Golliwog Tea-Towel Ad Banned by Watchdog to ‘Avoid Causing Offence’

Damien du Toit/Flickr

A newspaper advert for an Enid Blyton gift shop, featuring a golliwog over the words “English Freedom” has been banned as the advertising watchdog said it was likely to cause “serious or widespread offence”.

The Ginger Pop Shop in Corfe Castle, Dorset, ran the ad featuring the character holding a pint of beer invited readers to “visit the shop and get our tea towel”, which features the image surrounded by a list of British values including “Decency”, “Tolerance”, “Parliamentary Democracy”, “Freedom of Speech”, and “Tax Evasion”.

Two people complained to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) after seeing the advert, complaining that it was racist.

The ASA agreed, banning the advert on the grounds that “many people” would consider the golliwog to be “representing negative racial stereotypes”, adding: “Its prominent inclusion in a press advert was likely to cause serious or widespread offence […] particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on various grounds, including race.”

They continued: “We also considered that the inclusion of the words ‘English freedom’ in the ad was likely to contribute to that offence, because in combination with the image it could be read as a negative reference to immigration or race.”

A spokesman for the shop, which is dedicated to 1940s memorabilia including Enid Blyton books and collectibles, period music, toys and golliwog dolls, said that she did not accept that the golliwog “represented a negative racial stereotype”.

Describing the golliwog as a “heroic and aspirational role model”, she said the ASA had been provided with a comprehensive history of the character, from its first inception in a series of children’s books by the late 19th century English cartoonist Florence Kate Upton.

The shop also provided the ASA with a copy of Noddy Makes a Mistake by Enid Blyton, which features the character on the front, as well as complimentary comments and letters from satisfied customers.

This is not the first time the tea towel and dolls have caused controversy. In June the shop was disqualified from a window display competition during Purbeck Arts Festival after owner Viv Endecott festooned the windows with the tea towels, dolls, and mugs featuring the character.

Ms. Endecott, 55, who is of mixed race, titled the display “English Freedom,” but the festival’s organisers said they did not want the festival to be associated with the display.

Commenting on the ASA ban, Ms. Endecott, who designed the tea towel herself, told the Telegraph: “I am proud of my English Freedom tea towel. The ‘good’ Golliwog was on the tea towel to represent how it has become impossible to discuss anything to do with race without being accused of racism.

“This is important, because when we couldn’t talk about uncontrolled immigration, it paved the way for Brexit.”

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