The Myth of Rhodes: a Poor Print Special Report

The Myth of Rhodes: a <i>Poor Print</i> Special Report

‘The Myth of Rhodes’ was a Poor Print special report on Cecil Rhodes, Rhodes Must Fall, and the statue at Oriel College. The report was conceived, commissioned and edited by Alex Waygood, who also wrote one of the articles and carried out a large amount of additional research and fact-checking. The report was originally published on Friday, 28 April 2017, as part of Issue #18 (themed around ‘Myth’), which was also designed in its entirety by Alex Waygood.

The report consisted of six features (one of which was only online), plus a Complete Bibliography, a list of suggested Further Reading and copies of Facebook posts cited in the report. The report can be read online in its entirety here; or alternatively, for links to the individual articles, see below:

A pdf of the entire print issue can be downloaded here.

Rhodes Must Fall: A Timeline

Rhodes Must Fall: A Timeline

Originally published by The Poor Print on 28/04/2017.


 

09/03/15: Chumani Maxwele, a student of political science at the University of Cape Town (UCT), picks up a bucket of human faeces on the kerbside at the town of Khayelitsha and brings it back to UCT. He throws it into the face of a bronze statue of Cecil Rhodes that has stood prominently on the university’s rugby fields since 1934, shouting ‘Where are our heroes and ancestors?’.

12/03/15: More than a thousand students gather on the stairs of Jammie Plaza, the focal point of the UCT Upper Campus, to discuss the statue and Rhodes’s role in colonising Africa. After the meeting, protesters return to cover the statue in white and red sheets. The RMF Facebook page posts its first post.

15/03/15: The statue of Rhodes is once again covered by protestors, this time in black bin-bags. RMF begins a week of daily sit-ins at the statue.

16/03/15: Several academics, the president of the Student Representative Council and ‘half the audience’ walk out of a seminar discussing the statue of Cecil Rhodes after demanding a date for removal of the statue. (See here and here.)

19/03/15: Two Oxford students, Annie Teriba and Bi Kwo, organise a ‘Solidarity Action’ in support of RMF UCT on the High Street in Oxford.

20/03/15: Students march on the UCT administrative building, the Bremner building, demanding a date for the removal of the statue. They begin an occupation of the building which lasts several weeks, supported by a collection of students, academics and members of the public, who supply the protesters with food. They ‘rename’ the building ‘Azania House’ (an older term which refers to parts of South-East Africa without  the colonialist associations of ‘South Africa’).

25/03/15: Rhodes Must Fall publishes a mission statement on their Facebook page, calling for an ‘end to institutionalised racism and patriarchy at UCT’.

27/03/15 : UCT’s Senate, a 345-member body that decides on academic matters and has representatives from all academic departments, votes to remove the statue.

09/04/15: The Rhodes statue is removed following further disruptive campaigns from RMF.

12/04/15: The occupation of the Bremner Building ends after UCT serves the students an eviction letter. (See here, here, here and here for further details.)

28/05/15: Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford (RMFO) stages a protest at an Oxford Union debate on the motion ‘This House believes Britain owes reparations to her former colonies,’ which is carried by 185 to 56 votes. The Oxford Union later comes under fire from RMFO for serving a cocktail called the ‘Colonial Comeback,’ accompanied in adverts by a picture of black hands in chains, after the event.

01/06/15: The Oxford Union Governing Body passes a unanimous motion to acknowledge that the Union is institutionally racist.

17/10/15: RMFO stages a ‘matriculaction’ protest, in which students wore red while matriculating.

06/11/15: RMFO protests outside Oriel College, presenting a petition to demand that Oriel’s statute of Rhodes be taken down. (See here and here for Cherwell coverage.)

17/12/15: Oriel releases a statement responding to RMFO’s demands, announcing a six-month ‘listening exercise’ on the statue will commence from February 2016. It also states that the college intends to submit an application to Oxford City Council to remove a tributary plaque to Rhodes on No. 6 King Edward Street, an Oriel-owned property. A copy of Oriel’s statement can be found in full hereCherwell’s coverage can be found here.

