Posts Tagged ‘Cardiff’

Tolerant Muslim Preaching and Complaints of Misrepresentation in ‘Among the Mosques’

June 25, 2022

I’ve started reading Ed Hussein’s Among the Mosques, his account of his journey through Muslim Britain looking at its culture, differences, and values. He did so by going to the mosques and other Muslim cultural and religious centres in Dewsbury, Manchester, Blackburn, Bradford, Birmingham, Cardiff, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London. While there, he met and talked to ordinary local people as well as the worshippers at the mosques, hearing their views and concerns. It was met with a storm of controversy when it came out because he talked about the conversations he’d had with Whites,, who’d suffered from racism, bullying and assault from Muslims in their areas. This was angrily denied, and a people went on Twitter to claim that the area he was talking about wasn’t Muslim but a posh White district. But the critics were talking about a different area from that visited by Hussein, and the book states this. The controversy seems to show the inability of some on the left to deal with the reality of anti-White racism by ethnic minorities.

But I don’t think the book does present a biased image of British Islam. Yes, in some areas, such as Dewsbury, the Islam practised – Deobandi – is austere and based on a theology of cultural separatism, in which Muslims are called to create and maintain a separate cultural and religious identity in preparation for the emergence of the caliphate. In other areas and mosques, the preaching and observance is more relaxed. Manchester’s Central Mosque is Barelwi, a sect based on the teachings of a 13th century Indian Sufi preacher. Their worship includes music, song and dance and the imam’s address was about interfaith tolerance as shown by Mohammed’s example.

Hussein writes

‘The imam continues to develop his theme of the need to change and improve ourselves based on our love for the Prophet. He encourages us to study the life of the Prophet Mohammed and how he acted towards people, even his enemies. Each time his name is mentioned the congregation again kiss their thumbs. The imam talks about the Prophet’s compassion, his kindness to his enemies, his message of co-existence with the Jews, Christians and pagans in seventh century Medina.

‘Are we such model citizens? Do we make our Prophet proud? he asks rhetorically, raising his hands with an exaggerated shrug like an Italian.

He quotes:

Qad ja’akun nur. Certainly a light has come to you.

That light is the prophet and the Qur’an, asserts the imam. ‘Are we radiating this light? Do our neighbours and friends in this country see us as carriers of love? The Prophet is shifa, he is healing. Has he healed our lives?’ (p. 46.) This isn’t that far from the various Anglican and other Christian clergymen in this country also preaching about the need for tolerance and love to heal ‘broken Britain’.

Earlier in the chapter he meets with a Muslim woman, Faiza, and her husband, who has come to the meeting as a chaperone as Muslim women may not meet strange men unaccompanied. She wears the niqub, and tells Hussein that she has reported three of her work colleagues to the HR department because they think she’s an extremist for doing so. She also talks about how the Muslim community in Manchester has been misrepresented thanks to the wretched suicide bomber at the Ariane Grande concert.

”One of the suicide bombers, Salman Abedi, was from a mosque in Didsbury here in Manchester,’ Faiza explains, adding in exasperation: ‘We have almost seventy mosques in this city. Yes, twenty-nine innocent kids died. And over a hundred were injured. For what crime?’ she shrugs. ‘One suicide bomber – one salafi – caused the incident, but what about the hundreds of Muslim taxi drivers who immediately took the injured to hospital? The drivers didn’t charge for this, but just offered their compassion and help. And why do we forget all the Muslim doctors and nurses at the hospital>’ Faiza is speaking passionately but intelligently.’ (p. 38). Elsewhere in the chapter he describes how all the mosques in the area condemned the bombing, but this wasn’t reported in the press coverage. And other Muslims tell him that they tried to warn the authorities six times about Abedi but were ignored. It’s a familiar story I’ve heard about other Muslim extremists – the congregation at the local mosque were worried, and attempted to alert the authorities only to be ignored.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but it seems to me that Hussein is trying to present a fair picture of British Islam. Islam, like most other religious, isn’t a monolith but composed of a number of sects, which may differ considerably in their theology and practise. Indeed, the title of one book we had in the library at College on Islam was The Sectarian Milieu. There are serious issues and challenges from some of the more austere sects, which reject mainstream cultural values and integration. And Muslims are like everyone else – human beings -, and so may have their own prejudices and biases. And some are no doubt racist thugs and bullies, just like some Whites.

These issues have to be squarely addressed, not denied, or distorted so that all British Muslims become tainted due to the actions of violent extremists. If we don’t do this, then it’ll be left to the real bigots and Islamophobes like Tommy Robinson and the EDL.

Stop the War Coalition’s Day of Action Tomorrow

May 6, 2022

I got this email just this afternoon from Stop the War Coalition giving the details of the protests and demonstrations they’re holding against the war in Ukraine tomorrow. They’re almost entirely in England, but there is one in Glasgow for any Scots, who may wish to join in and another in Cardiff for the people of Wales. The email states

Tomorrow: International Day of Action for Peace in Ukraine

Towns and cities across the UK will be alive with anti-war activity tomorrow as part of the International Day of Action for Peace in Ukraine.

We are calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops in Ukraine, an end to the military escalation by NATO countries and for all efforts to be focused on finding a negotiated solution to the horrific war in the country.

A Scotland-wide demonstration is set to march through Glasgow and protests will also be taking place in Bournemouth, Brighton, Manchester and Newcastle.

Stalls and speak-outs have also been organised in over 30 locations. Find yours below…

BathBath Abbey, 11:30am – 12:30pm

Bournemouth: Protest – Bournemouth Square, 2pm

BrightonProtest – Brighton Clock Tower, 2pm

Cardiff: Queen St (near M&S), 2pm

Essex – Colchester: Stop the War Stall @ Climate Jobs Trades Council Event, Headgate Theatre, Chapel Street North, 11:30am-4pm

Essex – Harlow: Obelisk, Harlow Town Centre, 1-2pm

Hastings: Hastings Town Centre, 12-1pm

Huddersfield: Street stall and protest. Market Cross, Huddersfield Town Centre, HD1 2AA, 12.30 pm

Glasgow: Stop the War in Ukraine – Scotland National Demonstration, Assemble: 11:30am @ Blythswood Square

