'Obvious racist' sign removed from Derbyshire pub - but locals say this is to protect it

9 June 2020, 10:38

The head has now been removed, but locals say this is to protect it
The head has now been removed, but locals say this is to protect it. Picture: Mark Redfern

A pub sign deemed an "obvious racist" monument has been removed from its plinth in Ashbourne - but some locals say this move was just to protect it.

The Grade II-listed sign arches over St John's Street in the Derbyshire town and had - until yesterday - a monument depicting a black man's head as its centrepiece.

Derbyshire Dales District Council said it would remove the caricature with "immediate effect" on Monday following a petition signed by more than 28,000 people against its position in the town.

It comes amid a series of anti-racism protests up and down the country reviving a fierce debate about racial discrimination and iconography in the British system.

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During one such protest, the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was torn down in Bristol before being dumped in the city's harbour.

A protest is planned on Tuesday to call for the removal of the controversial statue of imperialist Cecil Rhodes from its place in Oxford University.

A sign saying "save me" was attached to the head before it was removed
A sign saying "save me" was attached to the head before it was removed. Picture: Mark Redfern

Speaking about the head in Ashbourne, a 20-year-old anthropology student, who did not want to be named, said people were "ashamed of it", adding that she believed it resembled a gollywog.

"Having it in the middle of the street in a small town is so unwelcoming. It should have been taken down a long time ago and put in a museum."

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Matthew Holt, a 19-year-old international relations student, said it was "an obvious racist sign" that shouldn't be on display.

He added: "I think it's important we address our history; we can't change it but this shouldn't be displayed in the public eye.

"It should be in a museum where we can learn about it with a description to contextualise it."

But other locals think differently - saying they agreed with the monument being removed, but only to protect it from potential vandals.

A counter-petition calling for it to be kept has also gathered several thousand signatures, arguing the head isn't racist and is just an "old artefact".

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Before being removed on Monday evening, someone had attached a sign, reading: "Save Me", which hung from the bottom.

"The people of Ashbourne removed the head for maintenance to ensure that not acts of vandalism; the town will now decide what happens," Mark Redfern told LBC News.

In a Facebook post to an Ashbourne community page, he added that the head would be getting "a lick of black paint", and it would be reinstalled at a later date.

Derbyshire Dales District Council said the sign was both a "public safety concern" and an "issue that requires urgent discussion".

It added: "The sign was gifted to the district council a number of years ago and is currently protected by a Grade II structure listing.

"Legally, only Heritage England or the Secretary of State can remove this listing, which means we need to take on board the views of our own councillors and local people before taking forward any representations. This will happen soon."