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Summary and conclusion

This best-practice guidance seeks to help local authorities, town and community councils and other public bodies reach well-informed decisions about existing and future public commemorations, and by doing so contribute to an anti-racist Wales. 

Part 1, Public Commemoration in Wales: understanding the issues, introduces the complex issues around public commemoration. Its focus is on the impact of commemorations on communities through subject matter, type, style and location. It also considers the importance of hindsight and evidence. 

Part 2, Public Commemoration in Wales: decision making, principles and practice, sets out four steps that public bodies should take to realise the opportunities that public commemoration offers to address the issues raised in Part 1, and make a positive contribution to an anti-racist Wales.

Step 1 is about inclusive decision making 

In recognition of their public impact, decision-making about public commemorations should be genuinely inclusive, and there should be no new commemoration without representation for all affected. The guidance identifies some general principles for inclusive decision making:   

  • involve diverse communities and listen to a range of views from the outset
  • consider where the impact of decisions may be felt, acknowledging remote communities of interest as well as the local area, and being responsive to diversity within the local area
  • build lasting relationships with local communities
  • respect local understandings as well as expert knowledge and opinion
  • consider the best ways of reaching out to diverse communities, and address barriers to engagement
  • ensure that the decision-making process is open and transparent.

Step 2 is about setting objectives for public commemoration

Public bodies should be clear about what they want to achieve from public commemoration. They should set objectives that define its role in line with the goals of the Anti-racist Wales Action Plan to promote authenticity and balance, and a clear and decolonised understanding of the world. This does not mean censoring or erasure of the historical record, but it does mean that historical injustice is acknowledged, reputations are open to debate and narratives that devalue human life do not go unchallenged. In setting objectives public bodies should:

  • engage deeply and truthfully with the stories that arise from commemorations, hearing different voices, and allowing diverse views to be expressed
  • consider how commemorations may be used to deepen educational opportunities and public understanding of issues and events
  • explore new subjects for commemoration that achieve better representation for different parts of the population, and recognise the positive contributions to society by under-represented groups of all kinds, both in the past and present
  • use commemorations to convey strong messages about our values today to engage, inspire and bring communities together now and in the future. 

Step 3 is about establishing criteria for decision making

Decisions about both past and future commemorations should be based on clear and specific criteria, developed through public consultation, and kept under regular review. This is an important foundation for establishing consensus in the decision making process. A set of criteria provides a useful checklist when making decisions about who gets remembered and in what way.

Criteria should be agreed locally, but it is suggested that a helpful framework would take into account significance, impact and values.

Step 4 is about taking action

Public bodies should be prepared to take action to meet their objectives and address the issues raised by public commemoration. Any action should be founded on a good evidence base. Public bodies should be aware of what is commemorated already and be mindful of what may be missing. Available actions include:

  • interpretation that enables public commemorations to form part of the balanced, authentic and decolonised account of the past that public bodies are expected to promote   
  • removal and relocation, where there is agreement that a less sensitive location might be more appropriate  
  • new work that provides an opportunity to remember hitherto forgotten figures or events in the past, to honour recent individuals or events, and to extend public representation to the many communities who have contributed to the making of Wales.

In taking these four steps, public bodies will be able to discharge their responsibility under the Anti-racist Wales Action Plan to ‘review and appropriately address the way in which people and events with known historical associations to slavery and colonialism are commemorated in our public spaces and collections, acknowledging the harm done by their actions and reframing the presentation of their legacy to fully recognise this.’ They will also be able to use public commemorations more generally to contribute to an anti-racist Wales, to deepen understanding of our past and its legacies, and to celebrate the achievements of our diverse society. 

Annex: background

In November 2020, the Welsh Government published The Slave Trade and the British Empire: An Audit of Commemoration in Wales. The audit was produced by a task and finish group led by Gaynor Legall. Its intention was to identify public monuments, street and building names in Wales associated with the slave trade and the British Empire, as well as touching on the historical contributions to Welsh life of people of Black heritage. 

Publication of the audit was followed by a report from the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee of the Senedd ‘Set in Stone? A report on who gets remembered in public spaces’ published in March 2021. The Committee concluded that more needs to be done to raise awareness of some of the more difficult and painful legacies of our past. They concluded that although ultimate authority for decisions relating to contentious statues, monuments or commemorations should rest with local authorities and communities, the Welsh Government should provide leadership and guidance to local authorities and other public bodies. 

The Welsh Government published its Anti-racist Wales Action Plan in June 2022. Public bodies are charged with responsibility for ‘setting the right historic narrative, promoting and delivering a balanced, authentic and decolonised account of the past - one that recognises both historical injustices and the positive impact of ethnic minority communities.’ There is a specific action to ‘review and appropriately address the way in which people and events with known historical associations to slavery and colonialism are commemorated in our public spaces and collections, acknowledging the harm done by their actions and reframing the presentation of their legacy to fully recognise this.’

This guidance has been prepared as a next step following the audit by Gaynor Legall and in response to the recommendations of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee and to the Anti-racist Wales Action Plan. It has benefitted from a series of facilitated workshops bringing together a broad spectrum of stakeholders, and is informed by their opinions. These workshops included representation from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups, education and academia, local government, the armed forces, faith groups, heritage conservation groups and LGBTQ+ people. Quotations from workshop participants appear throughout the text.

Further information


Commonwealth War Graves, 2021. 'Report of the Special Committee to Review Historical inequalities in Commemoration'. Maidenhead: Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Rodney Harrison, 2013. 'Heritage: Critical Approache's. Oxon, Routledge

Olivette Otele, Luisa Gandolfo, Yoav Galai (eds), 2021. 'Post-Conflict Memorialization: Missing Memorials, Absent Bodies'. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ben Stephenson, Marie-Annick Gournet and Joanna Burch-Brown, 2021. 'Reviewing contested statues, memorials and place names: Guidance for public bodies'. Bristol, University of Bristol.

