Churchill charity denies disowning his legacy after rebrand

The charity acknowledges controversies about the former Prime Minister's views on race

Sir Winston Churchill in 1939 (Photograph: Evening Standard/Getty Images)
Sir Winston Churchill in 1939 (Photograph: Evening Standard/Getty Images)

The charity dedicated to the former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill has denied it is disowning its connection to his legacy after rebranding last month. 

The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust changed its name to the Churchill Fellowship last month and launched a new website.

The charity operates a programme of overseas grants known as the Churchill Fellowships, which sends 150 Britons a year to study abroad, and funds up to 10 undergraduate bursaries at Churchill College, Cambridge.

It said the changes were necessary because its 10-year-old website no longer allowed it to present its fellows and their work appropriately. It also said its previous name was “confusing” and that it did not “reflect what we’re about”.

In addressing both these issues, the charity said it consulted hundreds of its fellows, including asking what they valued most about their fellowship. 

Julia Weston, chief executive of the charity, said: “Many said that it was the sense of belonging to a community of practical changemakers, who work on every issue facing society. 

“They also highlighted the openness of the fellowship, that the opportunity is available to all and that ideas on every subject are welcome. 

“We have tried to capture and convey that spirit.”

But after coming under fire in some sections of the media about the change of name, the charity released a statement defending its decision.

It said: “We did so not because we are disowning Sir Winston, but because over many years we have found that, in a simple practical sense, the name was confusing to people and did not explain what we do.

“What we do is to fund UK citizens to learn from the world and transform lives across the UK – as Sir Winston wished. The new name captures a sense of the fellows’ remarkable dedication and public service.

“The key element we kept was the name ‘Churchill’. You cannot look at our new logo and avoid the importance we attach to that name.

“Today there is international admiration for Sir Winston's wartime leadership in saving Britain and the world from Nazism. There is also controversy about his views on race. We acknowledge the many issues and complexities involved on all sides. 

“None of this takes away from Sir Winston's enormous contribution to the world as we know it today. Nor from the life-changing work that Churchill Fellows are doing every day across the country, in every area of national life.”

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