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bristol riot artist Scott Buchanan Barden arrested

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Published on May 8, 2011

Artist Scott Buchanan Barden has completed a massive mural depicting the Bristol riot riots of 1831 on a blank wall on the city's Bath Road. The colourful, cartoon-like work -- over four metres high and more than 40 metres in width -- features one of the bloodiest events in Bristol's history when many protesters were butchered to death.




The artist, who lives in Bristol, explained that he was motivated to paint the mural by the current situation in North Africa and the Middle East as well as by the way spending cuts are increasingly wasting the livelihoods of many people in Britain today.

"We look on at current events in the Middle East with a degree of unwarranted moral superiority, sometimes forgetting how legitimate public protest has often been treated in our own country," Scott Buchanan Barden said.

"Bristol has a long tradition of public protests, the latest being events at Stokes Croft last week. My intention was not simply to remind people of a very important but largely forgotten milestone in the history of the city but to use this to symbolise how current government economic policy is wasting people's livelihoods.

"As a result of spending cuts, an increasing number of people in Britain are now being denied opportunities to use their talents.

"I am not immune from this because, having a first-class honours degree in art and having qualified as an art teacher two years ago, I find that new opportunities to teach art in this part of the world are now virtually non-existent. As a result, I am forced to scratch a living doing cleaning jobs and the like.

"But I am only one among countless thousands who are similarly affected. And the situation is only likely to get worse unless the government recognises what a scandalous waste of human lives and talents this is."




Scott Buchanan Barden went on to explain that what brought people onto the streets of Bristol in 1831 was the fact that reactionary elements in the House of Lords had thwarted a parliamentary bill that would have enfranchised many more people in Britain. Public demand for this had been growing ever since the French Revolution 40 years earlier.

Out of a population in Bristol of some 104,000 at that time, only about 6,000 were eligible to vote and most of these were part of the establishment of property and business owners. Political corruption was endemic throughout Britain, with many MPs representing 'rotten boroughs' that had little or no electorate to speak of.

"In 1831, a local military commander -- a guy called Brereton -- was initially reluctant to use force against the Bristol protesters. In fact there is evidence that he actually had a lot of sympathy for their grievances," Scott Buchanan Barden said.

"He was then subjected to intense political pressure. As a result, a lot of people were butchered by his dragoons in and around Queen's Square.

"Brereton was subsequently court-martialled, amazingly not for the atrocities he and his men had committed but for his initial leniency. He shot himself before the court-martial ended."

Scott Buchanan Barden pointed out that he was not suggesting that the growing public anger with spending cuts is likely to be met with the same brutality meted out to the Bristol protesters in 1831.

"Lives were lost needlessly in 1831. Now livelihoods are being lost needlessly in 2011. That is the message of my mural," he explained.

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