Londoner’s Diary: ‘National Trust slavery report reaction ‘was like a juggernaut’’

·4-min read
Professor Corinne Fowler (youtube)
Professor Corinne Fowler (youtube)

PROFESSOR Corinne Fowler has said that media coverage felt like “a juggernaut coming at you” and left her with a five-day headache because of how her report on the slavery links of National Trust properties was discussed.

“It’s really important not to shoot the messenger,” Professor Fowler told us this morning. Fowler co-edited a report that informed the NT’s decision to look further into the histories of its properties. She is now in the spotlight again as the trust holds elections for its governing council. Additionally, a recent article alleged her report was not peer-reviewed. Fowler tells us “this is the worst accusation to be thrown at an academic” and that it is “incorrect”. Fowler, a professor at the University of Leicester, added “it’s really important that we don’t attack people’s reputations just because we don’t like their research findings”.

She pointed out “it’s important to remember that the National Trust report has been under attack for a year. That’s 12 months of newspaper articles and hate mail because of misleading coverage. It does take its toll. You get stress headaches. You do find it hard to switch off. It’s quite a big burden to carry for just doing your job.”

But Fowler says she will not stop. “When you know that you are doing good evidence based work and there’s more at stake than just your personal health then it’s important to carry on. I would do the same all over again. But I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking twice about stepping into the fray”.

She is still hopeful though. “I know that’s difficult for many people to have that conversation [about colonialism and the past]. There’s trauma on one side and resistance to uncomfortable facts on the other, but I think it has potential to bring us together. I do believe in time the conversation will get easier.” Here’s hoping.

A herald of better times to come

AN Wilson watches as Arthur Heath-Taylor pays his respects to Lady Antonia Fraser (Dafydd Jones)
AN Wilson watches as Arthur Heath-Taylor pays his respects to Lady Antonia Fraser (Dafydd Jones)

WILLIAM CASH, the editor of the Catholic Herald, was in a celebratory mood at his magazine’s drinks party at swish hotel Brown’s last night. No wonder — he admitted that during the height of the pandemic, he had toyed with ringing up a friendly priest at the Oratory not for an article but “to ask whether we might need him to administer last rites” to the magazine, badly hit by church closures. Cash assured The Londoner afterwards he was only joking and that the Herald, now safely ensconced in new digs above a Lebanese cafe in Victoria, is going places. Heavenly.

Camilla’s careful in her address

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

THE Duchess of Cornwall was on delicate form at The Oldie’s awards lunch yesterday. “Ladies and gentlemen,” she began her speech, “if I am allowed to call you that.” How mysterious. Less delicate was Barry Humphries, who read a poem about saying inappropriate things from his alter ego Sir Les Patterson: “They’re s***-scared that the ladies might go into shock/but I know a few here who’ve been round the block.” Humphries paused and added: “I had to clean that line up.”


SIR Keir Starmer might not set conference stages alight, but he’s not above a good bit of verbal knockabout. “Thank you for your kind words about the Conference [rule] changes,” the Red Box email reports him saying, before adding: “Many of you were the same people quoted briefing against me.” Zing.


PARLIAMENT has taken another step forward into the modern world — its eateries now offer kosher and halal options. Charlotte Nichols, who campaigned for the change along with fellow Labourite Zarah Sultana, posted a snap of the new menu yesterday. We’ll have the Hungarian beef goulash, please.

Little Britain in heart of London

 (Dave Benett)
(Dave Benett)

DAVID Walliams and Matt Lucas were out and about last night — but not together. Walliams was at the launch of Temple series two at Folie in Soho with Mark Strong, Ian Wright and Game of Thrones actress Carice van Houten. Lucas was at a guest night performance of The Shark Is Broken alongside Ronni Ancona. And in Fitzrovia, Jessica Patterson and Georgia Meacham went to Grove Square Galleries for the show Eremozic by Jim Naughten.

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