Edward Colston statue pulled down

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FlammableFlower
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by FlammableFlower » Thu Dec 03, 2020 9:37 am

That was brilliant.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Tessa K » Sun Jan 17, 2021 11:57 am

The government is planning new laws to protect statues in England from being removed "on a whim or at the behest of a baying mob", Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said.Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he said generations-old monuments should be "considered thoughtfully". The legislation would require planning permission for any changes and a minister would be given the final veto.
The Colston statue wasn't pulled down on a whim by a baying mob. There were years of campaigning to get it removed that were ignored by the Merchant Venturers and local government.
... the communities secretary said Britain should not try to edit or censor its past. Mr Jenrick said any decision to remove heritage assets in England would require planning permission and a consultation with local communities, adding that he wanted to see a "considered approach".

He wrote: "Our view will be set out in law, that such monuments are almost always best explained and contextualised, not taken and hidden away."
We've already discussed editing and censoring the past in this context but clearly this is an argument that's going to keep coming back. No surprise that he chose to write in the Torygraph.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-55693020

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by discovolante » Sun Jan 17, 2021 12:01 pm

Oh for god's sake :roll:
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Fishnut » Sun Jan 17, 2021 1:58 pm

It's so infuriating. A history that cannot be "edited" but must be kept pure and unchanging is not a history but a dogma.

The willful ignorance that enables people like Robert Jenrick to bully and intimidate historians and organisations who are trying to provide a much-needed context to our history is astounding. The people asking for our history to be erased are the ones, like Jenrick, who refuse to believe we ever did anything bad or self-serving. We need to remove the rose-tinted glasses and look at our history clearly, with the ability to recognise our flaws as well as our strengths.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Tessa K » Sun Jan 17, 2021 4:31 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Sun Jan 17, 2021 1:58 pm
It's so infuriating. A history that cannot be "edited" but must be kept pure and unchanging is not a history but a dogma.

The willful ignorance that enables people like Robert Jenrick to bully and intimidate historians and organisations who are trying to provide a much-needed context to our history is astounding. The people asking for our history to be erased are the ones, like Jenrick, who refuse to believe we ever did anything bad or self-serving. We need to remove the rose-tinted glasses and look at our history clearly, with the ability to recognise our flaws as well as our strengths.
Not just dogma but a complete misunderstanding of what history is and of the work of historians.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by headshot » Sun Jan 17, 2021 5:37 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Sun Jan 17, 2021 4:31 pm
Fishnut wrote:
Sun Jan 17, 2021 1:58 pm
It's so infuriating. A history that cannot be "edited" but must be kept pure and unchanging is not a history but a dogma.

The willful ignorance that enables people like Robert Jenrick to bully and intimidate historians and organisations who are trying to provide a much-needed context to our history is astounding. The people asking for our history to be erased are the ones, like Jenrick, who refuse to believe we ever did anything bad or self-serving. We need to remove the rose-tinted glasses and look at our history clearly, with the ability to recognise our flaws as well as our strengths.
Not just dogma but a complete misunderstanding of what history is and of the work of historians.
See also: The UK Citizenship Test.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Tessa K » Tue Jun 01, 2021 10:57 am

A statue of Spanish conquistador Andrés López de Galarza was toppled yesterday in Ibagué, Colombia. It's not just in this country and the US that the statue issue rumbles on.

https://twitter.com/_maxgranger/status/ ... 1934473218

Someone suggested somewhere (can't remember where) that the statue of Rhodes in Oxford should be turned round to face the wall if they can't be bothered to remove it.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by tom p » Tue Jun 01, 2021 2:03 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Tue Jun 01, 2021 10:57 am
A statue of Spanish conquistador Andrés López de Galarza was toppled yesterday in Ibagué, Colombia. It's not just in this country and the US that the statue issue rumbles on.

https://twitter.com/_maxgranger/status/ ... 1934473218

Someone suggested somewhere (can't remember where) that the statue of Rhodes in Oxford should be turned round to face the wall if they can't be bothered to remove it.
Turning a statue round was done in the Hague a while ago. It wasn't 'cos of slavery, but because it was facing away from the palace, meaning that whenever the king left home he was confronted by his grandad's arse.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by plodder » Tue Jun 01, 2021 2:21 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Sun Jan 17, 2021 4:31 pm
Fishnut wrote:
Sun Jan 17, 2021 1:58 pm
It's so infuriating. A history that cannot be "edited" but must be kept pure and unchanging is not a history but a dogma.

