Tag Archives: Edward Colston

THE TURDS OF TURD HALL

Turds of turd hall

All white! What a lovely picture of THE SOCIETY OF MERCHANT VENTURERS sat on their racist arses sporting self-awarded medals at Venturers Hall, Clifton. But what’s the problem with this private membership club for evil old farts with lots of money? Well, over the last few years, the venturers or their members have:

  • Prevented a corrective plaque going on the statue of their hero, Edward Colston, explaining his role in the slave trade, his religious chauvanism, his political party affiliation and how many children he murdered for money.
  • Venturer’s Trust chair Anthony Browne mysteriously quit in 2019 soon after potentially defaming anti-racist Colston campaigners.
  • Used their unelected role on the council’s Downs Committee to unlawfully allow Bristol Zoo to use the Downs as a car park. Then used a large undisclosed six figure sum of council taxpayers money to unsuccessfully defend their actions in court.
  • Provided a character reference for Alistair “Pervy” Perry in 2016, at the trial of this former Colston Girls School Headteacher, where he was convicted of indecently assaulting a girl
    from his church group in Weston-super-Mare.
  • Until 2016, arranged sick celebrations for children at their schools of Edward Colston’s life. Hosted by the Bishop of Bristol at the city’s cathedral.
  • Public sector looter, First Bus boss, Trevor “Grubby” Smallwood, received an Honorary Doctorate from UWE for “entrepreneurial and charity work”. In 2009 Smallwood had to
    pay £2.7m in Corporation Tax after attempting to dodge the tax via a trust fund he temporarily based in Mauritius. Coincidentally in 2014, UWE vice Chancellor Steve “The Chiropodist” West, became a member of the Society of Merchant Venturers.
  • Appointed Gillian “The Sewage Queen” Camm, a former Director of Wessex Water, as their “Master” last year. Returning to our turd metaphor, Ms Camm earned some of her wealth by tipping shit in our rivers.

Is it time for this gang of self-serving amoral tossers to take Colston’s advice – “Go and do thou likewise” – and drown in the docks?

COLSTON FOUR: DAY 8 – “How dare the council turn up as a witness for the prosecution in this trial.”

scales

Yesterday was spent with prosecution and defence summing up. Here are a few highlights.

Sir William Scrotesack QC for the prosecution:

‘The council process to deal with the statue moved glacially.’

‘You may be frustrated that you haven’t heard from Marvin Rees or the Society of Merchant Venturers. Concentrate on the evidence you have heard. That is what you try this case on.’

‘It is not a public inquiry, not about politics. It’s not about emotion but cold hard facts and, fundamentally, the rule of law.’

‘Conviction would be wholly proportionate.’

Scrotesack QC also went to great pains to explain that neither he nor the court were in any way racist. Indeed not, he’s merely a public schoolboy who knows on which side his bread is buttered and earns a fantastic living working for the racist institutions of the state.

Tom Wainwright, defending Milo Ponsford:

‘[The Colston Four] showed the world the people of Bristol are willing to stand up for what they believe in’

‘Their actions created history. History is destroyed by not telling the truth. What, if anything, really has the city lost?’

‘What value did the statue have before June 7, 2020? What historical or educational value did it have?’

‘Describing Colston as a virtuous man is a lie.’

Liam Walker, defending Sage Willoughby:

‘Sage Willoughby and each of these defendants were on the right side of history and, I submit, the right side of the law.

Veneration of him [Colston] was an act of abuse and celebrated the achievements of a racist mass murderer.”  

‘His actions cannot be categorised as a violent act’

‘[The statue] was itself an offence. Over more than 30 years nothing was done.’

‘The erection of the statue was an attempt to erase history. History cannot be erased but history can be confronted.’

Blinne Ni Ghralaigh defending Rhian Graham:

‘Rhian acted in response to what she saw as a crime of the statue being on display and the abject failure of the council’s duty to remove the statue.’

‘Democracy had broken down around that statue. Cleo Lake said it “was embarrassing that these defendants are in the box.”’

‘This is not bristol: we will not dress up a devil in angels robes.’

‘[The statue was an] obscene glorification’

Raj Chada, defending Jake Skuse:

 ‘The Council should be on trial. They could have acted. They had a very long time to sort this out.’

How dare the council turn up as a witness for the prosecution in this trial.’

