On The City Of London Historic Landmarks Consultation

More than a year ago we posted a blog entitled City of London ‘Consultations’ Are A Sham Designed To Rubber Stamp Decisions That Have Already Been Made. Our experience of City of London consultations has consistently been dispiriting and disappointing, something that will surprise no one who understands that this council is not just undemocratic but that it actively seeks to undermine democracy beyond its own local authority boundaries. Last week the City of London launched a consultation exercise on historic landmarks and the way it is framed and has been publicised indicates it will be as much of a sham as previous consultations.

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City School Ditches John Cass Slaver Name, Its Racist Paintings Must Go Too!

None of the stories we’ve seen about the Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School changing its name mentioned whether Robert Robinson’s seventeenth-century racist panel paintings that are housed in the school building will be taken away. We reproduced Madge Dessers’s critique of these pictures towards the end of a piece we posted in June. We also noted in a number of recent posts that top City of London council officials – including current lord mayor William Russell – have posed in front of these racist images for photo ops when attending the annual celebration of slave trader John Cass. We would hope that there are plans in place to remove Robinson’s racist paintings from the school but given the past form of those involved we wouldn’t assume this to be the case until we see a statement from them saying so. Likewise we’d hope the huge red feather – the symbol of John Cass – has been or will be removed from the outer wall of the school, but again none of the news reports we’ve seen mention it.

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The City of London, Hong Kong & China

It comes as no surprise to find the City of London silently backing China as the latter cracks down on democracy in the former British colony. After all the City of London council is a grotesquely undemocratic institution. Therefore it’s good to see Graeme Harrower criticising the Corporation’s silence on this matter and suggesting the City should be welcoming to Hong Kongers and  asylum seekers. While we hope pro-democracy activists win their fight in Hong Kong, in case they suffer setbacks we should indeed be preparing to welcome them here.

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Culture Mile Is Now Artwashing Animal Cruelty Alongside Colonial & Neo-Colonial Crimes

The statues, institutional names and other memorials that have been under a media spotlight in recent weeks are the art and charity washing effluent of former times. It is right and proper that they should be removed from public spaces and put in storage. It is also worth noting that many of the slave trader memorials featured in recent news stories are for men who were in their time top City of London council officials including William Beckford and Robert Geffrye who were lord mayors, and John Cass who was a sheriff. One of the City’s current artwashing projects is the so-called Culture Mile. This consists both of grandiose projects such as a ridiculously expensive Centre For Music, and lesser ‘pop up’ programmes including last month’s Radio Local, which functioned to compromise those who involved themselves in it by drawing them into the City’s artwashing orbit and mixing together self-organised community initiatives such as a local food bank with the obnoxious animal cruelty operation Club Gascon (which masquerades as a restaurant and specialises in foie gras torture dishes).

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Racist Memorials In The City of London, Islington & Beyond

The effort to remove memorials celebrating slave traders, racists and colonialists, is part of a broader struggle against institutional racism. This struggle can’t be confined to one geographical area such as the City of London. Even if the City didn’t border Islington and share the EC1 postcode with this neighbour, we would have been dismayed when within four days of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston being pulled down by activists in Bristol on 7 June, Islington council had managed to issue a hasty and disingenuous statement on the matter. The local press immediately reproduced the council’s absurd claims under the dubious headline “Islington ‘does not have any statues or memorials celebrating the slave trade’ “. Here we look at some problematic memorials in Islington, move back to the City, and then shine a spotlight on the racist British colonialist Sir John Alexander MacDonald who has memorials in St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and across Canada – where he was the first prime minister.

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The City of London & The Slave Trade Part 1

When discussing English slave trading the Royal Africa Company and the East India Company are key reference points and both have deep roots in the City of London. Many of the individuals implicated in the black holocaust through their involvement in these two slave trading entities also played key roles in local government in the City of London including as lord mayors, sheriffs and members of livery companies. Some of these slave traders are still memorialised in the City of London. Memorials tend to erase the complexities of history through simple celebration, which is why their removal from public spaces generally enhances historical understanding. That said, the undemocratic and still in many ways feudal local government machinery of the City of London is also in its contemporary form a product of the slave trade and it is more important that this is dismantled than that statues are removed and streets get renamed. It would, however, be ideal if both the governance of the City was democratically reformed and its problematic memorials removed.

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City of London Shows Contempt For Its Residents & Democracy With Covid-19 ‘Civic Leadership’ Claims

It was announced yesterday that William Russell’s term as Lord Mayor of the City of London will be doubled to provide ‘continuity’ and ‘civic leadership’ through the current pandemic. Civic is usually understood to mean relating to a city or municipality, whereas Russell’s Covid-19 statements are mostly about the global financial industry. Russell is the fifth member of his family to hold the top council job of Lord Mayor in just over 100 years, this nepotism will be compounded when he gets his second term. As we’ve already reported, the ‘election’ in which he gained office was rigged and the one that will allow him to remain in post will be too.

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Premier PR & City of London Artwashing

The idea that the City of London, the only place in the UK to maintain the utterly undemocratic business vote, wishes to ‘celebrate the positive impacts of… democracy’ is laughable. If this local authority wanted to celebrate democracy it would reform itself. Likewise, the City of London’s commitment to tolerance can be called into question on many counts, recently and quite notoriously because of the homophobic line of questioning a candidate for Lord Mayor was subjected to. The same goes for freedom. As for belief, there can be little doubt that the City believes in neo-liberal low regulation regimes that allow it and the network of tax havens it connects with to take wealth from those create it and divert it in the form of money to an undeserving corporate elite. None of this will prevent Premier PR from attempting to artwash the City of London as it promotes Believe! Faith, Freedom (and Football) and the culmination of Hannah Starkey’s deployment as Guildhall artist (AKA flunky) in residence, a series of portraits ‘celebrating City women’.

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How Else Might Islington Bail Out The City Of London On Its Zero Emissions Consultation Fail?

Islington Bunhill councillor Phil Graham brought up a proposal to extend Fortune Street Park as the possible outcome of a scheme to prevent Golden Lane and Fortune Street becoming a rat run for traffic excluded from Beech Street and trying to avoid Old Street roundabout. Although Graham didn’t provide details, we assume this would mean extending the park onto at least the west end of Fortune Street itself and the closure and erasure of some or all of this side street. Turning much of Fortune Street into an extension of the local park is a fantastic idea and sadly one that was rejected a few years ago because it would become harder to access the services that run under that street. Hopefully those issues have been resolved and extending the park is now possible. There is a shortage of green space in the City and south Islington, and Fortune Street Park is clearly stretched to capacity both at lunchtimes and immediately after home time at local schools. That said, even with an extension to Fortune Street Park more public recreation space is required in both south Islington and the City.

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Culture Mile Vanity Project Drives City Residents Around The Bend

The utter banality and blandness of the City of London’s corporate Culture Mile project continues with Around The Corner a series of 12 ‘installations’ (11 words & a question mark) between Millennium Bridge and Barbican Station that function as metaphorical piles of poo dropped into this part of the City from a great height. These atomised words spread out along a few streets make up the sentence: “What are you going to meet if you turn this corner?” pointlessly lifted from Virginia Woolf’s 1922 novel Jacob’s Room.

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