Black History Month 2022: Memorial to ‘hidden’ slave trade past to be unveiled in Gladstone Park

This is the first time in the UK’s history that a public artwork of this kind has been used to acknowledge the contested history of a green space.

A new public artwork acknowledging the transatlantic slave trade is set to be exhibited in a park in Brent.

The Anchor, The Drum, The Ship (2022) by artist Harun Morrison and horticulturist Antonia Couling will be unveiled in Gladstone Park on October 14 during Black History Month.

The installation is a landscaped garden made up of three flower beds in the shape of an anchor, an African drum and a ship - to commemorate the history of Black Britons.

This is the first time in the UK’s history that a public artwork of this kind has been used to acknowledge the contested history of a green space.

Gladstone Park was named after former 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.

The Anchor, The Drum, The Ship will be unveiled in Gladstone Park this month

The name was identified for review as part of the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm that launched in 2020 to review statues, street names and landmarks to ensure they reflect London’s rich and diverse history and represent all Londoners.

The public artwork was commissioned by Brent based artist Linett Kamala, founder of Lin Kam Art.

“Like a lot of Brent residents I didn’t know about Gladstone Park’s history and this link with the transatlantic slave trade,” she told LondonWorld.

“Right on our doorstep there was this incredible story that would have brought it to life.

Founder of Lin Kam Art Linett Kamala

“For me as a Brent resident, to be able to be part of this project to shine a light on this hidden history and do it in a factual and respectful way is a privilege.”

The London Borough of Brent is one of the most diverse in the UK, with the seventh biggest Black community in London.

Brent Council has taken an approach to develop a public art commission with the community which explores the transatlantic slave trade whilst creating a space to reflect, celebrate and amplify hidden histories and Black leaders who have had an influence on Brent.

The Anchor, The Drum, The Ship (2022) is the first intervention to be installed in the park.

Gladstone Park was named after former Prime Minister William Gladstone

A permanent history trail detailing the history of the park and the Gladstone family involvement in the transatlantic slave trade will follow later in October.

“The borough has a big population from the Caribbean who came to the UK after the call of Windrush,” Kamala continued.

“There’s conversations to be had around migration, belonging and then the contribution and legacy that was left as well from the Caribbean community within Brent.

“So music for example, you have to look at those incredible record labels like Trojan records and Jetstar records.

British Labour MP Paul Boateng

“Paul Boateng, the first Black MP was from Brent.

“There’s a lot to celebrate but we thought it was important to speak about this hidden history.”

Artist Harun Morrison, said: “I hope the artwork can contribute to a valuable discussion around how representation takes place in public space.

Artist Harun Morrison

“Gladstone Park is a microcosm and container of many contested histories, the artwork can be a compass point to navigate this.”

Planting Designer Antonia Couling, said: “It has been very moving to be involved in creating this innovative way of interacting with contested history.

“A public park belongs to everyone, and I hope that this artwork will become a meeting place for recognition, dialogue and understanding.”

Councillor Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council, said: “This outstanding public artwork acknowledges the achievements and contributions made to Brent by people of Black heritage and shines a light on some unexplored corners of our local history.

“It’s so important that these hidden pasts are embraced as part of the borough’s history, and it’s brilliant that we now have this space for learning, reflection, gathering, celebrating and dreaming.”