India poetry politics Wales

Black history matters

June 8, 2020

Earlier this year I had a poetry residency at the National Trust’s Chirk Castle in North Wales, with the aim of engaging with the natural environment and the grounds surrounding the castle. It’s the second time I’ve worked on a project there, the first being a few years earlier when I was invited to work with groups of young people from the local school to write poetry in response to the castle. On both occasions I felt a deep need to address the massive elephant in the room, namely, that the castle was owned by Thomas Myddleton (from 1595) who was Lord Mayor of London and also a founder member of the East India Trading company. So although it is true to say he acquired his vast wealth through ‘trade’, what the National Trust fails to honestly explain is the extent to which he was involved with the colonisation of India and the transatlantic slave trade. When taking the tour with the young people I had to specifically ask the guide to mention these things and elaborate as this isn’t (or wasn’t then) something included. An argument has been put forward that this area of Wales is predominantly white so who’s going to argue? In the light of current events it is absolutely a FACT that we white people should be demanding that the National Trust is transparent about the origins of the immense wealth that kept this castle (and many other NT properties) standing strong, in this case as part of the ring of iron of English castles built to quash the native Welsh rebellions. Any institution claiming to be preserving history cannot simply cherry-pick one narrow set of events and present only that as fact, especially not in this current climate of cultural awareness. National Trust are keepers of ALL our collective history, therefore it is absolutely essential that they tell the full story, without whitewash or pandering to some outdated fealty to a since defunct British Empire. Link here to original piece reflecting on the residency. #blacklivesmatter #blackhistory #colonisation #slavetrade #britishempire #blackhistorymatters #india #speakout #whiteprivilege @nationaltrust_

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