Bristolians gathered to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the fall of the statue of Edward Colston, or the ‘de-twatting of the city centre’ as Pete the Temp, who was in attendance, put it
The celebration, on June 7, took place at the former Colston plinth, now known by some as Emancipation Plinth, and was organized by Glad Colston’s Gone, a coalition of activist groups, artists, historians, and local councillors.
Ros Martin, of Glad Colston’s Gone, spoke to a small crowd of supporters about how the event was intended to highlight ‘the history, the struggle…over the years to actually remove or have some explanation as to why this Colston myth is presented and keeps being reproduced in our landscapes’.
‘For the disproportionality to continue, there’s got to be a lot of complicity in injustice at every level. If we ever turn our eye to something that we see or hear because we can’t deal with it, we’re compromising ourselves. And the only way it’s going to be removed, much like the statue, is by people on the ground, us.’
Martin experienced such disproportionate power herself when she was arrested in April outside a court hearing for the four people charged with criminal damage over the toppling of the Colston statue, an arrest later determined to be wrongful.
Today’s celebration marks the end of a two-week programme of events that began with a vigil on the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, and has included historical talks and walks about Bristol’s history of racism and anti-racism, and the city’s role in the slave trade.
The programme coincides with the opening of The Colston Statue: What Next? exhibition at the M-Shed, in which the statue is displayed publicly for the first time since its disappearance into Bristol harbour 12 months ago.
Regarding this exhibition, Martin said ‘I find…the display at the M-Shed somewhat disingenuous. On one point, it’s good, he’s supine, but why are we not applauding the people that contributed to his removal?’
Moreover, speaking to the Bristol Post today, local poet Lawrence Hoo criticised the city’s continuing focus on Colston as ‘an ultimate distraction from real, fundamental issues that the city still doesn’t want to address, which is resulting in poor mental health, loss of life, real deprivation.’
‘Bristol is so retarded in moving forward. He died 300 years ago this year – we’re still talking about Edward Colston when we’ve got immediate issues in this city.‘