Leeds: Outside body shop, Briggate, 1:30-3:30pm

Lewes: Top of Cliff High Street, 12pm

London – Ealing: Ealing Broadway, Lloyds Bank, 12:30 – 2pm

London – Enfield: Enfield Town, Barclays Bank, 12pm

London – Hackney: Narrow Way, 2pm

London – Islington: Highbury & Islington Station, 12 – 2pm

London – Kentish Town: Kentish Town Station, 12 – 1:30pm

London – Lewisham: Lewisham Clock Tower, 11- 1pm

London – Newham: Opposite St John’s Church, 12-1:30pm

London – Walthamstow: Walthamstow Town Square, 1pm

Liverpool – Top of Church Street, 2-4pm

Milton Keynes- Outside M&S/opposite Civic Offices, 12pm

Manchester – Piccadilly Gardens, M1 1RN, 11am-1pm

Newcastle – Protest: Assemble, Grey’s Monument, 12 noon

Norwich: Speak Out: Haymarket, 2pm

Oxford: Bonn Square – Stall/Vigil/Mass Leafletting, 12-4:30pm

Portsmouth: Palmerston Rd Precinct, Southsea, 12pm

Plymouth: Sundial, Armada Way, 12pm

Sheffield: Sheffield Town Hall, 1pm

ShrewsburyPride Hill, 10:30am, 12pm

Southampton: The Bargate, High Street, 1-2pm

Swansea: Swansea Centre, 11:30-12:30pm

York: Shambles, York Town Centre, 12pm

Share the List of Events

We are asking all activists involved to upload pictures to social media and tag us @STWUK or use the hashtag #PeaceForUkraine

Please can you also email pictures to us at office@stopwar.org.uk if you would like your event included in the end of day report.

Do write to us and let us know how you get on!’

The email also includes notice of forthcoming protests in support of the Palestinians on the 14th May, and against the siting of nuclear weapons at Lakenheath on the 21st.

Protest for Palestine – Saturday 14 May

Join us on Sat 14th May to call for an end to Israel’s oppression and to assert the right of the Palestinian people to live in freedom with justice and equality.

The Palestinian people need our solidarity now more than ever.

Click Here for Full Details

Stop Nukes Coming to Lakenheath – 21st May

It has been revealed that Britain is to become the sixth country in Europe to host US nuclear weapons. The expected location: RAF Lakenheath, a US Air Force base in Suffolk – 70 miles from London.

Creating the conditions for siting American nuclear weapons in Britain puts us on the front line of a nuclear war. It is tantamount to painting a target on the back of everyone in this country.

We’re joining the CND protest at RAF Lakenheath on Sat 21 May. Transport is being organised from across the country. If you’d like to join us click the button below. 

Find Your Nearest Transport

Message from Stop the War about Anti-War Demos in London and Elsewhere

February 28, 2022

I got this email today from the Stop the War Coalition detailing the various protests and meetings that are going to be held up and down the country against the terrible war in Ukraine. There is going to be a major demo in London on March 6 along with other protests in Canterbury, Cardiff, Durham and Manchester. There’s also a protest the previous day, March 5, in Cambridge. There are also meetings, both online and in person, which will be held in Birmingham, Bristol, Merseyside and Newcastle. The email provides links for those wishing to join them and find out more, as well as sending them information about any protests their supporters are holding. The email runs

At the weekend a massive international online meeting called a global day of protest on Sunday 6th March demanding an end to the war in Ukraine, Russian troops out and no to NATO expansion.

We are urging all our Stop the War groups and supporters to call protests on that day in town and city centres. You can find a list of all the protests, meeting and vigils currently organised here. Stay tuned for announcements of further protests.

In London there will be a demonstration assembling at the BBC, Portland Place at midday called by Stop the War and CND.

There couldn’t be a more important time to take to the streets. Please do all you can to spread the word and maximize the number of people protesting on Sunday.

Yes, I’ll be Joining the London Demo

There are protests taking place across the UK. Find yours below…

Cambridge – Protest – Sat 5 March, 1pm – Market Square, Cambridge. Click Here for Full Info.

Canterbury – Protest – Sun 6 March, 12pm – Westgate Gardens, Canterbury. Full Info TBA Soon.

Cardiff – Protest – Sun 6 March, 2pm – Aneurin Bevan Statue Queen Street, Cardiff. Click Here for Full Info.

Durham – Protest – Sun 6 March, 12pm – Durham Market Place. Full Info TBA Soon.

London – Protest – Sun 6 March, 12.00pm. Assemble: BBC Portland Place, London, W1A 1AA. Click Here for Full Info.

Manchester – Protest – Sun 6 March, 1pm, St. Anne’s Square, M2 7DH. Full Info TBA Soon.

There are also a number of meetings taking place in the coming days…

Birmingham – Online/In-Person Meeting – Tues 1 March, 7.30pm. Click Here for Full Info.

Bristol – Online Meeting – Thurs 3 March, 7.30pm. Click Here for Full Info.

Merseyside – In-Person Meeting – Thurs 10 March, 7pm. Casa Bar, 29 Hope Street, Liverpool, L1 9BP. Click Here for Full Info.

Newcastle – Online Meeting – Tues 1 March, 7pm. Click Here for Full Info.

If you have an event you’d like us to add to the list please email: office@stopwar.org.uk now!

Share the List of Events

Join us at Conway Hall this Wednesday to hear how the anti-war movement must respond to the invasion of Ukraine.

If you’re able to help us with stewarding on the day please email office@stopwar.org.uk with your details as soon as possible.

Register Here

Email Campaign by We Own It Against Channel 4 Privatisation

October 20, 2021

I got this email yesterday from anti-privatisation, pro-NHS organisation We Own It about the government’s latest sell-off. They’re planning to privatise Channel 4. Their email explains that this is disastrous because Channel 4 are one of the few media outlets holding them to account. At the same time they have been instrumental in producing quality television, which is funded through the channel’s advertising revenue. The government’s proposed privatisation is such a terrible idea that even many Tories are protesting against it. To counter it, the organisation is asking people to write to their MPs using a form letter they have devised. Here’s the email:

“Dear David,

There is absolutely no reason to privatise Channel 4, but the government is planning to do it anyway.

You can take a quick, easy action today to stop them in their tracks.

Take action now

Why is this so important?

Channel 4 News is one of the few news programmes that really holds this government to account, on issues from the NHS to the climate crisis. In fact, that’s probably a big part of why the government wants to privatise it. 

(Remember when Boris Johnson failed to attend the Channel 4 leaders’ debate on the climate crisis, and they replaced him with a melting ice sculpture?)

