Bristol music venue sheds name of slaver whose statue was torn down


The venue was one of several places in Bristol named after Edward Colston, who donated money he had made investing in the transatlantic slave trade to development causes in the city — a legacy that had caused disquiet and division for years. (REUTERS/Matthew Childs/File Photo)
The venue was one of several places in Bristol named after Edward Colston, who donated money he had made investing in the transatlantic slave trade to development causes in the city — a legacy that had caused disquiet and division for years. (REUTERS/Matthew Childs/File Photo)

A CONCERT HALL in Bristol that was named after a 17th-century slaver trader whose statue was toppled during anti-racism protests has been renamed to reflect public sentiments.



Bristol Music Trust said Colston Hall will now be known as “Bristol Beacon”, after a lengthy consultation with thousands of local people.

The arts and entertainment venue, which is undergoing a £49-million refurbishment, was built nearly 150 years after the death of Edward Colston.

Plans to change its name were brought forward after his 1895 statue in the city was pulled down and thrown into Bristol Harbour during a Black Lives Matter march on June 7.



In July, the council announced it would set up a commission to discover the “true history” of Bristol, one of the British cities most prominently involved with the slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Colston Hall has hosted world-famous names such as the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, but a growing number of Bristolians — including trip-hop band Massive Attack — have refused to go or perform there because of the name.

The venue was one of several places in Bristol named after Colston, who donated money he had made investing in the transatlantic slave trade to development causes in the city — a legacy that had caused disquiet and division for years.



 

FILE PHOTO: Anti-racism protesters push the statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston into the Bristol Harbour on June 7, 2020. (Keir Gravil via REUTERS)

 

The venue’s management said the new name aimed to celebrate the “unity and joy of live music”.



“We can no longer be a monument to someone who played such a prominent role in the slave trade,” said Louise Mitchell, chief executive of the trust which runs the venue, at a live-streamed launch event on Wednesday (23).

“It’s been quite a rough ride. Not everyone agreed with the decision to change.

“We were accused of seeking to erase and censor history. We were told that we were wrong to use the morals of today to judge the actions of the past. It’s an issue that continues to provoke strong views on every side.

“The truth is the organisation and the city can’t continue to be held back by this historic association.

“The name has meant that the building is a place where some have felt unwelcome, or that they did not belong, be they artists or audiences, and very simply, if we can’t be for everyone, something has to change.”

City poet Vanessa Kisuule, who unveiled the new name in a poem, said the Bristol Beacon would be a “symbol of hope and community”.

Other institutions in Bristol, including two schools, are reviewing their links with Colston as a result of this year’s protests.

Colston was a former top official in the Royal African Company, which sent into slavery hundreds of thousands of men, women and children from West Africa to the Caribbean and the Americas.

Many were branded with the company’s initials.

He was also a Tory member of parliament and philanthropist, donating huge sums to support schools, hospitals, almshouses and churches in Bristol.

The toppling of his statue came during calls for Britain to reassess the legacy of its colonial past, including prominent individuals involved in or who profited from the slave trade.