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Nimbys block nod to heroes of Spain civil war in Oxford

Memorial to anti-fascist fighters ‘too triumphalist’ for some

A MEMORIAL for men and women from Oxford who fought fascism in the Spanish civil war is being blocked by nimbys.

Six of the 31 volunteers from the city died while fighting Franco’s forces as part of the international brigades.

The International Brigades Memorial Trust (IBMT), which has sited more than 100 memorials across Britain, says it is long overdue that the bravery of the Oxford volunteers be marked.

A two-metre-high granite stone (pictured), engraved with a red star and distinctive scorpion design, has been commissioned after an open competition.

Local members of the trust and contributors have already raised more than half of the £11,000 cost of the sculpture and Oxford City Council has offered the group a suitable site in a central park.

But the project could be held up after dozens of residents submitted objections to the council’s planning committee.

Opponents claim the memorial’s design and location,

near one to soldiers who died in World Wars I and II, are inappropriate.

Lib Dem councillor Elizabeth Wade complains that “granite is not a local stone” and claims the design of the memorial is “aggressive and triumphalist.”

And Quentin Campbell writes: “It is aesthetically displeasing but also somewhat of an insult to the vast numbers of young Oxonians who died in the two world wars.”

Charlie Carritt, chair of Oxford IBMT, said opinions about the design are “totally subjective.”

Mr Carritt, whose father served in the international brigades and whose uncle was killed in a fascist bombing raid, insisted though that the other objections are “totally invalid.”

“We think the proximity to the world war memorial is entirely appropriate as both struggles were against fascism,” he said.

Charlie Carter, the artist who has created the memorial, welcomed the debate about what he called a “significant but largely overlooked” conflict.

He told the Star: “I see it as a gesture of defiance towards oppression and, in this particular instance, as a gesture of resistance to the tyranny of fascism.”

Mr Carter said the inspiration for his design came from a cap badge worn by a Republican soldier.

“So there is a very real connection with one of the contemporary emblems of the International Brigade,” he said.

“I personally feel that the clenched-fist salute is an entirely appropriate image to use in honouring the sacrifice made by the men and women of Oxfordshire who had the courage to stand up against the scourge of fascism that is rearing its head once again in our own times.”

The final decision on the memorial will now be made by Oxford City Council’s planning committee in December.

A majority of the committee are Labour councillors but campaigners are concerned that they may bow to nimby noise.

More details about how to donate to the memorial can be found at www.international-brigades.org.uk.

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