Removal of statues 'holds out challenge' to museum

Sasha Simic, Stoke Newington, full address supplied, writes:

One of the great moments of 2020 came on June 7 when Black Lives Matter activists toppled the statue of the 17th century slaver Edward Colston and threw it into Bristol harbour.

The action led many institutions across the UK to reconsider the place of their own monuments to those who had profited from the trade in human beings.

In Hackney, the trustees of the Museum of the Home, (formerly the Geffrye Museum), opened a public consultation on what was to be done with their statue of Robert Geffrye which has stood over the museum since 1913.

Geffrye lived at the same time as Colston and he also profited directly from the buying and selling of human beings.

The Museum of the Home admitted that the vast majority who responded to their consultation wanted Geffrye’s statue brought down from its plinth, but they subsequently refused to comply with their own consultation.

It later came to light that was the result of pressure from the government. Various cabinet ministers were quick to leap to the defence of monuments to slavers. When Colston’s statue fell, home secretary Priti Patel denounced the action as “utterly disgraceful” while Boris Johnson argued Black Lives Matter had been “subverted by thuggery”.

In July it was revealed that culture secretary Oliver Dowden had been in contact with the Museum of the Home to demand Geffrye’s statue stayed up irrespective of the will of the public, bolstering his argument with the barely hidden threat that the museum was “a government-funded organisation”.

In the second week of January 2021, communities secretary Robert Jenrick announced he was drawing up legislation to “protect” statues of slavers and imperialists from “baying mobs” and “woke worthies”.

On January 21, 2021, just five days after Jenrick’s announcement, came the news that legislators in the City of London have bowed to overwhelming public demand and are going to remove statues of the slavers William Beckford and Sir John Cass.

The City’s legislators are also ready to change streets named in honour of slavers. No doubt Jenrick sees the administrators of the Square Mile to be a “baying mob” and “woke worthies”.

Dismissing Jenrick’s feeble argument that removing monuments to slavers was “losing our inheritance of the past”, barrister Caroline Addy, a member of the City’s Court of Common Council, rightly declared “it would be wrong to lord those two (Beckford and Cass) so prominently, it would be oppressive to descendants of those who suffered”.

The action which the City of London is taking to remove monuments to the monsters who made their money from slavery is very welcome.

It also holds out a challenge to the trustees of the Museum of the Home.

The Museum of the Home asked the public what should be done with its statue of the slaver Robert Geffrye. Over 71pc of those who responded said they wanted it taken down. But the Museum of the Home is ignoring its own public consultation.

The Museum of the Home has been closed for the last few years undergoing refurbishments. The coronavirus pandemic has also delayed its reopening, which was last scheduled for January 2021.

Whenever the museum finally opens, it should do so without the statue of Geffrye above it. The trustees should ignore the wishes of the government and obey the wishes of the people. The departure of Donald Trump shows that no government, no matter how reactionary, lasts forever.

The Museum of the Home should do the right thing and bring down the statue of the slaver Geffrye.

Geffrye must fall. Now.

Vaccine experience

Mary Julian, South Hackney, full address supplied, writes:

As part of the 75 to 80s age group, I was delighted to be invited to be vaccinated at the Bocking Street site today (Thursday, January 21).

Congratulations to everybody for what was an efficiently run, relaxed and reassuring experience. I was reminded of the wonderful time my husband Paul and I had as Hackney volunteers in the Olympics.

It was Hackney operating at its best.

Gave me hope. Well done.

Efficient charging

Hackney Gazette: Charles Webber questions the efficiency and cost of electric vehicle charging pointsCharles Webber questions the efficiency and cost of electric vehicle charging points (Image: PA Archive/PA Images)

Charles Webber, Dalston, full address supplied, writes:

Hackney borough needs more slow, overpriced electric vehicle charging points like it needs a hole in the head.

Just installing something that ticks a box and looks good in provision statistics betrays the real needs of the green revolution.

Have a look at the usage data; I’m no genius but if something isn’t broken and yet remains unused for days/weeks at a time, it’s either too slow, too expensive or both.

Any EV minicab driver will tell you which systems are working and are in use much of the day.

Yes, there are a few other (mostly unused) overpriced charging bays that take hours to top up a car but if they make petrol seem efficient and cheap; really what’s the point?

Cycle challenge

Aimee Fuller, British Olympic Snowboarder and cycling enthusiast, writes:

We’ve all felt the strain of 2020 and with restrictions in place across England, it’s important that looking after our physical and mental health remains a priority in 2021.

That’s why I’m encouraging people to stay active throughout the winter months and improve their heart health by taking on the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) 30-day virtual cycling challenge, MyCycle.

The BHF found that signing up to a challenge has helped a quarter of people get fitter in the past.

Completing an exercise challenge like MyCycle can also have a positive effect on your mental health as it helps to increase your level of endorphins, which are a natural mood booster. This, combined with the knowledge that the miles you’re covering are helping to raise vital funds for the BHF’s life saving research, is sure to help put you in a good mood.

The coronavirus crisis hit charities especially hard last year. The BHF anticipate they will have to cut funding for new research by £50 million this year which will put potential life-saving discoveries at risk.

That’s why I’m taking on MyCycle this January.

So, join me and start pedalling to up the miles and get sponsored to help raise vital funds for life-saving research into heart and circulatory diseases.

Help for veterans

Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot, chief executive, RAF Benevolent Fund, writes:

Earlier this month the prime minister announced a third national lockdown. Although necessary, these measures mean many of our veterans will be facing the next several weeks – or months – completely alone.

And while the vaccine rollout across the country provides some hope, social isolation and loneliness poses a real threat to our elderly this winter, among them many former RAF personnel and their partners supported by the fund.

To help combat this, last year the RAF Benevolent Fund introduced a weekly Check and Chat service to support members of the RAF family experiencing loneliness.

I speak to one such gentleman every Tuesday. He lives alone and spent much of 2020 totally isolated, and for him, this service truly is a lifeline.

We chat about what he has been up to, what he’s cooking for tea, to his time in the RAF and often I’m the only person he will speak to for days.

The fund also facilitates weekly Telephone Friendship Groups, provides access to a Listening and Counselling Service, relationship counselling support and an online wellbeing portal to help support emotional wellbeing amongst the veteran community.

Throughout the pandemic, many of us have learnt more about our neighbours and local community. That’s why we are calling on the people of London to consider whether they know any RAF veterans, or their spouses or widows, who may be experiencing loneliness.

  • To refer someone to the RAF Benevolent Fund, please visit or call 0300 102 1919.