18/12/15: The Telegraph reports that a ‘senior source’ at Historic England believes that removing Oriel’s statue would require ‘a very strong justification that goes beyond moral arguments’ due to the High Street building’s Grade II* listed status. (Historic England is the public body that is responsible for preserving the UK’s historic buildings. The legal requirements were later expanded upon by The Times.)

25/12/15: Australia ex-Prime Minister Tony Abbott (a former Rhodes scholar) wades into the debate on Oriel’s statue. A day later, South Africa ex-President F. W. de Klerk also intervenes. RMFO write open letters to both in the following days, which can be found here (to Tony Abbott) and here (to F. W. de Klerk).

File:Chris Patten -2008-10-31-.jpg
Lord Patten, Chancellor of the University of Oxford. Photographer: James Luanxin Li.

13/01/16: Chris Patten (Baron Patten of Barnes and Chancellor of Oxford University) attacks RMFO in an interview on Radio 4’s Today problem. He argues that RMFO should show more of a ‘generosity of spirit’ towards Rhodes and other aspects of history, or ‘think about being educated elsewhere’. (See here for an article, or here for the original interview.)

14/01/16: A Cherwell survey of 967 students (nearly 5% of the student body) finds that 54% of students are in favour of the statue of remaining, compared to 37% who think the statue should go. Among BME students, however, 48% thought the statue should fall whereas 45% thought it should remain.

18/01/16: A YouGov survey of 1,733 adults across the UK finds that 59% believe the statue of Rhodes should not be taken down. (11% say that it should, while 29% say they don’t know.) The same poll finds that pluralities believe that the British Empire was a good thing (43%) and that Britain’s history of colonialism is something to be proud of (44%).

19/01/16: The Oxford Union votes 245 to 212 in favour of removing the statue.

22/01/16: University College JCR votes to petition University College to rename their ‘Rhodes Computer Room’ – see here and here. (The room was not, in fact, named after Rhodes himself, but instead named after a group of Rhodes scholars. Univ JCR was aware of this at the time of the vote. The college later rejected the students’ calls.)

26/01/16: St Anne’s College MCR votes to ‘unequivocally support the aims and goals of Rhodes Must Fall movement in Oxford’. Just a day later, St Anne’s College JCR votes against a motion calling for a public announcement of JCR opposition to the removal of the Rhodes statue.

28/01/16: Oriel announces that the statue and plaque will remain, saying that ‘the previously announced listening exercise [a six-month consultation announced on 17/12/15] will focus on how best to place the statue and plaque in a clear historical context’.

29/01/16: The Telegraph runs an article alleging that Oriel’s decision not to remove the statue was largely prompted by ‘threats’ (Telegraph wording) from donors to withdraw substantial donations, including a £100m legacy. Members of Oriel’s Governing Body have since stated repeatedly in communications with students and elsewhere that they were unaware of the £100m legacy when making the decision. They have also stated that communications with alumni were not the prime motivation for the early conclusion of the listening exercise, and that there has been no substantial impact on finances as a result of the protests or the college’s actions.

03/02/16: Oxford University Student Union (OUSU) votes in favour of an emergency motion criticising Oriel’s ‘failure to follow through on commitments made to students which primarily affect those in already marginalised and oppressed groups’. Oriel JCR and St Peter’s JCR had also voted in favour of similar motions in the days preceding the OUSU meeting.

09/03/16: RMFO members lead a ‘mass march for decolonisation’ through Oxford to highlight various features of Oxford that they see as glorifying Oxford’s colonial legacy.

03/06/16: RMFO members disrupt a meeting on contextualising the Rhodes statue that was intended only for Oriel members.

