Launching Journey to Justice

Nottingham Castle pierces this city’s skyline. You can see it for miles: I often see it going in and out of town on the bus; it acknowledges my arrival to Nottingham when I come in on the train. Its place there is 2000 years old, older even than the Ye Old Trip to Jerusalem pub that sits at its foot. In its time, it has witnessed some of the most radical acts of Nottingham’s rebellious history, the most notable of which was the violent acting out against the Duke of Newcastle’s refusal to support the vote for men in the early nineteenth century and other austere measures that saw the town of Nottingham go hungry. Those familiar with the local history know what happened next: a rebellion; the castle was burnt to the ground in 1831. On a clear day, I see the Castle from Wilford regularly, impressive yet silent. No doubt, the flames would have been visible from here on the night of the arson.

Image credit: Pat Boyer

Image credit: Pat Boyer

It was here that we congregated on Thursday 20 April at around 5:30 pm. Another generation of activists stood in the Castle’s shadow. We Listened with intent as Pat Boyer, a member of the Board of Trustees at Journey to Justice in London, spoke to the crowd of 100 people about the importance of fighting back against the powerful, however hopeless it may seem. From here, we marched through the city with a beautifully handmade Journey to Justice banner to Speaker’s Corner, where we heard the new President of the NUT, Louise Regan, stress the need for resistance and action. Tom Unterrainer of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation followed. He echoed Pat and Louise on the necessity of fighting against injustice and underlined that we must refuse to accept any injustice, no matter where or at whom it is directed. These messages and this path across Market Square have been heard and trodden before.

On our arrival at the National Justice Museum, we heard from more speakers. Tim Desmond, CEO of National Justice Museum, and Carrie Supple and Mark Hutchinson, members of the Board of Trustees at Journey to Justice in London, praised the hard work that went into the exhibition and spoke on particular aspects of it that resonated with them, while Rosey Cox, Nottingham City Council, and Lynda Kelly, Nottinghamshire Police, discussed the city’s historic achievements, Pride, and the continued fight against hate crime. We were also treated to performances from local poet Panya Banjoko and the Nottingham Clarion Choir, which gave lively renditions of three of their favourite protest songs.  Then, we browsed the exhibition and saw the culmination of what has been a year’s work: a mural of Nottingham’s activists; the friendship of a former slave and abolitionist; the first black footballer to win a full cap for England. Though different, these stories register moments in more recent times of local people standing up against an injustice and the small yet significant impact it can have on a place. A story on poverty in St Ann’s, which features here, reminds us that the motivations and injustices that fuelled the burning down of the Castle remain.

Our march from the Castle to the Museum on Thursday evening was a physical journey across the city. The exhibition, on the other hand, fills in some of the gaps about Nottingham’s more recent journey towards social justice. The next journey we take in Nottingham is up to you.

Blog written by Richard Bromhall and Scott Weightman