News release: for immediate release
Popular exhibition that got praise from the mayor is censored by waste company
It has been brought to our attention that Bristol Waste Company has removed a
board from the exhibition in the Bearpit which was jointly organised by the Bearpit
Improvement Group in conjunction with the national charity Journey to Justice which
also hosted a major series of arts and history events in Bristol this October.
We understand that Bristol City Council ordered the board to be removed following a
complaint by Councillor Mark Weston (Henbury and Brentry), the leader of the
Conservative group on Bristol City Council.
We request the immediate reinstatement of the board and an apology from those
responsible for its summary removal.
We also request further information about the process that led BCC to order the
board to be removed without consultation with the Bearpit Improvement Group or Dr
Madge Dresser of UWE and the University of Bristol who jointly curated the
exhibition with the Group’s organisers.
The board in question is a piece of art celebrating the role of Walter Ayles in fighting
for social justice and in particular his role as a leading campaigner against the First
World War. Ayles was a Bristol councillor before the First World War and was sent to
prison for his opposition to it. Soon after his release he was elected MP for Bristol
The information for the board was researched by Journey to Justice trustee and
Bristol Coordinator Madge Dresser (a Senior Research Fellow at UWE and Honorary
Professor of History at the University of Bristol) and by Colin Thomas author
of Slaughter No Remedy: The Life and Times of Walter Ayles, Bristol Conscientious
Objector. The board was created by artist Bo Lanyon who worked with the Creative
Youth Network to inspire their boards in the Bearpit.
For your information, Journey to Justice is a group of educators, youth, community,
human rights and faith organisations, artists, film makers, lawyers, musicians,
historians, curators and trade unionists. It aims to inspire and inform social
engagement through history and the arts. Its patrons include Dr Paul Stephenson,
one of the leaders of the Bristol Bus Boycott, who this week received a Daily Mirror
Pride of Britain Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in fighting racism and
This exhibition sought to celebrate some of the untold stories of Bristol’s past social
campaigners and should be seen as stimulating debate and interest in Bristol’s
distinctive history. Ayles has also been written about by other Bristol-linked
academics including Professor Emerita June Hannam of UWE and is featured in the
authoritative Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
The removal of the board is a clear act of censorship by Bristol City Council that has
no place in an open and democratic society. It is ironic that it was taken down during
the same week that George Orwell’s statue was unveiled at the BBC in London with
the motto: “If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they
do not want to hear.”
Yes it should be removed, the Council shouldn’t have a role in funding political statements in a public space. Whether you agree with the statement or not is completely regardless. We wouldn’t have Weston and the Torys funding a pro Brexit statement in a public space with public money, would we?
The council didn’t fund it.
So the Colston Statue must go then as that was a political statement by the Bristol Elite that it’s OK to celebrate a slave trader. Walter Ayles killed no one. Colston was involved in the deaths of more than 20,000 people, including 3,000 children.
I think we should remove the statue of the Bear at Lewins Mead Roundabout and any references to a Bear Pit in respect for all the animals who were abused for public entertainment.