Conservative Leader Councillor Mark Weston has expressed strong misgivings over the news that the trustees responsible for managing the Colston Hall appear close to surrendering to demands for name change.
A small group of campaigners recently launched a petition to remove from the city’s main music venue any reference to Edward Colston – a controversial Merchant and philanthropist who profited from the transatlantic slave trade.
The Bristol Music Trust, which runs the premises is currently engaged in trying to raise £49m to complete an ambitious overhaul and revamp which will transform it into a world-class performing arts centre.
As part of this funding drive, the management team previously stated that the issue of renaming the building was something they would consider when it came to completing this major transformation by 2020.
Now, it has emerged that a decision has been made to drop Colston – which technically refers to the street in which the concert hall resides (not the man himself) - because of the sensitivities his association with the theatre continues to arouse.
Cllr Weston (Con, Henbury & Brentry) said: “I am very disappointed with this knee-jerk decision, which, I believe is misguided, amounts to little more than appeasement, and has been taken for entirely the wrong reasons.
“Such capitulation sets a bad precedent and represents a slippery slope which will only encourage further agitating to change the names of other Bristol landmarks.
“Just to be clear on this issue, and to avoid any possible misunderstanding, no sane person is defending here the abhorrence of slavery.
“One may even have sympathy with the argument that ‘from the fruits of evil no good can come’, that despite Edward Colston’s later altruism, which provided schools, churches, hospitals and almshouses for the poor, the source of his great wealth was irredeemably tainted.
“However, erasing his name in this manner is not the way to learn from the lessons of history.
"Personally, I am not implacably opposed to renaming the building if this were done as part of a commercial sponsorship deal which helped the trust to achieve its aims.
“Unfortunately, this latest move is far more likely to antagonise very many Bristolians who will see this as political correctness, virtue-signalling or simply surrender to pacify a vocal minority.
“This threatens to deepen divisions on this subject rather than seeking to reach some sort of consensus or pragmatic compromise going forward.”