The City Hall doors during clean-up operations – photo © Norwich Eye
I have spent a little time over the last few hours looking into the group that calls itself Burning Pink, who claim responsibility for damaging the beautifully crafted bronze sculpted doors of Norwich City Hall. They appear to have been started by a Welsh farmer called Roger Hallam, whose farm went bust. Their stated aims may initially appear laudable, as they campaign for more environmental awareness and a rather peculiar form of random governance. However their methods offend many, and their protests will almost certainly marginalise their campaign objectives and alienate potential supporters, given the frankly stupid nature of their protests.
In Norwich they attacked a building that is in itself a magnificent artwork. In particular the sculpted bronze doors are a fine artistic tribute to the arts and crafts of generations of working people in the City of Norwich. When they are cleaned up, go and have a look and marvel at these artworks.
We do not yet know the details of the two women arrested and bailed for this criminal damage, but it has many hallmarks of the kind of self indulgent middle class protests that have blighted green politics for many years. Before you shout at me, I have long experience of these matters and I am far from unsympathetic to either their aims or indeed to dramatic forms of protest. As an elected councillor for 26 years I did my very best to make sure every single council decision faced thorough scrutiny on sustainability parameters, and on my watch the councils I was on won awards for environmental progress. Councils have very little freedom of action in this country where control from a micro-managing Whitehall is the norm.
These pink pillocks have attacked a number of council buildings across the country, almost entirely councils with a strong Labour and Green elected body who are often in the forefront of improving environmental standards in local government. (Oh, and they attacked Norfolk County Hall too. Some paint left over, I guess).
Clearing this paint off will require extensive work by staff who will have to wear protective equipment to deal with the toxic chemicals in the paint and the chemicals needed to separate it from the vandalised fabric. Cleaning off stone work is particularly difficult to achieve without doing permanent damage to the material.
One of the alleged Norwich protestors who calls herself ‘Gabby’ has issued a rambling video message attempting to justify her environmentally destructive protest. She of course assumes that her personal expertise as a 27 year old is greater than every single elected local councillor, thereby granting her the privilege to tell us all what we should be doing.
Despite my long and fruitful period as a member of the establishment I must confess that I have always had some sympathy for protestors who find novel ways to make their point. Some of what Extinction Rebellion do is eye-catching and worthwhile, in my opinion, but equally a lot of it (like attacking public transport on a climate campaign) is just mind-numbingly dim. History has given us many entertaining examples of the witty protest genre. I remember the ‘eat the rich’ marches that spread terror through Hampstead in the 1980s, jolly affairs where virtually zero bankers were actually consumed. But what the pink plonkers do not grasp is that you need to pick your target carefully. Ruining an artwork that celebrates working people is fatuous when you pass on by all the banks, oil companies, hedge fund managers and similar that so often contain the real heartless capitalists who are destroying our planet and our lives.
The due process of law will now take place and it would be wrong for me to comment on that. However I like to think that at some point in the future a more enlightened Gabby will find herself helping the graffiti removal team tackle the wave of anti-social tagging that has blighted some bits of old Norwich, or cleaning up the hundreds of randomly discarded plastic-filled Covid masks strewn around our walkways. Perhaps she will even stand for election herself, and learn just how hard most of our councillors work to make Norwich the Fine City that we love so much. Here’s hoping, Gabby.
© Julian Swainson, February 2021