‘Jake Skuse showed ‘unvarnished honesty’ in admitting to the jury it was his idea to roll the statue to the harbourside.’

‘Jake Skuse in his own inimitable style said ‘fuck off’ to the statue.’

Today the judge will attempt a summing up of the issues for jury before they retire to consider a verdict.

COLSTON FOUR: DAY 7 – “A FINAL FUCK OFF TO THE SLAVER”

COUNCIL WORKERS BACK HOMELESS NOT THE BOSSES

The final defendant Jake Skuse gave evidence today. He’s on trial for helping, along with many others, to roll the Colston statue down to the docks and throwing it in. And he wasn’t in the mood to play that establishment parlour game called British justice as played with straightfaces by generations of public schoolboys.

Among the gems Jake told the court under cross examination from Scrotescak QC’s team were that his thoughts when the statue came down were “get this racist fucker away from here so he can’t be put back up” and that throwing Colston in the docks was “a final fuck off to the slaver”.

He also openly admitted he deliberately helped remove the statue so that our idiot council couldn’t put it back up again.

Jake’s evidence closed the case for the defence and the rest of the day was taken up with more secret legal discussions between judge, prosecution and defence.before The Recorder of Bristol His Honour Judge “Ded” Peter Blair QC adjourned the trial until 4 January.

COLSTON FOUR: DAY 6 – “PROFOUNDLY SHAMEFUL”

Slave ship

Rhianne Graham’s defence continued today with a character reference from her employer followed by Blinne Ni Ghralaigh, defending Rhianne, reading an agreed statement from Gloria Daniel. Gloria is a black Bristolian.

We think that the old white men zealously prosecuting and hearing this case in the alleged ‘public interest’ – an interest that remarkably coincides with the dying interests of a narrow wealthy white establishment – need to consider this statement very carefully. And then, maybe, they need to consider whether defending some shitty old monument to wealth, slavery, white power and the British establishment is really the best use they can make of their rather sad, empty, self-important little lives:

“My father was born in Barbados in 1934. He arrived in England in 1957 at the age of 23. He was recruited by London Transport in Bridgetown, Barbados. He was required to sign a one year contract with a penalty of £95 if he did not complete the full year.

My family name, Daniel, is my father’s name. It is a plantation name. My father carries this name as my grandfather’s grandfather was an enslaved person ‘owned’ by Thomas Daniel.
Thomas Daniel laid claim to my grandfather’s grandfather. He was the son and main heir of Thomas Daniel, the fifth largest sugar importer into Bristol before 1800. The younger Thomas Daniel became an elected member of Bristol Common Council in 1785 at the age of 23 and the Sheriff of Bristol between 1786 and 1787. In 1796 Thomas Daniel became an Alderman, a position he held for the next 30 years. In 1797 he became Mayor of Bristol. He had a role in the council for over 50 years in total.

Thomas Daniel was a member and Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers (SMV) and a founding member of Bristol’s West India Committee, which was specifically set up to petition parliament against the abolition of the slave trade. He was also a president at various times of the Colston Society, the Dolphin Society and the Anchor Society.

Because of his political influence in the city, Thomas Daniel earned himself the nickname of the ‘King of Bristol’. His business interests included sugar importing and sugar brokering, iron importing, banking and investing in Bedminster coal mines and the Bristol Copper Company. He was a leading investor in the Bristol Dock Company as the official representative of the SMV, becoming the warden of that organisation in 1805. He owned and part-owned approximately 25 ships which sailed between Bristol and Barbados.

Continuing in his role his father had carved out as a creditor, the firm of Thomas Daniel and Sons became dominant mortgage providers for planters in Barbados and the Windward Islands.

Like many of the mercantile elites in Bristol, he ensured the safeguarding of his West India interests through his presidency of various societies (including the Colston Society) among other roles to ensure his place in wider Bristol political society.

After the Act of Abolition in 1833 was passed, compensating slave owners for the loss of their ‘property’, Thomas Daniel and his brother made over 52 claims for 6,900 enslaved people and 27 of these claims were successful.

The successful claims were for approximately 4,424 people including my grandfather’s grandfather. His name was John Isaac and I understand that he was around five years old at the time. The claims may also have included his parents.

Thomas Daniel and his brother John received over £130,000 in compensation which was divided between them, with Thomas Daniel receiving compensation for a further 200 enslaved people that were personally ascribed to him. This made him one of the largest claimants of compensation money given to British slave owners, the third largest in the country.

