Community consultation to help decide future of statues

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A community-led consultation into the future of statues with links to slavery and colonialism on a building owned by Goldsmiths, University of London is being launched by the College.

Red paint was thrown onto Deptford Town Hall in protest at the statues

The statues of Sir Francis Drake, Admiral Nelson, Cromwellian admiral Sir Robert Blake and a fourth statue thought to be a “representative” figure, stand above the entrance to Deptford Town Hall.

The consultation is being launched in response to anger at the statues’ connections to Britain’s slave trade and colonial past and their impact on people today.

Over the coming weeks individual students, student representative groups, Goldsmiths employees, local residents and local representative groups and local elected representatives will be invited to give their views on what should happen to the statues, which had paint thrown at them this week.

The College has also asked for the statues to be included in the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm being undertaken by Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London.

Professor Frances Corner, Warden of Goldsmiths, said: “The anger and upset provoked by these statues is clear and we hear and value these voices. It is vital the College responds and we will work urgently with our community to find a shared way forward.

“We remain committed to our comprehensive action plan addressing issues of racial justice at Goldsmiths and improving the experiences of BME students and colleagues.”

Findings from the consultation will guide the College’s actions over the statues amid calls for the figures to be removed. In addition to the statues the consultation will also address the weather vane which sits on top of Deptford Town Hall. It is a galleon which is said to represent the slave trade.

The building is Grade II-listed and was formerly owned by Lewisham Council before it was acquired by Goldsmiths in 1998 for use as a teaching, exhibition and administrative space. Due to the building’s listed status statutory permissions are needed in order to make any changes, such as removing the statues.

The building was built in 1905 and was initially used as the headquarters of the Metropolitan Borough of Deptford until it was disbanded in 1965 and the building was passed over to Lewisham Council.

Its decoration reflects the role Deptford played in Britain’s naval history which is inextricably tied to the slave trade and colonialism.

Read notes on the history and context of the statues.