Posted on March 19, 2008

Basil Brush Probed by Police Over ‘Racist Abuse’ in Gipsy Spell Sketch

Christopher Leaker, Daily Mail (London), March 16, 2008

You would hardly put him in the risque category when it comes to entertainment.

But these days, it seems that even Basil Brush is classed as controversial.

The wisecracking puppet, who has been on children’s TV since the Sixties, is being investigated by the police for racism, after his show featured a gipsy selling pegs and heather.

Members of the gipsy community complained to the Northamptonshire force, saying this was racial abuse.

And although the episode was first shown on the BBC six years ago, and has been repeated eight times since, officers now plan to study it for evidence.

The programme features Basil’s friend Mr Stephen, played by Christopher Pizzey, falling under a gipsy spell which makes him attractive to women.

Dame Rosie Fortune, who lives above the pair, tries to sell Basil pegs and heather—but he turns her down.

She then offers to tell Basil’s fortune, but he says: !I went to a fortune teller once and he said I was going on a long journey.”

Mr Stephen then asks him what happened, to which Basil replies “He stole my wallet and I had to walk all the way home.”

The episode, also on a DVD called Basil Unleashed, was last shown on the digital channel CBBC, last month.

Critics believe that the investigation is a waste of police time. But Joseph Jones, vice chairman of the Southern England Romany Gipsy and Irish Traveller Network, said: “This sort of thing happens quite regularly and we are fed up with making complaints about stereotypical comments about us in words that we find racist or offensive.

“Racist abuse of black people is quite rightly no longer deemed acceptable, but when a comedian makes a joke on TV about pikeys or gippos, there’s no comeback.

“Travellers have historically sold heather and pegs, but they don’t do it anymore for a living. It could be that someone thought this was a kind of stereotyping.”

Basil Brush was created by Peter Firmin in 1963 and was given his own show in 1970.

In 2002 he made a TV comeback and now stars in a new version of the Seventies children’s show Swap Shop, on BBC2.