This Week in London – Beryl Gilroy at the British Library; Milligan statue acquired; and, ‘Play in the Pandemic’…

Beryl Gilroy © The Estate of Beryl Gilroy

The archive of writer, teacher and ethno-psychotherapist Beryl Gilroy has been acquired by the British Library. Highlights from the archive, which includes working drafts for published and unpublished novels, letters with publishers and literary agents and ‘born-digital’ material, is at the centre of the free Celebrating Beryl Gilroy display which opened in the Treasures Gallery earlier this month. Gilroy, who was born in Guyana (then British Guiana) and who immigrated to Britain in 1952, became the first black head teacher in London in 1969 and wrote a number of acclaimed children’s books to better reflect the lives of her pupils. Her works – which explore the lives of families, particularly of women and children, the impact of 20th century migration and societal change that came as a result – also included number of novels, a collection of poems, non-fiction writing and a 1976 memoir, Black Teacher. The free display can be seen until 26th June. For more, see www.bl.uk.

A controversial bronze statue of merchant and slave trader Robert Milligan which formerly stood on West India Quay outside the Museum of London Docklands is joining the museum’s collection. The statue was removed in June, 2020, following a petition signed by over 4,000 people called for it to be removed from public view. Its acquisition by the museum follows a public consultation conducted in partnership with the Tower Hamlets Council and landowners Canal & River Trust, which concluded that the statue should be housed in a museum where it can be fully contextualised. “Over the last 15 years, the museum has been working with academics, community leaders and activists to tell the story of London’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, and give voice to its legacy,” said a museum spokesman. “The West India Docks, championed by Milligan using wealth from the slave trade, are a visible reminder of how this history has shaped our city. It is right and important that we acknowledge this in the statue’s story. We will now take time to consult with the local community to decide how best to take this forward as part of our collection.” The statue will be held in storage whilst the museum consults further with local communities about how best to present it.

TY® Toy Collection with IV drips, masks and in hospital This eight-year-old child’s toy collection reflected many real-life pandemic experiences, such as wearing masks, getting vaccinated and hospital treatments.Submitted by Fei Victor Lim 2020-21, Singapore © The Play Observatory. PICTURE: Play In The Pandemic, curated by Young V&A, from 23 March 2022, playinthepandemic.play-observatory.com

• The impact of the global coronavirus pandemic on children’s play is the subject of an online exhibition launched by Young V&A and its partners UCL and the University of Sheffield this week. Play In The Pandemic features some of the 100 submissions sent in from around the globe in answer to a call-out from The Play Observatory research project for people to submit their experiences of play – everything from music videos to children’s artworks and films made by parents showing their children splashing in puddles – alongside objects from the Young V&A’s collection. The exhibition, which takes the form of an unfolding origami house, also features a series of activities – ranging from how to make your own origami house to creating dens and window boxes for people to get involved. Head to the Play Observatory website.

Send all items to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

This Week in London – Statue of slave owner removed; Finsbury Circus to be redesigned; and, ZSL London Zoo reopening…

A statue of slave owner Robert Milligan has been removed from its position outside of the Museum of London Docklands. The Canal and River Trust removed the statue this week in recognition of the “wishes of the community”. The move had the support of the museum which is one of only three museums in the UK to address the history of the transatlantic slave trade. “The Museum of London recognises that the monument is part of the ongoing problematic regime of white-washing history, which disregards the pain of those who are still wrestling with the remnants of the crimes Milligan committed against humanity…” the museum said in a statement issued earlier in the week. “Now more than ever at a time when Black Lives Matter is calling for an end to public monuments honouring slave owners, we advocate for the statue of Robert Milligan to be removed on the grounds of its historical links to colonial violence and exploitation.” Milligan was a prominent British slave owner who, by the time of his death in 1809, owned 526 slaves and two sugar plantations in Jamaica. The statue, the work of Sir Richard Westmacott, was moved to a position outside the museum in West India Quay in 1997. Earlier this week, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced a new Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm which will review landmarks – including murals, street art, street names, statues and other memorials – across the city of London with a view to improving diversity in the public realm.

The City of London Corporation has launched a competition to redesign the Grade II-listed gardens at Finsbury Circus. The two-stage competition aims to identity creative and sustainable design ideas in a bid to return Finsbury Circus Gardens to being a multifunctional public space with a pavilion as well as a “sanctuary” within the Square Mile. The corporation is seeking a joint bid from an architect and a landscape architect to deliver a new design for the reinstatement of Finsbury Circus Gardens and Pavilion. Some two-thirds of the Finsbury Circus Gardens, one of the oldest parks in the City, have been used by Crossrail for the past 10 years to provide access to a section of tunnel between Farringdon and Liverpool Street. The works required the removal of historic features like the bowling green and historic Grade II drinking fountain and these will now be reinstated into the new design. PICTURE: Looking across Finsbury Circus Gardens in 2006 (David Williams /licenced under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Tickets for ZSL London Zoo have gone on sale ahead of its planned reopening next week. The zoo will reopen on Monday, 15th June, for the first time since its closure on Saturday, 21st March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The zoo, which is offering pre-allocated, timed entry slots, limited to just 2,000 visitors a day, says its taken numerous measures to ensure the safety of visitors. For more, head to www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.