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  • Writer's pictureHertford & Stortford CLP

Cllr Jill Sortwell Writes About Renaming the Rhodes Art Centre

The Rhodes Arts Centre has been and hopefully will remain the centre of our cultural life for many years to come. It is however long overdue for a name change. I totally support all those who have raised and signed petitions to this effect.

The dreadful murder of George Floyd in the US and subsequent Black Lives Matter demonstrations have brought awareness of racial inequalities to the fore once again. I say once again, it is a disgrace that those like Rosa Parks and the child Ruby Bridges who put themselves on the line all those years ago have seen their sacrifices turn to dust in the light of recent events.

It is  not that overused phrase 'political correctness' that has prompted the outcry over one of our prominent buildings still bearing the name Rhodes: it is doing what is right.

Rhodes was a white supremacist who was complicit in the deaths of many people in pursuit of his and other imperialists aims. He was a man of his time but that does not make it right.

No one wants to deny history. In fact, the superb museum explains the dreadful significance and impact Rhodes had on many African lives. That is where present and future generations of children can study the history of our colonial past and how it has a direct influence on race relations today.

I am pleased the Rhodes Birthplace Trust has issued a statement that a name change has been in the offing for quite awhile. But I agree with Stortford Against Rhodes that there should be a timeline and Rhodes name be ruled out from any future branding.

The Arts Centre has needed public funding and grants in order to survive and that must continue but with the understanding that the name Rhodes  be removed permanently and that a change is agreed.

I want the Arts Center to succeed, it is an important part of our town.

I have, especially in my youth, said automatically "I am off to Rhodes." That was wrong. So now is the time to put it right and ensure  its facilities  educate us all about the atrocities carried out during our colonial past by people such as Cecil Rhodes.

I do not want the Rhodes name to be the first thing that residents and visitors see when entering our lovely town.

Immediate action is required.

Cllr Jill Sortwell

Meads Ward, Bishops Stortford

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