The willful ignorance that enables people like Robert Jenrick to bully and intimidate historians and organisations who are trying to provide a much-needed context to our history is astounding. The people asking for our history to be erased are the ones, like Jenrick, who refuse to believe we ever did anything bad or self-serving. We need to remove the rose-tinted glasses and look at our history clearly, with the ability to recognise our flaws as well as our strengths.
Not just dogma but a complete misunderstanding of what history is and of the work of historians.
well yes, but we're (as a nation) about to go through a whole lot of economic pain and global humiliation in order make brexit a glorious <insert blank>. So it's entirely sensible for our overseers to start cracking the whip a little.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Trinucleus » Tue Jun 01, 2021 3:47 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Tue Jun 01, 2021 10:57 am
A statue of Spanish conquistador Andrés López de Galarza was toppled yesterday in Ibagué, Colombia. It's not just in this country and the US that the statue issue rumbles on.

https://twitter.com/_maxgranger/status/ ... 1934473218

Someone suggested somewhere (can't remember where) that the statue of Rhodes in Oxford should be turned round to face the wall if they can't be bothered to remove it.
I think it was Anthont Gormley. I think it's a great idea

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Fishnut » Wed Jun 02, 2021 4:40 pm

I went on a walking tour last week which was run by the Bristol Radical History Group exploring Colston's life and legacy in Bristol. It was absolutely fascinating and I highly recommend it if it's run again. They went through many of the myths about Colston which I thought I'd summarise for anyone interested.

1) He was a self-made man

Nope, his family were hugely influential. For example, during the civil war, one of his relatives (my note's say his father's cousin but I'm not 100% sure I got that right) assumed control of Bristol for the Royalists. His father was apprenticed to the wealthiest Bristol merchant of the period and became a successful merchant himself, trading on the Iberian peninsula. His family had a long history of wealth and influence.

2) He wasn't that involved with the Royal Africa Company and its slave trading

Bollocks. There were only 200 investors in the company, and he was one. The buy-in was £400 (about £1.2 million in today's money) and it wasn't enough to just have the money, you also had to be connected and accepted as a member - it was a very closed shop. Of the investors 24 were managers - you had to be a significant investor to become a manager (top 5%), and Colston became one when he joined. He eventually rose to became deputy governor of the company, making him second-in-command of the British Slave Trade between 1689-1690.

Members of the RAC made money in a number of ways. They got share dividends worth millions, but they also lent money - this was the start of the merchant banks. They made money as traders (Colston, after all, was originally a cloth merchant) - they sold goods to the company which were used to buy slaves. And people could lease ships to the company. Colston is believed to have built up a fleet of 40 ships, though they're very hard to trace in the historical records as they were uninsured and as they were being used by the RAC they were logged as being their ships. Rather than being on the periphery of the slave trade, Colston was at its heart, and made a fortune.

3) When Colston left the RAC that was the end of his slave-trading days

Also bollocks.

Colston left the RAC in 1692 by selling his shares to King William III. Why he did this is unclear but there's speculation that he could see the end of the RAC's monopoly on the British slave trade and wanted to get out while the going was good. Colston was also involved with the Society of Merchant Venturers, a Bristol-based group who were one of several around the country fighting against the monopoly that the RAC had on the slave trade. How and why he was a member of the RAC and the SMV at the same time is something that is as yet unclear. To use a modern analogy, it's like being a prominent member of both the Leave and Remain campaigns and it's not at all clear why either organisation tolerated this. But they did, and after Colston left the RAC he was still a member of the SMV who were involved in the slave trade once the monopoly was broken.

Colston also invested £7,000 (approximately £20 million in today's money) in the South Sea Company. I've heard of its resulting Bubble but I had no idea it was based on slavery.

4) Colston was a philanthropist who cared about the poor
He was a religious and political fundamentalist who used his money to support causes he cared about.

He was highly selective about who got his money. If you weren't Church of England you could forget about getting help - no Catholics or non-conformists need apply. One anecdote we got was about the school close to where he was born near Temple Street. Colston helped fund this school.
He was MP for Bristol between 1710 and 1713 and wanted his nephew to take over but when he didn't get elected Colston stopped funding the school. The school wrote to one of the charitable organisations Colston was affiliated with, begging him to change his mind, but he refused.

He's said to have left £70,000 to charity in his will but this is a wild exaggeration - it was about £2,000.

5) Colston didn't want to be memorialised, but others perpetuated the memory of this man who helped Bristol
I wasn't a fast enough typist to get down a full quote but we were read quite a long passage from Colston's will explaining how he wanted his funeral to go. It started at the city gates where all the people from the almshouses and schools he funded had to stand all day as his multiple-horse-drawn hearse was paraded through the streets of the city to All Saints Church at the top of Corn Street where a large memorial identified all his donations. There's an eye-witness account of the funeral describing how everyone had to stand in the rain as a result of his instructions.

