LET PEOPLE DECIDE OVER COLSTON HALL
LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the new name for Colston Hall should be decided by the people of Bristol, during a visit to the city yesterday.
Mr Corbyn also said he wanted to see greater weight given to the “immense contribution” black Britons had made in ending slavery and the fight for civil rights.
Bristol, a city whose wealth was built on the slave trade, has been gradually re-examining its role in the slave trade and slavery in recent years, with Edward Colston at the forefront.
The slave trader’s name is common in Bristol, with schools, buildings, roads, pubs and a concert hall named after him.
But there has been a growing campaign to have it removed from institutions and buildings in the city.
And in April last year, Colston Hall announced it was dropping the name to disassociate itself from the “toxic brand”.
The hall is currently closed while it undergoes a £48.8 million transformation. When it reopens in 2020 it will have a new name.
During his visit to Bristol, Mr Corbyn did not suggest any ideas for a name himself, instead saying “it should be down to the people of Bristol to decide”.
He even suggested a competition similar to one that took place in his own constituency, Islington North, where residents were invited to vote on what to call a new square in Archway, which eventually became known as Navigator Square.
Mr Corbyn said the name should be something that was important to the people of Bristol.
He said: “I think we should understand our past and not erase it, but we should also commemorate those who stood up against the slave trade.
“So I would like to see commemorations of people like Olaudah Equiano – a freed slave who did so much to bring about the end of slavery – and the Rev Thomas Clarkson, who was a wonderful campaigner and who preceded William Wilberforce in bringing about an end to the slave trade.
“Also to commemorate the contribution of freed slaves who came and made their homes in Bristol and other places to help bring about the freedom of others.
“In Jamaica and other places they commemorate people like Paul Bogle, who led the uprising in Jamaica.”
Mr Corbyn said it was about understanding where “our history comes from”.
As part of his visit, the Labour leader unveiled plans for an Emancipation Educational Trust, which would educate future generations about the impact of slavery.
Speaking outside City Hall he said: “I want to see a history curriculum much broader that it is at the present time for all children.
“Understanding of history gives us a better understanding of the world and helps ultimately to bring about a more peaceful world.”
Mr Corbyn also addressed the Windrush scandal and said the community affected should receive both a “proper apology and compensation”.
He said Labour was clear there needed to be justice for the entire Windrush generation.
“Nobody should have been removed from this country and nobody should have had their right to remain in Britain questioned like they did.
“This is a generation that often came from poor families, small villages, all across the Caribbean.
“They built our NHS, they ran our railways, they did so much in our education system and made an amazing contribution to our national story and our life. Let’s treat them properly.”
During his visit, Mr Corbyn also met with the city’s mayor, Marvin Rees, inside City Hall.
Jeremy Corbyn outside Bristol’s City Hall yesterday
Mr Corbyn views the Alone with Empire exhibition at City Hall