Bristol’s Colston Hall vows to change its name, as slave trader’s statue is toppled

9 June 2020, 11:05

Bristol's Colston Hall was opened in 1867
Bristol's Colston Hall was opened in 1867. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Bristol’s flagship concert venue will no longer share its name with a slave trader, following last weekend’s anti-racism protests which saw Edward Colston’s statue thrown into the harbour.

Bristol’s Colston Hall, which is currently named after a 17th-century slave trader, will change its name by autumn 2020 following the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue during last weekend’s Black Lives Matter protests in the city.

In the meantime, Bristol Music Trust will remove the venue’s external signage “as a demonstration of our commitment”. The trust has confirmed it was built in 1867, 146 years after Colston died, and was not founded using his money.

In 2017, initial plans were announced to change the name by spring 2020 as Chief Exec Louise Mitchell described the Colston name as “a toxic brand”, but actions were delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The venue, which has hosted classical artists from Philip Glass to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, is currently closed for multimillion-pound refurbishment.

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Edward Colston’s statue was toppled during anti-racism protests
Edward Colston’s statue was toppled during anti-racism protests. Picture: Getty

“The current name does not reflect our values as a progressive, forward-thinking and open arts organisation,” the trust said in a statement. “We want it to be representative of the city, a beacon of its values of hope, diversity and inclusion.”

The statue of the wealthy 17th-century slave trader has been a source of controversy in Bristol for years. During Colston’s involvement in the Royal African Company (RAC) between 1680 and 1692, around 84,000 slaves were transported from west Africa to the Caribbean and the Americas.

Slaves were branded on the chest with company’s initials and herded onto ships, where they were shackled together. Around 10 to 20 percent were estimated to have died of disease, suicide and murder during the six to eight-week journey.

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Human suffering made Colston rich, and almost 300 years since his death, the merchant’s inhumane actions are set to be acknowledged.

Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, said he felt no “sense of loss” as the controversial bronze statue was pulled down and thrown into the harbour. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson described it as a “criminal act”.