If you want decent news coverage at the next general election, please take 2 minutes to email your MP, ESPECIALLY if they’re a Conservative.

Email your MP now

Privatising Channel 4 would be an incredibly destructive act that would damage the UK film and TV industry. The creation of Channel 4 is the reason why the independent sector in film and TV exists today.

This matters 

  • For the quality of programmes and films that get produced
  • For young people trying to enter the creative industry
  • For the UK’s reputation in the world

There is no problem that privatising Channel 4 is the solution for.

Channel 4 has a unique business model, making a profit from advertising that it reinvests in good programming and nurturing talent. Channel 4 now has offices in Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Bristol, so it helps with the ‘levelling up’ agenda, boosting investment and jobs all around the country. They also support local production companies and outreach programmes in Cardiff, Belfast, Bournemouth, Norwich, Wolverhampton, Preston, Doncaster, Corby and Leicester.

That’s why wherever you are in the UK, Channel 4 is a good thing for your area.

Take 2 minutes to take action now

Lots of Conservatives have come out against the proposed sale of Channel 4. Many celebrities, including very right wing ones, have too. This means we have a chance of persuading the government that privatisation is a bad idea.

As Kirstie Allsopp has said, the plan to privatise Channel 4 is incredibly destructive. “I am a fiscal conservative and I’m naturally conservative-leaning and I find [the sale of C4] to be a betrayal of conservatism. It’s bonkers…I stood outside St Pauls when Margaret Thatcher’s coffin went by, and she would be spinning in her grave if she knew what this government was intending to do. Because C4 produces money, it produces jobs, it fosters talent, it brings out the best in people, and it’s very British.”

If you have a Conservative MP, it’s so important that you take this action! Your MP is EXACTLY who we need to shift. You will see that the template email is aimed at appealing to MPs like yours. Please send the text as it is, to maximise the chances of doing that! Thank you.

If you don’t have a Conservative MP, your MP can still really help to raise this issue up the agenda.

I want to stop the Channel 4 sell off

Last time the government tried to privatise Channel 4 they failed – partly because of the campaign we were part of to stop them. 

Let’s win again this time around and protect this much loved, publicly owned asset.

Thank you so much.

Cat, Alice, Johnbosco, Matthew, Zana and Anna – the We Own It team

PS Thank you so much for the incredible response to our Halloween action to protect our NHS from the Health and Care Bill! If you’ve let us know that you’d like to take action locally, we’re getting your action packs ready at the moment and we’ll be in contact with you via email. Get in touch if you want to get involved – there’s still time!”

I’ve supported their campaign, and duly sent a message to my MP because of the reasons they’ve laid out in their email. It’s not just the government that Channel 4’s held to account. They also gave Mark Regev a hard time when during the bombardment of Gaza. Regev tried to tell the British public that if they sent aid to Gaza through Israel, it would still get there. John Snow knew he was lying and told him he was. Which shows that Channel 4 has more backbone when it comes to tackling Israeli lies and atrocities than the rest of our craven media, or at least, they did then.

Channel 4 was set up in the 1980s to be an alternative to BBC 2. News was to be a particularly important part of its programming, and this has been consistently extremely good, even to Tories like former Mail columnist, now scribbling for the Times, Quentin Letts. The broadcaster was also going to offer programmes to minorities and groups not served by mainstream broadcasters. Hence when it started off it broadcast an adaptation of the Indian national epic, the Mahabharata, and a season of Indian films, All India Goldies. I also remember it having a news series of reports from Africa, fronted by Black reporters. It also helped launch a new generation of Black comedians with the series Desmond’s. And then there was the awesome Max Headroom. Unfortunately, the quality did decline in the 1990s as the programme chiefs made it more mainstream, though even then it did broadcast quality material like the American import, Fraser. And it does support the British film industry, or what remains of it. If you’ve seen a British film, or a British/Irish co-production in the past few years, chances are that it’s also been co-produced by Channel 4 films. Kirstie Allsopp is wrong about Margaret Thatcher not wanting it privatised. There were several times when the Conservative government tried to sell it off, or sold shares in it but it hasn’t been totally privatised.

Now it seems it will be. For the same reasons the government is trying to privatise the Beeb. Because both are obstacles to private TV stations that don’t have a public service commitment, and particularly because they’re obstacles to the grasping power of Rupert Murdoch.

I’ve supported this campaign and emailed my MP as requested because I don’t want the channel privatised. If you feel the same, please do so.

Simon Webb Claims that Reni Eddo-Lodge and David Olusoga Stirred Up Racial Hatred with Fake History of Liverpool Lynching

May 31, 2021

I’ve posted up a number of videos from Simon Webb’s History Debunked channel on YouTube. Webb’s a Torygraph-reading right-winger, and his channel largely attacks what he considers to be the fake history pushed by Black activists, anti-racist academics and researchers and the BBC. He’s the author of a series of history books himself, and frequently cites his sources. Some of his claims need to be taken with a pinch of salt, as in one video I put up he stated that the British government had not invited the Windrush immigrants to come to Britain. Several of the great commenters on this blog have contradicted this, stating that they remember organisations like Birmingham council advertising in the Caribbean for bus drivers. Two of the commenters, Gillyflowerblog and Brian Burden, are alarmed at my paying attention to people like him, and fear that it will turn me Tory. They have recommended instead that I watch David Olasuga’s history of Black Britain.

Now I’ve watched and enjoyed some of Olasuga’s documentaries, such as a House Through Time. But in this video Webb lays out the case against one of the claims of lynching made by Olasuga and Reni Eddo-Lodge, which were repeated by the Guardian and the Beeb. This is that Charles Wootton, a Black sailor, was lynched in Liverpool docks in 1919 as a kind of British counterpart to the lynchings in America. The BBC had made a short film in which young Black Brits spoke about their anger at this having happened, as well they should if the event happened as Eddo-Lodge and Olasuga claim. Olasuga claimed in a feature in the Groan and in his children’s book, Black and British, that Wootton, a Black sailor, had been chased to the docks by an angry White mob, where he either fell in or was pushed. Olasuga calls it a ‘lynching’, as does Eddo-Lodge in her book, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. But the truth seems to be that Wootton was a thug involved in attacks on Scandinavian sailors, who was chased to the docks because he had already shot two policemen.

