A NAME change for concert venue Colston Hall has been ruled out.
The Bristol Music Trust, which took over the running of the hall from Bristol City Council earlier this year, made the decision at a board meeting in the light of a continuing debate over the name’s connections with the slave trade.
A number of campaigners have called for the Colston Street venue to be renamed, notably leading Bristol band Massive Attack, who refused to play there in protest.
But the idea of renaming it has been dismissed as “tokenistic” by the board.
Deputy city council leader Simon Cook is the authority’s council representative on the board and attended the meeting when the decision was made.
He said: “Suggestions had been made we might change the name. At the last meeting we briefly discussed the issue and resolved not to change the name.
“Louise [Mitchell, the trust chief executive] felt it wasn’t appropriate.
“She felt it would be much better, if there was a barrier to BME (black and minority ethnic) people coming to the hall, to give them opportunities to do so rather than do something tokenistic like a name change.
“The hall was never built with Edward Colston’s money anyway; there is no historical connection to him. My view has always been that we should reach out to the community and get as many people into the hall as possible.
“If you talk to different members of the BME community you get a different response.
“I think it’s sad if some people won’t play there.”
Although there was no vote, members agreed after the chief executive told them “she did not believe it was a good idea” to change the name.
Edward Colston was a 17th century philanthropist who donated an estimated £100,000 to the city of his birth, including the foundation of a boys’ school in his name, which originally stood on the site now occupied by Colston Hall.
But Colston made much of his fortune from his membership of the Royal African Company, merchants involved in the “triangular trade” where ships from Bristol and other ports took goods to Africa and exchanged them for slaves, who were transported to the West Indies and Virginia and sold. The ships then brought back rum, sugar, cocoa, tobacco and cotton grown on slave plantations, making massive profits.
Earlier this year Ms Mitchell had told the Evening Post she would listen to what the public wanted before making a decision.
Ms Mitchell confirmed the news in a statement to the Post.
She said: “It was decided that the only instance in which the board would consider changing the name of Colston Hall would be if we could target a commercial sponsor to lend their name to the hall.
“This is unlikely to happen in the short term and as Bristol City Council own the building no developments on this matter would take place without first consulting them.”
The trust took over the running of the hall in a bid to broaden its appeal.
Civil rights campaigner Paul Stephenson has also repeatedly called for the name change.
Mr Stephenson said it was a “lost opportunity” to not change the name when the trust took over the hall.
He said: “It is understandable, as I think public opinion would see the status quo maintained.
“Personally I think there was an opportunity to change the name but I’m quite prepared to live with what we’ve got.
“Perhaps at another time people will question whether it was an opportunity lost.”
Opponents of change claim it would be “political correctness” and that it would also be rewriting history.
The news of the trust’s decision emerged after the council’s Conservative group raised concerns about the name potentially coming back onto the agenda.
Councillor Jay Jethwa had launched a scathing attack on any potential name change, arguing only a “tiny minority obsess about the slave trade”.
She said: “I do not think a name change is necessary, wanted or appropriate.”
The Tories now say the board’s decision was the right one.
Group leader Peter Abraham said: “I don’t think most people look at the hall and say ‘slave trade hall’, they think about the music they have seen there.
“It’s a part of my city. You can’t airbrush history.”