There are several ways of working out inflation rates to compare what the figure equates to today – in terms of purchasing power the figure allotted to Thomas would amount to over £7 million today – however the real figure of compensation to get one’s head around is that the total amount of the “bail out” to slave owners of £20 million constituted approximately 40 per cent of the GDP at that time.

It is too traumatising for me to think of the individual sum that was configured for John Isaac and each and every other enslaved human being. However, it is important to understand the “apprenticeship” scheme that accompanied the compensation which meant that formerly enslaved people who had been given their so-called freedom were then required to continue to work for free for a further four to six years (depending on the class of worker) before being entirely free. Anyone under the age of eight was emancipated immediately but John Isaac’s parents, if they were still alive, would have remained enslaved under the apprenticeship scheme.

Professor Hilary Beckles, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, describes Barbados as the most ruthlessly colonised country with it taking, at one point, on average seven years from transportation to the colony for enslaved people to be worked to death.

British tax-payers including the British African/Caribbean diaspora who were invited to work in post war Britain, also contributed to repaying the interest on the government loan (raised by the Rothschild Syndicate) obtained to pay the compensation through their taxes until 2015, This means that my father, his brothers, his children including me, and his children’s children, including my own nephews and nieces, would have contributed towards the compensation for the ‘freedom’ of his great-grandfather, my great, great grandfather.

When I heard that the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston had been toppled I felt a huge wave of relief. The world had witnessed the public execution of George Floyd and we had finally arrived at a place in history where people would no longer tolerate the continuing dehumanisation of black people.

I am aware that George Floyd’s great, great grandfather was an enslaved man, like my own. He or his forebears would have been transported to America on a slave ship, such as those occupied by the Royal African Company under Edward Colston. In the words of Malcolm X, referring to the unassuming rock said to mark the point of arrival of European settlers in what we now know to be America, ‘we did not land on Plymouth Rock, the rock was landed on us’.

The ancestors of George Floyd did not choose to go to America, they were taken there by force and their descendants have lived with the racist legacy of that trade.

The fact that the statue of a slave trader had remained up for so long, and without contextualisation, was in my view profoundly shameful. I am aware the Colston Society was disbanded after the statue came down. I do not believe that would have happened otherwise.

The statue being felled and dragged through the streets of Bristol to a watery grave centred the global conversation on the birthing role Britain played in the transatlantic slave trade. It has not only removed a statue that caused a huge amount of hurt to the community, it has also served to educate people about the role and about Colston himself.”

The trial will continue tomorrow if The Bristol Recorder and the Crown Prosecutor are shameless enough to turn up and continue with this morally repugnant fiasco masquerading as justice.

COLSTON FOUR: DAY FIVE – “THE ONLY PEOPLE DEFENDING THAT STATUE WAS A SMALL GROUP OF THE WEALTHY ELITE”

Plaque
The plaque the Venturers banned

The Colston Four trial resumed today after a three day weekend. No doubt allowing The Recorder of Bristol Judge ‘Ded’ and Crown Prosecutor Sir William Scrotesack QC some rest and recuperation before continuing, this week, to waste our time and money prosecuting decent people for doing what their beloved establishment, which rewards them so well, was too racist, reactionary, weak and ineffectual to do themselves.

The day started with defence brief, Blinne Ni Ghralaigh, calling her client, defendant Rhianne Graham, to give evidence. After providing some background about how she ended up in Bristol, Rhianne told the jury she had found it strange there was a statue of a slave trader in the middle of the city.

She explained to the jury she was inspired by suffragette Rosa May Billinghurst, who committed criminal damage in the name of a cause. Before saying she saw nothing admirable in a murderer glorified in Bristol as a philanthropist. 

The jury was also told how a newly-worded ‘corrective’ plaque was created for the statue but never put up after the Merchant Venturers interfered in the process and ‘dumbed it down’. They objected to the fact that the plaque mentioned children dying on Colston’s ships and correctly stated that Colston was a Tory.

“Democracy had well and truly broken down around that statue,” Rhianne told the jury and that, for over 100 years, people had asked for the statue to be removed only to be ignored. “Somebody should have been listening,” she said.

Rhianne finished her evidence to the defence by agreeing she took a length of rope to the Black Lives Matter Protest to provide it to the people of Bristol should they wish to pull the statue down, which, it appears, they did.