6) It's only in recent years that anyone's objected to Colston being held as a central figure in Bristolian history
Colston was largely forgotten until the late Victorian era when he was used by the merchants and businessmen at the time as a sort of 'founding father' and exemplar of the 'self-made man' and Christian philanthropist. The city was beset with strikes, and the first working class candidates for political positions were standing and being elected which scared the city elites so they wanted a hero for the city to unite behind. Four Colston societies were founded, as were lots of ceremonies and rituals and the press were used to perpetuate the idea that these had a much longer history than they did.

The Bristol Radical History Group have put together a fantastic timeline of public dissent from the view that Colston is worthy of memorialisation, that currently goes back to the 1920s and is still being expanded.



Colston was not a good man. I think the best modern analogy would be something like the Koch brothers, using their money to advance their bigoted political and religious views rather than actually helping anyone out of the goodness of their hearts. All his donations came with strings attached and he had no problem withdrawing funding if people upset him. He was at the heart of the English slave trade for over a decade and even after his departure from the RAC he was still involved in the slave trade through his investments, and though advising of companies and individuals more directly involved. He is not someone any city should be honouring. Remember, yes, but honour, most definitely not.

Zooming out from Colston himself, the thing that struck me most was how easily our history gets obscured and simplified, and rewritten. Just to take one example, the South Sea Bubble. I've heard about this - who hasn't - and knew it was a financial bubble which resulted in lots of people losing money, but had no idea it was a bubble founded on slavery. The ease with which the 'party line' becomes part of our accepted history is troubling. And once it's our accepted history it is very hard to counter. But I'm very grateful to groups like the BRHS for trying.

The following was added by a Mod at request of Fishnut

Erratum: The info about the Colston societies is wrong. The four societies - The Anchor Society, The Grateful Society, The Parent Society and the Dolphin Society - were all founded in the mid 1700, not the late 1800s as the post claimed. However, they wer small in size and influence for the first 100 years of their existence. Likewise, Colston was venerated from the time of his death, but this veneration was largely private. It wasn't until the mid-1800s when the influence of these societies and the importance of Colston as a public figure began to grow. It was at this time that the press were used to build up the status of the societies and its ceremonies and rituals, which had been going on since their founding but with little public notice until this time.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by tom p » Wed Jun 02, 2021 4:50 pm

That's fascinating, cheers fishnut.
I also had no idea about the south sea bubble being based on slavery

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by JQH » Wed Jun 02, 2021 10:09 pm

tom p wrote:
Wed Jun 02, 2021 4:50 pm
That's fascinating, cheers fishnut.
Seconded
I also had no idea about the south sea bubble being based on slavery
Me neither.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by FlammableFlower » Wed Jun 02, 2021 10:16 pm

I'd like to add to the appreciation of your excellent piece there fishnut. Really interesting. Also shows how daft the current attachment to him is, given it was driven by self-intetest and promotion by groups long after his death.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Allo V Psycho » Thu Jun 03, 2021 8:17 am

Fishnut wrote:
Wed Jun 02, 2021 4:40 pm
I went on a walking tour last week which was run by the Bristol Radical History Group exploring Colston's life and legacy in Bristol. It was absolutely fascinating and I highly recommend it if it's run again. They went through many of the myths about Colston which I thought I'd summarise for anyone interested.

1) He was a self-made man

Nope, his family were hugely influential. For example, during the civil war, one of his relatives (my note's say his father's cousin but I'm not 100% sure I got that right) assumed control of Bristol for the Royalists. His father was apprenticed to the wealthiest Bristol merchant of the period and became a successful merchant himself, trading on the Iberian peninsula. His family had a long history of wealth and influence.

2) He wasn't that involved with the Royal Africa Company and its slave trading

Bollocks. There were only 200 investors in the company, and he was one. The buy-in was £400 (about £1.2 million in today's money) and it wasn't enough to just have the money, you also had to be connected and accepted as a member - it was a very closed shop. Of the investors 24 were managers - you had to be a significant investor to become a manager (top 5%), and Colston became one when he joined. He eventually rose to became deputy governor of the company, making him second-in-command of the British Slave Trade between 1689-1690.

Members of the RAC made money in a number of ways. They got share dividends worth millions, but they also lent money - this was the start of the merchant banks. They made money as traders (Colston, after all, was originally a cloth merchant) - they sold goods to the company which were used to buy slaves. And people could lease ships to the company. Colston is believed to have built up a fleet of 40 ships, though they're very hard to trace in the historical records as they were uninsured and as they were being used by the RAC they were logged as being their ships. Rather than being on the periphery of the slave trade, Colston was at its heart, and made a fortune.

