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POLLY Garter - one of the cast of colourful characters from Dylan Thomas' classic Under Milk Wood - has become the unlikely target for militant feminist lesbians.

A group calling itself Lesbians Running Loose has daubed paint over a mural of Polly Garter on the walls of the Dylan Thomas Theatre in Swansea.

In Dylan Thomas' 1950s play Polly Garter spends her days scrubbing floors, looking after her children and dreaming of her lost true love. She once complains "the only thing that grows in my garden is washing".

The life-sized image of Polly attacked by daubing actually portrays theatre chairwoman, Dreena Morgan Harvey, who has played the character in the past and who posed for the mural artist.

She told Wales on Sunday: "I don't know what lesbianism, or feminism for that matter, has got to do with Polly Garter. The character of Polly does scrub floors, but she is in fact quite a strong portrayal of a woman who has had affairs with men and does not care a hoot what the rest of the village thinks of her. She does what she wants and sticks up for herself.

"The mural does depict Polly scrubbing floors so I don't know if it is that image that some people found offensive. But the whole thing has to be put into the context of Under Milk Wood, which is one of Wales' best known pieces of literature. It shows people how they are, in the raw, dreaming of this and that and yes, occasionally doing the washing."

Thanks to anti-graffiti paint, which had been used for the murals, the daubing has now been removed. However, the Dylan Thomas Theatre, which is a charity, says it cannot afford to pay for repairing any repeated attacks.

Dreena said: "It is disgraceful. I don't know if it's meant to be a political statement or just vandalism.

But if they have a political agenda I don't know how defacing a mural on a struggling charity helps. It is just misguided."

Dylan Thomas expert Jeff Towns, who sells the poet's memorabilia, rare books and papers, said the attack was "incredible".

He said: "Under Milk Wood was a wonderful celebration of Welsh village life and was meant to have been set in the 1930s or '40s. There would have been little notion of feminism then, it just didn't exist. I feel that this retrogressive judgement by modern feminists is a bit grim to say the least.

"Another thing we should bear in mind is that this was a lighthearted piece and Polly Garter was quite a strong character.

"I know there have been some pamphlets and papers in which Dylan Thomas has been described as something of a misogynist.

"But he was more a man of his times than a misogynist and there were plenty of strong women in his life not least his pretty fiery wife Caitlin."

Wales on Sunday's efforts to contact Lesbians Running Loose have proved unsuccessful.


The Polly Garter mural
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 19, 2012
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