Now they’re censoring gravestones

A church in Sussex has covered up the gravestones of two music-hall singers who wore blackface.



A church in Sussex has covered up the gravestones of two music-hall singers because they are inscribed with offensive language. The singers, GH Elliott and Alice Banford, who died in 1962, wore blackface as part of their act.

The church plans to erase the controversial words from the headstones, but has not yet been able to contact the relatives of the deceased and so it has boarded them up in the meantime.

The words in question refer to the acts performed by the singers. Elliott’s headstone notes his ‘Chocolate Coloured Coon’ act, while Banford’s stone says she was a ‘coon singer’.

Hours before the monuments were covered, comedian Harry Enfield caused controversy by referring to Elliott’s music-hall character on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

In the music-hall age, blackface performances were common in the UK, and not considered controversial. Today, simply referring to such acts using the terms they did appears to be a faux pas.

The idea that many people are going to be upset by the inscription on a random pair of gravestones in a village churchyard seems absurd. Indeed, by attempting to protect people from this apparently hurtful lettering, the church has unwittingly raised the profile of the gravestones and the people whose lives they mark. It is a classic case of someone manufacturing indignation before anyone actually cared.

The politics of offence knows no bounds. It appears that even traditionally conservative institutions like the church are caving to the pressure to erase history. Marking the existence of the dead can now be an act of hatred if those dead said or did things we would not do now. This is crazy. Erasing history helps no one.

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Stephen J

17th June 2020 at 7:35 am

The idea that some people might be upset seems to me to be quite obvious.

Until two minutes ago, I had never heard of these two “herberts”, now I am spitting tacks at the thought of the state sponsored desecration of their gravestones.

Whatever they might or might not have engraved on them!

Philip St. John Lewis Davies

16th June 2020 at 8:58 pm

[‘Your comment is awaiting moderation’ – I never expected this nonsense on a campaigning contrarian journal like ‘Spiked.’ It appears my comment is now actually awaiting suffocation, deprived of the oxygen of publicity. ‘Spiked’ you are living up to your name in a most unfortunate manner: the journalistic stiletto that has skewered my comment is a painful reminder of the devious ways of the powerful shadow world that controls everything according to the necessities of it’s own hidden agenda. Rendered increasingly powerless and voiceless, the ordinary person’s moral existence is effectively assassinated. ‘Moderators’ cloaked from view by their privileged anonymity have killed my ability to communicate, and thereby seek to reduce me to a non-person. I do not think it is a civilised way of conducting a public dialogue, if those whose honest views are engaged in good faith can find themselves suddenly ‘disappeared’ from the conversation, without charge and without appeal. This disturbing emergence of the Kafkaesque ethos in a journal ostensibly dedicated to resisting the stubborn irrationalities of modern life is disappointing, to say the least.]

George Whale

19th June 2020 at 6:19 pm

There’s something weird about spiked’s moderation system, which is rarely (and apparently randomly) invoked. It looks like a technical glitch.

Ad Dam

23rd June 2020 at 1:19 pm

Yeah, I’m getting the same thing, probably because I expressed some shock and dismay at a ‘journalist’ here parroting Marx.

And today I find this Spiked thing used to be called ‘Living Marxism’!! I thought I’d found a little island of common sense but seems I was badly mistaken.

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