Protesters plan to picket new Jack the Ripper museum opening today in Cable Street
PUBLISHED: 10:25 04 August 2015 | UPDATED: 10:29 04 August 2015
Protesters gather this-evening outside 12 Cable Street near the Tower of London to picket against today’s opening of the Jack the Ripper Museum.
Demonstrators gathering at 5.30pm include nearby residents of Shadwell, groups from across London, trade unionists and historians.
It is the first of two planned pickets, with the second planned tomorrow evening by members of the Class War protest organisation.
Among the women’s groups today are the National Assembly of Women, the Women’s Assembly Against Austerity and the Emily Wilding Davison Memorial Campaign.
Many plan to dress up posing as figures from the Suffragette movement, as Wartime nurses, from the Bryant & May match girls’ industrial strike in Bow in 1888—the year of Jack thew Ripper’s Whitechapel Murders—or as one of the 1968 Ford Dagenham equal pay women strikers.
“East London has proud tradition of women campaigning for social change, from the Suffragettes to the Dagenham Equal Pay strikers,” community campaigner Jemima Broadbridge said.
“But these women and their powerful contribution have been shamefully overlooked and misrepresented by a museum that seeks to present women only as victims of East London’s most notorious serial killer.
“It is not the museum celebrating East End women that received planning approval. We were shocked to discover ‘Jack the Ripper’ inscribed in sensationally-bold red letters with skull-and-crossbones and a shady silhouette of the elusive ‘Ripper’ glamorized in a top hand and cloak.”
Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs announced on Friday he was boycotting today’s opening because the planning application by the owner, former Googgle website diversity director Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe, didn’t mention the Ripper.
An application last December was to convert a disused shop and extend it to “create a world class museum that celebrates the historic, current and future contribution of the women of the East End”, which was approved in January.
The hoardings were removed last week to reveal the new shop front as a Ripper museum, first reported exclusively in the East London Advertiser.
Branding on merchandise on the museum’s website included glass tankards and T-shirts. The merchandise page has since been taken down.
Campaigners are now calling on the local authority and the Arts Council to help fund a project to establish a proper museum honouring the women.
Sarah Jackson, co-author of East London Suffragettes who wants to create a women’s history museum in the East End, has 300 supporters for the idea.
“The Ripper museum is a huge missed opportunity,” she argues. “East London has an incredibly rich social, political, and cultural history and women were part of all of it, although their voices are seldom heard.”
Katherine Connelly, co-organiser of the protest and biographer of suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, said: “The public were misled about the museum. The anger shows the enthusiasm there is for a museum that tells the stories of women’s struggles.”
Museum owner Mark Palmer-Edgcumbe was reported last week to be offering to donate revenue to a charity that campaigns to end violence against women. But the charity distanced itself by posting a statement on its website saying it had not been consulted.
The original planning proposal prepared by Waugh Thistleton Architects says the museum will provide “a centre of excellence in the study of women’s history locally, nationally and internationally”. The “Museum of Women’s History”, as the application called it, will “retell the history of the East End through the eyes, voices, experiences and actions of the women that shaped the East End.” The architects have since said they were not informed of the plan for a Ripper museum.
The closure of the Metropolitan University’s Women’s Library at Whitechapel in 2013 was cited in the application as showing demand for the museum in Cable Street—but no mention of Jack the Ripper.