to the prevailing laissez faire of the market place.

In late 2013, I asked Keir Starmer, former director of public prosecutions at the Crown Prosecution Service, if he felt there was a need for police guidance in the area of art and offence and he said emphatically yes. He said he thought it was going to be an increasingly major policing issue over the coming years. He was right.

We have to open up discussion at the highest level with police and the prosecution service, if we are to safeguard the space for freedom of expression in the arts, especially where it relates to political art. The climate might not be conducive, but it has not been tried before, systematically – it is uncharted – let’s go there.