Under cross-examination from Scrotesack QC, Rhianne repeated  she took 30 metres of climbing rope with her to the BLM protest to provide it to people should they want to remove the statue and agreed she did not have permission to bring the statue down.

She also told Scrotesack QC that she didn’t see the toppling as violent, any more than bringing down the Berlin Wall was violent and that “the only people defending that statue was a small group of the wealthy elite who had an interest in defending Colston.”

Following Rhianne, former Lord Mayor of Bristol, Cleo Lake, gave evidence and told the jury she felt “a great sense of relief” and “overjoyed” when the statue was toppled. She also told the court prosecuting the defendants was “embarrassing”.

Finally, Massive Attack entered the fray today with a thread on Twitter about establishment denial and inertia in Bristol over Colston and the disturbing role of the Merchant Venturers in the city:

COLSTON FOUR: DAY FOUR – THE HATE CRIME STATUE, A HISTORY LESSON AND SOME TV GLAMOUR

Olusoga
Man on the telly

With hapless clown Crown Prosecutor Sir William Scrotesack QC back home and being comforted by nanny yesterday evening after completing a turgid prosecution case characterised by a conveyor belt into the witness box of awful white male careerists earning a good salary from propping up establishment racism, court returned today.

To sum up the Crown Prosecution case: they spent three days proving the defendants had pulled down the statue, which they have admitted anyway and then pointed and said, “ooh look, they broke a bit of pavement”.

The defence case continued today with a definite frisson of early morning excitement at news that there would be a bit of b-list celeb TV glamour in the shape of historian David Olusuga appearing as a witness.

However, first up was defendant Sage Willoughby continuing his testimony from yesterday. and what a rousing performance he gave. Providing an outline of the difference between what we consider justice in Bristol and the dead hand of British law as practised in our courts and by those spiritual (if not actual) descendants of slavers, the public schoolboy barristers of the Crown Prosecution Service.

“Colston was a racist and a slave trader who murdered thousands and enslaved even more. Imagine having a Hitler statue in front of a holocaust survivor, it feels similar if not worse,” Sage told the jury. Adding, “I think it was a hate crime having that statue left up there so I felt legitimate in what I was doing.” 

The court heard Willoughby voluntarily handed himself into police and told them that he climbed the statue and put a rope around its neck “because it was the right thing to do”.

When asked about those unapologetically racist fuckers, the Merchant Venturers’ having contrary views to his, he told the jury they received money from slavery until 2015. He ended by describing the Colston Statue as a “hate crime” and agreed he had caused it damage “but, it had caused more damage when it was in place,” he said.

Next into the witness box for the defence was historian David Olosuga. One of only two black people on the Reverend Rees’s local History Commission until he recently quit without explanation.

David, the first black person to give evidence, provided an overview to the jury on Colston. the Merchant Venturers and the city’s role in the slave trade and detailed some of the horrors of the trade. The jury is reported to have asked for some more information about the Society of Merchant Venturers and why they have had influence over Bristol City Council. We look forward to that explanation too.

When asked if toppling the statue was an act of violence. Olusoga’s response was cut short by The Recorder of Bristol His Honour Judge Ded who called an afternoon break to later return and refuse to let Olusoga answer the question.

That just about concluded day four of the trial of the Four. It will continue tomorrow,

Statement of Support for the Toppling of the Colston Statue, and for the Four Colston Defendants

By Alternative Bristol

This Statement has been released by GladColstonsGone (FB page + on Instagram @gladcolstonsgone). They are “a coalition united by our belief that the toppling of the Colston Statue has benefitted the City of Bristol. We want to continue conversations it has galvanised around race, racism and justice, historical and present, in Bristol.“ They’ve also made it clear they believe the charges against the Colston4 Defendants should be dropped. We at AltBristol agree with that! Beneath the Statement is their Press Release today.

Statement of Support for the Toppling of the Colston Statue & for the Four Colston Defendants
The statue of Edward Colston was toppled in Bristol during a Black Lives Matter protest on June 7th 2020. This protest was one of many globally and nationally, in direct response to the brutal murder of a black man, George Floyd, by Minneapolis police. The Bristol protest was attended by thousands of people. Hundreds can clearly be seen on camera to have been involved in various activities that led to this object being pushed into the harbour. Despite this, authorities have decided to single out four people who are now charged with criminal damage. They await trial in December 2021.

