Friday, February 06, 2015

UK: Pub embroiled in racism row over historic sign that showed 'vain labour' of white couple trying to scrub a black boy clean

A small village in Staffordshire is fighting to keep the name of their local pub and its original signage which shows a black boy being scrubbed in the bath by a white couple.

Yarnsfield locals have battled for 20 years to keep the sign in the 166-year-old Labour In Vain pub, after it was first removed in 1994 after two 10-year-old girls complained. It was then replaced by a farmer sowing seeds.

In 2001, then-licensees Christine and John Glover found the sign and hung it in the beer garden, prompting the Stafford and District Racial Equality Council to request it be removed from view. The sign was given less prominence, but remained on display in the garden.

In 2009 Vince Hannant and Debbie Donovan took over the pub and again there was talk that the 'sign should come down'. But at the time Mr Hannant was reported as saying the locals told him, 'Don't even touch it, we've been though so much to keep it.'

Pub regular Richard Charwood was said to have then arranged a referendum of villagers to find out if they wanted to keep it. They were reportedly overwhelmingly in favour of doing so. 

'Everybody is outraged. There is not one person who uses this pub that thinks the name or the sign is racist.  'It should stay as it is because the pub is an integral part of the village's history.'  Local John Rogers, 80, said he fears the pub and village will lose its identity and its heritage if the name is changed.  He added: 'It has been called the Labour In Vain for more than 100 years.


British pub signs go back to the time when many people were not literate.  The particular pub was identified by the picture on its sign for those who could not read.  And a memorable sign avoided confusion.  It had nothing to do with race.


Anonymous said...

The professionally offended are usually offended on behalf of somebody else who does not care.

Anonymous said...

The irony is that the sign depicts a pair of people who have absolutely no idea at all what race is.

It is not racism being made fun of by the sign but innocence.

Anonymous said...

It is only symbolic of a futile act and nothing to do with any racial attitudes the "white" couple MAY have had.

Anonymous said...

If it wasn't obviously about a futile act, it could be interpreted in any number of other ways that had nothing to do with "racism", such as the white couple being envious of the dark skin and wanted to wash it off, or wanting the boy to conform with their family's complexion just for the sake of conformity, or any number of reasons other than just "racism".

Jerry Doctor said...

Anon 3:16 -

How about the sign depicting white folks as so stupid they think they can wash the black off?
Oh. Wait a minute. Maybe it is racist! Somebody find out if any of the owners were "people of color."

Bird of Paradise said...

The sign all right the kid looks happy