On Wednesday, I announced on behalf of Bristol Music Trust the unanimous decision that Colston Hall will be renamed when it reopens after a multi-million pound transformation in 2020. There has naturally been an enormous amount of media interest in this change and many opinions shared on social media.
This subject brings strong views on both sides, but I would like to explain clearly our decision.
Bristol Music Trust is a progressive, forward-thinking and open arts organisation and it is important to us that the Hall is a place where everyone feels welcome.
Since we were formed as an organisation in 2011, the Trust has always said that we would consider a change of name as part of the redevelopment. This has been long thought through and is not a knee jerk reaction. The reason our trustees chose to make this announcement at this time was because it is the right stage in our transformation campaign.
We are currently fundraising for our £48.8 million transformation and we believe that for the Trust as an organisation and for the city of Bristol, when we reopen our extraordinary new building, it should be with a new name that everyone can celebrate. In 2020, we want to focus on the future, not look to the past.
We are not looking to erase history. In fact, we want to embrace our position at the centre of this issue. We will be talking to local people and organisations about how we should recognise and acknowledge Bristol’s connections to the slave trade and Edward Colston in the new building.
We are making this change first and foremost because it is the right thing to do, not due to a financial imperative. However, as a charitable organisation we have always been clear that funds raised through sponsorship could be key to securing the vital transformation of the Hall, and we are now looking to discuss opportunities with commercial organisations.
Changing the Hall’s name and identity is a major move and one that we understand everyone feels strongly about. We will consult with audiences and the wider public during our closure period as part of a rebranding process where customers’ views and the Hall’s vision and values will form part of a creative approach to finding a new name.
When the transformation is complete, Bristol will enjoy a venue which looks ahead to the next 150 years, but does not forget the past. I hope that the whole city will be proud of its transformed concert hall. One that will deliver music education excellence with new teaching facilities, greater capacity for audiences and performers and a base for arts enterprise so that young people can turn their music skills into businesses.
Now we have decided on the name change, I welcome the chance for the city to come together to support the revitalisation of the Hall as we move the venue into a new era as part of Bristol’s ongoing economic and cultural success story.
Louise Mitchell is chief executive of Bristol Music Trust, the independent organisation and registered charity created to develop the Colston Hall’s artistic programme and promote music and music making in Bristol
Read more: Colston Hall to reopen with new name in 2020