Brian May backs Freddie Mercury’s estate in Norwich gorilla removal dispute

'You have to ask yourself how you'd feel if suddenly people were making effigies of your dearly departed dad or son or brother,' says Queen guitarist

Brian May has backed Freddie Mercury’s estate in the row surrounding the removal of a gorilla painted to look like the former Queen frontman.

The guitarist was yesterday informed of the incident, which saw a sculpture of a gorilla painted to look like Mercury removed from Norwich city centre for breaching copyright laws, via Twitter and informed his followers that he would “look into” what was going on. Today (July 2), he has written a lengthy ‘Bri’s Soapbox’ blog in which he defends the Mercury Phoenix Trust, an Aids charity set up following the death of Mercury in 1991, for requesting the sculpture be removed from public view.

He wrote: “When the model was first seen, a number of people thought it was a crude and insulting effort – probably to both Freddie and the Gorilla! When word of this got to Freddie’s estate, they asked for an approach to be made to Wild in Art, to ask them if they’d have another go at the painting of the Freddie Gorilla.


“The way it was reported, it looked as if the MPT (Mercury Phoenix Trust) had ‘blocked’ the deployment of the statue altogether, but actually the issue had nothing to do with the MPT; plus it wasn’t a block at all – simply a request for an update to the paint job, to which Wild in Art kindly agreed.”

He added: “You have to ask yourself how you’d feel if suddenly people were making effigies of your dearly departed dad or son or brother, and you felt they were disrespectful. You’d want to feel you had some kind of a right to say yes or no, to protect his reputation. That’s exactly what the people who run Freddie’s estate do. They try to safeguard Freddie’s reputation, just as if he were still around. They will pursue anyone who tells a lie about him, or does something which could impugn Freddie’s integrity or image. So Freddie’s estate were quite within their rights to ask that this ‘portrait’ be improved.”

A spokeswoman for Brandbank, the gorilla’s sponsor, previously told the BBC: “We, like everyone else, have been taken aback by the passionate responses to the request by the Freddie Mercury estate that Radio Go Go [the gorilla] be removed due to a suggestion of possible breach of copyright…We have spoken to one of the executives of the estate and are endeavouring to see if we can resolve this so that there’s a positive outcome for all the charities involved. Our priority is that the event is a success for the charities involved, while respecting the wishes of copyright owners and fans of Freddie Mercury.”

The sculpture, which was decorated with Mercury’s trademark moustache and yellow leather jacket, was on display on outside The Forum in Norwich until a complaint by the Mercury Phoenix Trust was made to organisers Wild In Art.

The gorilla is one of 53 life-size gorillas and 67 baby gorillas decorated by local artists and schoolchildren before going on display on the streets on Norwich. All money made through the venture will be going to charity.