After decades of protests, a music venue named after 17th century slave trader Edward Colston has been renamed Bristol Beacon.
In recent months Bristol’s association with Colston and the slave trade has come under intense scrutiny following Black Lives Matter protests in the UK following the death of George Floyd in America.
But it had been a great source of contention within the city for decades, with years of campaigning to get a statue of Colston removed before protesters eventually tore it down and tossed it into the harbour on June 7.
Colston Hall was built almost 150 years after the slave trader’s death and was not funded using his money, but many still saw the association with the name as ‘toxic’ with some bands including Massive Attack previously refusing to play there.
Three years ago, the Bristol Music Trust, which runs the venue, said the name would be changed in 2020.
At an event in the venue’s foyer Bristol’s city poet Vanessa Kisuule had written a poem to mark the occasion – captured in a short film – in which the Bristol Beacon name was revealed for the first time in the last line of the poem.
Speeches were also made by mayor Marvin Rees and Bristol Music Trust chief executive Louise Mitchell, who said: ‘This morning, I am warmly welcoming you to Bristol Beacon. A symbol of hope and community.
‘A focal point for music in the city. A gathering space, illuminating the way ahead. A place of welcome, warmth and light.
‘We’re giving an open invitation to the city for everyone to come and share in the joy of live music. I look forward to developing our future with you.’
The name change takes place immediately and in the coming months the new logo will be installed on the outside of the building.
The historic occasion is also being marked with a visual light experience projected on to the venue.
A shortened version of the projection appeared between sunset and midnight on Tuesday in anticipation of the announcement. A full one, including the new name, was projected this evening.
Deputy mayor of Bristol City Council councillor Craig Cheney said: ‘I welcome the new name as something that will help the venue reach out and connect with the whole city.
‘The connection with community, contending with our history and looking ahead resonate with our ambitions for the venue’s inclusive future as a world class arts and cultural venue to represent Bristol.
‘It also runs in a parallel with the city conversation reflecting on our history and how this understanding can be represented in our future.’
Other institutions in Bristol are reviewing their links with Colston in the wake of this summer’s protests.
Colston’s Girls’ School launched a six-week consultation in September on whether it should be renamed.
The separate Colston’s School, which was founded by the merchant in 1710, is also considering a name change.
A commission of historians and other experts is to be set up in the city to consider its past and share its stories.
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