Nailsworth & Horsley District Councillor Natalie Bennett was on BBC Radio Gloucestershire this morning talking about the Black Boy Clock consultation that is currently asking what the public think should be done with the statue.
Steve Kitchen: Joining me now is District Councillor Natalie Bennett who is chair of the panel reviewing statues and street names in Stroud. They’ll be making recommendations following a consultation which ends at the start of September and Natalie — just hearing those views there — you’ve got a real mixed bag, haven’t you?
Natalie Bennett: Yeah and it’s very interesting to hear those views and obviously that’s why this consultation is really important, so that we get the views of people across the District. We want as many people as possible to take part and to give us their views about it.
SK: Obviously people need to bear in mind if they haven’t seen it, this isn’t just a statue, it’s a caricature as well isn’t it? There’s no doubt about it, it is a racist image.
NB: Yeah and I think that the whole consultation is around getting people’s views about that and there is a report available for people to read if they want to find out what’s known at this time about the statue. I think the important thing is for us to be able to move forward is to get people’s views. This is why we need this discussion — the consultation is creating a space for that discussion so that we can then build a consensus around the statue and other monuments, place names and how they are dealt with in the future.
SK: Does it become worse — and I guess it does — because it’s near a school?
NB: This is why we need to get people’s views and find out what people feel about that. From my point of view, I’m somebody who will be Chairing that Panel and the panel’s there to look at people’s response to the consultation and through that we’ll make recommendations about what should happen to the clock, the statue and other monuments in the District.
I do need to say that the actual building, the clock and the statue are privately owned, so they’re not owned by the Council. The Council doesn’t have the power to remove it.
SK: Interesting. Natalie, as part of the panel I understand, you’ve got community representatives, you’ve got Councillors, and you’ve also got historians on this panel. I guess that’s important for those who say “this is part of history, why take it down?”
NB: Yeah, I think the make up of the panel is really important and it’s really key that we’ve got community representatives on there as well but also to have people with a historical background that can help make sense of the statue is really beneficial but obviously the decision about what happens to it will be made at the end of this consultation process.
SK: Well it’s interesting because you’ve just said there you can make a recommendation but you can’t make that decision then because it’s not your property is it? It’s not Council property.
NB: Yeah, exactly. It is in private ownership so Stroud District Council’s powers are limited around that but what we want to do through the consultation is to be able to build a community consensus and a dialogue with the owners. I know the owners are actually interested to find out what the community feel about it but also, it’s a Listed Building, so there would be planning permission considerations as well in the future but at the moment our focus currently is on the consultation and we want as many people as possible to give their views and then at the end of that we’ll then consider the results of the consultation.
SK: And I guess as part of the consultation, people want to know “Hang on a minute? If it does come down, where would it go?” That’s important to know what happens to it afterwards. Is that part of it or not?
NB: The consultation is asking people how they think and feel about the clock and statue but also asking for their views about what should happen to it and I think that allows that conversation to be had and what will happen to it if it is taken down then we’re going to have to really carefully consider where it goes and how it is contextualised and the explanations around it, so that will be something that will have to be considered at the end of the consultation as well.
SK: Natalie, thank you very much for joining us this morning.
BLACK BOY CLOCK CONSULTATION
Everyone living in Stroud District is encouraged to send in their thoughts to the consultation, which closes at the end of August 2021.