20/06/16: Oluwafemi Nylander of RMFO stands shirtless and in chains outside All Souls College, Oxford, protesting the name of All Souls’s Codrington Library and a statue of former fellow Christopher Codrington within the library.[1] 

30/06/16: RMFO members protest shirtless outside Oriel on an Oxford open day.

02/12/16: RMFO returns to Oriel to stage another protest a year after Oriel’s original announcement of their ‘listening exercise’.

14/01/17: Oriel holds two internal meetings to discuss the appropriate means of contextualising the Rhodes statue: one for Oriel alumni and one for current College members and staff (see The Poor Print’s report here for the latter).

10/11/17: All Souls College announces that it will launch an annual scholarship scheme, funding the studies of one graduate a year from Caribbean countries. It also announces a five-year grant of £100,000 will be given to Codrington College, St John, Barbados.[1] See here and here for news reports.

20/12/17: All Souls College announces it will install a ‘memorial tablet’ outside its Codrington Library with the text: ‘In memory of those who worked in slavery on the Codrington Plantations in the West Indies’.


Footnote

[1] Upon his death in 1710, Christopher Codrington made an endowment of £10,000 (worth millions of pounds in today’s money) to All Souls College. The money was to be used for the construction of a new library, which eventually resulted in the Codrington Library. Codrington’s fortune came from Barbadian sugar plantations worked by slaves.


This timeline is intended only to cover the iconography-related campaigns of the Rhodes Must Fall groups in Cape Town and Oxford. Other aspects of both Rhodes Must Fall groups are not discussed in this timeline; neither are their campaigns that do not relate to issues around iconography.

Iconography-related campaigns and campaigning groups from elsewhere are discussed in another article in this Special Report, ‘Iconography Campaigns: A Global Perspective’. The relationship between these campaigns and the broader ‘safe space’ movement is discussed in the article, ‘Safe Spaces and Student Protest’.

References for this feature are included in-line, and are also included in the report’s Complete Bibliography. The Complete Bibliography also links to copies on the Poor Print server of many primary sources linked to in this Timeline.

All links operational at time of publication. The Poor Print takes no responsibility for the accuracy of content on other sites, but every effort has been made to find reputable sources.

This Timeline has had multiple revisions and updates since first publication online. Last update: 23/01/18.

Pop Is Dead – Long Live Pop

Pop Is Dead – Long Live Pop

All hail the Great and Glorious Ed Sheeran! The singer’s latest album, ÷ (pronounced Divide), is continuing to smash chart records across the board since its release on 03/03/17. In its first week of release, Sheeran claimed nine out of the top ten spots in the UK Charts simultaneously. (The previous record had been held by The Beatles, who in 1964 occupied four out of the top ten spots at the same time.) Even more incredibly, all 16 of ÷’s tracks entered the UK Top 20 on the album’s release – and Sheeran’s success has by no means been limited to the UK, as ÷ continues to break records in the US and Australia as well. Who would have guessed that the 21st Century’s King of Pop would turn out to be a scruffy, ginger-haired guy in a hoody? The album is now the third-highest-selling album of all time – only Adele’s 25 and Oasis’s Be Here Now sold more in their first seven days of release.

Sheeran should obviously be congratulated: his success is significant, and down to a winning combination of easy pop melodies; slick production; and (crucially) clever branding. His sweeping domination of the Charts is all the more impressive when you consider that the previous record-holders, The Beatles, dominated the Top 10 in 1964 because their previous singles were still selling as they released new ones. Sheeran, by contrast, dominates the Charts through songs that are all from the same album.

Yet Sheeran would be the first to admit that his record-breaking success is not all that it seems. Since 2014, the Charts have changed to include streaming in their figures – and the result has been a steadily increasing stasis and homogeneity in the top spots. While 2014 had 42 songs reach no. 1, 2015 had only 26, and 2016 only 11. The first six months of 2006 saw 230 new entries to the UK Top 100; the first six months of 2016 saw only 86. “I don’t know if there’s some weird thing that Spotify and Apple Music are going to have to change now, Sheeran told BBC Radio 1 in a recent interview. “I never expected to have nine songs in the Top 10 in my life. I don’t know if something’s gone wrong but I’m definitely very, very happy about it.”

