OUT IN THE FIELD: Try as we might, we can’t rewrite the past

The photograph of the minstrels was taken down following a complaint
The photograph of the minstrels was taken down following a complaint

There’s things we do as human beings that aren’t very pleasant and if we could hit the delete button in our brain’s hard drive and erase them forever, I am sure we would. But we can’t. You can’t rewrite history and that should be borne in mind by the Moaning Minnies who complained of being offended by a photo of a Minstrel Troupe on an information board on Eastbourne seafront. The board was on an East of the Pier heritage trail and devoted to the entertainment forms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Included in the analysis is a description of what used to be called Minstrelsy and accompanying that description had been an illustration of an early Minstrel Troupe with ‘blacked up faces’. The powers that be at the council, in fairness, did try and deflect such criticism and defended the use of the photo but in the end had no choice but to remove it. It all smacks of political correctness gone completely bonkers. When I was growing up the Black and White Minstrel Show was regularly on at the Royal Hippodrome round the corner from my parents’ guest house and the visitors loved it. In its heyday the television show of the same name was achieving viewing figures of 21 million and there was no hint of racism. Okay, we wouldn’t have black and white minstrels now. However, when we did, there was no insult intended and like it or not, it is part of our history, not particularly a nice part but history all the same. I agree with theatre history stalwarts Edward Thomas, John Pick and Brian Freeland who say Eastbourne should be proud of its rich theatrical history and should not, from some misguided notion of political correctness, attempt to rewrite it. Because that’s the thing – you can’t just forget history, rewrite it or cover it up. It happened and should be shown. What are we going to do next? Pretend the Holocaust never happened?

Very sad news this week that John Foyle passed away and even sadder that he died without ever seeing the war memorial that his family helped pay for reinstated at the Wish Tower site by Eastbourne Borough Council. John’s father Gilbert Foyle paid for much of the construction of the Wish Tower restaurant and Sun Lounge as a memorial to the people of Eastbourne who were killed or injured during the Second World War and also the fortitude shown by people who stayed in the town during the war years. The council demolished the two buildings, which had been allowed to fall into terrible states, in 2012 and since then John and others had campaigned tirelessly for another permanent memorial. Just weeks before his death however, the campaign suffered a major setback when Mr Foyle was told the memorial’s location conflicted with the new Wish Tower restaurant planned by the council and needed to be re-sited. He was naturally devastated after years of planning. John Foyle had enough friends and supporters to make sure his wishes do come to fruition and a memorial is eventually built. Preferably in their lifetimes.

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