Sir Geffrye statue, trees and green spaces, cancer support and diabetic advice
- Credit: Archant
Statue of slaver remains despite museum refit
Sasha Simic, Stoke Newington, full address supplied, writes:
Recently the Hackney Gazette featured a full-page report by Bridget Galton on the imminent re-opening of the Museum of the Home after a three-year closure and a £18mn refit.
The article celebrates the changes made to the museum which include a new visitor entrance and library and café and revamped galleries. The museum declares its exhibitions will focus on “diverse stories of home through the centuries which invite visitors to discover, reveal and rethink what home means.”
Bridget points out early in her article that the museum used to be called The Geffrye Museum after the 17th century slaver Robert Geffrye and that it is housed in what were almshouses built with his money. But she goes on to insist that since being sold to the London County Council in 1911 it “has no connection to the merchant who made his money from the slave trade and colonial East India Company”.
Unfortunately, that claim is not true. There is a large statue of Robert Geffrye, which stands over the museum and has stood there since 1913. The statue glorifies a man the trustees of the Museum of the Home acknowledge “profited directly from the buying and selling of human beings.”
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The statue has been the centre of an argument since Black Lives Matter activists pulled the statue of the Bristol slaver Edward Colston from his plinth and dropped him in the docks on June 7, 2020. As a result of that action the trustees of the Museum of the Home opened a public consultation on the future of the statue of Geffrye. The result found a majority – 71 per cent of those who took part - were “in favour of removing the statue”. The statue is still standing because the government, in the person of culture secretary Oliver Dowden, intervened to demand it stay up.
I wish Bridget Galton had asked Sonia Solicari, the director of the Museum of the Home, if the statue of Robert Geffrye will still be standing when it reopens in April. If it is still in place how will Solicari square that with the museum’s stated purpose that it wants to “invite visitors to discover, reveal and rethink what home means”? Because Robert Geffrye profited from a monstrous system which between 1662 and 1807 tore an estimated 3,415,500 people from their homes in Africa and transported them to work on British owned plantations in America. 450,700 did not survive the middle passage there. Why does the Museum of the Home ignore the fact that over three million people were forcibly taken from their homes? Why don’t the people behind the Museum of the Home “rethink what home means” in the context of the slave trade and remove their statue of Geffrye?
No amount of refurbishment will make the museum acceptable to vast majority in Hackney so long as the statue of a slaver is given a place of prominence. Hackney councillor Soraya Adejare spoke for many Hackney parents when she told a protest at the museum last autumn: “I’m not about to send my child to a venue where she has to look up to an image which represents cruelty, oppression and subjugation.”
The best up-grade the Museum of the Home can give itself is to remove their statue of the monster Geffrye.
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Geffrye Must Fall.
Protect our trees and green spaces
Rosemary Sales, Stamford Hill, full address supplied, writes:
Like many local residents, I was horrified that Network Rail has destroyed the trees and other vegetation on the railway cuttings in Stamford Hill.
The embankments at East and West Bank are part of a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) designated by Hackney Council. They are now completely bare, and the tree roots have been poisoned to prevent re-growth. This activity happened during the bird nesting season.
The reserve is one of the few green spaces in Stamford Hill West and has been home to numerous bird species and other wildlife. The area already suffers from pollution caused by our chronic traffic problems. This act of vandalism will further reduce the quality of the air we breathe, with implications for our health, particularly of our children, as well as for the wider problem of climate change.
Neither Hackney Council nor local residents were given notice of the tree felling, contrary to Network Rail’s own policy. Members of the East West Nature Reserve Group, which manages the council-owned land adjacent to the cuttings, have been struggling to get any information from Network Rail about their plans for the land.
We are asking for urgent measures to ensure that vegetation is reintroduced at the railway cuttings in order to maintain the biodiversity of the area and that similar acts of destruction do not happen elsewhere in the borough.
Help available for cancer sufferers
Donal Gallagher, Macmillan Cancer Support, strategic partnership manager, London, writes:
Not only are many local families and individuals across the borough struggling with the financial impact of the pandemic, but many are also facing the added worry and anxiety of dealing with a cancer diagnosis at the same time.
Macmillan professionals across London, from our Benefits Advisers to Macmillan Information and Support Centre Managers, talk to people every day with money worries because they cannot work due to their cancer treatment, and now the isolation and financial pressure of the lockdown is making things harder for many. This is why I’m writing to let your readers impacted by cancer know help is available from Macmillan Cancer Support if they are finding it hard to make ends meet, through our hardship grants.
Macmillan grants are one-off, means tested payments for people living with cancer in London facing financial difficulties. The grants are designed to help if you are on a low income and struggling to pay everyday basics such as your heating bill, travel to hospital for treatment, clothing and bedding.
In 2020, Macmillan was able to give just over £1million in grants in London, meaning 3,300 people with cancer were able to pay for essentials such as heating their homes whilst shielding during the pandemic last year. All thanks to donations from the public. I’d urge anyone reading who is living with cancer and struggling financially to call Macmillan on 0808 808 00 00 seven days a week and talk to the Macmillan Welfare Rights team (or visit macmillan.org.uk/grants).
They will be able to tell you if you are eligible for a grant and about the rest of the support on offer. Macmillan are only a phone call away and are waiting to help you, whatever it takes.
Advice for people with diabetes
Phaedra Perry, regional head, Diabetes UK, writes:
April is Stress Awareness Month and we know that having to manage a condition like diabetes, on top of the strain the last year has put on everyone, can cause even greater stress and anxiety.
Living with diabetes through this pandemic – where people with the condition are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they develop coronavirus – has been, for many, overwhelming.
Although stress doesn’t cause diabetes, it can affect your blood sugar levels and how you look after your condition. Thankfully, though, there are things you can do to make it easier to cope and Diabetes UK has plenty of resources which can help.
If you want support on how to change the way you react so things feel better, try the Stress Manager tool on the Diabetes UK’s online Learning Zone.
You’ll also get a warm welcome and support from others with diabetes on our online support forum. Both the Stress Manager tool and the forum can be found at the Diabetes UK website: diabetes.org.uk.
If you’d prefer to talk to someone, you can chat to one of our trained advisors. They have counselling skills and can be contacted via our helpline on 0345 123 2399 (Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please take that first step during Stress Awareness Month if you feel you need to.