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Oliver Dowden warns of museums and galleries


Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden urges museums and galleries not to remove statues at the request of activists, as he warns those who could bow to the pressure and cut their funds

  • A leaked letter reveals that Oliver Dowden warned museums and galleries
  • He said the government does not support the removal of statues or similar items.
  • These publicly funded institutions must be impartial as he issued a funding warning

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has warned publicly funded museums and galleries not to remove statues at the request of activists, implying that their funds could be cut.

Mr Dowden said in a leaked letter that the government did not support the removal of statues or similar items.

He said museums and galleries that are supported by taxpayers should "not take action that is motivated by activism or politics," and urged them to oppose the pressure.

He urged the institutions to "continue to act impartially," which he described as "particularly important" as the government conducts its full review of spending – an obvious risk that funding could be jeopardized.

Mr Dowden's letter, seen on the Sunday Telegraph, comes after a summer of cultural clashes over Britain's colonial past.

A leaked letter from Oliver Dowden to museums and galleries has warned them not to remove statues

In a summer of cultural clashes in Britain, a 17th-century statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol fell and was thrown into the city's harbor

In a summer of cultural clashes in Britain, a 17th-century statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol fell and was thrown into the city's harbor

The letter was reportedly sent to all institutions receiving public funding, including the British Museum and the Tate Galleries.

Mr Dowden said in the letter sent last week: “The government does not support the removal of statues or similar items.

"Historical England, as adviser to the government on the historical environment, has stated that removing difficult and controversial parts could undermine our understanding of our collective past."

The letter continued, “As a publicly funded entity, you should not take action that is motivated by activism or politics.

“The significant support you are receiving from the taxpayer is recognition of the important cultural role you play for the entire country.

“It is imperative that you continue to act impartially, according to your publicly funded status, and not in a way that calls it into question.

"This is especially important as we are entering a challenging full spending review where all government spending is rightly reviewed."

A dispute over Britain's colonial past broke out in June when a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was overturned in Bristol during protests.

The 17th century bronze statue of the figure was pulled down with ropes, dragged through the streets and thrown into the harbor during a protest against Black Lives Matter.

A statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, Westminster, was also covered in graffiti when controversial figures were asked to remove their statues.

Boris Johnson responded to calls for statues to be removed when he said, "We cannot try to edit or censor our past now."

The Prime Minister said Britain “cannot pretend to have a different story” and the statues “teach us about our past and all of its flaws”.

Earlier this month, Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg beat up the National Trust for failing to realize how wonderful Churchill was after adding his home to the list of homes with historical links to slavery.

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