From our history correspondent…
It’s official, last week the board of the Bristol Music Trust (BMT) announced the Colston Hall will be changing its name. The Hall which has been in public hands since 1919 will be renamed in 2020 as part of a multi-million pound refurbishment.
Before we start, we should get the history straight, as the fake-history from the Bishop of Bristol to the Merchant Venturers’ spin, plenty of porkies have been told about Edward ‘The Enslaver’ Colston.
From 1680-92 Edward Colston was an investor, official and eventually deputy governor of the Royal African Company (RAC), the premier Atlantic slave trading organisation in the British Empire. Under Edward Colston’s management and leadership of the RAC, approximately 84,500 enslaved Africans were branded and forced onto the company’s ships. Only 65,200 Africans survived the trip, a death toll in the region of 19,300 over the twelve year period. Of the 9,000 or so enslaved children under the age of 10 on Colston’s company slave-ships, more than 2,000 died, their bodies along with the adults were thrown overboard. The survivors, who were sold to plantation owners in the Caribbean, faced a short and brutal life of hard labour.
And it wasn’t just Africans that businessmen like Colston and the Merchant Venturers forced into labour. They were quite willing to coerce thousands of vulnerable Bristolians and others into working in their plantations through poverty (indentured servants) and legal (POW’s, ‘criminals’, orphans) and illegal (spiriting) bondage.
The profits of this ‘vile trade’ and the labour of hundreds of thousands in the plantations flowed back to wealthy investors like Colston and other Merchant Venturers. Colston wanted to be remembered as a ‘moral saint’ (sic) so he bequeathed some of his fabulous wealth made off the backs of Africans and others, to selected groups in the city that conformed to his religious and political bias. And the rest was history…until now. Finally, we can start to get Edward ‘The Enslaver’ off our backs.
Havin’ a laugh…
We have been chuckling in The Bristolian office over the last few days reading some of the reactions from right-wing nobs who are in love with ‘Eddy the Enslaver’…
Apparently Tory Councillor Richard ‘Bunter’ Eddy will now be boycotting the Hall because it is not named after Colston! Is this because he will only go to venues that are named after slave-traders? Message from The Bristolian to Richard Eddy…Bristol is not named after a slave trader, so please try and boycott the whole city….in fact why don’t you fuck off altogether.
City Council Conservative group leader Mark Weston claimed it was a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction…tell that to the Reverend H. J. Wilkins of Westbury-on-Trym who began the campaign against the ‘cult of Colston’ nearly a century ago with his scathing biography of Edward Colston in 1920!
Obsessive Nazi Post letter writer R. L. Smith (the ‘know all’ from Knowle) ranted on about Counter-Colston campaigners ‘erasing history’ and ‘burning books’ until it was pointed out he had been campaigning to shut Bristol’s libraries for years! Twat.
Some have said that Bristol Music Trust are ‘pandering to a tiny minority’; it was actually a tiny minority of powerful merchants and politicians that put Colston on the pedestal that he sits on today. The majority of Bristolians never had a say in the naming of buildings, statues or streets. The tiny minority that the city should stop pandering to are the Society of Merchant Venturers who, since their Royal Charter of 1552, have been dictating who should or should not be memorialised – it’s for the people of Bristol to decide who is remembered and why – and there are plenty of great candidates.
Changing names and places… what about our history?
So what’s next for a Colston name change?…Colston Boys and Girls Schools? How awful darling… and how ironic considering the Merchant Venturers and their education buddies have been changing the names of our schools like confetti over the last few years. What ever happened to Whitefield, Withywood, Speedwell and St George schools let alone Hartcliffe and Monks Park? Seems like when it comes to our schools the names can be changed without debate by posh wankers from Clifton. And none of these schools were named after mass-murdering slave traders!
The same goes for buildings of historic interest. It has been pointed out to many of the opponents of the name change that, for fucks sake, it is only the name of the Colston Hall that is changing; the building is not being demolished. Unlike half of Temple Way and the historic Methodist Ebenezer Chapel and Avonvale School in East Bristol which were flattened without any debate by rich property speculators. It seems Bristolian working class history is worth shit compared to the history of murdering profiteers like Colston and the Merchant Venturers.
Of course, the next battle will be over the new name for the Ex-Colston Hall. A sensible solution would be to open it up to the people of Bristol to choose a name (what like Hally McHallface? ed). More likely is that some wealthy scumbag or a Corporation will buy the brand off the cash-strapped Council and it will end up as ‘Sir Rich Bastard Hall‘ or ‘Carphone Warehouse Hall’. Just like in the olden days when wealthy scum like Edward Colston and the Merchant Venturers had the run of the city and named everything after themselves…
Thanks for the expose. The name change really surprised me considering how obsessed with Colston the City Fathers are. Then I read this on here:
“The Hall which has been in *public hands* since 1919 will be renamed in 2020 as part of a multi-million pound refurbishment.”
What, another one? I was wondering what was behind the sudden change of heart. Now it all becomes clear… a cheesy excuse to throw public money at the rich and look good doing it!
Isn’t the obvious thing to have a public vote on it? Everyone who actually cares can then have a say.
I’m no fan of Colston, but this currently sounds like the sort of “we know best”, top-down decision made by the same clique of unrepresentative, upper middle class arts-n-meeja types you rip into elsewhere on this site.
Like it or not it seems like a lot of ordinary Bristolians see the current name as part of their ‘landscape’. They may have no idea what Colston means or have been mislead by Merchant Venturer PR but there you go. Voting on it would give people a chance to make this argument. Telling them the arguments after the decision has been made is just patronising and plays directly into the hands of right wing knuckledraggers. It’s the Blairite approach not the radical one.
Boycott Colston Hall for ‘Countering Colston’ name change. https://www.change.org/p/boycott-colston-hall-for-countering-colston-name-change
Countering Colston have stated that ‘We will now continue to target all of the buildings named in honour of Edward Colston. We want his statue taken down and put in a museum. The schools must also be renamed.’ Oppose this attempt to erase part of Bristol’s history, and help me to reach 100 signatures!
What is really sad is the idea that taking Colston’s name off of buildings is ‘erasing history’. History is in the history books, it’s not going away! The vast majority of Bristolians never had a say in who they should celebrate, commemorate or memorialise out of these history books. A tiny minority of rich slave owning families in the Merchant Venturers and businessmen decided all this more than 150 years ago. They wanted to celebrate one of their own and Colston and many other dodgy bastards were chosen. And since then the history of the 1% in Bristol has been celebrated.
It’s about time we celebrated some true Bristolian heroes who did something good rather than those who made money out of the labour of Africans and Bristolians. It is very sad to see people up the arses of rich bastards in Clifton thinking they are protecting ‘their history’, when it isn’t.