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Bristol concert hall’s new name aims to make everyone feel welcome

The concert hall in Bristol that was previously named after the 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston, English merchant, philanthropist and Tory Member of Parliament who was involved in the Atlantic slave trade mainly in Spain, Portugal and other European countries, has renamed itself the Bristol Beacon saying the long-debated change was aimed at making everyone feel welcome.

The process at the concert hall, which decided in 2017 to change its name and conducted in-depth consultations with a large number of people across Bristol was acrimonious at times.

“It’s been quite a rough ride. Not everyone agreed with the decision to change,” said Louise Mitchell, chief executive of the trust which runs the venue, at a live-streamed launch event for the new name.

“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.”

The statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston falls into the water after protesters pulled it down and pushed into the docks, during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Bristol, Britain. Image credit Keir Gravil via REUTERS

As Colston Hall, the venue hosted international famous musicians like the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, but a growing number of Bristolians refused to go there because of the name of the concert hall as a sign of protest. The band Massive Attack, who hails from the city, had boycotted the venue as well.

Mitchell said that now, the new name aims to celebrate the “unity and joy of live music”.

Undoubtedly, the concert hall was one of the several places in Bristol named after Colston, who donated the money he had made investing in the slave trade to charitable causes in the city - a legacy that had caused disquiet and division for many years.

The debate increased abruptly in June 2020, when protesters inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) ripped down a statue of Colston and threw it into Bristol harbour.

The government called the action as a criminal act and critics accused the protesters of seeking to erase history. On the other hand, supporters protested that the city had been debating Colston for years but getting nowhere, while the slave trader’s name and image were an insult to many of the city’s residents who have never been listened to.

Colston Hall is seen after the statue of Edward Colston was pulled down by protesters and pushed into the docks, following the death of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis, Bristol, Britain. Image credit REUTERS/Matthew Childs/File Photo


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