New Welsh statues must 'address lack of diversity', Senedd committee report finds

A public consultation is due to begin this year on the future of the statue of Henry Morton Stanley in Denbigh. Credit: ITV Wales

Statues and commemorative artworks in Wales need to depict a more diverse selection of individuals, according to a Senedd committee.

The Senedd's Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee carried out an inquiry into how historical figures are remembered in public spaces and found groups like women, disabled people, LGBTQ+ people and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people are underrepresented.

It recommends that a new Welsh national commemoration plaque scheme be created and that communities should decide whether to remove statues in their area.

In the wake of the death of George Floyd in the US and the toppling of and Edward Colston statue in Bristol last year, a nation-wide audit found that more than 200 Welsh statues, streets and buildings have connections to the slave trade.

The statue of Sir Thomas Picton, who was a slave owner, in Cardiff City Hall has been boarded up. Credit: Cardiff Council

The new report from The Senedd committee explored how society determines who gets remembered and the process that could, or should, be followed if people want a statue removed.

To remedy the lack of diversity in Wales' public spaces, the committee made several recommendations.

The first being the creation of a new national 'Plac y Ddraig' scheme of public commemoration and for a "national conversation" on the first set of the plaques.

It is hoped a new national plaque programme would help raise awareness of Welsh history.

The committee said every local authority would take part and that funding should accompany the scheme, to be overseen by the Welsh Government.

It also wants decisions on the removal of statues to be made by local communities and local authorities. It believes they should consider a range of options, like providing more information and context, not necessarily just getting rid of the monument.

The Welsh Government must provide more "leadership and guidance" to help with those decisions according to the committee's report.

That guidance should include advice on best practice for consulting local communities, methods for engaging with harder to reach groups and advice on involving expert opinions from people like historians.

The findings of the report will be considered by the next Welsh Government, following May's election.

A statue of Wales' first black headteacher, Betty Campbell, is due to be erected in Cardiff.

Bethan Sayed MS, Chair of The Committee said: "In Wales we were shocked by the events in the summer of 2020 and the tragic death of George Floyd. The wave of protest that followed ignited a debate about who we remember in our public spaces.

"There is much in our history to be proud of, but that pride we all feel should not blind us from some of the more egregious events that have also taken place in our past - the legacy of which is still being felt today.

"Diversity is a serious problem and the overwhelming majority of statues across Wales are commemorating white men. It's time that we addressed this and created new statues or commemorative artworks that recognise the contributions of women; disabled people; Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people and LGBT+ people as well."

Black Lives Matter protests were sparked across the globe following the death of George Floyd in America last year.

Several statues in Wales have come under the spotlight since last year's Black Lives Matter protests.

The statue of Sir Thomas Picton has been boarded up in Cardiff's City Hall. Two north Wales councils have also debated the Henry Morton Stanley monuments in their areas.

Denbigh Town Council and St Asaph City Council met last year to consider the future of monuments dedicated to the 19th century explorer and journalist linked to slavery.

St Asaph Council voted to keep their monument but reword the accompanying plaque "to reflect today's climate and feelings". Denbigh Town Council similarly voted to keep their statue but to also hold a public consultation on its future - which is due to take place in June this year.