Main image: The original name being removed from Colston Hall in June. Image Bristol Music Trust.
Bristol’s biggest music venue which was named after slave trader Edward Colston as been given a new name.
The Colston Hall will now be known as Bristol Beacon – with the name being announced today (23 September) by Bristol Music Trust which runs the venue.
The name was revealed at an event in the building’s foyer without a live audience, due to COVID-19 restrictions and the trust hopes it will be “a symbol of hope and community” and “a place of welcome, warmth and light.”
The hall is near where a statue of the 17th Century slave trader was toppled and thrown into the harbour during an anti-racism protest. The letters of the name were taken down from the building eight days later.
The venue – which first opened as a concert hall in 1867 – is currently having a £48.8 million transformation.
Bristol’s city poet Vanessa Kisuule wrote 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 during the live stream of the event.
The poem was brought to life by voices from different Bristol people – including local musician Makala Cheung, filmed outside Filwood Community Centre.
Chief Executive of the trust, Louise Mitchell, said she hoped the renaming would be “a fresh start for the organisation and its place in the city”.
They had taken the decision back in 2017 to change the name of Colston Hall – and there had been no Colston money put into the building or into its founding.
She said: “…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…
“For us, our audiences, artists and for our city, this name change is the chance to be free to write our own inclusive narrative, one that puts the unity and joy of live music at the heart of what we do…
“It needs to represent music in the city, it needs to feel inspiring and most importantly, it needs to be for everybody…”
She said the trust had had over over 4,000 conversations over the past few years about a vision for the new venue and people’s thoughts about the name.
“It was important to make sure the new name would come directly from the hearts and voices of our city. It’s been an empowering and thoughtful process, we’ve all learned a great deal from this journey and I’m personally very pleased with the result.”
Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees who also attended the event said as well as the physical restoration of the building, “in this naming process now we have a renewal of the soul of the building and the renewal of what this building means in Bristol because it is such a powerful building at the centre of our city..”
And he said the trust’s process of engaging with thousands of people across the city had been important.
He said: “I really welcome the vision for this building as well, it is to be a global venue for global superstars and national stars as well – but your absolute commitment to root it in our communities and to begin to tackle those challenges that we’ve set out so many times about inequality within Bristol… and the need to deliver that inclusive and more just city…”
A new logo will now be created working with local young creative artists through Rising Arts agency.
For more information visit www.bristolbeacon.org