Charity to change title of Bristol music venue named after a slave trader

The Bristol Music Trust says the name of Colston Hall, named after a slave trader born in the 17th century, does not reflect its values

Colston Hall, Bristol
Colston Hall, Bristol

A charity that runs the Colston Hall music venue in Bristol has announced that the name of the hall will be changed because of its association with a well-known slave trader.

The 150-year-old hall, which is being refurbished and will be reopened in 2020, is run by the Bristol Music Trust, which argues that the name’s association with the slave trade "does not reflect our values".

It is named after Edward Colston, a Bristol-born slave trader, merchant and MP who lived in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The hall has been targeted by a campaign to expunge Colston’s name from several high-profile landmarks in Bristol, including schools, streets, commemorations in the city’s cathedral and even a sweet bun.

Louise Mitchell, chief executive of the BMT, said: "We are on track with our transformation campaign and, at this stage in the process, we can now focus on the detailed plans for the redeveloped hall, including what its future name should be.

"The name Colston does not reflect the trust’s values as a progressive, forward-thinking and open arts organisation. We want to look to the future and ensure the whole city is proud of its transformed concert hall – so, when we reopen the new building in 2020, it will be with a new name. This overall rebrand is part of transforming the Colston Hall we have today into the new National Centre for Music Entertainment, Education and Enterprise."

Mitchell said a new name might include recognition of a commercial sponsor.

The BMT has raised more than £30m for the hall’s redevelopment since a campaign was launched in September 2014. It is estimated that the redevelopment programme will cost £48.8m, the charity said.

Marti Burgess, a trustee for the BMT, said: "We want to use this as an opportunity to open discussions with the Bristol public about how Colston Hall can reflect the diversity and inclusivity of our city. The hall’s 150th anniversary this year is the perfect opportunity to begin these discussions.

"We will be appointing an artist to help us talk to local groups about Colston Hall’s role in the community and how we should recognise Colston’s name in the new building.

"We want to embrace our position at the centre of this naming discussion to work beyond the building and help lead conversations across Bristol about how we address and acknowledge the city’s connections to the slave trade."

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