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A new public artwork for Brent’s Gladstone Park breaks new ground in the conversation over public space with links to the transatlantic slave trade

On 14 October 2022 Brent Council and Lin Kam Art will present The Anchor, The Drum, The Ship (2022), a groundbreaking public artwork for Gladstone Park designed by the London-based artist Harun Morrison and horticulturalist Antonia Couling.

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. The permanent artwork will be unveiled on 14 October to coincide with Black History Month in October.

Titled The Anchor, The Drum, The Ship (2022), this horticultural installation brings together a variety of plant species, native to Britain, the Mediterranean and Africa, across three shapes: the Akan symbol for a Double Drum, a ship and an anchor to evoke themes of Black migration, belonging, communication, music and collective renewal. Plant species have been carefully selected to make sure they were suited to the local ecology.

Gladstone Park is named after former Prime Minister Sir William Gladstone whose family owned plantations in the Caribbean and received the largest of all compensation payments made by the Slave Compensation Commission. 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 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. A permanent history trail detailing the history of the park and the Gladstone family involvement in the transatlantic slave trade will follow later in the month.

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