Colston Hall music venue renamed as Bristol Beacon

A well-known music venue named after 17th century slave trader Edward Colston has been renamed as Bristol Beacon.

The venue in Bristol city centre was built almost 150 years after the controversial slave trader’s death and the announcement of the new name is part of a £49 million refurbishment.

Three years ago, the Bristol Music Trust, which runs the venue, said the name would be changed in 2020.

In recent months, Bristol’s association with Colston and the slave trade has come under intense scrutiny following Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in the US.

A statue of Colston was toppled and thrown into Bristol Harbour during a Black Lives Matter march on June 7.

The new name was revealed at an event in the venue’s foyer without a live audience due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Bristol’s city poet Vanessa Kisuule had written a poem to mark the occasion – captured in a short film – and the Bristol Beacon name was revealed for the first time in the last line of the poem.

Speeches were also made by Louise Mitchell, chief executive of the Bristol Music Trust, and Bristol mayor Marvin Rees.

Ms Mitchell said in her speech: “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 of the venue, and its associations with Colston, has long been the focus for debate in the city.

Colston Hall was founded 150 years after Colston’s death, with no financial investment or direct link to the slave trader.

Some bands, including Massive Attack, previously refused to play at the venue due to its name.

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 building.

A shortened version of the projection appeared between sunset and midnight on Tuesday in anticipation of the announcement.

A full version, including the new name, is due to be projected on Wednesday evening.

Councillor Craig Cheney, deputy mayor of Bristol City Council, 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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