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Council face criticism over Windrush Day event location in Brent

Residents were left ‘deeply offended’ by a North London council’s decision to hold an event to remember the Windrush generation in a park named after a family synonymous with slavery.

Brent Council have been heavily criticised for choosing Gladstone Park as the venue to hold a Tea Party on June 24 to mark Windrush Day. Concerns were raised about its use due to the Gladstone family’s “abhorrent role in African and Caribbean slavery” and have been fighting to have renamed for years.

The park is named after British Prime Minister William Gladstone whose family owned plantations in the Caribbean and received the largest of all compensation payments made by the Slave Compensation Commission.

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Fitzroy Lee, 59, a second generation Windrush resident in Brent, said: “They just don’t understand that we, as African heritage people, find it offensive that somebody in recent history who was so heavily involved in these horrible escapades can still have his name paraded in the borough like it’s a badge of honour.”

Mr Lee was born to Jamaican parents who came over to the UK on Windrush in the 1960’s. His mum trained here as a nurse, whilst his dad worked as a chauffeur. Father of two, Mr Lee, was born in Brent in 1964 where he still lives and works as a criminal defence lawyer. He has been fighting for three years to have the park name changed.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “You’ve got a borough with an 18 per cent African population […] the name needs to go, the man doesn’t have any connection to Brent. He has no connection to the park, yet the council want to double down on that decision.”

He added: “There’s no logic behind the decision to have the tea party in Gladstone Park. They know there’s an issue with it but they want to normalise it.”

Speaking at a recent Full Council meeting, another resident Norrine Scott told councillors that many more residents “feel deeply offended” by some of the decisions the council had made. She wanted to know who took the decision to host the tea party in Gladstone Park “instead of Roundwood Park where most Brent Windrush residents reside” and when it was made.

Cabinet member for customers, communities and culture, Cllr Fleur Donnelly-Jackson, said the council “has a duty” to mark Windrush Day and Gladstone Park was chosen for the celebrations to take place as it is the site of an art installation and heritage trail, designed to “highlight untold histories, and to recognise and celebrate the hugely valued contribution made to Brent by Black African Heritage residents”.

The council reviewed the name of the park in 2020, which it claims included engaging with the community, as part of the Mayor of London’s ‘Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm’ project, but opted not to change it.

Cllr Donnelly-Jackson added: “The decision was not to rename the park but instead to develop a public art commission in partnership with the community to both acknowledge the Gladstone family’s link to the enslavement of Africans, whilst celebrating the huge contribution and influence of African heritage to the cultural landscape of Brent.”

However, Mr Lee has called the decision to install the art and heritage train in Gladstone Park as “a disgrace”. He said: “Celebrating African heritage achievements in a park that is named after the biggest slave trader in British history is terrible. It’s been done to cement keeping the Gladstone name there, it’s unforgivable.”

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