For the past few weeks, there has been a lot of speculation and spirited discussions among the student community about the issue of renaming Sugarhouse. Last Monday, the Students’ Union’s Executive Committee voted unanimously in favour of renaming the Sugarhouse. This vote was held following the submission of the Renaming Sugarhouse Policy paper by the BAME Students Officer, Max Kafula as well as a petition filed by the ‘Why is My Curriculum White?’ campaign.
In a statement released publicly, the Students’ Union has stated that they plan to work with other groups to highlight Lancaster’s colonial history and that the SU is committed to investing and implementing educational programs for all students and staff. The statement also added that the SU would be establishing a committee that will assist the union with the process of renaming the Sugarhouse and the details regarding this body will be released soon.
The SU’s statement also talks about the history of the Sugarhouse as it “occupies a site on Sugarhouse Alley, which was previously the site of a sugar warehouse and boiling-house from the 17th Century onwards, from which the alley and the club draw their names.” It also adds that “the original ‘sugarhouse’ was a product of a lucrative trade in luxury commodities from which Lancaster merchants profited by exploiting slave labour on plantations in the West Indies.”
In addition to this, the union’s statement also mentioned that there will be an engaging and participatory process for Lancaster University students to get involved in shaping both the renaming of the nightclub and the broader educational programme. However, the statement also adds that “while the engagement exercises and decision making on the renaming of the nightclub will occur in this academic year, its implementation and wider rebranding will be a long term process as the financial sustainability of the Students’ Union is secured.”
Furthermore, the SU has stressed that its aim is to “establish a broader longer-term approach to educating people about the overlooked colonial history of Lancaster in the process of decolonising our surrounding environment.”
In response to this development, the SU reached out to the ‘Why is My Curriculum White?’ campaign for a statement and their response was as follows:
“Following the success of our Sugarhouse petition, the Why is My Curriculum White Campaign welcomes the decision taken by the SU Executive Committee to rename the Sugarhouse and we are pleased that our proposals to begin a student-led process to choose a new name for the venue and also to design a long-term educational programme surrounding Lancaster’s history are to be enacted.
This decision marks a hugely positive step from the Students’ Union in recognising the darker sides of Lancaster’s past and the City’s heinous ties to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. We called for the name to be changed given the allusions it makes to Lancaster’s slave-trading past and are glad that students will now be given an opportunity to choose a new name which better reflects 21st century Lancaster.”