Black man's head pub sign to go in racism row in Ashbourne

Sign above The Green Man and Black's Head HotelImage source, Reuters

A pub sign of a black man's head in Derbyshire is due to be removed in a racism row.

Campaigners want the 18th Century iron and wood feature in Ashbourne taken down amid protests following the death of George Floyd in the US.

Derbyshire Dales District Council's decision to act also follows the statue of a slave trader in Bristol being torn down during demonstrations.

Opponents say its removal amounts to "cultural vandalism".

The petition to take down the Grade II*-listed figure, which is situated above The Green Man & Black's Head Royal Hotel sign, has amassed more than 28,000 signatures.

The online petition said the "racist cartoonish depiction of a black man's head hanging over St John's Street" was "disgusting racist imagery" which had "no place in 2020".

It added: "Following the tragic and unlawful murder of George Floyd... we in Ashbourne can do our bit to fight back against this kind of vile racism by starting at home."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The mid-18th Century sign bridges St John Street

Meanwhile a petition calling for the head on the sign to remain, which has had more than 2,000 signatures, said it should be kept for historical reasons.

Councillor Barry Lewis, Derbyshire's County Council leader, said the figure was "clearly culturally insensitive and racist", but added: "Cultural heritage is there to challenge us sometimes, to make us uncomfortable.

"It is an artefact of a time and of attitudes we never want to go back to, but that does not mean we should tear this head down. To do so is, in my view, simply cultural vandalism."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The district council said the sign was gifted to it a number of years ago

Derbyshire Dales District Council, which owns the sign, added: "We agree that the sign itself is not only a public safety concern right now, but that this is an issue that requires urgent discussion and consultation.

"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."

Colin Wright, owner of The Greenman pub, said the two petitions "highlight the polarising opinions about this town feature".

Historic England said the mid-18th Century "painted, rare iron and wood 'gallows' inn sign" was first listed in 1951.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The Greenman pub's owner said the image was "cartoon-like and quite basic..."

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