Tag Archives: plaque

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….

WEST WING WATCH

west wing ii

Efforts by the Reverend Rees and his point man ‘Slo’ Kevin Slocombe to create their own new season of THE WEST WING up on the third floor of the Counts Louse brings predictable results.

Having EXPANDED the Mayoral Office budget to the best part of £1MILLION A YEAR and styled themselves as fast talking power dressing power players who get things done, their efforts to slickly command and control a council of 7,000 employees SPENDING A BUDGET OF A BILLION is more Jedward than Jed Bartlet.

The latest MAYORAL FAILURE finds the Reverend unable to get a simple ‘corrective’ brass plaque attached to the statue of Colston in the Centre. This might be because following the original mayoral decree for a plaque, there was NO MEANS to communicate back to the Mayor or his team what was going on with a project easily highjacked by the Merchant Venturers from council officers.

Similar problems have haunted the Reverend’s response to institutional racism at the council where the HR officers and managers responsible for the problem have filled any MANAGEMENT VACUUM by stepping in to solve their own problem to suit themselves.

The most recent fiasco followed the removal of valuable 1930s street lamps from south Bristol to leafy Stoke Bishop. “THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN,” insisted Slo Kev on Twitter. “Any street lamps removed are used for spare parts only,” he explained. Alas, within minutes of Slo Kev’s claim, a photo appeared on Twitter of a newly installed street lamp from south Bristol in Stoke Bishop!

The obvious solution of appointing one of 40-odd Labour councillors to oversee something like the plaque project through to completion has been OVERLOOKED by both the Reverend and Slo Kev. Both naively believing they can achieve anything at the council, no matter how minor, by SWAGGERING COMMAND or LENGTHY PRESS RELEASE fired out from the third floor executive suite.

In reality simple projects are FAILING and poor decisions are MULTIPLYING due to the Reverend’s West Wing fantasy. There’s a bottleneck at the top of the council. Too many issues for too few mayoral staff to cope with and council officers end up running the show with little oversight. Labour councillors, meanwhile, the natural workforce to force Labour policy through a recalcitrant council, hang about IDLE, BORED and IGNORED.

When will the Reverend figure out how to run his council?

PLAQUE ATTACKED

PLAQUE ATTACKED

Efforts to add a so-called ‘corrective plaque’ to Edward Colston’s statue on the Centre have descended into farce thanks to INTERFERENCE from our local bat shit crazy rich mans’ club, the SOCIETY OF MERCHANT VENTURERS, desperate to defend the reputation of their slave trading hero.

The idea behind a corrective plaque was to stop the constant – and often entertaining – VANDALISM of the statue by members of the public. Over the years we’ve woken up to find the statue yarn bombed, with its face painted white, with graffiti scrawled across it and with various corrective plaques superglued to it, usually LISTING COLSTON CAREER HIGHLIGHTS the current plaque misses out.

To address this, last year, the council hired historian Dr Madge Dresser to work with young people to produce a second plaque for the statue. Plenty of ideas came back highlighting Colston’s role in the SLAVE TRADE as well as aspects of his political, religious, charitable and business life that are OVERLOOKED on the existing plaque from the Victorian era.

Dr Dresser delivered her ideas to Peter “Arse” Insole, an architectural officer at the council and then the trouble started. The Venturers immediately employed AMATEUR HISTORIAN Francis Greenacre to LOBBY Insole on their behalf and an unknown number of private meetings between Insole and Greenacre with neither notes nor minutes retained have taken place.

Now, we’re reliably informed, the following information will definitely not appear on any new plaque: any reference to Colston being a TORY; any mention of the SOCIETY OF MERCHANT VENTURERS; the number of children TRANSPORTED by Colston’s ships; the number of children who DIED on Colston’s ships; any mention of Colston’s religious and political BIGOTRY; any mention of Colston’s involvement in the SPANISH SLAVE TRADE and any mention of his INSIDER TRADING in South Seas Company.

Never mind, we’ll all just have to go back to vandalising the Venturer’s reactionary monstrosity instead.