Posted on February 18, 2013

Racism Row over Blyton Festival: Residents in Town Where Author Lived Clash over Plaque to Honour Writer

Daily Mail (London), February 14, 2013

Many of her books depict an idyllic vision of rural England.

But the pretty market town where Enid Blyton lived is now divided – over a festival celebrating her life.

Organisers are planning a week of activities in honour of the writer, who died in 1968 aged 71, and want to install a plaque to mark the spot where her home once stood.

However, other locals are fighting to block the event on the grounds that much of the author’s work was ‘racist and offensive’.

Many of Blyton’s 600 stories have been updated since her death to remove inappropriate content – with, for example, the golliwog owner of the Toytown garage in her Noddy books being replaced by a ‘Mr Sparks’.

The festival is due to be held in June in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, to mark 75 years since she moved to the town.

Anthony Mealing, 63, who is  trying to stop the event going ahead, said: ‘My grandmother, Annie Grigg, taught at a school near here where they had rather racist Enid Blyton stories issued free by the author to all the pupils in the 1950s.

‘The moral of one of the stories is: Don’t leave any money around if there are any black children about as they will steal it.

‘She was anti-Semitic and very racist. People don’t believe me because she is too high an icon, but she was.’

Mr Mealing, from High Wycombe, said he did not want to see a plaque put up.

He urged residents: ‘Research the subject as you might find things you did not expect.’

Mr Mealing’s view was criticised on the internet, with one resident writing : ‘Enid Blyton was a fantastic story writer who deserves her place in history. She should be celebrated.’

But a supporter of Mr Mealing wrote: ‘For years there have been persistent rumours, based on recollections by some now elderly folk, that Enid B wasn’t a very nice lady.

‘One of her daughters also had a lot to say, criticising her too. Two TV documentaries about her also cast doubt about her character.’

Former librarian Kari Dorme, the coordinator of the festival being organised by the Beaconsfield Society, says Blyton’s original works should be accepted for the time in which they were written.

She said: ‘In the early 1990s, some of her publishers made certain text changes – mostly to bring her stories into line with modern thought and sensitivities, particularly with regard to what some construed as snobbish, racist or sexist attitudes.

‘Even names were modernised. You have to accept them in the time in which they were written, which was at least 60 years ago.

‘Her books still sell at the rate of six to seven million copies a year, in more than 40 languages. Enid Blyton is a marvellous story teller – a real page turner.

‘I feel that recognition should be given to the great contribution that she has made to children’s literacy.’

Blyton first moved to a house in the town called Green Hedges with her husband, Major Hugh Pollock.

The author, who later divorced and remarried, spent most of her life there until she moved into a London nursing home, where she died.

The house was demolished in the early 1970s and the site is now called Blyton Close.