Webb claims he knows something about the events because of his 2016 book, 1919 – Britain’s Year of Revolution. He says that there were frequently riots and disorders at ports between Brits and foreign sailors because of competition for jobs, exacerbated because foreign sailors would work for less. In Liverpool there was tension between Swedish, Danish, Russian and Black sailors. The violence started on June 4th of that year, when a Danish sailor in a pub asked a Black matelot for a light. He was refused, and attacked the Black guy. The next night, the Black sailor’s friends ambushed a group of Scandinavians, attacking them with knives and cut-throat razors. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that a cop tried to put an end to it, and in his turn was badly slashed about the face and back in an attempt to cut his throat. The Blacks then moved on to the Scandinavian men’s lodgings and attacked the first man they saw. Police reinforcements were called, and the Blacks retreated to their own lodgings followed by a crowd of Scandinavians, Irish and Russians. According to the Liverpool Watch Committee, the organisation responsible for the police, the crowd was starting to drift away when instructed to by the rozzers. When the police banged on the door, a Black man leaned out of the upstairs window and began shooting. Two cops were hit. Charles Wootton, who was suspected of being the perp, then tried escaping out the back. He made for the docks, followed by an angry crowd, where he either fell in or was pushed. 13 Blacks were later charged with attempted murder.

Webb states that Olasuga and Eddo-Lodge were aware of these details, but have deliberately edited them out in order to misrepresent Wootton’s death as a lynching. He also states that over the year as a whole, more Whites than Blacks were killed, and describes the riots in Cardiff which ended in the deaths of 2 Blacks and 2 Whites from the racial violence.

Now I share Brian’s and Gillyflower’s concerns about Tory bias. But here Webb cites his sources and urges people to look at them, rather than take his word for it. And if he’s right, this is a serious charge, because Webb claims that by doing so Eddo-Lodge and Olasuga are deliberately stoking up racial tension. Now Olasuga has suffered racial abuse himself. There was an interview with him in the Radio Times where he talked about having suffered racist bullying as a child. I wonder if the story about Wootton’s lynching is just a cherished Black myth, which is now so ingrained that it can’t be contradicted without provoking outrage from a Black community which believes in it wholeheartedly. Rather like the myth down here in Bristol that the local council has been covering up Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade. I also wonder if Eddo-Lodge and Olasuga edited out the details of Black violence because they were convinced that this was just the invention of biased White journalists. If Webb is correct, then it should cast real doubt over anything Eddo-Lodge and Olasuga have to say about race.

Now I’m very much aware that the Tories are trying to gain White working class support by turning them against Blacks. But the Black Lives Matter movement and Black historians and activists are making grotesque, racist claims about White history, identity and Whiteness. Peter Church, one of the critics of the idea of White fragility, in an interview with the American academic Benjamin Boyce, said he was concerned that the next step would be to move from attacking Whiteness to attacking Whites.

Apart from this, there is the general principle that history is important and you need to get the facts absolutely right, even if they run against received myths and ideas. The Black community in Britain does suffer from marginalisation, poor educational performance and job opportunities. But if the situation is ever to be corrected, it needs to be done with a respect for historical accuracy.

Even when, instead of a cosy narrative of Black victimhood, the reality is a more complex one of Black thuggery and violence.

Britain Boos Boris

May 30, 2020

Last Thursday may well have been the last time Britain ‘claps for carers’. The woman who started it all, I believe, now wants it to end because she feels it’s been politicised. In her view, it’s no longer about applauding and showing appreciation for the tireless heroes of the NHS and care workers seeking to combat this terrible disease.

I can see her point. From the moment it started I wondered if it was also going to be a way Boris and his gang of murderers could bask in their reflected glory. Was it going to be a way Boris could subliminally manipulate the nation’s mood, so that as they clapped for the NHS, they were also clapping him and the measures his government put in place – grudgingly and belatedly? But still, our NHS and care workers deserved it, especially as so many have died, partly due to the government massively fumbling the supplies of PPE. It’s also been a good way to raise morale and bring people together by getting them out of their homes and onto the streets in collective act of celebration. All while maintaining a safe distance, of course.

But now a new collective ritual may be ready to take over from it. A ritual that has absolutely no government sponsorship and definitely does not reflect positively on Johnson and his pack. Last Tuesday, Brits across the country took part in the national ‘Boo for Boris’. Mike posted several of the videos of people booing our incompetent, malign and murderous prime minister across the country, from Canton in Cardiff to Saltaire. One woman even dressed in ancient Celtic costume as ‘Boodica’, to shout her defiance just as the ancient queen of the Iceni stuck it to the Romans. There’s a parallel with modern history there, as well. Boadicea’s rebellion was partly sparked off not just by Roman brutality against her, her sisters and her people, but from economic recession caused by rich Romans like Seneca withdrawing their money from Roman Britain. This is what happens when the rich don’t spread it around and the economy contracts: people get into their spiked chariots and start mowing down the government.

I didn’t take part because, like Mike, I was too shy. But Mike’s article and the piccies he posted of it can be found at:

Britain boos Boris! And about time too…

Sargon of Gasbag, the man who broke UKIP, posted a video denouncing the whole affair. He seemed to think it was like the three-minute hate in Orwell’s 1984, in which the whole nation screamed its hatred of the totalitarian regime’s archetypal state enemy. Like so many of his libertarian fulminations, it’s absolutely wrong. The three-minute hate in 1984 is the total opposite. It’s a consciously staged even by the regime to direct popular hatred away from itself. As such, it’s far more like the regular denunciations we had over the past four years of Jeremy Corbyn as a Communist, Trotskyite, Russian or Czech spy and anti-Semite from the Tory establishment and a complicit, mendacious press. The ‘Boo for Boris’ campaign, on the other hand, was an act of popular discontent and resistance against a government that insists on a stifling control of the media. If there is a a film parallel, it’s probably with broadcast news when people follow the lead of the angry and confused news anchorman by shouting out of their windows that they’re ‘mad as hell’. Though I hope it doesn’t end badly, as it did in that movie.

But as Boris continues to make himself massively unpopular through his support of the unrepentant Cummings, our clown prime minister may well have to suffer more boos to come.

Radio 4 Programme on Welsh 20th Century Decline

March 11, 2020

This might be of interest to Welsh readers of this blog, particularly as Mike’s a long-time resident of mid-Wales. Next Monday, 16th March 2020, Radio 4 are also broadcasting a programme on how Wales declined during the last century. The programme, Wales: A 20th-Century Tragedy?, is described thus in the blurb on page 131 of the Radio Times:

Simon Jenkins looks at the fortunes of Wales over the past century, asking how it might be possible to restore some glory to its valleys and mountains.