3) When Colston left the RAC that was the end of his slave-trading days

Also bollocks.

Colston left the RAC in 1692 by selling his shares to King William III. Why he did this is unclear but there's speculation that he could see the end of the RAC's monopoly on the British slave trade and wanted to get out while the going was good. Colston was also involved with the Society of Merchant Venturers, a Bristol-based group who were one of several around the country fighting against the monopoly that the RAC had on the slave trade. How and why he was a member of the RAC and the SMV at the same time is something that is as yet unclear. To use a modern analogy, it's like being a prominent member of both the Leave and Remain campaigns and it's not at all clear why either organisation tolerated this. But they did, and after Colston left the RAC he was still a member of the SMV who were involved in the slave trade once the monopoly was broken.

Colston also invested £7,000 (approximately £20 million in today's money) in the South Sea Company. I've heard of its resulting Bubble but I had no idea it was based on slavery.

4) Colston was a philanthropist who cared about the poor
He was a religious and political fundamentalist who used his money to support causes he cared about.

He was highly selective about who got his money. If you weren't Church of England you could forget about getting help - no Catholics or non-conformists need apply. One anecdote we got was about the school close to where he was born near Temple Street. Colston helped fund this school.
He was MP for Bristol between 1710 and 1713 and wanted his nephew to take over but when he didn't get elected Colston stopped funding the school. The school wrote to one of the charitable organisations Colston was affiliated with, begging him to change his mind, but he refused.

He's said to have left £70,000 to charity in his will but this is a wild exaggeration - it was about £2,000.

5) Colston didn't want to be memorialised, but others perpetuated the memory of this man who helped Bristol
I wasn't a fast enough typist to get down a full quote but we were read quite a long passage from Colston's will explaining how he wanted his funeral to go. It started at the city gates where all the people from the almshouses and schools he funded had to stand all day as his multiple-horse-drawn hearse was paraded through the streets of the city to All Saints Church at the top of Corn Street where a large memorial identified all his donations. There's an eye-witness account of the funeral describing how everyone had to stand in the rain as a result of his instructions.

6) It's only in recent years that anyone's objected to Colston being held as a central figure in Bristolian history
Colston was largely forgotten until the late Victorian era when he was used by the merchants and businessmen at the time as a sort of 'founding father' and exemplar of the 'self-made man' and Christian philanthropist. The city was beset with strikes, and the first working class candidates for political positions were standing and being elected which scared the city elites so they wanted a hero for the city to unite behind. Four Colston societies were founded, as were lots of ceremonies and rituals and the press were used to perpetuate the idea that these had a much longer history than they did.

The Bristol Radical History Group have put together a fantastic timeline of public dissent from the view that Colston is worthy of memorialisation, that currently goes back to the 1920s and is still being expanded.



Colston was not a good man. I think the best modern analogy would be something like the Koch brothers, using their money to advance their bigoted political and religious views rather than actually helping anyone out of the goodness of their hearts. All his donations came with strings attached and he had no problem withdrawing funding if people upset him. He was at the heart of the English slave trade for over a decade and even after his departure from the RAC he was still involved in the slave trade through his investments, and though advising of companies and individuals more directly involved. He is not someone any city should be honouring. Remember, yes, but honour, most definitely not.

Zooming out from Colston himself, the thing that struck me most was how easily our history gets obscured and simplified, and rewritten. Just to take one example, the South Sea Bubble. I've heard about this - who hasn't - and knew it was a financial bubble which resulted in lots of people losing money, but had no idea it was a bubble founded on slavery. The ease with which the 'party line' becomes part of our accepted history is troubling. And once it's our accepted history it is very hard to counter. But I'm very grateful to groups like the BRHS for trying.
Most interesting, thank you!

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Tessa K » Thu Jun 03, 2021 11:15 am

Excellent work, Fishnut.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Fishnut » Thu Jun 03, 2021 1:35 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Thu Jun 03, 2021 11:15 am
Excellent work, Fishnut.
Thank the Bristol Radical History Group - they did the work, I'm just a stenographer!
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Martin Y » Thu Jun 03, 2021 2:39 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Thu Jun 03, 2021 1:35 pm
I'm just a stenographer!
I thought they were from the late Jurassic.