Others are less happy. Justin Hawkins, frontman of rock band The Darkness, was blunt in an interview with News Corps Australia, saying: ‘That just means the system’s broken… Everyone knows Ed Sheeran is great and is selling loads of records, but imagine listening to the Top 40 rundown on the radio on a Sunday like you used to as a kid and you have to listen to the whole Ed Sheeran album. It’s totally ridiculous. The system is broken and they have to mend it’. The problem continues to intensify despite repeated adjustments to the formula used to calculate the Charts – whereas previously 100 streams had counted as a single ‘sale’ for the calculation of the UK Charts, the formula was upped to 150:1 in January 2017 (apparently to little effect). Australia, which has an even higher ratio of 175:1, has also seen records smashed and chart positions hoarded by the Unstoppable Ed.

So – what’s up with streaming? The Official Charts Company (OCC) was clearly right to start including streaming figures in their calculations in 2014. As physical and digital music sales both continue to decline, streaming is now the single source of hope for the music industry. Due to the rise of streaming, the industry has enjoyed two consecutive years of growth since 2015, arresting a long period of declining profits triggered by Napster’s demolition of the existing model in 1999 and the advent of online piracy. As Spotify, Apple Music and others continue to attract new users, the importance of streaming as a means of music consumption will only continue to grow.

The issue is that consumers stream music very differently to the way in which they buy (or in any case, used to buy) music. In the past, a Queen fan (for example) might have bought a single and listened to it several times in the few weeks after buying it. A hardcore fan might have listened to it many more times; but regardless, the two purchases were counted equally from the point of view of the OCC. With streaming, however, the picture changes. Your modern-day Ed Sheeran fanatic might have listened to ÷ non-stop for the past two weeks without making a single purchase, instead listening to his music through Spotify’s free service or through YouTube. Crucially, though, their continued listening means that Sheeran’s album is still making an impact on the Charts weeks after the album’s release, even if no more people are in fact listening to the album. The streaming of music is a far more trivial decision than the purchasing of music – since streaming costs so much less, and can cost nothing at all, a consumer need not be particularly enthusiastic to stream a track. Paradoxically, however, since the inclusion of streaming the Charts have only appeared to indicate new heights of enthusiasm among consumers, since artists remain at no. 1 for much longer than they used to.

In many ways, the new-look Music Charts actually reflect people’s listening habits far better than they used to. Drake’s One Dance spent 15 months at No. 1 in the 2016 Album Charts, despite only ‘outselling’ (physically and digitally) the competition for the first three weeks of that period. Far from being meaningless, that tells us that people were still listening to the album (for some reason) well after it was released.

But the shifting nature of the Charts presents multiple problems for new and up-and-coming artists. The first is that the inclusion of streaming figures in the Charts acts as a ‘multiplier effect’ to the prominence of superstars such as Sheeran in the Charts, meaning they occupy the top spots for weeks on end. The second is that the inclusion of album tracks as well as songs selected as ‘singles’ means that an extremely successful album such as ÷ leaves little space for new artists to enter the Charts. The issue is compounded by the way in which consumers often access music on Spotify and the like – those listening to Spotify’s ‘Top 50’ playlist will only cement the positions current Top 50 even more.

If new artists are crowded out from entering the Charts, they will find it even more difficult to make a name for themselves – and the new dynamics of the music industry have meant life is already much more difficult for new and unfamiliar acts. The advent of streaming has been wonderful for new artists in some ways, as their music can quickly spread to a large audience without that audience paying for it. Yet unless a small artist gets big quick à la Sheeran, the new model can make life very difficult for new performers: the pittance paid per stream adds up to a sizeable amount for artists with a large, secure audience and hefty back catalogue, yet provides insignificant revenue for acts still making a name for themselves. (The formula determining how much an artist is paid per individual stream is hugely complicated, meaning that it can vary wildly from artist to artist and from month to month – but for a ballpark figure, a January 2017 study by rights-awareness group The Trichordist reckoned on an average payment of $0.00437 per Spotify stream. Apple Music and other pay more, but make up far smaller proportions of the market.)

