'We will not give up on London slavery memorial'

By Sarah Lee
BBC News

  • Published
Maquette of memorial
Image caption,
Campaigners want this design built in London to honour the memory of slavery victims

A charity bidding to build a memorial to victims of the Transatlantic slave trade says it "will not give up" after the government refused to fund it.

Those behind Memorial 2007 want a sculpture erected in London's Hyde Park, but have so far been unable to raise £4m to build it.

In 2016 they won planning permission, but it expired last year.

Founder Oku Ekpenyon said recent Black Lives Matter protests gave an "ideal opportunity" to reignite the campaign.

"The protests have provided a good opportunity to restart our campaigning and fundraising", the teacher, who has campaigned for the memorial since 2002, said.

"But we had never given up, regardless."

In response to the global protests since the death of George Floyd in the US, Ms Ekpenyon said: "I don't condone vandalism but it has taken protesters to pull the statue of Edward Colston down, before the call for its removal had even been acknowledged by officials."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The statue of Edward Colston falls into the water after protesters pulled it down and pushed into the docks

She said the protests had highlighted the problems of historic racial discrimination but there was nowhere in the capital where people could go and educate themselves about the slave trade.

"There is nowhere in London - England's capital - where people can reflect on the history of slavery," she said.

"Boris Johnson said he 'heard' the Black Lives Matter protesters and said more needed to be done to tackle racism and discrimination.

"So here's a solution - support our memorial."

'Need to remember'

In 2008, Boris Johnson endorsed the proposal for a bronze statue depicting the history of slavery, saying Hyde Park was "a fitting site for a permanent memorial to the millions who lost their lives".

But his government has since refused funding, and now planning permission will be required again.

"This year the government gave £1m for the maintenance of Auschwitz, but has continued to tell me that no funds are available for our memorial", Ms Ekpenyon said.

"I find that insulting. They would rather acknowledge another's atrocity than one's own atrocities.

"The enslavement of Africans is a history we do not want to remember, but need to remember."

The government said it "carefully considered" each request for funding.

It said: "Memorial 2007 approached us in 2018 and the department was unable to provide support at that time.

"We are supportive of the aims of the monument and the organisation. The suffering caused by slavery and the slave trade are among the most dishonourable and abhorrent chapters in human history."

Ms Ekpenyon, who has dedicated 18 years to the cause, said she is also upset that previous donors have not lived to see the outcome of the project.

Almost £2,000 has so far been raised after a fundraiser was set up on Monday.

The charity plans to re-submit a planning application when it is nearer to hitting its £4m goal.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
African slaves loaded on board a ship

Britain became one of the world's leading slave-trading nations, with Liverpool port its largest handler of slaves, followed by Bristol, Glasgow and London.

Millions of Africans were shipped and sold in the 17th and 18th Centuries in horrendous conditions as merchants profited.

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