James O'Brien reacts to outcry over "woke" Kew Gardens displaying origins of plants

12 March 2021, 14:38

By Fiona Jones

James O'Brien's reaction to outrage that "woke" Kew Gardens is planning to provide more information about the origins of their plants and how they came to Britain.

Kew Gardens is rewording its display boards for plants such as sugar cane to take into account their role in colonialism and the slave trade.

However, this move has not been favourably by some, with Tory MP Sir John Hayes telling reporters, "This is preposterous posturing by people who are so out of touch with the sentiment of patriotic Britain."

He continued, calling it an example of "bourgeois liberal arrogance which is ill-fitting of people that get public funding."

James was in disbelief about the backlash, asking, "Why are people so frightened about our own country's history?"

"We would not have been in the countries from where these plants have come if we were not there to enslave people and colonise."

He continued, "I go to Kew Gardens, I'd love to know more about where these plants have come from...it doesn't change the pleasure of my visit to the house, it just makes me think more."

"Is that what people are cross about? I don't want to have to think when I go to Kew Gardens...I don't want to have to think about the past when I visit an historic house."

The botanical organisation is beginning with the sugar cane display, which was the main crop produced on Caribbean plantations during the 18th and 19th Century.

Colonialists shipped African slaves over to work on this land, with the profits going back to the British Empire.

The changes will then be carried over to other plants at Kew which has 50,000 species in total and normally attracts more then two million visitors to its sites in London and Sussex.