Rather more information is given in the short piece about the programme on the opposite page, 130, by Chris Gardner. This says

Simon Jenkins is passionate about Wales, the land of his father. His 2008 book Wales: Churches, Houses, Castles showcased the beauty and majesty of Welsh architecture, but the author and journalist is now worried for the nation’s future, citing among other factors the rise in the poverty index, while counties just over the border, such as Cheshire, have become richer. Examining Wale’s illustrious cultural, political, industrial and intellectual heritage over the last century, Jenkins uncovers historical reasons for this comparatively recent decline.

I think the major reason for this decline has been decline of the major Welsh industries during the last century – coal mining and iron working. There have been various history programmes on the Beeb that have shown that Swansea and Cardiff were major centres of the copper and iron industries from the 19th century onwards. I think Swansea was the world centre of copper production at one point, so that it was nicknamed ‘Copperopolis’. But this all gradually vanished due to competition from cheaper, foreign products. And this has continued into this century under the Tories, as we saw a few years ago with the proposed closure of one of the last surviving steelworks in the principality.

The country also hasn’t been helped by the fact that we haven’t had a Welsh prime minister, or one whose constituency was in Wales, for a long time. I seem to recall that Cardiff became the great city it is, housing Wales’ national museum, partly because Lloyd George wanted to turn it into a great national centre for Wales, like England and Scotland had London and Edinburgh respectively. The Labour PM, Jim Callaghan, attempted to do something for Wales, from what I recall, by diverting money that was earmarked to go to Bristol’s Portbury Docks to Cardiff. But his tenure of 10 Downing Street ended with Thatcher’s victory in 1979. And the Tories made it very plain that they weren’t going to help ailing industries, so that coal pits, and iron and steelworks up and down Britain were closed. This was partly because she wanted to destroy the coal industry so that a Tory government could no longer be overthrown by the miners, as Ted Heath’s had in the early ’70s.

I don’t know why Cheshire should have become more prosperous, unless it’s connected to the success of Liverpool FC. A friend of mine from that way told me that there’s a district in the county, which has become the country home of rich Liverpudlians, including footballers. Perhaps that’s part of the explanation.

If you want to listen to it, the programme’s on at 8.00 pm in the evening.

 

A Conservative Accusation of Liberal Bias at the Beeb

February 15, 2020

Robin Aitken, Can We Trust the BBC (London: Continuum 2007).

Robin Aitken is a former BBC journalist, and this book published 13 years ago argues that the BBC, rather than being unbiased, is really stuffed full of lefties and the broadcaster and its news and politics programmes have a very strong left-wing, anti-Conservative bias. Under Lord Reith, the BBC upheld certain core British values. Its news was genuinely unbiased, giving equal time to the government and opposition. It also stood for essential institutions and such as the monarchy, the constitution, the British Empire and Christianity at home, and peace through the League of Nations abroad.

This changed radically between 1960 and 1980 as the BBC joined those wishing to attack and demolish the old class-bound institutions. Now the BBC stands for passionate anti-racism, ‘human rights’, internationalism and is suspicious of traditional British national identity and strongly pro-EU. It is also feminist, secular and ‘allergic to established authority whether in the form of the Crown, the courts, the police or the churches.’ This has jeopardised the ideal at the heart of the Corporation, that it should be fair-minded and non-partisan.

Aitken does marshal an array of evidence to support his contention. This includes his own experience working for BBC Scotland, which he claims was very left-wing with a staff and management that bitterly hated Margaret Thatcher and made sure that the dismantlement of the old, nationalised industries like shipbuilding was properly lamented, but did not promote it as ‘creative destruction’ as it should, nor the emergence of the wonderful new information industry north of the border. A later chapter, ‘Testimonies’, consists of quotations from other, anonymous rightists, describing how the Beeb is biased and bewailing their isolated position as the few Conservative voices in the Corporation. He is particularly critical of the former director-general, John Birt. Birt was recruited in the 1990s from ITV. He was a member of the Labour Party, who brought with him many of his colleagues from the commercial channel, who also shared his politics and hatred of the Tories. He goes on to list the leading figures from the Left, who he claims are responsible for this bias. These include Andrew Marr, the former editor of the Independent, and the left-wing, atheist journo and activist, Polly Toynbee.

Aitken also tackles individual topics and cases of biased reporting. This includes how the BBC promoted the Labour Party and the EU before Labour’s landslide victory in the 1997 general election. The Conservatives were presented as deeply split on the issue and largely hostile to EU membership. The EU itself was presented positively, and the Labour Party as being united in favour of membership, even though it was as split as the Tories on the issue. Another chapter argues that the Beeb was wrong in challenging the government’s case for the Iraq Invasion. He claims that in a poll the overwhelming majority of Iraqis supported the invasion. The government did not ‘sex up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ in order to present a false case for war, and it was wrong for the Beeb to claim that Blair’s government had.

The chapter ‘The Despised Tribes’ argues that there are certain ethnic or religious groups, who were outside the range of sympathy extended to other, more favoured groups. These include White South Africans, the Israeli Likud Party, Serb Nationalists under Milosevic, the Italian Northern League, Le Pen and the Front National in France, the Vlaams Blok in Belgium, American ‘Christian Fundamentalists’, conservative Roman Catholics, UKIP ‘and other groups who have failed to enlist the sympathies of media progressives’. These include the Orange Order and Ulster Protestants. He then claims that the Beeb is biased towards Irish Republicans, who have successfully exploited left-wing British guilt over historic wrongs against the Roman Catholic population. He then goes on to claim that Pat Finucane, a lawyer killed in the Troubles, was no mere ‘human rights’ lawyer but a senior figure in the IRA.

The chapter, ‘The Moral Maze’ is an extensive critique of a Panorama documentary claiming that the Roman Catholic condemnation of premarital sex and contraception was causing needless suffering in the Developing World through the procreation of unwanted children and the spread of AIDs by unprotected sex. This is contradicted by UN evidence, which shows that the African countries with the lowest incidence of AIDS are those with the highest Catholic populations. The Catholic doctrine of abstinence, he argues, works because reliance on condoms gives the mistaken impression that they offer total protection against disease and pregnancy, and only encourages sexual activity. Condoms cannot offer complete protection, and are only effective in preventing 85 per cent of pregnancies. The programme was deliberately biased against the Roman Catholic church and the papacy because it was made from the viewpoint of various groups with an explicit bias against the Church and its teaching on sexuality.

