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Independent Blue Plaques Report

Leeds Civic Trust is pleased to announce the publication of Susan Pitter’s Independent Blue Plaques Review.

To read the full report click here.

To read our Trustees statement please click here.

To find out the background to this report - click here.

The Trustees of Leeds Civic Trust accept the recommendations of the report and has begun implementing some of the more immediate recommendations and will begin planning other longer term suggestions as soon as is practicable.

The report has provided the Trust with solid foundations to build upon, and will enable the Blue Plaques scheme here in Leeds to be more inclusive, representative and transparent. One which encourages the people of Leeds to feel greater ownership, providing opportunities to influence the whole process; from nomination to installation.

As part of the review, a survey was undertaken to which anyone could respond. It found that:

  • 81% of the public think plaques should reflect the many communities of Leeds.
  • An overwhelming majority of the public (68%) want the people of Leeds to have greater say in the selection of plaque recipients.
  • Blue Plaque nominations should be encouraged from under-represented groups.

Other key findings:

  • The report did not recommend that any existing plaques should be removed but proposed a further review.
  • The criteria and nomination process should be revised to make them more accessible and transparent to members of the public.
  • Blue plaques should commemorate as well as celebrate, events, buildings and people.
  • Currently only two black people have been awarded blue plaques, they are Leeds’ first black headteacher, Gertrude Paul, and Leeds United’s Albert Johanesson, the first Black African to play in the FA Cup Final. Efforts should be made to improve representation of significant figures from ethnic minority groups. The Trust recognises that the nine-protected characteristics were currently under-represented within the Blue Plaques scheme.

Public Relations & Cultural Heritage Consultant Susan Pitter said:

"If Leeds is to tell an honest story of how it became the great city it is today, it must take an equally honest look at who it has chosen to celebrate and commemorate.  We know that the UK's cities including Leeds have benefited from Britain's enslavement of African people and colonial oppression. We know too that the presence and impact of marginalised communities who have shaped the Leeds we know are under-represented in the city narrative.

"I hope that the recommendations informed by the hard work of the review reference group, input from the public and other contributors will now help Leeds Civic Trust, through the blue plaques scheme, to play a central role in painting a truthful, inclusive picture of the city we love."

Trust Director Martin Hamilton:

“We are grateful for the work of Susan Pitter and her team. We have unveiled 181 blue plaques over the last 30 years, but if we are to ensure that the stories we reveal in the future about people, places and events that have shaped our city are to truly represent the city’s history, we need to change.”

He continued: “I want to thank the many people who have nominated subjects for blue plaques since our scheme was established, our volunteers who support the process and our blue plaque sponsors who have funded them. As we move forward, we will redouble our efforts to reach out to the people of Leeds to seek their ideas about what and who we should celebrate with a Blue Plaque.”

Next steps

Leeds Civic Trust will work to implement the recommendations of the report to ensure that blue plaques we award in future will properly reflect the diverse history of our city.

We will institute an on-going conversation about our existing plaques, highlighting new facts as they emerge and matters of controversy through events, articles and discussion. We will be responsive to questions about the accuracy and suitability of any of the city’s blue plaques

Most importantly, we are once again accepting nominations for blue plaques. Our new criteria are designed to be more transparent and open. We will be actively seeking nominations that tell important stories about people, places and events that are currently under-represented through our plaques scheme

We commit to publishing all plaque nominations received including reasons for rejection and a list of “plaques in the pipeline”

To read the full report click here.

To read our Trustees statement please click here.