The Imperial War Museum has apologised for “offence” caused by a “grotesque” rap performance by teenagers, which condemned Winston Churchill at a Remembrance Sunday event.
Performers made a speech questioning how Britain remembers its war dead immediately after a two-minute silence in the museum’s foyer.
Audience members walked out in protest at the November 14th event, titled Breaking The Silence, saying they were “disgusted” at the politically charged piece.
During the performance, a girl shouted: “Why, when some remember, do they see the same faces, the white faces from western places. This was the Second World War, yet how many remember that it wasn’t only Churchill who fought.
“The same man who had a hand in a famine in 1943 wiping out three million Bengalis, denial, displacement, malnutrition, starvation, without any apologies.”
‘We fail to remember one sixth of all our forces were south Asian’
The rap claimed that war remembrance occasions “forget… those whose skin isn’t porcelain” and that “we fail to remember one sixth of all our forces were south Asian, failed to remember anyone who wasn’t Caucasian”.
The two-minute silence was interrupted by the rappers chanting “we won the war”, and questioning: “Does anyone ever really win a war?”
The Imperial War Museum said it “apologise[s] to anyone who attended who was offended or upset by the performance in any way”, and accepted it “was not the moment” for the rap.
The taxpayer-funded museum had invited teenagers to “draw on their own personal and family histories” in a “spoken word performance” with the south-east London-based Midi Music Company.
Rosemarie Harris, from Stafford, who was visiting the museum to remember three family members who fought in the world wars, walked out and her donation was refunded.
“I think insulting Churchill in that place on that day was grotesque,” she told The Telegraph. “We were so disgusted that we just walked away and we saw others walk away too.
“I asked on principle for our donation back…we’re not supporting the Imperial War Museum if this is what they allow to happen. We felt it wasn’t the time or place to be coming out with a political agenda.”
‘The Imperial War Museum is betraying everything it should be standing for’
Colonel Richard Kemp, the former head of the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan, told The Telegraph: “It’s really shameful and the Imperial War Museum is betraying everything it should be standing for.”
He added: “Churchill is responsible for our victory in World War Two. Without it we would have been defeated by the greatest racist the world has ever known.”
Shauna O’Briain, who goes by the stage name MC Angel and helped organise the rap, said: “Nothing about war should ever feel comfortable, it was uncomfortable for me to listen to the fact that we haven’t given as much attention to black and brown soldiers who died in the war.”
She added: “Our young people just brought their views and opinions there and their views and opinions are valid. Everyone’s opinions are equally valid.”
An Imperial War Museum spokesman said: “We will continue to ensure that IWM remains a space where important debates and discussions can take place, and we continue to be committed to sharing perspectives, as well as hearing different viewpoints from multiple voices.”