A new name has been announced for the Bristol venue Colston Hall following decades of protests and boycotts over its association with the slave trade.
Colston Hall, which was named after the 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston, will from now on be known as Bristol Beacon following a public consultation.
Bristol featured in headlines around the world in June after a statue of Colston was toppled by Black Lives Matter protesters and thrown into the harbour.
However, the process of renaming the hall began three years before, in April 2017, following protests by civil rights campaigners, music lovers and artists, including the Bristol band Massive Attack, who refused to perform in the venue.
Schools, creative organisations, the city’s mayor, Marvin Rees, and the charity that runs the hall, Bristol Music Trust, took part in the renaming project. The idea behind the new name is that it describes a focal point, a gathering place and a source of inspiration.
The management of the venue, which is undergoing a £50m refurbishment, has long argued the hall has little association with Colston. It was not funded by his money and he had been dead for 150 years by the time it opened. But it accepted the name was “toxic”.
At a renaming event on Wednesday, Louise Mitchell, the chief executive of the Bristol Music Trust, said the renaming process had been a “rough ride” at times, with some people claiming the venue was seeking to “erase and censor” history. But she said the new name needed to be for everybody.
Rees said it was an “incredible” day. “In this naming process we have the renewal of the soul of the building,” he said. “It is such a powerful building at the centre of our city.” He said some people would be dismayed at the new name but insisted the process had been “inclusive just and fair”.
Nick Eagleton, of the branding agency Saboteur,which led the public engagement exercise, said: “We had to plunge into the heart and soul of Bristol and we did that with a huge collaborative group that spanned the whole community, from schoolchildren to the mayor. It was a joy, because Bristolians don’t hold back – if they’ve got something to say, they say it.”
The venue has hosted music legends including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix but many ordinary Bristolians have never set foot inside because of the name.
In addition to the big stars and bands, the venue stages a diverse variety of events and education workshops and it was felt that the new name would better represent the content of the shows and performances it puts on for the multicultural audience in the city.
News – Bristol’s Colston Hall renamed in wake of Black Lives Matter protests