We, the undersigned, support the anti-racist aims of the protests throughout the summer 2020. We abhor the legacies of institutional and structural racism arising from European colonisation and the trafficking, enslavement and transportation of African men, women and children into plantation slavery in the Caribbean and Americas.

We believe that raising the statue of the slave-trader Colston in 1895, some 60 years after the Emancipation Act, and repeatedly ignoring expressions of concerns by citizens, campaigners, and artists, has been deeply damaging to Bristol’s Black community and to our common humanity.

We believe the statue has stood as a monument to the disingenuous way power is wielded, impacting those of African descent adversely and disproportionately in policing, health, housing, education outcomes, job opportunities and life chances.

In contrast, we note the absence in our city centre of any memorials, monuments or plaques that restore to African peoples’ ancestors their dignity and humanity, or that honours the many nameless Africans and indigenous people exploited and murdered by Bristol merchants and ruling elites.

We recognise that this statue has been a point of division for many years and welcome the fact that it no longer stands in our city centre. We do not believe the trial against four people is in the best interests of our city and urge that charges be dropped.

We call for some permanent recognition in our civic spaces of the historical reality of this period, and the creation of a permanent memorial and centre of memory, resistance and renewal to begin a process of understanding, healing, reflection and education.

GladColstonsGone – 7 June 2021

Note: We invite individuals, groups, institutions and campaigns to sign-up in support of this Statement. To support this statement:
– add your or your organisation’s name in a comment to the pinned post of the GladColstonsGone FB page.
– message us via FB or @gladcolstonsgone on Instagram
– email us at gladcolstonsgone1@gmail.com and we’ll add you. Download the Statement as a pdf here: Statement-GladColstonsGone

Now for the Press Release that came with the Statement:

Colston Statement – Press Release 7th June 2021

From GladColstonsGone

On the first anniversary of the toppling of the Colston statue, we are Glad Colston’s Gone from his pedestal.

We recognise that this statue has been a point of division for many years and welcome the fact that it no longer stands in our city centre.

We believe that raising the statue of the slave-trader Colston in 1895, some 60 years after the Emancipation Act, and repeatedly ignoring expressions of concerns by citizens, campaigners, and artists, has been deeply damaging to Bristol’s Black community and to our common humanity.

The Countering Colston Campaign says: “If local government and city institutions had cared about systematic racial inequalities in the past, Bristol wouldn’t be where and what it is today. Drop the Colston statue damage charges, let’s attend to the real damages of inequalities and racial injustices in our midst.”


We do not believe the trial against four people is in the best interests of our city and urge that charges be dropped.

Sam Elliot from Bristol Defendant Solidarity – legal support says: “The charges are divisive and vindictive. We cannot have a ‘conversation’ or ‘consultation’ whilst some of the architects of that consultation have been involved with the criminal justice system in persecuting protesters involved in the toppling of Colston.”

We support the anti-racist aims of the protests throughout the summer 2020. We abhor the legacies of institutional and structural racism arising from European colonisation and the trafficking, enslavement and transportation of African men, women and children into plantation slavery in the Caribbean and Americas.

We invite individuals, groups, institutions & campaigns to sign up in support of our Statement – see attached/or below.

Notes for editors, readers & others:
1. The statue of Edward Colston was erected in 1895 by a tiny clique of wealthy Bristol businessmen. It was toppled during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol on 7 June 2020 attended by over 10,000 people. Many were involved in pulling the statue down. But just six people were issued Conditional Cautions by A&S Police in the summer of 2020, whilst just four people were charged with criminal damage by the CPS in December 2020.
2. Bristol Council provided a statement to A&S Police in late June 2020 that facilitated the start of the Police’s investigation.
3. For GladColstonsGone please see – https://www.facebook.com/gladcolstonsgone/
4. For Countering Colston Campaign please see – https://counteringcolston.wordpress.com/
5. For Bristol Defendant Solidarity please see – https://twitter.com/bristoldefenda1
6. For a range of historical research & articles related to Edward Colston please see – https://www.brh.org.uk/site/project/edward-colston/
7. #GladColstonsGone! Bristol Topplers’ Defence Fund! Please see – https://gofund.me/e49428cb

Solidarity with the Colston Statue Defendants!
(Feature image by AltBristol)

MYSTERY OF THE MISSING PLAQUE

Plaque

We are happy to confirm as correct rumours circulating that the Colston corrective plaque created in 2018 was actually CAST and READY TO HANG. The finalised plaque, a work of censorship and fake history by the Merchant Venturers ‘historian’ Francis “The Overseer” Greenacre that was forced on the local historians and school children invited to create the wording on the plaque, was cast by Wards Signs of Barton Hill in 2019. However, it seems to have DISAPPEARED.