Aitken’s evidence is impressive, and I do accept part of his argument. I believe that the Beeb is indeed in favour of feminism, multiculturalism and human rights. I also believe that, the few remaining examples of the Beeb’s religious programming notwithstanding, the Corporation is largely hostile to Christianity in ways that would be unthinkable if applied to other religions, such as Islam. However, I don’t believe that the promotion of anti-racism and anti-sexism is wrong. And groups like the Northern League, Front National and other extreme right-wing political and religious groups, including UKIP, really are unacceptable because of their racism and should not be given a sympathetic platform. Their exclusion from the range of acceptable political and religious views is no bad thing.

But the book also ignores the copious documentation from the various media study units at Cardiff, Glasgow and Edinburgh universities of massive BBC Conservative bias. Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis have a chapter in their book on the gradual, slo-mo privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS, on the way the media has promoted the Tories’ and New Labour’s project of selling off the health service. And this includes the Beeb.  The Corporation was hostile to Labour after Thatcher’s victory, promoting the SDP splinter group against the parent party in the 1983 election, as well as the Tories. This pro-Tory bias returned with a vengeance after the 2010 Tory victory and the establishment of austerity. Barry and Savile Kushner show in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, how the Beeb excludes or shouts down anyone who dares to question the need for cuts to welfare spending. Tories, economists and financiers are also favoured as guests on news shows. They are twice as likely to appear to comment on the news as Labour politicians and trade unionists.

And we have seen how the Beeb has pushed the anti-Labour agenda particularly vigorously over the past five years, as it sought to smear Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as institutionally anti-Semitic at every opportunity. Quite apart from less sensational sneering and bias. The guests on Question Time have, for example, been packed with Tories and Kippers, to whom presenter Fiona Bruce has shown particular favour. This has got worse under Johnson, with the Beeb now making it official policy not to have equal representation of the supporters of the various political parties in the programme’s audience. Instead, the majority of the audience will consist of supporters of the party that holds power in that country. Which means that in England they will be stuffed with Tories. Numerous members of the BBC news teams are or were members of the Tory party, like Nick Robinson, and a number have left to pursue careers at No 10 helping Cameron, Tweezer and Boris.

The evidence of contemporary bias in favour of the Tories today is massive and overwhelming.

With the exception of particular issues, such as multiculturalism, feminism, a critical and sometimes hostile attitude towards the monarchy, and atheism/ secularism, the BBC is, and always has been, strongly pro-Tory. The Birt era represents only a brief interval between these periods of Tory bias, and I believe it is questionable how left-wing Birt was. Aitken admits that while he certainly was no Tory, he was in favour of free market economics.

This book is therefore very dated, and overtaken by the Beeb’s massive return to the Right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBc Drama about Fascist Radicalisation of Deprived White Youth

July 4, 2019

Next week’s Radio Times also says that next Wednesday, 10th July 2019, there’s a drama, The Left Behind, on BBC 1 at 10.35 pm after the news about young White men drawn into Fascism. The play’s set in an unnamed Welsh town, and is about a working class lad, Gethin, who becomes increasingly radicalised as his life collapses through poverty. The blurb for it on page 78 of the magazine runs

Factual drama from the Bafta award-winning team behind Killed by My Debt and Murdered by My Boyfriend. Gethin is a working-class teenager in a south Wales town with no secure job, housing or future. As he seeks solace online, he is increasingly attracted to anti-immigrant sentiment as a way of explaining why he’s been “left behind” in his own country.

The additional piece about it by Alison Graham on page 77 runs

Gethin is a nice lad, part of a fractured family, but he is close to his sister and niece. He has a handful of good mates and not much of a job – he’s on a zero-hours contract in a fast food takeaway shop.

But the fates conspire to send Gethin (Sion Daniel Young, who is excellent) completely off the rails as the fragile thread that hold his life together unravel and snap, leading to tragedy.

The Left Behind looks at the rise of far-right extremism in the poorer parts of Britain through the prism of Gethin, a young man looking for easy targets who blames outsider for robbing him of everything worthwhile.

The mag also has a feature about the programme on pages 20-21 by Claire Webb, pointing out the working class roots of the play’s author, Alan Harris. Harris’ parents were forced to sell their house in Tonteg, near Cardiff, when he was a child, and he grew up in a caravan on his grandfather’s smallholding. After he graduated, he had a series of poorly-paid jobs, including selling Santa hats in the street and working in a car park. He was also homeless for a time, sleeping on friends sofas or in their spare rooms. He got his break into theatre after training as a journalist and submitting scripts to a theatre group encouraging new writers. The article quotes him as saying ‘We don’t see honest stories of White working class men.’ It also states that he spent a lot of time talking to people using food banks and a community centre in one of Cardiff’s most deprived suburbs. He says

“They told me people feel powerless,” he says. “It is a case of being left behind, but it’s also a case of being left out. There are a lot of people in the UK who have no hope of progressing, and once hope is gone, a wedge is driven between different sections of our society and extremism is very good at exploiting that wedge. Online radicalisation does that well: it turns personal problems into a crusade.”

The article contains the chilling statistic that in 2018 there was a 36% increase in the number of far-right extremists referred to the government’s Prevent programme. Harris spoke to a counterterrorism expert working on the programme as part of his research. It says he was frightened by how quickly people can become radicalised, and how the far-right organisations have smartened up their act.

“These are well organised, respectable-looking organisations,” he explains. “They don’t turn up in red braces with a skinhead. They turn up in a suit with a much more professional attitude. They realised that the old model wasn’t working from a recruiting point of view.”

The article also states that these organisations’ supporters are concentrated in Britain’s post-industrial towns and cities, which is why the drama’s producers set in south Wales.

To the possible objection that the programme is a sympathetic treatment of a violent extremist, Harris replies that we need to under where they’re coming from if we are to tackle domestic terrorism.

“Society tries to ignore these things but they’re happening, whether we like it or not. Understanding these people is a movement towards making society better.”

For one scene, in which a chipper councillor is confronted by residents angry at the lack of social housing, the producers used working class extras drawn from that area, and asked them to improvise. And their raw, pent up anger exploded. They ripped the councillor to shreds to the point where Harris felt sorry for the actor.