Welsh Government, 2021. The Slave Trade and the British Empire: an audit of commemoration in Wales. Cardiff, Welsh Government

Welsh Government, 2022. Anti-Racist Wales Action Plan, Cardiff: Welsh Government

Welsh Parliament Culture Welsh Language and Communications Committee, 2021. Set in Stone: a report on who gets remembered in public places, Cardiff, Senedd Commission.

Case Studies

Confederate statues, USA

Memorialization of Robert E. Lee and the Lost Cause, US National Park Service.

Southern Poverty Law Centre, 2019. ‘Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy’ by Southern Poverty Law Centre.

United Daughters of the Confederacy website

Ty Seidule, 2021. 'Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner's Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause'. New York, St Martin’s Publishing group.

Teddy Roosevelt, New York

City of New York, 2018. 'Mayoral advisory commission on city art, monuments, and markers: Report to the City of New York'. New York, City of New York.

James Loewen, 1999. 'Lies across America: What our historic markers and monuments get wrong. New York', The New Press.

‘Addressing the statue’ pages on American Museum of Natural History Website.

Sinclaire Devereux Marber, 2019. ‘Bloody Foundation? Ethical and Legal Implications of (Not) Removing the Equestrian Statue of Theodore Roosevelt at the  American Museum of Natural History’.

Margaret Thatcher, UK

Dawn Foster, 2019. A statue of Margaret Thatcher? No plinth will be too high for the vandals. The Guardian.

Will it ever go up? Plinth still awaits Thatcher statue in Grantham in The Lincolnite (2021).

National Assembly for Wales, 2008. Summary of Petitions Committee consideration of P-03-142: Petition to remove artwork of Margaret Thatcher from the Senedd. Cardiff, Welsh Government.

Statue of a Girl for Peace, Seoul

Thomas J.Ward & William D.Lay, 2019. Park Statue Politics: World War II Comfort Women Memorials in the United StatesBristol, E-international Relations.

 David Shim, 2021. Memorials’ Politics: Exploring the material rhetoric of the Statue of Peace. Memory Studies. Thousand Oaks, SAGE Journals.

‘We are Bristol’ History Commission, Bristol

Cole, T. & Burch-Brown, J. et al. 2022. The Colston Statue: What Next? ‘We are Bristol’ History Commission Full Report. Bristol, Bristol City Council.

Bristol Museums information.

Planning application for a second plaque in 2018.

Bristol Live report ‘How the city failed to remove Edward Colston’s statue for years’.

Antonia Layard, 2021.  Listing Controversy II: Statues, Contested Heritage and the Policy of ‘Retain and Explain’. Bristol, University of Bristol Law School.

Rhodes Must Fall, University of Cape Town

Britta Timm Knudsen & Casper Andersen, 2019. Affective politics and colonial heritage, Rhodes Must Fall at UCT and Oxford. London, Taylor & Francis.

Amit Chaudhuri, 2016. The real meaning of Rhodes Must Fall. The Guardian.

Stolpersteine, Europe

Stolpersteine website.

Natalie Bennie, 2019. The rhetoric of counter-monumentality: The Stolpersteine Project.  Ann Arbor, Pro Quest.

Mary Seacole, London

Mary Seacole Trust website.

Nightingale Society website.

Adebayo, Dotun MBE, 2015. ‘What Did Mary Seacole Ever Do For Us As Black People?’.

Leopold II, Belgium

Gia Abrassart et al. 2022. For the decolonisation of public space in the Brussels-Capital Region: a framework for reflection and recommendations. Brussels, Brussels Regional Parliament.

Adam Hochschild, 2020. The fight to decolonize the museum. The Atlantic. Washington DC, The Atlantic.

Decade of Centenaries, Northern Ireland

Decade of Centenaries website from Community Relations Council, Belfast.

Jonathan Evershed, 2015. From Past Conflict to Shared Future?: Commemoration, peacebuilding and the politics of Loyalism during Northern Ireland’s "Decade of Centenaries". Cork, University College Cork.

Picton Monument, Carmarthen

Cadw List description.

Dylan Rees, 2020. Sir Thomas Picton (1758-1815): Hero and Villain? Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society.

Statues Redressed, Liverpool

Statues Redressed website.

Statue parks, Hungary and India

Szoborpark website.

Gitta Hammarberg, 1995. Dead Statues – or alive? Signs of Ambivalence in Transition-Era Hungary. Berkeley, Macalester. 

Matthew de Tar, 2015. National Identity After Communism: Hungary’s Statue Park. London, Taylor & Francis.

Tom Wilkinson, LSE blog 2019 ‘Coronation Park and the Forgotten Statues of the British Raj’.

Paul M. McGarr ,2015. ‘The Viceroys are Disappearing from the Roundabouts in Delhi’: British symbols of power in post-colonial India. Cambridge, Cambridge University press

Sculpture and Welsh castles

Cadw, 2023, ‘A king’s welcome to Caernarfon Castle’ in 'Heritage in Wales' issue 76, Cardiff, Welsh Government.

Howard M. Williams, 2017, The Art of Failure at Flint, published to authors blog ‘Archaeodeath’.

Howard M. Williams, 2023, Hands of Memory: Caernarfon’s New Heritage Art, published to authors blog ‘Archaeodeath’.

Betty Campbell, Cardiff 

Monumental Welsh Women website.

Links from this document 

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