Back in June 2020, in the wake of the George Floyd protests, Mayor Sadiq Khan announced The Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm. The initiative was founded to review and improve diversity and representation in public spaces across the capital, including statues and landmarks.
A little over a year on, a study (the first diligent one of its kind) has found that London has more statues of animals than it does of named women. The study also found that around 1 per cent of sculptures are dedicated to named people of colour, with just 0.2 per cent being named women of colour, as the Guardian has noted.
These (less than good) findings have prompted the mayor’s office to announce a £1m fund to help kick-start actual change across the city where representation in public spaces is concerned for "Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, women, LGBTQ+ communities and disabled people" a statement says.
The initiative also extends to reviewing current landmarks, statues and street names across London, in a bid to decolonise the city we all live in together. As part of these efforts, grants of up to £25,000 are being made available for community-led groups that wish to remove and replace street names, building names, and memorials in their area that reference figures responsible for slavery and other events of oppression and colonialism.
The first round of Untold Stories grant applications opened on October 21 and will close on January 12, 2022. The applications are open to any Community-led organisations in London with a turnover of less than £500k. There will be a second round of funding in Spring next year. The form for applications can be found here.
In a statement on the launch of these grants, Khan has said "London’s diversity is its greatest strength but for far too long our capital’s statues, street names and buildings have only shown a limited perspective on our city’s complex history." Adding that the fund will aim to "help the diverse communities who know our city best lead the way in celebrating our capital’s Untold Stories.”
The process of changing a street name includes gaining approval from more than 75 percent of the residents, a court proceeding, admin fees for emergency services and the royal mail, plus the cost of new signage and new memorials, all of which costs a fair bit of money.
Names of landmarks and streets have started to change in the last twelve months outside of this funding, including the Museum of the Home in Hoxton (which was formerly named after Sir Robert Geffrye who made at least part of his fortune as a result of transatlantic slavery), and Black Boy Road in Haringey.