‘Racist’ pub sign ‘saved’ by locals after council removes it following backlash

A "racist" pub sign which has been likened to a gollywog has been removed following mounting pressure from campaigners to have it taken down - but locals claim it will be replaced at a later date.

Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 9:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 9:55 am

Thousands of people signed a petition demanding the removal of a caricature of a black man above the 18th century Greenman pub sign in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

Derbyshire Dales District Council said on Monday it would remove the sign with "immediate effect" but when the head was taken down on Monday evening, locals said they had done so to protect it.

"The head will be restored while on the ground and returned to its position at a later date... local councillors were also there too," Mark Redfern told the PA news agency.

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Greenman pub in Ashbourne, Derbyshire - PA/PA Wire

"Saved by the people of Ashbourne."

In a Facebook post, Mr Redfern said the head would be given "a lick of black paint" and claimed the move was to save it from vandalism.

The petition against the head, which had amassed more than 28,000 signatures by Monday afternoon, drew inspiration from an anti-racism demonstration in Bristol, which saw protesters topple the statue of slave trader Edward Colston before dragging and heaving the bronze monument into the harbour.

The Grade II-listed pub sign, which arches over St John's Street, depicted the face of a black man, which one 20-year-old anthropology student from the town - who did not want to be named - said resembled a gollywog, a 19th-century rag doll which is largely considered racist.

"I think people are ashamed of it," she said.

"Having it in the middle of the street in a small town is so unwelcoming.

"It should have been taken down a long time ago and put in a museum."

Matthew Holt, a 19-year-old international relations student from Ashbourne, also signed the petition, stating: "It seems such an obvious racist sign.

"I think it's important we address our history; we can't change it but this shouldn't be displayed in the public eye.

"It should be in a museum where we can learn about it with a description to contextualise it."

Their demands prompted Derbyshire Dales District Council's decision to remove the monument from the sign.

A council spokesman said earlier: "We're removing the head from the sign with immediate effect.

"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.

"The sign was gifted to the district council a number of years ago and is currently protected by a Grade II structure listing.

"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."

However, a petition has also been launched which seeks to keep the monument in place, with supporters stating it is a part of history.

On the petition page, which has garnered more than 2,700 signatures, organiser Shaun Redfern, 17, from Ashbourne, described the sign as a tourist attraction which "should be kept because of the history for the town".

He said: "I believe that the sign is not even the smallest bit racist."

He added: "Are we supposed to deny our past now and get rid of old artefacts?"

A sign saying 'Save Me' was hung from the head on Monday evening before the face was taken down.

With the growing surge in support for the Black Lives Matter movement, which has sparked global protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, a number of petitions have emerged online demanding controversial monuments in the UK are taken down.