This UoB student has started a petition to rename Old Joe in honour of Joe Lycett

The real hero of Birmingham


Sitting at the centre of Chancellor’s Court, Old Joe is perhaps one of the most enduring icons of the Birmingham campus. No UoB student’s experience is complete without at least one sunset snap of the world’s largest freestanding clock tower on their Instagram. Beloved by all, the clocktower even has its own Twitter account.

However, a UoB student has now started a petition to rededicate Old Joe in honour of the comedian, Joe Lycett, due to the colonial legacy of Joseph Chamberlain.

Old Joe is more formally known as the Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, and is named after the first chancellor of the university. But much like other Russell Group universities, Birmingham was founded with profound links to colonialism. Despite Chamberlain’s impact on education, he was a proponent of the British Empire, and an extremely influential figure in wider, harmful, colonial practice.

The petition was started by Ellie Jeffery, a third year English and History student, to protest Chamberlain’s imperial legacy. Speaking exclusively to The Birmingham Tab, Ellie said that “it’s important that Old Joe is renamed because it’s such a massive cultural landmark in such a massive multicultural city.

“He should represent all students at the University and in the city, not just a select few.”

Ellie, dressed as Old Joe for Halloween

The petition has been signed by 60 people so far, and explains that Joseph Chamberlain “promoted the advancement of the British Empire, and therefore the slavery rampant within the Empire. He was a well-known Imperialist and helped coordinate the Boer War, as well as promoting the use of concentration camps.”

It suggests that renaming Old Joe in honour of Joe Lycett would “acknowledge the past of Joseph Chamberlain, whilst still maintaining the clocktower (‘Old Joe’) in its rightful place as Birmingham landmark.”

And why Joe Lycett, you ask? Speaking to The Birmingham Tab, Ellie explained that the idea initially came from a Brumfess comment. “He’s an LGBTQ+ Brummie legend, was born in Hall Green, and although he didn’t go to UoB I’m sure he’s seen Old Joe (it’s kinda hard to miss in Brum). He’s a big advocate for Brum culture and the bab lifestyle.”

The petition states that “Joe Lycett has no such links to imperialism or the Boer War, and so we would prefer that ‘Old Joe’ refer to Joe Lycett, and make this clear to all students, staff, members of the public and incoming freshers.”

This isn’t the first time that Joe Lycett has been at the centre of student activism. The comedian, formerly known as Hugo Boss, previously held a rave outside of a Cardiff lettings agent to advocate for student housing rights as part of his Channel 4 TV show.

Lycett currently hasn’t commented as to whether he’d accept the honour or not. Ellie has “tweeted at him and his fans to try and get his attention, but he hasn’t responded yet.”

Although Ellie told The Birmingham Tab that she isn’t optimistic as to whether the university will listen to her, she’s happy to have started a conversation. “If it gains attention and brings the issue to the forefront of people’s minds then it’ll have achieved something.”

You can sign the petition here