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A Community Curriculum

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

Some Activities for Decolonising the Local Landscape

A Community Approach


These activities have been written for people to use as they wish, in flexible ways. In family groups. Social groups and bubbles. Walking. In the home. Whatever. They are not written to be an imposition. They are not written for schools. Do them in any order you wish! Take your time!

(You might want to kick off, however, by looking at for context and understanding.)

This ‘scheme of learning’ or ‘syllabus’ has been written with this key question in mind: ‘How far does the Stroud area reveal a hidden colonial landscape?’

1. Activity one is based upon the poems ‘Island Man’, and ‘Limbo’, and a parish entry from Rodborough in 1778.

Go to

or you can find the same resource at

You should find food for thought there.

The second part of activity one: Take a walk to the arch in Paganhill. Take photos of the arch and make some notes on the appearance of the arch, as well as the texts around and on the arch itself. Spend a while, just watching life go by. Watch, and see if anyone takes any interest in the arch. Watch the traffic. Then, if you want to: write a descriptive piece about A Day in the Life of the Arch. It could be third-person. Or you might want to become, as it were, the arch, with a first-person piece. When you are ready, follow this link Which owner of enslaved people in the Stroud area strikes you as the most surprising?

Now think about this point: our unique arch obviously does reveal a colonial landscape; but should we also inform visitors to the arch of our local owners of enslaved peoples? You might wish to design an informative plaque; or write to the council with your idea.

The third part of activity one: We will also have family ‘treasure trail’ quizzes involving some questions involving decolonising the landscape. More information will follow about how to locate these online treasure trails. The five trails will involve walks around Stroud town centre; around Rodborough; around Paganhill; from Chalford to Stroud, and Paganhill to Randwick and back.

2. The second activity involves drama. Back in 2002-03, I was asked if I could write a play about the arch at Paganhill to commemorate its restoration. I researched and then co-wrote with Helen Street. Alas, no copy of the eventual script can be found. We merely have a very early draft at The actual play was far longer than this and much more complex, with scenes centred on Stroud, hustings and elections. A revival and a rewrite might be no bad thing, or just visit the link above …

3. The third activity could be for a book group, perhaps. Or for general discussion or individual thought: What do 18th, 19th and 20th century classics reveal about a hidden colonial landscape within the texts? Readers could start with which is about Tobias Smollett’s Roderick Random. Other texts to consider could include Mansfield Park, Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea, Great Expectations, Pickwick Papers. Discussion could progress into a wider consideration of the question of how exactly did so many of the protagonists in the canon of 18th and 19th century literature so effortlessly get their money and wealth? There could also be a walk from Chalford to Stroud, remembering John Thelwall’s Stroudwater summer of 1798:

4. Activity four involves extra-mural visits and trips out for recreation, leisure and learning. Never forget the meaning of recreation: re-creation: you recreate yourself. Take a trip to Bristol Docks and follow the path of the slavery trail. When I went there, I used the booklet: SLAVE TRADE TRAIL, from the M Shed. I wrote an account of my walk as though I were in the company of three spectres. If you cannot obtain a copy of the booklet, you could use my guide to find your way. You might also want to take a walk around Clifton and look at the list of people who benefitted from ownership of enslaved peoples here in 1834 and take a walk. Use this link for information: You might also want to read about the Merchant Venturers:

Following your trip, you might wish to write your own guides for walks so that others might share. Or an imaginative account. Or an account to persuade people to visit. Writing to inform, entertain, and persuade – different styles to choose from. Here’s a quick link to some ideas for writing:

If you have to make a shopping trip to Gloucester Docks at any point, you might wish to follow this link:

or you can find the same resource at

Following your visit, you might wish to write a piece that is an informative guide; or an entertaining, imaginative text, or a persuasive text. Here’s a quick link to some ideas for writing:

5. Activity five is back at home. It’s time to look at the famous Stroud Scarlet cloth. We all know about the British army in its red uniform; we all know how Stroud cloth was traded all over the world. The question is, did it go to Bristol and then to Africa as part of the slaving triangular trade? I suggest metaphorically in a line in this piece on this link that the evidence is missing. Can you find the line?