What’s happened to this intriguing and valuable historical artefact that casts the MERCHANT VENTURERS and their pro-Colston racist elite friends and supporters around the city in a less than favourable light? The answer lies with Myers-Insole Local Learning Community Interest Company who were generously FUNDED BY THE COUNCIL to manage the creation of the plaque. Alongside his wife, Peter ‘Arse’ Insole, the city’s Principal Historic Environment Officer, is a director of Myers Insole, which is a very cosy arrangement between a council officer and public money isn’t it?

So is Arsehole planning on keeping this valuable piece of public property and important historical artefact as part of his PENSION PLAN? If not, perhaps he could urgently hand over our significant historical artefact he has no business with to the city’s museum service? What a potentially great display item it would make sitting alongside the original wording for the plaque that the Venturers sabotaged. 

And what a story it would tell about the city’s wealthy elitists in the early 21st Century.

REES BOARDS THE COLSTON BANDWAGON …

… After years of kicking the can down the road

Colston docks

Since Colston came off his pedestal and went for a swim on June 7th social media, TV and the press have been dominated by politicians, journalists and so-called ‘community spokespeople’ gushing with praise for the statue coming down.

The Mayor’s Office even banged on in a press statement that the Reverend Rees had an audience of 10 million around the world, from Bangladesh to Tokyo after Colston’s ‘burial at sea’. However, while seizing this new opportunity for pontificating, Rees conveniently failed to give a toss about the people who had put him on the world stage. That was the 17 or so demonstrators who had been identified under Home Secretary, Priti Patel’s orders to “get these people” – the statue topplers.

So as Rees was boring the masses in Bangladesh, Avon & Somerset Police were being forced to line up charges of criminal damage that could put the protestors away for up to 10 years. And what did Rees do? Intervene at the Council for the good of the city and agree not to press charges, allowing the cops to give two fingers to Patel?  Like fuck he did … Far better to bathe in the glare of global publicity and forget about those who put him there.

Campaigners who have fought for many years for the Colston statue to be removed and to get a permanent memorial to the victims of slavery in the City have been astounded by the two-faced hypocrisy of these turncoats. Rees told Points West:

“When I first came in, myself and a number of black people in the creative sector said that the best thing to do is to keep that [Colston] debate away from me.”

So Mr Civil Rights’s major contribution to the struggle to get the Merchant Venturers pet slave trader off our streets and schools was not just to do nothing but to actively discourage others from getting involved.

When calls came to change the name of the Colston Hall in 2017 Rees was silent, refusing to make his position clear until he was caught like a rabbit in the headlights at the end of a TV programme. Martin Luther King, who Rees idolises, must be turning in his grave.

In 2019 after the Merchant Venturers had spent months sanitising the wording on a plaque for the statue that was meant to correct the history of Colston, Rees only intervened to avoid becoming a laughing stock. Finally using some of his executive power to block the Venturer’s sanitised plaque before heading to the hills faster than Dominic Cummings in a top of the range Land Rover, leaving the project in limbo for over a year.

Welsh-Back-Association-and-Bristol-Radical-History-Group-have-a-plan-for-an-Abolition-Shed-empty-dock-buildings-on
Bullies? Abolition Shed campaigners

Meanwhile Rees’s second in command Asher Craig’s hardly covered herself in glory in dealing with persistent calls by campaigners for a permanent memorial to remember the victims of the trans-atlantic slave trade. Bristol lags far behind other ports like Liverpool and Nantes in France that were involved in the ‘vile trade’ and have made major efforts to both memorialise the victims and tell the history – warts and all.

One historian from Bristol University stated in a meeting with Asher Craig in March 2019 “that Bristol’s reputation abroad, when referring to the city’s response to its slaving past, was very bad”. He also said that Bristol shouldn’t limit its ambitions regarding a slavery museum, “the city should think big and be better than Liverpool”.  

