As Goldsmiths considers removing sculptures of Lord Nelson and Sir Drake, they have come under fire.
Following student complaints, GOLDSMITHS University is considering removing “troubling” monuments of Sir Francis Drake and Lord Nelson.
The public consultation on whether the 115-year-old sculptures should be permanently removed from Deptford Town Hall was initiated by the south London university. Lord Drake, Sir Francis, Cromwellian Admiral Robert Blake, and an unidentified representative naval figure all have ties to either Britain’s engagement in slavery or the colonial system that facilitated slavery.
The Goldsmiths consultation addresses one of the requests of Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action (GARA), a student protest group formed by black or people of color that was founded in 2019.
From September 1 through October 17, the university will urge New Cross residents to participate in a survey, which will be available online or mailed to about 8,500 homes.
Retaining the sculptures with further explanation, modifying some or all of the statues, or deleting some or all of the statues are all possibilities.
Any significant improvements to the building’s façade, which faces the bustling New Cross Road, would require planning permission from Lewisham Council, which would then notify Historic England.
Prof Frances Corner, Warden of Goldsmiths, said it was only right to ask local residents.
“Deptford Town Hall is a local monument, so it’s only appropriate that we ask locals what they think about the statues that represent the area’s complex maritime heritage,” he said.
“We want residents in the region to discuss troublesome aspects of the history represented by these statues openly and honestly, and to tell us how they want these concerns resolved.
“These sculptures were carved in 1905 to reflect the wishes of the local community at the time, and it is critical that any decision on their future reflect the wishes of our local community now, a little over a century later.”
GARA occupied Deptford Town Hall for 137 days in 2019 to demand “mandatory anti-racism training for all staff” and that “all four sculptures of recognized colonisers and the slave-ship be destroyed immediately, without being labelled with a plaque.”
Goldsmiths University retaliated by attempting to expel the demonstrators from the building through legal means.
After a candidate in the student elections claimed she had been subjected to racial insults, students protested in the town hall.
Her election poster had been scribbled over with racist graffiti insulting her accent, and her banner had been destroyed, she reported to campus authorities.
Protesters have been charged. “Brinkwire News in Condensed Form.”