Pulling Together


An idea for an empty plinth

The removal of Edward Colston’s statue and the decision by Bristol City Council not to reinstate it leaves the question of whether anything should go in its place. Recent events in China and Russia have given me an idea.

As those country’s rulers try to erase their past by removing memorials and banning remembrance organisations the world needs some means of ensuring past atrocities are not forgotten, as without such memory we shall be doomed to repeat those mistakes.

It occurs to me this harmonises with the issue of the empty plinth in Bristol City Centre, for Colston was removed by people who saw him as an oppressor. What could be more fitting than to replace him with a memorial to the victims of oppression in all its forms throughout the ages. It could stand as a witness to human brutality and suffering and the need to avoid oppression and protect everyone irrespective of the who and why behind their suffering.

Of course, a monument to “all victims of oppression” without illustration or example would be too bland and ambiguous to carry any weight. However, it would be difficult to name every group or every oppressor on a single memorial. Yet, the list must be comprehensive enough not to be a partisan list of one person or group’s favoured causes.

Moreover, it needs to be able to accommodate future victims as new forms of oppression emerge, so perhaps an extensible design is warranted to allow names or classes to be added with the passage of time.

Examples of forms and causes of oppression could include:
Victims could include:

It should be clear the examples are not exhaustive but the ability to add more should be provided. That could either be done by putting a generic sculpture on top of the plinth with room for plaques containing the lists to be added on the sides, or by incorporating the words into the sculpture itself but arranging for new limbs or sections to be able to be added to the sculpture as time passes. If plaques were used, perhaps they could be made in a modular design allowing them to be extended when additional information is required. With the present plinth, a generic sculpture would work better simply because its height rules out writing on anything placed on top being accessible to passers by for reading. However, a newer, lower plinth could provide easier access, but easier access could also increase the risk of vandalism or theft.

It could be an exciting idea, and it would help the world remember people are always prone to behave badly and often have in the past.

About the Author

K J Petrie has a Full Technological Certificate in Radio, TV and Electronics, an HNC in Digital Electronics and a BA(Hons) in Theological Studies.

His interests include Christian and societal unity, Diverse Diversity, and freedoms from want, from fear, of speech, and of association. He is a member of the Social Democratic Party.

The views expressed here are entirely personal and unconnected with any body to which he belongs.

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