Asked if he was apprehensive that Cardiff’s working class communities would be offended by the drama, Harris replies

“Not at all. I think it’s a good thing to shine a light on the problems that some people experience. Hopefully those issues of housing, of employment, will ring true with a lot of people from Cardiff and the surrounding area. Hopefully it’s bits of their lives reflected back at them. I don’t have all the answers, but at least we can ask questions.”

While this isn’t a programme I can I’d like to watch, it does seem to be an honest attempt to grapple with the underlying issues behind the far-right’s attempts to reach out and recruit disenfranchised working class Whites. But the responsibility for the growth in racism goes far beyond the Fascist right itself, right to the heart of the neoliberal establishment. At one level, the Nazis are only building on the extreme nationalism and racism that’s been pushed for decades by the Tories and the Tory press – the Scum and the Heil are two notorious examples. But it also includes the supposedly more upmarket Spectator, which, as the Sage of Crewe has pointed out, employs the anti-Semitic Taki and is increasingly Alt Right.

And among the causes of the growth of Fascism in this country is Blair and the New Labour project. Blair abandoned socialism and the party’s traditional working class base to appeal instead to Tory swing voters. They fully embraced and participated in the destruction of the NHS and the welfare state, with Gordon Brown particularly enthusiastic about encouraging a flexible job market. In other words, job insecurity. And Tony Greenstein has repeatedly pointed out how hollow and non-existent are the Blairites’ attempts to deal with Fascism. Margaret Hodge, now the darling of the anti-Semitism smear merchants, was so negligent in her treatment of the growth of Fascism in her constituency, that the BNP actually sent her flowers when seven of their stormtroopers were elected on to Tower Hamlets local council. As for Tom Watson, he was a friend of Phil Woolas, a New Labour politico, who ran a very racist campaign against a Lib Dem opponent, claiming that he was soft on immigration and encouraged Muslim radicalisation. Woolas said that his campaign was about getting White men angry. And David Rosenberg on his blog warned that the anti-Semitism witchhunt was designed to purge the Labour movement of genuine Left-wingers and anti-racists, and that this was damaging real opposition to Fascism in working class communities. The witchhunt and Blairism meant that recent anti-racist counterprotests were, for the first time, outnumbered by the Fascists. And to add insult to injury, the Nazis chanted ‘Anti-Semites! Anti-Semites!’ at their genuinely anti-racist opponents. Rosenberg has shown repeatedly on his blog how proper campaigning in working class communities, by socialists determined to give working people better opportunities and conditions, will devastate Fascist organisations by depriving them of the real, social and economic issues they exploit to misdirect rightly angry Whites into hating Blacks, Asians and other ethnic minorities.

The play looks like a good, honest account to deal with the growth in working class racism by showing that it is partly caused by the real despair in these communities at their poor and declining conditions. And tackling those and combating Fascism means attacking and combating the Tories and New Labour, who have caused them and seek to exploit the anger they’ve caused in turn by scapegoating ethnic minorities.

Two Books Showing Bristol Has Not Kept Secret Its Involvement in the Slave Trade

June 6, 2019

The week before last, Channel 4’s Britain’s Most Historic Towns was in Bristol, examining its history in the Georgian period. The show’s presented by Dr. Alice Roberts, who I believe is the Professor for the Public Engagement with Science at Birmingham University. She’s had a long career in television presenting programmes on archaeology, history and human evolution, beginning in the 1980s with Time Team. She’s a medical doctor, who I believe also taught anatomy at Bristol University. She regularly appeared on Time Team to give her opinion on any human remains that were recovered during their escavations.

Channel 4’s ‘Britain’s Most Historic Towns’

Time Team was finally cancelled after a very successful run several years ago, but like its presenter Tony Robinson, Roberts has continued fronting history and archaeology programmes. Each week the show visits a different British town and explores a specific period of its history. Roberts tours the town, talking to experts on its history and architecture during the period, and very often tries on the ladies’ costume at the time. Last year among the various towns the series covered was Cheltenham during its heyday as a regency spa. This year’s series started off with Dover, concentrating on it history during World War II. Last week it was looking at Cardiff in the early part of the 20th century, when the city became the major centre of the global coal industry. And the week before that they were in Bristol, telling its history during the Georgian period. Roberts has a personal connection to the city, as it’s her home town and she went to school here. She also had a personal connection to Cardiff, as it was at its university that she studied medicine.

Georgian Bristol

During the Georgian period – the age of the four Georges, from the early 18th century to the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837 – Bristol was one of the leading cities in Britain. It’s a port, whose location on the Bristol Channel gave it an excellent position for trading with Africa and America. The programme covered other aspects of Bristol’s history during the period, like the emergence of gin, the 1827 massacre by the army in Queen’s Square in Redcliffe of a mob demanding electoral reform, and the development of the Clifton and Hotwells suburbs as genteel residential areas for the city’s new mercantile elite. But Bristol’s wealth at the time was largely produced from the immense profits from the slave trade. Ships from Bristol took trade goods down to west Africa, where they were bartered for slaves. These were then taken to the West Indies to be sold, and the ships returned to Bristol with West Indian goods like sugar and rum in what has become known as the triangular trade. And it was on this aspect of Bristol’s Georgian history that the programme concentrated.

The show is well done and the research is very thorough. Among those Roberts talked to was Dr. Steve Poole, a lecturer at the University of the West of England; a member of Bristol’s Radical History Group, who talked about the Queen’s Square Massacre; and a couple of distillers, who showed her how 18th century gin was made. She also talked to Dr. Edson Burnett about the slave trade, going through some of the ledgers left by the slavers itemising their ships’ human cargo in the city archives. Some of these are really shocking. They simply give the number of slaves shipped aboard, and the deaths during the voyage. Those taken were simply items of merchandise, with no names. The ledgers give brief descriptions of those who died and how the body was disposed of. They were simply thrown over the side. One of the most horrendous incidents was the scandal surrounding the Zong, a slave ship, which threw its entire cargo of slaves overboard during a storm, and then tried to sue the insurance company for compensation for them as lost cargo. It’s a horrific atrocity and injustice. She also mentioned how a number of plays were written during the 18th century attacking the slave trade, many of which were set in Bristol. She then spoke to the writer and artistic director of a modern play about the trade being staged by Bristol’s historic Old Vic theatre.