But it strikes me as counter-intuitive that some of it wouldn’t have gone to merchants in Bristol and thence to north-west Africa. Wouldn’t you agree? But there doesn’t seem to have been an acceptance of this by previous orthodoxy - even though Samuel Rudder pointed out the Stroud-Bristol links in 1779. See this link for Rudder and also for the unique archive for the Stroudwater Navigation: The same resource is also at

You might also like to look at this link: When I read this passage in David Olusoga’s book, it struck me that if I coloured the word ‘cloth’ in red then that would provoke thought. The consequent stream of consciousness followed, as you can see on this link.

I then literally and metaphorically shaped this stream of consciousness into triangular poems to reflect the triangular trade and provoke thought. See here for examples:

Charlotte Rooney’s piece is apposite here too:

The final part of this activity involves a walk to the canal at Walbridge. Find the information board just beyond the bridge on the western side going towards Saul. Read the text about the red cloth stretched out on tenterhooks, study the picture and re-imagine that scene.

Now write an account where you imagine where that cloth went and what it was used for. This can be first or third person. Or a letter or a diary entry about the cloth from the 18th century.

And/or, you might like to write and produce some triangle poems of your own.

6. Let’s go for another walk. Or a bike ride. You need to catch either the 54A Cotswold Green bus to Chalford and walk along the canal to Stroud, or car share, or bike there and back, or walk there and back. It’s time to think more deeply about the East India Company and our landscape. Follow this link about John Thelwall and our locality and also study this link about Chalford:

Study the information boards in the bus shelter at Chalford and by the canal at Chalford Industrial Estate.

You might want to design, in consequence, an information board to provide a different perspective on the link between the local landscape and the East India Company.

7. This activity involves a look at BAME parish register entries in the 18th and 19th centuries. Follow this link:

You could focus on the first entry of John Davies. Could you recreate his life, using the 5 W’s and the H? Who was he? His real name? When did he arrive here? Why? What was the reason why he was in Bisley? Where had he come from? How had he got here? Etc. You could write an imaginative account. It would be good to share the variety of stories and viewpoints. Here’s a quick link to some ideas for writing:

8. The next activity could take you on a long walk from Cirencester to Stroud, or you could do it in a virtual manner. Professor Madge Dresser’s work on country houses is available, I think, on-line. But you could have a look at this link, before you go to Cirencester, to see Professor Dresser’s investigations in the south-west of England:

You could then hop on the 54A bus from Stroud to Cirencester and plot a walk, through Cirencester Park to Sapperton, and study this link (or take a virtual walk with the link): Sapperton church is also worthy of study, one way or another: while these musings are also worthy of consideration:

Your task is a creative one. If you continue to walk back to Stroud along the canal, you will see some haiku along the towpath between Brimscombe and Bowbridge. See if you can write some haiku as the challenge for this task: three lines; 5 syllables for the first line; 7 for the second; 5 for the third. Rhyme optional, as is enjambment. Punctuation can be varied, too.

9. The walk along the canal passes so close to the railway line. It’s time to think about these forms of transport. You may have already visited Gloucester Docks as part of Activity 4 ( A walk or bike ride from Stroud to Saul might be enriching, too. See

for an imaginative piece about the canal. Look back at the first part of Activity 1 ( and find the poetry writing guide. You will have a choice: a poem about the canal or the railway. Now study these links about railways: and and the poetry link above. Write and share your poem.

10. This activity is purely for leisure, either at home, or though walking. You may have already visited Sapperton on Activity 8. But there’s even more to reveal about Sapperton: who would have thought that one of the architects of the Mason-Dixon Line (the line that became a sort of North-South slave owning divide) in the USA would have come from Sapperton?

