Public art is a common sight on the streets of the Square Mile, but a statue recognising the City’s pivotal position in the tea trade planned for 1 Undershaft have been shelved for fear of public backlash over its ties to colonialism.
Members of the Corporation’s culture, heritage and libraries committee said that London Tea History Association’s (LTHA) proposed monument – From Bush to Cup – could be interpreted as a salute to Britain’s colonial past as they rejected the bid.
The application for a 2-metre high bronze statue depicting a tea plucker and London docker standing back to back went before the committee via the City Arts Initiative (CAI) last month.
LTHA had hoped that a home for the creation could be found at either 1 Undershaft or Plantation House.
But despite support for the idea of celebrating local links to the trade, concerns were raised over what the piece could be seen to more widely represent, with members desperate to avoid people observing it as a “celebration” of the occupation of other countries.
Minutes from the meeting read: “The City Arts Initiative recognises that the proposed sculpture marks a key part of the City’s history and are supportive of this aim, but feel that, due to the size and permanent nature of the piece, further consideration will need to be given to the location, accessibility concerns, interpretive text and annual maintenance before the proposal can be approved.
“The CAI therefore recommend that the proposal be rejected and that the applicant be asked to work with City officers to find a suitable site and resolve the issues cited above so that it may be resubmitted for consideration at a later date.”
One display that is coming to the Square Mile, however, is NSPCC’s The Great Gnome Hunt, which will see at least six pint-sized additions made to the City’s streets to mark the launch of the film Sherlock Gnomes.