The new-look Charts contain other distortions, as well. Although Spotify have managed to gain access to most back catalogues by now, artists such as Taylor Swift and Radiohead still resist putting their music on streaming services. Taylor Swift has argued that ‘music is art, and art is important and rare,’ that ‘important, rare things are valuable’ and that ‘valuable things should be paid for’, thus concluding that music should never be free; Thom Yorke of Radiohead was characteristically blunter in his description of Spotify as ‘the last desperate fart of a dying corpse’. Yet while both artists may well have sincere objections to the ethics of the new model, the reality is that they also know that they can gain more revenue by withholding (at least initially) their music from streaming services. Both Taylor Swift and Radiohead have fan bases committed enough that fans will buy their music through more lucrative, more traditional channels if they cannot stream. Thus Taylor Swift is nowhere to be found on Spotify; Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool and Adele’s 25 were both sales-only for a time; and of the streaming platforms, Beyoncé’s Lemonade is exclusively on Tidal. This makes financial sense – yet means that these artists end up underrepresented on the Charts, since the limited streaming of their music over the initial period after release means they cannot enjoy an equivalent to the ‘Sheeran surge’ of 2017.

The Charts, then, are seriously dysfunctional in their current form – and the problem cannot be fixed by simply continuing to adjust arbitrarily the formula by which streams are registered as ‘sales’. Various, more radical, solutions have been proposed – one is a cap on individual users, so that only the first ten streams of a song (for example) by any one user count towards that song’s chart placement. Another – favoured by Justin Hawkins – would be to say that each artist could only feature a certain number of songs from each album in the singles chart (but the disadvantage of this is that it would conceal the extent to which ‘album tracks’ are listened to). Spotify et al. can help, too, by finding ways to improve their financial model for smaller artists, and by actively working to improve the representation of new artists in their increasingly popular curated playlists. (The situation is complicated somewhat by the fact that Spotify, despite rising revenues, has its hands tied to an extent since it has yet to make a profit.)

Yet the fading relevance of the Charts predates streaming – the BBC’s Top of the Pops was cancelled in 2006, 42 years after its first showing yet well before Spotify became a major player in the music industry. The cultural importance of the Charts is not what it used to be; in the Internet Era, the Charts are no longer the primary way by which consumers access new music or keep up to date with new music trends. And albums themselves will continue to become scarcer in the future, as artists continue to focus more on live performances as a more effective money-earner in the digital era. It may be that alternative metrics such as ticket sales will become a more effective barometer of an artist’s success in the future.

Streaming may yet save the music industry, but in many ways the advent of streaming creates as many problems as it answers. The ways in which pop music is manufactured and delivered will be forced to change if pop is to survive. The stasis at the top of the Charts is merely symptomatic of the far bigger problem, and of the massive changes that are afoot in the industry. Pop is dead – long live pop.

Originally published on 30/03/17 by Cherwell.

Judge not, lest ye be judged

Judge not, lest ye be judged

The government’s response to the media backlash against the ruling was inadequate.

The press quickly came to grips with the gravity of the situation. ‘Enemies of the people,’ screamed The Daily Mail’. ‘Who do you think EU are?’ demanded The Sun. The Daily Express was the most forthright of all, calling its readership to arms with the headline: ‘Now your country really does need you…’.

I’m glad that’s been cleared up. I hadn’t quite realised that a court ruling delaying Brexit was comparable to the horror of the Great War of 1914. Some might call that insensitive so close to Remembrance Day. But, there you go.