Who would have imagined such mysteries could lie within the confines of the church?

11. The next activity is also purely for leisure. If you fancy it, take a west-wards walk along the canal to leave at Ryeford, and walk to Kings Stanley. Read some of the link below in the churchyard and then walk to the King’s Head and read a bit more. And then read a bit more at the Baptist Church. And then walk back via Selsley and read a bit more in the churchyard there. Or take a virtual tour with the links below:

12. Time for a bit of football and history and poetry and the Great War now: the famous Walter Tull, of course. You will discover why he is and was so remarkable as you follow this unit. Firstly, let’s have a look at four famous WW1 poems as an introduction and answer a few questions on two of them. Follow this link:

It’s time now to look at Walter Tull’s life. Firstly, there is a piece about Walter’s enslaved grandmother at

Now do a quick internet search for his biography; then click on the following link for an overview about his life from infant to heroic death in the army:

Now look back at the first part of Activity 1 ( and find the poetry writing guide. Write and share a poem about Walter, if you’re in the mood.

Or … study this imaginative account about Walter (based on fact)

and this one written after leaving Paddington station before travelling back to Stroud

Perhaps you might like to write a prose piece about Walter’s life. Here’s a quick link to some ideas for writing:

There has been a campaign to ensure that Walter is awarded the medal denied to him because … Read the link below:

In the context of BLM, let’s keep the campaign going. You might want to write to your MP, and/or the Secretary of State for Defence, and/or the Prime Minister.

13. This unit is about how people of colour were working class leaders in the 19th century. I said, working-class LEADERS. There are two people here for us look at: Robert Wedderburn and William Cuffay. You will read first person accounts based upon committed reading and research. Many thanks to Peter Anderson for bringing the life of Robert Wedderburn to the stage in the 2019 Stroud Theatre Festival, with drama and dance. Please go to and It would be good to see these two pieces brought back to the stage, with music and song and dance, perhaps.

14. The penultimate unit is purely for discussion. It’s all about that vexed question of statues, memorialisation and history. I start with the hardly out-there radical Martin Kettle in The Guardian, June 12 2020:

‘There are not many countries so steeped in their own history as Britain appears to be, yet which are so ignorant about it. We look to history as a source of national self-justification rather than to learn … When history waves a national flag, it always tells a partisan story not a true one.’

Whereas, Boris Johnson has said that to attack statues is to attack ‘our history’.

But there is this ambiguity, is there not, about the word ‘history’. It has a duality of meaning: it means both the past, and the study of the past.

Have a look at And

And have a discussion about memorialisation, statuary and iconography.

You might want to visit Gloucester again and ponder on the Gladstone family and what’s afoot about their name on a university building in Liverpool. The famous Gladstone family had some Gloucester links. Have a look at

15. This final piece is for some sort of performative walk to mark the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers’ landing, November 2020. It would be good to walk around Berkeley for reasons that will become obvious as you follow these links: and

Some of us from Stroud will also be practising the polite art and science of counter-heritage when walking the William Wilberforce Way in September. More on that in the future.


Well, don’t they say some things are never finished but only abandoned? I could include another unit of work on transportation and emigration from this area to Van Diemen’s Land in the late 18th and early 19th centuries – but I leave that to others.

If anyone wants to take that on board, here are a few relevant links:

There are more links to be found if you type in EMIGRATION and TRANSPORTATION into the menu search box on

I conclude by saying again that I am not writing this syllabus for schools. They have their own priorities and plans for action in these testing times.


A recreational and commemorative walk to remember the radical and abolitionist history of picturesque Shortwood, above Nailsworth:

Stuart Butler


Having said that, here are some lesson plans I wrote some years ago for an award-winning website. Again, these could be used at home and in the community.

Have a look at - it’s a BAME oral history project from Gloucester some 15 years ago.

Work your way around the website: there’s a lot there! Get to know it. A lot of it has stood the test of time.

Best wishes,


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