Goldsmiths University to keep statues connected to slavery – South London News

Goldsmiths University has decided to keep four statues connected to slavery and Britain’s colonial past on the front of Deptford Town Hall. 

Following a public consultation of people in the Lewisham area who were asked what they thought should happen to the statues of Sir Francis Drake, Cromwellian admiral Robert Blake, Lord Horatio Nelson and an anonymous representative naval figure, it was decided they should remain in place.

The four figures either have links to Britain’s role in slavery or the colonial system that supported slavery.

Statue of Sir Francis Drake, who was a known slave trader, outside the Deptford Town Hall (Picture: Goldsmiths University)

A spokesperson for Justice For Workers, Goldsmiths, said: “The decision to retain statues which commemorate colonialism and slaveholding is entirely contrary to the spirit of Goldsmiths, the interests of staff, the wider Lewisham community and the express wishes of the Goldsmiths students who occupied Deptford Town Hall for 137 days to tackle racism at Goldsmiths.

“The refusal to meet demands for the removal of the statues on the front of Deptford Town Hall shows a shamefully dismissive attitude to the voices of people of colour staff and students.”

Options in the public consultation included retaining the statues with further explanation, altering some or all of the statues, or removing some or all of the statues.

The university said results from a postal survey sent to around 8,500 homes in the New Cross area showed that 58 per cent of the 122 respondents strongly disagreed or disagreed with the removal of the four statues.

This rose to 68 per cent who strongly disagreed or disagreed that only the three named statues should be removed.

The university added that an online survey where anyone could submit their views showed that 85 per cent of the 4,921 respondents strongly disagreed or disagreed with the removal of the four statues.

Following the results, Goldsmiths said it will erect free-standing explanation panels on the window ledges beneath the statues and develop a “civic and schools engagement programme” and a grant for local artists of colour to explore the issues raised by Deptford Town Hall and its statues.

A spokesman for Goldsmiths University said: “Universities should be places for honest and open discussion of difficult issues including recent debates around the complex legacy of Britain’s colonial past.

 “Our students and staff expressed genuine concerns about Deptford Town Hall’s historical statues and their links to colonialism and slavery. This was why we ran a public consultation last year to find out how local people think the issues around these statues should be addressed.

“Having carefully considered the views of local people and of those who are taught in or work in this university building we believe keeping the statues in place and adding explanation panels is the right way forward.”

Pictured top: Deptford Town Hall with the four statues Picture: (Goldsmiths University)

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