Bristol City Council have missed opportunities to right this embarrassing wrong many times. In 1996 around the Festival of the Sea, in 1999 when the Respectable Trade exhibition was launched,  in 2007 with the bicentennial of the abolition of the slave trade and again in 2015 when the Colston protests began.

In 2017 campaigners from three groups and local residents proposed the Abolition Shed project, which wanted to convert two council-owned warehouses on Welsh Back into a memorial for the victims of the African slave-trade with a visitor centre to tell the history. When they approached Asher Craig to get support from Bristol City Council she basically told them to clear off and get some private funding.

Despite this slap in the face campaigners continued the fight to halt the council’s proposed development of the warehouses into more restaurants and bars and to finally do something. This persistence and enthusiasm by unpaid Bristolians who gave a fuck about the memorial, the history and the city’s reputation was clearly starting to annoy Rees and Craig.

Pizza Express May18_38-1920x900
That Rees/Craig proposed slave trade memorial

In August 2019 Marvin angrily demanded to know “who the campaigners were” and in response to their proposals cited a record in office of being amazing, without, of course, any concrete commitment to a memorial and museum. Asher was even more furious claiming“the City was now taking this seriously” and accusing the campaigners of being “bullies”. One local historian from the Counter-Colston group commented:

“Despite the fact that it is just not true, for Asher to characterise people as ‘bullies’ who have, without ‘funding’ and political power given lots of time and energy over several years to try to get something done after decades of failure, is disgraceful.”

Needless to say the Abolition Shed project was strangled at birth by Rees, Craig and the Council as they voted to turn the warehouses into pizza restaurants whilst wasting a million quid on moving a barge to appease the developers. Another missed opportunity in Bristol’s tradition of failure.

Asher’s only response to persistent demands for a memorial was to set up a ‘roundtable’, which descended into the usual talking shop while those who wanted to get a concrete commitment from the Council were seen as ‘troublemakers’.

It is also no surprise that Marvin’s response to Colston’s statue coming down was to propose a ‘history commission’. Looking into the “true history of the city”, which sounds like another opportunity for free-loading academics to fail to do anything.

So here we are, kicking the can down the road again….

HOW BRISTOL WORKS

smallwood

Meet Merchant Venturer Trevor Smallwood, a very wealthy man indeed. Like a number of Venturers, Smallwood obtained the majority of his wealth courtesy of Thatcherite privatisation policies and ended his career as chairman of First Group, who count Bristol’s buses among a portfolio of public transport service mediocrities run for shareholder benefit. Smallwood, from a fairly ordinary background, has used his wealth to climb the social ladder and has been the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Somerset and the Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers, the top job at the racist cult.

2009: Smallwood finally loses in the Court of Appeal and is forced to pay £2.7m in Corporation Tax to the Inland Revenue after attempting to dodge the tax via a Trust Fund – of which he was a beneficiary – that had been temporarily based in Mauritius. The tax was due on a £6m sale of shares in First Group held by the trust that were sold in 2001. His tax advisors at the Bristol office of big four accountants Price Waterhouse Cooper had encouraged Smallwood’s trust to sell these shares only after its governance had been transferred to Mauritius in a transparent attempt for the share sale to come under the jurisdiction of Mauritian tax law rather than British. A tax dodge that publicly and spectacularly failed.

2014: UWE Bristol awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Business Administration to Trevor Smallwood OBE DL in recognition of his, er, “entrepreneurial and charity work”. Tax dodging, apparently, being no bar to gaining the highest honour from one of our city’s universities.

steve-west

So does it come as any surprise that, also, in 2014 UWE Bristol’s Vice Chancellor, over-promoted podiatrist Prof Steve West, became a member of the Society of Merchant Venturers? But what on earth for? Why would a leader of an allegedly progressive institution wish to join a racist organisation best known among the majority of progressives in the city for openly lying to generations of children for sanctifying and sanitising their hero, the slave trader Edward Colston?

What’s in this bizarre arrangement for West exactly? What’s in it for the public he’s supposed to serve? And how much longer are UWE staff and students going to tolerate their boss hanging out with racists and tax dodgers? His position as both a Venturer and head of a higher education institution that aspires to be anti-racist is surely untenable? Or, like tax dodging, is being a member of a racist cult a cause for public celebration and honours when you’re part of Bristol’s self-styled elite?

“Do as we say. Not as we do.”