Bid to install Jen Reid sculpture on Edward Colston plinth ignored by Bristol City Council

A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) BLM statue Bristol
The statue of Jen Reid was taken down by Bristol City Council. Credit: PA

A bid to install a sculpture of a Black Lives Matter protester on the Colston Statue plinth was deliberately ignored, Bristol City Council’s top planner has revealed.

A government inspector will rule whether the life-sized depiction of Jen Reid can sit for two years atop the empty base where slave trader Edward Colston’s monument was pulled down last summer, after an appeal was lodged on the grounds of “non-determination”.

Head of development control Gary Collins has told councillors the council made a “conscious” choice not to make a decision on the planning application to install the piece, called A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, in the time required.

Mr Collins said it was because the newly-established We Are Bristol History Commission, set up by mayor Marvin Rees after the Colston Statue was toppled and dumped in the harbour, was considering a wide range of issues about the city’s past.

Top of the commission’s considerations is whether monuments of slavers and streets linked to them should be replaced, and if so, with what?

Mr Collins told the meeting on Wednesday 28 April that when an application to put the Jen Reid statue up was put in, it "wasn't a mistake" not to make a decision on whether to approve it or not.

He added: "It was a conscious decision not to progress with those applications.

“I don’t want to go into too much detail around that but it’s fair to say the council has set up the history commission around the statue, the plinth and all the wide-ranging issues around that, therefore the consultation of and consideration of one specific proposal would have run counter to that process.

“So, there was a conscious decision not to proceed with the processing of those applications.”

The Jen Reid sculpture was put up on July 15 but was taken down by the council 24 hours later as it had not approved the installation.

The black resin and steel statue captured the moment the demonstrator stood on the plinth with her fist raised in the air after Colston’s monument came down.

A statue of Edward Colston was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Bristol in June 2020.

Urban planning and landscape company Interpolitan Ltd sought planning permission to keep it there for two years and lodged an appeal after the application was not determined.

A planning inspector will make the decision at a formal hearing on a date yet to be fixed.

The council, as landowner, would still need to give permission for the artwork to be added to the plinth even if the appeal succeeded.

Mayor Marvin Rees has previously criticised the sculpture’s London-based artist Marc Quinn for taking the decision about what should replace Colston “without talking to the people of Bristol”.

Credit: Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter

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