‘Black Boy’ pub sign removed after protest warnings

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Time to debate: 'I don’t think we can just go round taking every sign down that someone might disagree with, we need to have a proper discussion,' a local councillor explained
Time to debate: 'I don’t think we can just go round taking every sign down that someone might disagree with, we need to have a proper discussion,' a local councillor explained

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The operator of the Black Boy pub in Retford, Nottinghamshire, has removed an antiquated sign amid fears it could see the venue targeted by anti-racism protesters.

Louise Presley removed the pub’s sign - which depicts the face of a young boy in uniform – after she received warnings online, and a call from a local police officer, about the pub potentially being the target of protests.

Presley, who has run the Retford pub for nine-and-a-half years, explained that her research into the pub’s history revealed the name is thought to have originated from King Charles, who was nicknamed “black boy” by his mother because of his dark complexion.

Nonetheless she removed the sign to avoid causing offence and revealed that she was considering purchasing an alternative.

Upsetting situation

Speaking on Friday 12 June, Presley told the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting service: “It’s a shame it has to come to this. The name of the pub has got nothing to do with racism.

“I don’t hold with people being prejudiced, and in the years I’ve been here we’ve never had anyone object to it. 

“We used to have, on the back of the wine list, an explanation of why the pub got its name, because a lot of people are interested in its history.

“It would be a shame to change the name. In our area we have had a lot of support, but in all honesty, we are looking at taking the sign down today because protesters might be turning up. We don’t want to upset anyone.

“We had the local police call yesterday to see if we were alright and check if we needed anything.

“Changing the pub sign might be what we’ve got to do. We would have to have it all painted and it’s an expense we can’t really afford at the moment. It’s upsetting. Not just for us but for everyone that the situation has come round to what it is.”

Need for debate

The removal of the pub’s sign follows the toppling of a statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston as part of a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol, and comes amid calls for a statue of Cecil Rhodes to be removed from Oriel College in Oxford and the boarding up of a statue of Winston Churchill in London out of fear it could too be targeted.

While a spokesperson from Bassetlaw District Council explained that the local authority would “help and advise” the licensees of the listed Black Boy pub on replacing its signage, Susan Shaw, a Labour councillor for the area, argued that debate is needed before any lasting decision is made.

“It’s part of the history and you shouldn’t just be covering that up,” she explained.

“I feel very sorry for the landlord, they haven’t had any business for months and now they are having to deal with this. 

“But we do need a wider debate, and to think about how we use this moment in history for good. So I think we need to be measured, and look at it calmly.

“The name doesn’t sit well with me personally, however we need a debate and we need to do some proper consultation about the mood of Bassetlaw, and I think this is a really good opportunity to do that.

“I don’t think we can just go round taking every sign down that someone might disagree with, we need to have a proper discussion and to think about the consequences.”

Time to rename

The pub’s sign has now been listed as “removed” on a crowdsourced map of UK statues and monuments that celebrate slavery and racism produced by the Stop Trump Coalition in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the protesters who toppled Bristol’s statue of Edward Colston.

The Topple the Racists project, aims to promote debate, according to its website, stating that “it's important to shine a light on the continued adoration of colonial icons and symbols.” 

As reported by the Metro​, the list also features JD Wetherspoon (JDW) site the Elihu Yale pub in Wrexham. Yale was an official for the East India Company and played a role in its slave trading across the Indian Ocean, however JDW said it used his name for the pub as he was the benefactor of Yale University.

What’s more, the caricature of a black man’s head was also removed from the Green Man pub in Ashbourne, Derbyshire on 9 June after it was also listed.

A Q&A on the project’s website adds: “It's up to local communities to decide what statues they want in their local areas. We hope the map aids these much-needed dialogues. Taking down a statue could also include moving it to a museum, for example.”

What’s more rather than advocating the tearing down of buildings which are seen to celebrate slavery and racism, the site states that listed streets and buildings should be renamed. 

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