Either way, thanks for that. Very interesting and informative.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Tessa K » Thu Jun 03, 2021 2:39 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Thu Jun 03, 2021 1:35 pm
Tessa K wrote:
Thu Jun 03, 2021 11:15 am
Excellent work, Fishnut.
Thank the Bristol Radical History Group - they did the work, I'm just a stenographer!
You did the work of bringing it to us though.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Fishnut » Fri Jun 04, 2021 7:59 am

I went to a talk last night about Colston and realised I'd misunderstood some of the info about the Colston societies and his veneration. Woodchopper has kindly added an erratum to my post, but I thought I'd also share it here so that you don't have to scroll back up.

Erratum: The info about the Colston societies is wrong. The four societies - The Anchor Society, The Grateful Society, The Parent Society and the Dolphin Society - were all founded in the mid 1700, not the late 1800s as the post claimed. However, they wer small in size and influence for the first 100 years of their existence. Likewise, Colston was venerated from the time of his death, but this veneration was largely private. It wasn't until the mid-1800s when the influence of these societies and the importance of Colston as a public figure began to grow. It was at this time that the press were used to build up the status of the societies and its ceremonies and rituals, which had been going on since their founding but with little public notice until this time.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Fishnut » Fri Jun 04, 2021 8:03 am

Anyone in the Bristol area looking for something to do tomorrow afternoon could do a lot worse than the history walk being run by the Bristol Radical History Group. It's called Severing the Sinews of Slavery in Bristol and starts at 2pm at M-Shed. It's free and if it's anything like the tour I did last week it'll be well worth your time.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Tessa K » Fri Jun 04, 2021 10:55 am

The Colston statue is now on display in a museum:
Daubed with red and blue graffiti, and damaged so it can longer stand upright, the 19th-century bronze memorial has been displayed at the M Shed museum. Visitors will see it lying prone on a wooden stand alongside placards from the protest on 7 June last year and a timeline of events.
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/E3B2nj6WQAA ... name=large

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Grumble » Sat Jun 05, 2021 8:23 pm

Tessa K wrote:
Fri Jun 04, 2021 10:55 am
The Colston statue is now on display in a museum:
Daubed with red and blue graffiti, and damaged so it can longer stand upright, the 19th-century bronze memorial has been displayed at the M Shed museum. Visitors will see it lying prone on a wooden stand alongside placards from the protest on 7 June last year and a timeline of events.
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/E3B2nj6WQAA ... name=large
I am shocked that the telegraph doesn’t agree with the current presentation of the notorious slave trader.
You’ve got no chutzpah, your organisational skills are lacklustre and your timekeeping is abysmal.

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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Fishnut » Sat Jun 05, 2021 9:27 pm

I haven't read the whole article as it's paywalled but I saw some screen-grabs. The bit that particularly stood out to me was the author's dismissal of the need to 'stabilise' the graffiti because he didn't believe that the paint would flake. That an art critic doesn't know that paint can flake is really quite astounding. It just highlighted to me how many levels of ignorance were on display even in the brief part of the article I was able to read.

The statue is hollow - there was an incredible poem by Vanessa Kisuule about that fact - and after being dragged several hundred metres across paving stones and tarmac, dumped off a bridge into water and then pulled out it doesn't seem that difficult to believe that he might be a little bit worse for wear. Yet somehow the very things the museum curators have done to protect the statue from further deterioration are seen as political acts of emasculation.
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Re: Edward Colston statue pulled down

Post by Fishnut » Mon Jun 07, 2021 4:04 pm

Campaigners try to block Edward Colston display at Bristol museum. These 'campaigners' are apparently booking up all the tickets so no-one else can go, and then not turning up. It's all a bit silly, as M Shed are now saying they'll accept walk-ups. I was a bit worried about a Streisand Effect and other people mass-booking but that doesn't seem to have happened yet. I've booked a ticket for next weekend.

The Bristol Post has a pretty decent article looking back over the last year since Colston was pulled down. Some of the video was shot on the walking tour I took and Roger Ball who's in the video and quoted in the article is one of the guys who's run the walking tours, along with Mark Steed who's also mentioned in the article. At the end of the walking tour on Saturday we were stood at the plinth and Lawrence Hoo happened to be cycling by, so gave us a brief talk and read a poem of his called The Bristol Trade.

There was a brief request for donations to the Colston Four's defence fund and as we were breaking up a couple walked past. The man said loudly to no-one in particular "it's just a statue, get over it". They were in front of me and walking in the same direction so I was able to hear his next exclamation to the world, "you'll be tearing this down next" pointing to the war memorial. I politely said "that's a memorial, not a statue" and he said "whatever, the whole place is built on slavery anyway". It really struck me as getting to the core problem that so many people have about this stuff. It's not that they don't know - sure, they don't know the specifics but they know the generalities. The problem is they don't care. Millions of lives destroyed over hundreds of years, the consequences of which we live with still, and they simply don't give a f.ck.
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