John Peel’s legacy has been tarnished by sexual abuse allegations – of course his Glastonbury stage should be renamed

A petition has been launched to remove the name of former BBC Radio 1 presenter John Peel from one of the main Glastonbury Festival tents. Peel, “the most important man in music for about a dozen years,” died when I was 13 — which is the same age as a child he spoke of about abuse.

In 1989 Peel said: The Sunday Correspondent“Girls used to queue outside. Mostly not to fuck. Oral sex was what they were especially fond of, I remember. One of my, er, regulars, as it were, turned out to be 13, although she looked older .” In the same interview, he described a 21-year-old as an “extraordinary older woman”.

I feel really sick as I write this. Not because I’m some sort of cotton wool millennial snowflake, but because it’s objectively disgusting. It’s abuse. And what’s worse is that it was rewarded. A person who spoke openly about child abuse has been honored time and again in his lifetime and in the years since his death for having had a good career in broadcasting – which apparently negates everything else.

See also the thoughtful function in the Heraldpublished in 2004, where Peel reminisces about his time in America in his mid-20s when Beatlemania exploded: “There were, he admits, an awful lot of those girls who were underage.”

Peel’s first marriage, in 1965, was to one child. Shirley Anne Milburn was 15 when they tied the knot in Texas while he was 25. In the 1970s, he organized competitions for ‘Schoolgirl of the Year’ on his Radio 1 show.

In 2012, an entire section of the BBC’s New Broadcasting House headquarters became known as “the John Peel Wing”, and in 2014 the company unveiled a plaque in his honor, even after a woman came forward to claim she was had an affair with Peel at the age of 15 – and subsequently required a “traumatic” abortion. This information came to light in the wake of the revelations about the widespread abuse of children and vulnerable people by Jimmy Savile.

John Peel’s name definitely has to come off the prestigious Glastonbury stage. There are so many people who have made valuable contributions to British music – and who we could celebrate in the place of a man who said of young women, “All they wanted was for me to sexually abuse them, which of course I was. only too happy to do so.”

He made this comment to the guard, in 1975, which you can say was another time, it was different then. But that’s not a defense. And deep down we all know that.

Why do we as a society have such a seemingly insatiable desire to overlook male abusers? Why does it take so long – as in Savile’s case – for the truth to be accepted?

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In the wake of #MeToo, survivors of sexual assault still have to fight tooth and nail for the fundamental dignity of being heard and believed – and that’s before meaningful action is taken or steps are taken to get justice.

Our seat of law and government, Westminster, is awash with allegations of sleaze and sexual abuse. This kind of behavior is widespread and its impact is toxic. For survivors, experiencing this type of violent intrusion can infect every aspect of your life, color your future relationships, and destroy any sense of personal security.

But perhaps the worst thing for victims is that abusers—yours or someone else’s—continue to be accepted, praised, championed, and promoted. It sends a clear message that your physical autonomy, your personality, your mental health – none of that matters. Their career and achievements will always be more valuable than you as a human being.

Peel is often described as one of the UK’s enduring national treasures. We need better heroes. Surely we’re not so tied down for people to celebrate that we cling to the memory of a man who bragged about sexual activity with children?

Glastonbury has to change the name of the John Peel Stage. And we should all take the time to explore why he was honored in this way in the first place.

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