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STATUES: Council ‘will not be taking down statues in city’

STATUES: Council ‘will not be taking down statues in city’

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A review of the city’s street names and statues will not result in any being removed or renamed, the leader of the council has announced.

Speaking after it was revealed that a majority of Brummies supported the council’s plans for a review of its street names and statues that may have links to colonialism and slavery, Cllr Ian Ward said that instead efforts would be made to ‘further explain the lives of the characters depicted’.

Last summer the council announced a review of its public spaces and statues following the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol.

A petition started by the Birmingham Anti-Racist Campaign (BARC) calling for statues of Horatio Nelson and James Watt to be moved to a museum.

It had been thought that some statues and street names in the city could be renamed or removed, a move backed by a majority of respondents to a public consultation on the matter.

However it now appears that the review will not result in any significant changes, with efforts instead set to be made to ‘contextualise’ certain statues and street names.

“We will not be taking down statues in this city,” said Cllr Ward.

“What we will do, if there is a need to do it, we will further explain the lives of the characters depicted in those statues, in order to give a fuller and more rounded historical account of their lives that will add to the city’s history.

“We need to tell the city’s history, warts and all. There are many things in the city’s history that we can be proud of – there are many things that challenge us and we need to learn the lessons from them. But we must tell the city’s history warts and all.

“And when it comes to street names, we’re also not going to be changing street names, but I must say the city is not set in concrete, and the city does evolve. And the names of roads and streets may change over periods of time and, as the city moves on, there’s a need to recognise other aspects of the city’s life and history, hence the change of Paradise Circus to Lyon, which is a reflection of the city’s long partnership and twinning arrangement with the city of Lyon in France.

“I repeat, we will not be taking down any statues – in fact at the height of the clamour at the end of last summer for the removal of statues, I was involved in putting a statue back up, a resighting of the Thomas Atwood statue in Chamberlain Square.”

“Let me make this absolutely clear – we are not in the business of re-writing history, or pulling things down,” continued Cllr John Cotton, Cabinet member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety and Equalities.

“We cannot and we will not deny our past. What we will do is properly explore and explain it. The bad, as well as the good, and we will learn from it.

“And of course, as we build the Birmingham of the 21st century, we want it to reflect who we are now, just as our Victorian forefathers, their Birmingham reflected who they were.”

Words: Tom Dare, Local Democracy Reporter

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