Bristol and the Slave Trade

The programme’s coverage of Bristol’s history during the period was fair, although there was much obviously left out because of the constraints of the programme’s length. It’s an hour long, and it could easily take that long to discuss the city’s involvement with the slave trade and some of the architecture that was built for the merchants involved in the trade. As it was, the programme showed only one of them, the house of George Pinney, a 19th century West India planter and merchant. This is now a museum, the Georgian House, open to the public in one of the streets just off Park Street. However, Roberts opened the discussion of the city’s complicity in the slave trade with a statement that was simply wrong. She said that it was a terrible secret.

Exhibitions

Well, if Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade is a secret, then it’s a very badly kept one! Bristol’s M Shed museum, which takes visitors through the city’s history and some of its industries, including aircraft and motor vehicles built here, has a display on the slave trade. This shows not only slave manacles and the manillas, bracelet-like items used for barter, but also maps of homes and other properties owned and occupied by the slave merchants and plantation owners. This follows an earlier exhibit at the City Museum in Queen Street, ‘A Respectable Trade’, which was timed to coincide with the TV series of that name on BBC 1, based on the book by historical novelist Philippa Gregory. The book and TV series were about the slave trade, and much of it was set in the Bristol of the time. The exhibition was staged by local council and showed the historical reality on which the fiction was based. Gregory also appeared in a TV programme at the time, exploring the city’s connection to the slave trade, in which she spoke to several Black anti-racist activists.

Books and Pamphlets

Since then there have been a number of books published on Bristol and the slave trade. The city library has published a catalogue of books and other materials it holds on the subject.  There has also been a book published on the City in 1807, the year in which the slave trade was officially prohibited throughout the British Empire. Dr. Madge Dresser, a historian at the University of the West of England, has also published a book, Slavery Obscured, on the persistence of the slave trade after its formal abolition, in which merchants from Bristol were involved. And back in the 1990s the local branch of the Historical Association published a booklet on Bristol’s Black population in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Society of Merchant Venturers, the mercantile organisation that dominated Bristol’s trade in that period, has also published a catalogue of its holdings, which included it’s members’ plantations in the West Indies.

Origin of Belief Bristol Keeping Slave Trade Connection Secret

I’ve been told by members of the city’s Black cultural and anti-racist organisations that the idea that the city council is somehow covering up the city’s involvement in the slave trade dates from the 1970s. A member of the community rang the council up to inquire about what they knew about Bristol and the slave trade, only to be told that the city wasn’t involved in it. Which is wrong. I wonder if the person, who answered the call genuinely didn’t know about Bristol’s history of slaving. But whatever the reality, this planted the idea that the city council was deliberating hiding the truth. I think it was partly to dispel this idea that the City Museum staged the 1995 exhibition.

Two Books on Bristol from the 1950s and 1970s

But even before then, the city’s involvement in the slave trade was known and discussed. For example, the book Bristol and Its Adjoining Counties, edited by C.M. MacInnes and W.F. Whittard, and published by the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1955, has several pages on the slave trade in the chapter by MacInnes, ‘Bristol and Overseas Expansion’, pp. 219-230.

The 1975 textbook, Bristol: An Outline History for Schools, by H. Chasey, published by Georges, also covers the slave trade in its chapter on city’s 18th century trade, pp. 31-2. All the chapters are a page or so in length, with another page suggesting projects or containing questions for students on that period of the city’s history. The paragraph on the slave trade runs

Unfortunately, Bristol was better known at this time for its links with the slave trade. The “Blackbirds” sailed to Africa with various goods, exchanged them for slaves which were then shipped to the West Indies or North America. The ships then returned home iwth sugar and tobacco, the whole “Triangular Trade” bringing enormous profits to many Bristol merchants. Before 1760, Bristol carried about one-third of all the slaves, but this number died away by the end of the century as the anti-slavery movement made progress. (p. 31).

Few Obvious Monuments to Slave Trade in City

I also think that part of this misconception may come from the fact that there are few monuments from the time that obviously have direct connections to the slave trade. When I was studying archaeology at Bristol, one of the foreign students on the archaeology course complained to one of the lecturers that her housemate believed Bristol was racist, because there were no monuments for the slaves. The housemate was another foreign student, from Guiana, where I believe the buildings for landing and sale of slaves still exist. I think the student expected similar buildings to exist in Bristol. But they don’t, as the bulk of the city’s slave trade was with the West Indies. There were slaves in Bristol, but these were brought to the city as personal servants, rather than imported en masse as they were in the Caribbean.

Historic Buildings and Later Monuments Connected to Slaves and Slave Trade

However, there are architectural hints at the city’s connection to the slave trade all around. The city’s merchants decorated the exterior of their homes with carvings symbolising their connection to Africa or the Caribbean, such as pineapples. There are also coloured statues, representing the indigenous peoples of Africa, Asia and the Americas in St. Nicholas Market, one of which is a Black African. And several of the city’s pubs also claim a direct connection to the trade. The Ostrich, one of the pubs on the harbourside, had a cellar, in which, it was claimed, slaves were held ready for sale. When I used to drink there in the 1990s there was a poster up about it, along with reproductions of the advertisements of the time for runaway slaves. However, it may be the reality here was more prosaic. The 1995 exhibition said that many the connection of many of parts of Bristol to the slave trade may just be urban folklore. Blackboy Hill, for example, is probably not named after a slave boy, but possibly a racehorse owned by Charles II. The city has also made other gestures to commemorating the victims of the slave trade. There’s a slave walk along Bristol’s docks, and a plaque put up to those enslaved by city on one of the former warehouses by M Shed. A remarkable bridge built across the docks in the 1990s, which features two horn-like constructions, has been called ‘Pero’s Bridge’, after one of the slaves imported into Bristol. And there is a gravestone for Scipio, an African slave brought to the city by his master in one of the city’s churchyards.

Bristol has a very rich and fascinating history, of which the slave trade is one part. It’s a history that definitely needs to be told. And it has only been within the last quarter century or so that the slave trade has been memorialised in local museums, not just in Bristol, but also elsewhere. Bristol has joined Liverpool and Nantes in France in creating exhibitions and galleries on its involvement in the trade. Before then it’s fair to say that City Museum did not display anything on the slave trade. It was a period of the city’s history that most Bristolians probably would have preferred not to commemorate, but it was never forgotten nor kept hidden.