A year ago, this week Lydney was divided over the Black Lives Matter demonstration in Lydney. The community remains divided and lessons remain unlearned.
Lydney Town Council and its Trusts have a duty to heal these divides, acknowledge our history and promote strong community values going forward. In this light, a year on from the demonstration in Bathurst Park, I am calling for a proper Healing History Plan that:
- Sir Benjamin Bathurst (1635-1704) was Deputy Governor of the Leeward Islands in the late seventeenth century, a heavy investor in the Royal African Company and Governor of the East India Company.
- These organisations were significant parts of Britain’s colonial rule that participated in the slave trade and led in the plundering of India.
- The 15 acres of recreational land owned by Bathurst Park and Recreation Trust, and the 51 acres of recreational land owned by Lydney Recreation Trust, were given from an estate built with wealth acquired through this means.
- Whilst the British government purchased the freedom of all slaves in the British Empire for 40% of its national budget in 1833, the debts from these payments to slave owners and their families were still being paid by taxpayers until 2015.
- The lives of every individual matter, but people of different ethnic origins experience unique challenges merely based on the colour of their skin, their voices or the country they or their families originated from.
- Lydney’s community assets were provided to bring people in the community
together and those that manage them must take their responsibility to include people regardless of differences.
- We must acknowledge all aspects of our history, the bits that make us proud and ashamed, and assist to heal long-standing rifts between different sections of our community.
- The facilities of the Trusts and the Council have huge potential to bring people together with a focus on remembering, learning and co-operating. With the Memorial Garden as a starting point for this, to remember the sacrifice of our own, but moving on to providing lessons in the other enormous costs that have been paid to get the things we take for granted today and how we should treat other people in our lives and the wider world.
- Commission research at the earliest opportunity into the extended history of Bathurst Park and Lydney’s other community assets, including the connection – through Lydney Park Estate – to proceeds from the slave trade and the wider British Empire.
- Work with the Local Equality Commission and other groups to ensure that the views of ethnic minority communities are represented.
- Build partnerships with local ethnic communities and seek to promote more regular community events across the spaces that are operated by the Council or its Trusts that celebrate and educate the wider community about different lived experiences, cultures, entertainment, food, clothing etc.
- Provide public information boards in Bathurst Park and Lydney Recreation Trust Ground explaining the full history of the facility and the commitments of the Trust to ensuring it is used to promote strong values of equality, respect and education for years to come.
- Seek to install a public artwork representing the connection of the park to proceeds from slavery and the British Empire and its future in pursuing a fairer, more equal and cohesive society that celebrates and supports everyone. For example, a broken chain could simply represent this transition from this past to the future.
- Actively defending and facilitating the human rights of all individuals within the Lydney community.
Only through acknowledging our history can we heal it, not to destroy the past but to recognise and learn from it rather than ignoring the reality because it hurts our idea of ourselves as a country and as communities.