‘LET BRISTOL DECIDE’
COLSTON HALL LABOUR LEADER WADES IN TO NAMING DEBATE
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.
Mr Corbyn was in Bristol yesterday to help mark Black History Month.
He arrived at College Green to visit the ‘Alone with Empire’ film installation at the Vestibule Art Space at Bristol City Hall.
The exhibition is focused on understanding the history and legacy of colonialism – a subject Mr Corbyn says he wants to see become part of the national school curriculum all year.
He also said he wanted to see greater weight given to the “immense contribution” black Britons have 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 the name of Edward Colston at the forefront.
The slave trader’s name is common in Bristol with schools, buildings, roads, pubs and concert halls named after him. But there has been a growing campaign for removing the slave merchants’ name 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 £48.8million transformation project, and 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 which took place in his own constituency, Islington North, where residents were invited to vote on the name of a new square in Archway which eventually became known as Navigator Square.
Mr Corbyn said the name should be something which is important to the people of Bristol.
Colston Hall is not the only Bristol institution considering a name change. The former Colston’s Primary School changed its name to Cotham Gardens Primary School in September.
But Colston’s Girls’ School has decided to keep the name, explaining in a letter to parents last year that there seemed “no benefit in denying the school’s financial origin and obscuring history itself”.
Meanwhile the Colston Yard pub has also gone through a name change, and is now known as The Bristol Yard instead.
And earlier this year the new Lord Mayor of Bristol, Cllr Cleo Lake, removed a 316-year-old portrait of the slave trader Edward Colston from the Lord Mayor’s parlour at City Hall.
The portrait, which Colston sat for in 1702, has belonged to the city council for decades, and has hung in the office of the Lord Mayor since at least 1953, when City Hall was opened.
But removing Colston’s name from certain places in the city has proved controversial in some circles, with certain groups arguing that it was erasing Bristol’s history.
Commenting on the debate Mr Corbyn 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 commem-
orations of people like Olaudah Equiano – a freed slave who did so much to bring about the end of slavery – and the Reverend 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 to Bristol Mr Corbyn also met the city’s mayor Marvin Rees inside City Hall.
Speaking afterwards Mr Corbyn praised the mayor for the “imaginative way he was leading the city” especially during tough financial times for local authorities.
Mr Corbyn said that the Government had plans to cut another £1.3billion from local governments next year.
“It’s extremely damaging to every city council that’s trying to do things,” added Mr Corbyn.
“Bristol needs a fair deal, as do the other great cities of this country.
“A Labour government will not be using local government as a vehicle for austerity, instead we will be using local government as a vehicle for economic prosperity.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Bristol yesterday
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pictured outside Bristol Cathedral yesterday, and meeting local politicians including deputy mayor Asher Craig and MP Thangam Debbonaire