Gazette letters: Sir Robert Geffrye, bullying and run 5k for charity

The statue of Sir Robert Geffrye at The Museum of the Home (formerly called The Geffrye Museum). Picture: Ken Mears

The statue of Sir Robert Geffrye at The Museum of the Home (formerly called The Geffrye Museum). Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Gazette readers this week.

We must remove statue of slave trader Robert Geffrye

Cllr Carole Williams, employment, skills and human resources, writes:

In September, the mayor and I wrote to Oliver Dowden condemning him for putting pressure

on the Museum of the Home to retain the statue of slave trader Sir Robert Geffrye. In light of the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the launch of our review into public spaces, we worked with the Museum to launch a consultation of the fate of his statue. We asked and local people said under no uncertain terms, that a statue of a slave trader had no home on their doorstep.

Yet Dowden pressured the Museum to overrule the consultation response. By wading into a matter of local democracy, the minister has placed undue pressure on the Museum staff who have a deeper knowledge of the local community and the importance of public confidence than anyone in Whitehall.

At a recent Stand Up To Racism protest outside the Museum, I talked about the 400 year transatlantic trade of African lives. The vast numbers of people forced into slavery is difficult to compute and horrifying to comprehend:

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• Up to 12.8 million people were ripped from their lives, land, families and their homes - that’s more than the population of London today.

• The trade of Africans was the business of Sir Robert Geffery and, along with other British slave traders, made 12,103 slaving voyages from British and British colonial ports. More than 3,000 set out from London.

• During its 400 year history of slave trade, Britain shipped 3.1 million Africans. Due to being forced into overcrowded squalor, lacking space for basic human needs and on bunks stacked high, thousands never made it off the ship alive.

On Friday, we were reminded of an African proverb which states; the passage of time doesn’t lessen the crime and these numbers speak volumes. Those sums provide facts which despite being lodged in history, have burdens that are still being felt today as black lives face inherent racism seven days a week.

In stark contrast, Geffrye set up the Almshouses at the Museum for pensioners in London. In comparison to the Africans he crammed onto ships from Africa, 50 British pensioners shared 14 homes. Each resident had their own room and were provided with food, heating and a pension. They had a garden they could enjoy and fresh air to breathe.

Since the Museum opened in 1914, thousands of people have walked through the aforenamed gates of the Geffrye Museum to see how people lived throughout British history. That’s hundreds of thousands of people oblivious to how this charmed museum was born from the enslavement and death of African men, women and children.

Now named ‘The Museum of the Home’, the Museum has a regeneration project, named Unlocking Geffrye. While the board makes plans to unlock its future potential, I see potential in reckoning with the museum’s past and acknowledging the truth of the man whose statue still stands above the museum - a man who stole Africans from their land and their homes.

As the board invests in inspiring people to explore the meaning of home I urge them to reflect on what it means to the millions who lost their ‘home’ when they were abducted and sold into slavery.

When the Museum of the Home reopens, with its emancipated new name, I’m asking the members of the board to make a commitment to the 1,000s of locals who responded to the statue’s consultation, hundreds of thousands they want to visit each year, including 36,000 children, make a stand for those who were enable to stand for themselves, tell the story of Sir Robert Geffrye and move the statue.

Deal with online bullying

Rachel McCourty, volunteer Childline counsellor, writes:

Anti-Bullying Week (Monday, November 16) provides a timely reminder that bullying can happen anywhere, to anyone, and be about anything.

Every year thousands of children contact Childline about their experiences of cyberbullying and tell us it can feel impossible to escape. Lockdown has exacerbated these feelings for many young people and from April to October our trained counsellors held more than a thousand counselling sessions with young people about online bullying.

As we enter another national lockdown in England, many children will now face the prospect of spending more time online. Bullying can have a significant impact on their mental health and wellbeing and this can be felt long into adulthood, so it is vital that we are here for them and that they know who they can turn to for help and support.

If a parent thinks their child is being bullied online, it can be hard to remain calm, but it’s crucial not to overwhelm a child with questions. Taking their device away is likely to make them feel like whatever has happened is their fault; instead it’s helpful to listen to their worries, suggest they take some time away from certain apps, and provide them with reassurance.

Adults can call the NSPCC helpline for advice and support on 0808 800 5000.

Our Childline service provides a safe, confidential place for children who feel they have no one else to turn to, whatever their worry, whenever they need help. Children can contact Childline on 0800 11 11, all year round.

Sign up for 5k charity fundraiser

Jamie Peacock MBE, former England, Bradford, Leeds and Great Britain rugby league player, writes:

I am writing to you as an ambassador for Sue Ryder to encourage your readers to sign up to the December Daily Dash this winter.

The Sue Ryder December Daily Dash asks fundraisers to run or walk 5k every day of the month to raise vital funds for the charity.

Sue Ryder is a charity that is close to my heart as my dad received end of life care and passed away at Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice, one of Sue Ryder’s hospices, in 2013.

Sue Ryder has been impacted heavily by the coronavirus outbreak with their high street shops having to close in the first lockdown and again on November 5.

Many of their fundraising events have also been cancelled and as a charity, Sue Ryder relies on fundraising and the income from their shops to be able to continue providing their palliative, neurological and bereavement care across the UK.

Sue Ryder continues to play a crucial part in the coronavirus effort. They have been caring for people with coronavirus symptoms throughout the pandemic and the charity’s bereavement support teams have never been busier supporting those who have lost loved ones to the disease.

Not only will running or walking 5k every day help to raise money for Sue Ryder but it’s a fun way to take time out for you. It doesn’t matter how you take it on, with friends, with family or on your own. Do it for yourself, do it to support a loved one, or do it in memory of a loved one.

Sign up to the December Daily Dash.

On behalf of me and Sue Ryder, thank you.