So what exactly is this dire peril? On 3rd November, three judges ruled that British constitutional law does not allow for the Government to begin the process of leaving the European Union without first passing a law through Parliament. The reason? That ‘the most fundamental rule of the UK’s constitution is that Parliament is sovereign’ – meaning that no law passed by Parliament can be overridden by the Government without passing new legislation through Parliament. The UK joined the EU in 1973 by passing the European Communities Act in 1972 – and so in order to leave, Parliament must now pass a new law to repeal this legislation. The European Union Referendum Act, passed in 2015, does not give the Government sufficient powers to start the process of leaving the EU without first consulting Parliament, since that legislation explicitly specified that the referendum was to be advisory rather than legally binding.

It sounds boring and technical – and, really, that’s because it is. It’s the job of the British judiciary to consult legal precedent and rule on the interpretation of Britain’s strange, amorphous constitution. Has Brexit been blocked? No; it will probably take Theresa May a little longer to begin the process of leaving the EU, but it still seems highly unlikely that a majority of MPs would choose to vote against the will of the people as expressed in the referendum. Moreover, parliamentary scrutiny is far from a bad thing, even for those who favoured Brexit. Despite the unsavoury nature of a few MPs, as a group the House of Commons has considerable collective expertise. They will now be able to use this to ensure that Theresa May really does get the ‘right Brexit deal for the UK’.

So this isn’t a ‘power grab’ by ‘activist judges’ that ‘undermines democracy’. Far from it. Newspapers and politicians lambasting the judges should take care: the separation of powers between the Government, Parliament and the Judiciary is in fact one of the fundamental pillars on which our democracy is founded. The independence of Britain’s courts provides protection for the Judiciary, ensuring that judges cannot be fired should they choose to rule against the government. But it also provides important checks and balances on the Government’s power that protect the rights of us all. Crucially, these do not place limits on Parliament’s sovereignty, which remains supreme – our Supreme Court does not have the power to ‘strike down’ legislation. But the courts do have the power to call into question important procedural errors committed by the government, which is what has happened here.

The government has, belatedly, defended the independence of the judiciary – which, incidentally, is meant to be one of the primary roles of the Lord Chancellor. Yet the words of Liz Truss and Theresa May – the latter only qualifying her support by saying that she also values ‘the freedom of our press’ – have been half-hearted and weak.

That is unacceptable. It is entirely possible to call into question the decision of the courts without calling into question the legitimacy of the judicial decision – which would have been the responsible line for the pro-Brexit press to take. Equally, it is entirely possible to attack the words of a newspaper while defending the newspaper’s right to publish them. Freedom of the press is irrelevant, and a cowardly excuse on the Government’s part; this Government should and must vigorously attack the tabloids for seeking to undermine our judicial process. The legal right to express an opinion does not absolve you from responsibility for that opinion, and neither does it disallow others from arguing against you.

Perhaps the inherent suspicion of many Brexiteers that the country’s institutions are biased against them is reasonable. But – reading the judgement – I find it hard to disagree with any of the technical aspects of the decision. Perhaps this is why nearly all the accusations of political bias from pro-Brexit politicians seem to have come in the form of unqualified assertions. I have yet to hear a coherent legal argument as to why there is a special case in this instance wherein Royal Prerogative provides sufficient powers for the Government to override the 1972 European Communities Act without first consulting Parliament.

Originally published on November 20, 2016 by Cherwell.

Stories of Oxford

Stories of Oxford

Stories of Oxford was a special Poor Print feature collecting stories from the Oxford homeless community. It was originally published on November 12, 2016. Accreditation is as follows:

  • The project was originally conceived by Alex Waygood.
  • Each interview was conducted by Alex Waygood, Joanna Engle and Chris Hill.
  • Transcription and editing of interviews were completed by Alex Waygood and Joanna Engle
  • Photography was conducted by Chris Hill.

A pdf of the insert can be downloaded here; or alternatively, each interview can be viewed online via The Poor Print‘s website: