Manchester Council is reaching out to the public for feedback on local statues, monuments and memorials as part of a review into the city’s public spaces.
The consultation has been launched to get residents’ input to ensure that local artwork accurately tells the “complete story of Manchester’s history and the diverse communities that have made the city what it is today”.
Feedback will be used to determine a future approach on the commissioning and display of art across Manchester.
Debate over which historical figures should be celebrated in England’s public spaces was reignited during the course of 2020 in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests.
A domino effect was set in motion by a group of demonstrators in Bristol who toppled the statue of slave trader Edward Colston and rolled it into the harbour; placing fresh scrutiny on other monuments across the country.
In June 2020, a petition was launched to remove the statue of Sir Robert Peel – two-time Prime Minister and founder of the British police – from Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens as part of a demand for police reform.
Hundreds of people subsequently signed a counter-petition in response.
Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, Executive Member for Culture, Skills and Leisure said: “It’s become clear over the last year that the time is now right for a re-evaluation of how Manchester’s history and its people are reflected in our public spaces.”
He did, however, emphasise that the process was not about eradicating the past or “glossing over any uncomfortable truths” but “understanding our history and heritage, and the context around it.”
The councillor added: “Whilst we’re not setting out to tear things down, at the same time it’s important we recognise the impact that choices past and present on what’s displayed in the city, can and do have on people living, working, or visiting here.
“It’s important too that we make sure local residents see the best of themselves and their own communities’ achievements and stories reflected as they look around them – and for us all to learn from and to share their stories and successes.”
In addition to the Council’s online consultation, Manchester Histories will also be hosting virtual workshop sessions on March 10 to explore the subject further – featuring special guest speakers such as author Gary Younge and Professor of the History of Africa and the African Diaspora at University of Chichester Hakim Adi.
Karen Shannon, Chief Executive Officer, Manchester Histories, said: “This important review of Manchester’s statues and monuments will provide the opportunity for people to have their say to improve our understanding of our collective or contested histories, and to better recognise the role of the diverse communities and individuals across the city.
“We hope it will enable us start to consider how we would want to represent our city’s heritage in the future.”
Get involved in the public consultation here.
For more information in the online workshops, visit Manchester Histories.