In the light of the anti-racism demonstrations across the UK, this week Camden Council head honcho Georgia Gould has committed to reviewing the existing naming of buildings, streets, public spaces and memorials within the whole borough.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with everyone who is calling to end racism and inequality around the world and here in Camden,” she says. “These calls must translate into real change – and we want to work with Camden residents to challenge racial inequality at every level.
“We have seen across the country that some statues, monuments and place names are causing real pain and grief right now for communities. I myself feel very uncomfortable that certain figures are on a pedestal when what they stand for is so incompatible with our values and, in some cases, inextricably linked to racist brutal oppression.”
In Camden, at least, there’s a history of honouring great activists and individuals who dedicated their life to freeing others from oppression and dismantling inequalities. “Camden has a long association with the Anti-Apartheid Movement and in 1985 this was recognised through the naming of Mandela Street,” she says. “More recently, tenants at our Bourne Estate chose to name their new block after Olaudah Equiano, a man who experienced the horrors of slavery himself, before becoming a leading black campaigner for the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.”
“However,” she adds, “there are a few places in Camden whose names have troubling associations – and we need to have an urgent, informed and open discussion with our communities about changing these. We need to act fast – but also act in a sensitive and consistent way.”
With that in mind Gould is setting up a cross-party review group, chaired by Councillor Abdul Hai, the Cabinet Member for Young People and Cohesion, to urgently take stock of place names in Camden and “make some decisions on a way forward that takes full account of equality, heritage and community considerations.”
This group will work with tenants and residents’ associations, schools and community institutions, to ensure that there is full discussion and education on such important issues.
“I also encourage any resident to get in contact about concerns they may have to contribute to the wider debate,” she says. “Our work will then feed into the commission being led by the Mayor of London that’s examining the diversity of London’s public realm.
“We stand together in Camden in rejecting racism, in educating all generations and in moving forward together towards an equal society.”
The borough-wide review starts in the next week. For more info or to have your say follow @camdencouncil on Twitter. Follow @blklivesmatter #blacklivesmatter