Sunil Partiyal , an Indian journalist and Reuters correspondent has written extensively this past year about a high profile court case with strong racial and class overtones in the UK involving two parties, a working class white girl accused of racial abuse against an asian male , a story that has convulsed the normally staid world of auction houses.
The defendant, Lou Proud , former head of photographs at Phillips auctions who lost a high profile defamation case against an asian gentleman in the art world, was dismissed by her CEO Edward Dolman after the disclosure by court order of emails containing racist remarks . Her colleague Alex Godwin- Brown, head of public relations at Phillips who has hitherto declined all requests for interviews was also dismissed for racist remarks attributed to her in documents disclosed by the London solicitor Anthony Jayes LLP .
This interview with Godwin-Brown was first published in the Pakistani newspapers the Daily Nawa I Waqt , Pakistan Today and Aljazeera World.
Sunil Partiyal : Ms Godwin – Brown , thank you for agreeing to this interview. You have refused many requests for an interview about a court case in which it is alleged you played a major role. The London based solicitor Anthony Jayes of Jayes/ Collier solicitors asserted that you are a racist , reflected in the comments you are alleged to have made about an asian man who was in litigation with your colleague and friend Lou Proud. Why have you agreed to be interviewed now and are you a racist or did you make the racist remarks as alleged ?
Alex Godwin – Brown : I wanted to set the record straight. I did not want to speak to the U.K media as I feared my words would be twisted. I categorically deny that I am a racist and I disavow the racial slurs that have been attributed to me.
SP: How well do you know Lou Proud ?
AGB : Very well. I regard her as a close friend . I was aware she had ‘ issues’ which may have stemmed from childhood abuse. I never heard her utter a racist comment but then I did not see her frequently when we worked at Phillips. We worked in different departments but met socially and always maintained friendly relations.
I was aware that she was involved in a high profile court case only after it hit the headlines. She was reluctant to discuss it with me but everyone at Phillips knew about it. As a friend I supported her and continue to do so.
SP : In the documents released to us by the attorney Anthony Jayes which include a statement from a third party whom you know, it is alleged you made slighting references about an asian man’s ethnic origin , claiming that this third party’s interests would be better served by associating with someone ‘ more English ‘ . Do you deny saying that ?
AGB : I have no recollection of making such remarks.
SP : It is alleged in legal correspondence with Proud’s lawyer Charlotte Harris, who herself has been accused of racially motivated harassment by Mr Jayes, that you warned this third party, who cannot be named for legal reasons, that she would suffer professionally in the art world and lose her exhibitions which were under consideration at that time by Phillips auctions if she continued to associate with this man.
AGB: Again, I have no such recollection.
SP : Why were you dismissed from Phillips ?
ABG: I don’t wish to discuss it but it was unrelated to the allegations you mention.
SP: You grew up in South Africa in a white middle class family during apartheid , is that correct ?
AGB : Yes.
SP : Did you have black or asian friends ?
AGB : No, but that was the norm back then.
SP : Presumably you had black servants ?
AGB : Of course, that was commonplace among the white community.
SP : If a black man or woman is referred to by the name of a vegetable , is that, in your opinion, racist ?
AGB : I dont understand , give me an example please ?
SP : In disclosed emails from Ms Proud she insults an asian man by referring to him by the names of Indian vegetables , by repeatedly describing him as an ‘ arab’ when she knew he was a hindu and allegedly referring to him as a ‘ black bastard’, among other racist pejoratives. Mr Jayes attributed these insults to Ms Proud in his correspondence to her lawyer Charlotte Harris. We have seen these documents and the comments attributed to Ms Proud are, to quote Jayes, ‘ irrefutable’.
ABG : Depending on the context I would agree that such terms are racist. In the heat of the moment one may say something which one later regrets. But I agree that overtly racist insults are unacceptable.
SP : Were you aware that Proud had recurring mental issues which she admits in an email disclosed by Mr Jayes ?
AGB : She had a short fuse and sometimes talked of her prior abusive relationships but it’s not a subject I wish to expand on.
SP: Were you aware that Ms Proud had made at least one false allegation of harassment ?
AGB : No.
SP: Were you aware that she was being sued for defamation ?
AGB : Were you aware that she had been arrested by the police for the racially abusing an hotel worker and ordered to do community service and attend sessions with a psychiatrist ?
AGB : Certainly not.
SP : In legal documents it is alleged that Proud is or was a member of a neo fascist group advocating the forcible repatriation of colored
AGB: I have no comment to make . I find that incredible !
SP: Are you aware that Proud had issues about her class and was described by a former employer as ‘ chippy and resentful’.
AGB: Perhaps she felt that she did not fit in with the predominantly middle class, privately educated types who staff the upper echelons of auction houses. She did mention that once or twice. It rankled with her. The guy at Chris Beetles gallery, Giles, she particularly disliked. She thought he was a ‘ toff’ with little knowledge of photography. Her insecurities in this regard never affected or impacted on our friendship.
SP: Ms Godwin- Brown, were you privately educated ?
SP : Are you aware that in a disclosed document it is alleged that Proud said ‘ your parents are wogs and should go back to pakistan’.
AGB: Yes, I heard that but I can’t believe the person I know would make such a revolting remark.
SP: Do you find it credible that Proud resented the influx of eastern europeans taking jobs and housing from the indigenous white working class?
this is mentioned several times in disclosed documents which Mr Jayes released to us.
AGB: Yes, I admit we discussed this as it directly affected her family. She felt strongly that white working classes were losing out in jobs, housing and benefits to immigrants.
SP: Surely the corollary to those sentiments might be a resentment of colored immigrants ? UKIP presents itself as a respectable party protecting the rights of the indigenous white working class who they say are being marginalised and suffering economically. But the party is no different from the BNP or NF, it’s overtly racist predecessors. In one of the disclosed documents Proud states that immigrants ‘ smell’ and ‘ eat with their hands like savages’. Is that not racist ?
AGB : Well it is , I suppose. But I hear what I would describe as casual anti semitic remarks all the time, even in the art world where race or creed is assumed to be irrelevant. I still find it shocking that highly educated people would hold such views, let alone express them in public.
SP: Finally , do you believe that Phillips auctions is institutionally racist ?
AGB : Not at all. In fact quite the opposite, it’s more ethnically diverse than any of the other major auction houses.
SP: Thank you.