The slave trade and Bristol will probably never completely shake each other off. The history of one is the history of the other but in this modern day society I feel that there is a constant ancestral worship of these slave traders vs. no education about the negative things these people did. Nor is there any education about the positive things African and Caribbean people achieved.
The Colston Hall has been around since the second half of the 1800’s and schools and many other things were funded by Colston. He was a member of the Royal African Company which at the time had a monopoly on British slave trading with African at the time.
In 2009 a new building was made right next to the old one, creatively named “The Colston Hall” with bright gold coloured metal almost directly reflecting the gold which he made his fortune from. I tried to find out why the people who make these sort of choice……make them, so I organized a debate on one of the opening night of the new Colston Hall.
It was a very interesting debate but it just so happened that nobody of any authority from ether the Colston hall of Bristol City Council could turn up on that day so all was left to speculation. I did get an official statement from them though,
“The city council is acutely aware of the concern some members of the community have about the name of the hall.
“We cannot get away from the fact that the hall has had its name since its inception and as such is an established part of the landscape and history of Bristol. There are many in the city who feel that to change the name would be to tamper unnecessarily with the city’s past and its established place names.
“At this stage, we have no plans to change the hall’s name. However, with its new, striking foyer there may be a time in the near future when we can have a measured and informed debate about the issue, although currently our priority is to get on with the completion of the foyer building and other improvements.”
To my surprise her first statement was that there wasn’t any slaves in Bristol really because it didn’t make sense financially, after a bit of prying from my interviewer she
admitted that there were more than just a few that ended up living or being kept in Bristol.
When it came to Whiteladies and Blackboy Hill apparently there is no official story. I was told that Whiteladies could of been because of a group of nun’s who lived there and wore white habits, while Black boy hill apparently came from King James the 3rd who was
noted for his dark completion. The only thing anyone seemed to be sure about is it had nothing to do with slavery.
So what does this all leave me thinking? Well here we have 2 examples past and present were racism and slavery is being idolized. With the name of Bristol’s major new shopping centre being changed from Merchants’ Quarter, because of the uproar, to Cabot Circus it doesn’t look like anything is going to change any time soon.
And if we let it happen everytime……..why should it?